Sun Devils honor professors who go the extra mile for students

Monday, July 22, 2019

ASU prides itself on having faculty who care about their students and wish to help them succeed inside and outside of the classroom. These exceptional professors warrant recognition from the ASU community for their outstanding leadership, instruction and mentorship. The Centennial Professorship Award is an award designed to do just that.

The Associated Students of Arizona State University, made up of both Graduate and Undergraduate Student Government, established the award in 1984 and has presented it each academic year since as a means to attract and retain the highest quality leaders and teachers at ASU.

Amelia Miholca is vice president of professional development for GPSA and a graduate student pursuing a PhD in art history from the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. As the head of the Centennial Awards Committee and one of the judges of the 37 submissions, she told ASU Now why the Centennial Professorship Award is important. 

“The award demonstrates ASU’s appreciation and recognition of high-achieving faculty members who are leaders in their respective fields and in classroom learning and innovation,” Miholca said.

Each award recipient receives a cash prize of $5,000 and an additional $5,000 to be used for the benefit of the students in classroom instruction and teaching innovation.

This year, three different professors and lecturers were chosen as recipients: Matthew Buman, Marianne Moore and Javier Gonzalez-Sanchez.

Buman, an associate professor in the College of Health Solutions at the Downtown Phoenix campus, cites his passion and his ability to make an impact on his students as a reason he was set apart from other candidates. 

He learned the importance of professor-student relationships firsthand by staying after class to ask one of his undergraduate professors a question, which eventually led him to performing a research project with her. 

“It was this experience, which simply started with a question, that inspired me to pursue a career in academia,” Buman said. “I learned that the best professors strive to inspire their students.”

Buman plans on using the money to fund a “citizen science” project, where the students will work in collaboration with the general public to gather data on the neighborhood environments of downtown Phoenix to see what supports or detracts from healthy living habits for those who live there. The data will then be released to local stakeholders and policymakers to help create a healthier living space for the neighborhoods downtown. 

Moore is an assistant professor on the Polytechnic campus in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts who teaches for the applied biological science degree. As a professor, Moore understands how showing enthusiasm for the subject and care for the students is important to students’ success and has demonstrated this by being a mentor for 22 undergraduate and four graduate students. She has developed an ecology, physiology and immunology research program centered on student involvement in the program, which her grant money will support. 

Gonzalez-Sanchez, a lecturer from the School of Computing Informatics and Decisions Systems Engineering, is another recipient of the Centennial Professorship Award. He comes from an interdisciplinary science background of software engineering and human-computer interaction, which plays into his diverse teaching practices and application-learning for his students. 

One of Gonzalez-Sanchez’s key teaching practices is the use of new technology in the classroom. He exposes his students to emerging technologies through applied learning, so they can be comfortable and confident with the technologies that are vital in their field and the future of the science. 

“Today, it is not enough for our students to learn programming or software engineering methodologies just by achieving the implementation of computer applications or mobile applications alone,” Gonzalez-Sanchez said.

Gonzalez-Sanchez plans on using the award money to further this endeavor and bring more smart objects, such as sensors and embedded and autonomous devices to classroom projects. The incorporation of the new technologies will help his classroom stay cutting-edge in the field and open up new industry opportunities to the students.

“It isn’t just this new piece of technology and hardware that is bringing new opportunities to these industries — it’s software,” Gonzalez-Sanchez said. “And I plan to have students solving problems and doing projects using these emerging technologies.”

Ultimately, the Centennial Professorship Award is a thank you from ASASU to all of ASU’s outstanding faculty for enriching students’ academic experiences and setting them up for success in the future.

Story by Lindsay Lohr