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Parents Association announces 2010 Professor of the Year


April 21, 2010

For more than four decades, Leona Aiken has successfully challenged aspiring psychologists to master the less glamorous part of their careers: design, measurement and statistical analysis. Aiken is a professor in the psychology department in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

With her nationally recognized career and extensive ongoing research, Aiken easily could have devoted her time elsewhere. But she believes in the potential of young students and appreciates the excitement of teaching and providing research opportunities for undergraduates.

At the April 21 Celebration of Teaching and Learning Excellence event, Aiken was honored for her lifelong commitment by the ASU Parents Association as its 2010 Professor of the Year.

More than 200 ASU faculty, students, staff, administrators, parents and friends applauded her announcement at the event. A professor for 45 years and at ASU for 15, she was chosen from 29 colleagues as a true inspiration – encouraging her students to pursue their dreams and take on the major challenges of our time.

Four undergraduate students, three faculty colleagues and her department chair all contributed heartfelt letters in support of Aiken’s nomination. It was these letters that the committee of parents, other Professors of the Year and scholarship students looked to when making their decision.

“Reading those letters illustrated the immense impact Leona Aiken has on students and colleagues alike,” said Ceda Austerman, Parents Association board president and Professor of the Year committee member. “When we discuss all the candidates, it is so tough to choose because everyone is remarkable. We look for a candidiate who demonstrates teaching, research and scholarship excellence. Leona has it all – especially with regards to her work with the students. It’s at a much deeper level.”

Each letter echoed the same message: Leona Aiken is exemplary in her dedication to teaching. As Keith Crnic, ASU psychology department chair, notes in his recommendation letter: “Leona rises by 4 a.m., every day she has class to 'practice' her lectures to ensure that she is prepared to give her students the best she can, and that nothing will be left undone or unfinished. It is no wonder that Leona is beloved, and indeed revered by our students. Year after year, she sets the bar, and year after year, she exceeds it again for her students."

Wednesday’s announcement marked the culmination of more than four months of community collaboration to choose one top ASU professor for this honor. In addition to Aiken’s honor, the selection committee designated five additional nominees for special recognition for teaching and scholarship, each of whom receives a $1,000 cash award. This year’s special recognition awardees were:

•    Jon Harrison, biology

•    Stuart Lindsey, biophysics

•    Caio Pagano, music

•    Ayanna Thompson, English

•    Matthew Whitaker, history

The other 23 nominees this year also set a high precedent for teaching at ASU and were applauded for their efforts at the event. Their contributions can be explored further at asu.edu/PTY.

The ASU Parents Association Professor of the Year award was given for the first time in 1994 and has been awarded 13 times. Thanks to the continued generosity of ASU families and the participation of ASU students, faculty and staff, the ASU Parents Association is able to award this prestigious honor on an annual basis.

Media contact:
Cathy Chlarson
480-727-9740
cathleen.chlarson@asu.edu