The College recognizes faculty for teaching excellence

Thursday, May 21, 2020

As Arizona State University’s largest and most diverse college, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers courses that nearly every ASU student takes at some point in their college journey.

These courses delve into a wide variety of topics in the social sciences, natural sciences and humanities and are led by outstanding faculty who strive to go above and beyond for their students. 

Annually, one faculty member from each division of The College is selected as a recipient of the Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award, the highest recognition of teaching excellence in The College. In addition this year, two faculty members were recognized with the Outstanding Instructor Award.

“These faculty members embody the innovation and dedication occuring in each of our academic units,” said Patrick Kenney, dean of The College. “I, like so many in our community, am grateful for their contributions and look forward to their continued success in their respective fields.”

Meet this year’s awardees:

Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award

Jess Alberts

Alberts joined ASU in 1989 and serves as the President's Professor and director of the online communication master’s degree program for the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication. Her research focuses on conflict in personal and professional relationships.

Alberts has published articles on marital conflict, the division of domestic labor and couples’ daily interaction. Over the years, her contributions in teaching and mentoring have been recognized with a number of awards.

As an instructor, she says her primary goal is to spark students’ curiosity about the world while encouraging lifelong learning by promoting critical thinking, analytic writing and the application of classroom concepts to real-life scenarios.

“I strive to provide a classroom that models how we can celebrate diverse others while communicating authentically and compassionately,” Alberts said. “I do this by showing respect for the variety of knowledge, abilities and experiences that students bring to the classroom as well as introducing a classroom code of conduct that recognizes the humanity and gifts of all students.”

Ligia Bezerra

Bezerra is an assistant professor at the School of International Letters and Cultures, where she has taught since 2016. Her research interests include everyday life, consumption and democracy in Latin American literature and culture, with a focus on Brazil and Argentina. 

She authored the forthcoming book, “A Consuming World: Imagining Everyday Life in Twenty-First Century Brazil,” which explores representations of consumption in the work of 21st-century Brazilian writers, examining how they envision more or less hopeful futures in light of how several aspects of consumption impact our present everyday life. 

Throughout her career she has taught a variety of courses on linguistics, English, Portuguese and Spanish. She says she is inspired by all the teachers she’s had in her life including her mother, her colleagues and her students.

“I grew up seeing the difference that education made in my mother’s life and the difference that she, as an educator, makes in her students’ lives,” Bezerra said. “Teaching is something I am very passionate about, so this award means a lot to me.”

Bezerra says that because the material she teaches focuses on contemporary life, it allows her to be in close contact with issues that directly impact the lives of her students, which provides her invaluable opportunities to bring her expertise into the classroom. Her goal as an educator is to guide her students with questions that motivate them to empathize with others, become more informed consumers and more engaged citizens and think creatively in order to tackle the global challenges that lie ahead of them.

Shelley Haydel

Haydel has taught in the School of Life Sciences since 2005, and also works as an associate professor at the Biodesign Center for Immunotherapy, Vaccines and Virotherapy, as well as the Biodesign Institute Center for Bioelectronics and Biosensors. In addition, she serves as the director of the School of Life Sciences Undergraduate Research program.

Haydel is an infectious disease microbiologist with active research interests and projects focusing on bacterial pathogenesis, host-pathogen interactions, infectious diseases, medical/clinical microbiology, rapid diagnostics and antimicrobial discovery. She has won several awards for her approach to teaching.

In her classes and research lab, Haydel says she pushes students to aim high and to be champions regardless of their circumstances while promising them that she will teach, mentor and lead with action, advocacy, honesty and compassion. Haydel’s teaching style stimulates collaborative, interactive and holistic learning experiences that value diversity.

“It truly is an honor to receive this award. I could not wait to tell my undergraduate students because I felt like they were nominated with me,” Haydel said. “I would not be the instructor that I am without these wonderful students. My efforts are worth it for these outstanding students. I want to see them learn and succeed in life. I tell them that I will always be a mentor when they need it.”

Outstanding Instructor Award 

Susan Holechek

Holechek is an instructor at the School of Life Sciences with an affiliated appointment at the Simon A. Levin Mathematical, Modeling and Sciences Center. She first joined the university as faculty in 2015.

At ASU, Holechek has formed an interdisciplinary group of biology and math students that is currently studying the role of the immune system in the modulation and transmission of infectious diseases using both experimental and mathematical modeling approaches. In her courses, she works to implement an adaptive learning platform that promotes student engagement while reducing cost of materials. She has received numerous grants to expand her students’ research opportunities and has been recognized with several awards for her teaching and mentoring.

Prior to her work at ASU, she worked at the Molecular Biology Division of the Peruvian National Institute of Health as part of the response team for the first dengue outbreak with hemorrhagic cases in 2000. 

Holechek is excited to share a recognition for teaching with one of her mentors, Shelley Haydel, who is receiving the Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award.

“I have been inspired throughout these years by amazing professors at ASU who are both passionate and knowledgeable,” Holechek said. “It is an honor being awarded the 2019-2020 Outstanding Instructor Award for The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and I hope to continue making my students proud, after all, this award is because of them.”

Iuliia Inozemtseva 

Inozemtseva has served as a lecturer at the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences since 2017. Her research interests focus on differential equations and mathematical modeling. 

In the past she has worked on math applications in genetic mutations and predator-prey models as well as math modeling of epidemic spreads in hospitals. Over the years she has been recognized for excellence in teaching.

Inozemtseva is a member of the Association for Women in Mathematics, where she uses her international experience to promote women in STEM careers. In the classroom she takes a unique approach to mathematics by showing students real-world applications in a variety of fields including biology, coding, artificial intelligence, physics, engineering and medicine. Through this approach she has found that many students have a newfound love for the subject once they are able to see it from a new perspective.

“I am extremely grateful for this award and for the recognition,” Inozemtseva said. “I hope that awards like these will motivate more instructors to invest their time and passion into new generations of students. After all, we cannot ignore that we work during interesting times with new technologies and resources available to both students and instructors. By taking time to learn how to use these resources we help students succeed in college and change lives for the better."