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The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences celebrates faculty excellence with 2023 teaching awards

Each year, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences recognizes five faculty members with awards that are the highest recognition of teaching excellence in The College: the Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award, the Outstanding Instructor Award and the Outstanding Lecturer Award.

June 05, 2023

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is ASU's largest and most diverse college, with 21 schools and departments and over 50 research centers and institutes within the humanities, natural sciences and social sciences divisions.

But in true ASU fashion, there's a common thread of focus: educational excellence. And for that ASU relies on its educators and systems of support.

Annually, five faculty members are recognized with awards that are the highest recognition of teaching excellence in The College.

One faculty member from each division receives the Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award; one instructor receives the Outstanding Instructor Award; and one lecturer receives the Outstanding Lecturer Award.

“This year’s recipients represent The College’s commitment to fostering innovative and inclusive learning environments,” said Patrick Kenney, dean of The College.

“These teaching awards are one way we can thank them for their efforts to serve our diverse population and recognize their contributions to our students.”

Meet this year’s awardees

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Jason Bruner

Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award, humanities

Jason Bruner is the faculty head and associate professor of religious studies in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. He is also the director of the Desert Humanities Initiative within the Institute for Humanities Research. In recognition of his teaching excellence, Bruner has been awarded the 2023 Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award in humanities.

An ethnographer, writer and historian, Bruner studies Christians and Christianity in the sub-Saharan desert and the United States and is particularly interested in lived religion, health, violence and globalization.

Since 2013, Bruner has taught classes at ASU on religion, the New Testament, the history of genocide, and religion’s representation in film and media. He also serves on the board of Genocide Awareness Week and has published several scholarly journals and a short story, “How to Study World Christianity.”

“I’ve been at ASU for 10 years. This award means more to me now than it would have had I received it five or six years ago because I know how many talented, dedicated and conscientious teacher-scholars I am surrounded by at ASU. I am deeply honored to work among them and have my teaching recognized this way,” Bruner said.

Outstanding Lecturer Award

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Whitney Hansen

Whitney Hansen is a teaching professor in the Department of Psychology. She is the recipient of this year’s Outstanding Lecturer Award.

As an expert in psychology, as well as learning and memory, she teaches courses on the fundamentals of psychological science, the biological basis of behavior and cognitive psychology.

A Sun Devil alum, Hansen received her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology from ASU. 

Over her nearly 13 years of teaching at ASU, Hansen’s dedication and enthusiasm for her students and psychology have never changed, though her teaching style has evolved to incorporate inclusive and innovative approaches that connect with every student.

Hansen and other faculty helped the Student Success Center earn funding to provide ways for students to get psychology tutoring outside of instructor and teaching assistant office hours. She also worked with the Department of Psychology to create online course offerings, including the online neuroscience degree that launched in fall 2021.

“I’m honored to win this award, given the outstanding teaching faculty at The College; working at ASU is such a dream. The energy here is singular and our students inspire me daily with their hustle, dedication, curiosity and drive to improve themselves and their community. I’m proud to assist, in some small way, our students on their journeys,” Hansen said.

Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award, social sciences

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Jennet Kirkpatrick

Jennet Kirkpatrick is an associate professor in the School of Politics and Global Studies. In recognition of her teaching excellence, Kirkpatrick has been awarded the 2023 Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award in social sciences.

Kirkpatrick studies American political thought, emphasizing social movements, law and social change. Through her research, Kirkpatrick examines how resistance and political theory play a role in exercising democratic ideals in America.

At ASU, Kirkpatrick has taught classes on political science, feminist theory, American political thought, politics and film and political ideologies. In 2022, she received the Michael Mitchell Teaching Award in the School of Politics and Global Studies.

“I strive for excellence in teaching controversial political subjects. My most contentious course is Political Ideologies, a 200-level course required of all ASU’s 1,600 political science concentrators. I work hard to convey calm and inclusiveness to my students. However, at the end of the semester, I know I’ve succeeded if students can talk about two taboo topics, religion and politics, in our last unit on radical Islamism,” Kirkpatrick said.

Outstanding Instructor Award

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Norma Lopez

Norma Lopez is an instructor in the School of International Letters and Cultures. She is the recipient of this year’s Outstanding Instructor Award.

Since joining ASU in 2008, Lopez has taught several courses in Spanish, including advanced bilingual education for students who grew up in households where Spanish was spoken.

Lopez also played a role in establishing the initiative between ASU and Northeastern University in Shenyang, China, to offer a dual degree in Spanish and English for Chinese students.

As an educator, she works to create a community where communication, respect, inclusion and understanding enrich all learners.

“It is a great honor for me to receive this award. My educational philosophy in teaching Spanish at (the School of International Letters and Cultures) has always been constructing a learning community where we can be positively productive if we value our diversity, culture and potential through dialogue and mutual respect. If the students and The College value and appreciate this, I feel more committed to the students who have made it possible for me to be awarded,” Lopez said.

Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award, natural sciences

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Molly Simon

Molly Simon is an assistant professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. In recognition of her teaching excellence, Simon has been awarded the 2023 Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award in natural sciences.

As an astronomer, Simon’s expertise focuses on planet formation, citizen sciences and science education for undergraduate students. 

Since joining ASU in 2021, she has worked to excite students about science, engage them with complex topics and encourage them to explore scientific research.

Simon sees her role as an educator as a way to frame science's critical roles in our society and help inform college students on the accuracy of different scientific topics so they can use that knowledge in their work.

“I have been privileged to teach and mentor a phenomenal group of undergraduate students in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. My ultimate goal as an educator is to get students excited about science and astronomy, to bring complex topics to the classroom in a way that is accessible, and to encourage them to pursue scientific research regardless of whether or not they have forged a ‘traditional’ path toward their degree,” Simon said. 

“It is an honor to be recognized by my students and the ASU community for my teaching and mentoring efforts.”

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