ASU psychology professor receives Outstanding Lecturer Award

Whitney Hansen recognized for innovative teaching methods, dedication to student success

June 8, 2023

Whitney Hansen, a teaching professor in Arizona State University’s Department of Psychology, received the The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences' 2023 Outstanding Lecturer Award

Awarded annually, the Outstanding Lecturer Award is one of five faculty awards that recognize teaching excellence in The College. Recipients are anonymously nominated by their students.
Portrait of Whitney Hansen Whitney Hansen, a teaching professor in ASU’s Department of Psychology, is the recipient of the 2023 Outstanding Lecturer Award from The College. Download Full Image

“I wish I knew who it was so I could thank them,” Hansen said. “Students are very busy. They have a lot going on in their lives. To know someone would take the time out of their day to nominate me for an award is so very humbling. I’m grateful.”

Using her cognitive psychology training to inform her teaching, Hansen skillfully weaves together case studies, current events and humor with empirical evidence. From foundational classes such as Introduction to Psychology to mid-level courses like Physiological Psychology and even advanced senior-level offerings such as Cognitive Psychology, she approaches her teaching in a way that not only captivates students during class but also enhances their ability to retain and recall information later on.

“Stories and anecdotes help us organize the information we are learning to improve our memory. I think about the science of learning when I design my courses, slides and activities. I really think about what is the best way to help them learn a complicated topic, and then I give them the tools to learn, as well as a set of skills that will be useful for the rest of their lives,” Hansen said.

Over her nearly 13 years as a full-time teacher, Hansen’s methods have evolved to be more inclusive, flexible and innovative. She instructs both in person and online. As the associate director of online initiatives for the Department of Psychology, Hansen contributes to the evaluation and creation of new online course offerings. 

“Dr. Hansen’s courses are thoughtfully designed in terms of content coverage, organization and pedagogical principles,” said Steven Neuberg, Foundation Professor and chair of the Department of Psychology. “Her best-practices approach for her online courses includes dividing courses into smaller sections with their own, specific learning objectives; providing students with information using multiple modalities like supplementary podcasts and videos; using low-stakes quizzes to check understanding; and responding quickly to student inquiries. She makes a huge difference in the academic lives of our students and is so deserving of this impressive recognition.”

Hansen is also dedicated to helping other professionals improve their teaching. She’s presented at national teaching conferences on flipped classroom design, provided consultation to faculty about online education, and actively serves as a mentor to junior faculty and students at ASU.

Hansen led the launch of the Department of Psychology’s Student Success Center, designed to provide coaching to students who are looking to improve their understanding of the science of psychology, writing and statistics. Staffed by upper-level student coaches, tutoring is available on days, nights and weekends, with favorable results. More than 96% of surveyed Student Success Center participants said they were extremely satisfied with the help they received.

“The students who use the Student Success Center love it and see real benefits in their grades. I was happy to apply for the funding and excited to serve as supervisor for the first three years, but the idea itself was a result of conversations with several of my amazing colleagues on the psychology teaching faculty,” Hansen said.

Hansen experienced the excellent faculty and quality education at ASU firsthand as a triple-Sun Devil alumna. She received her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology from ASU, and said the faculty were warm, compassionate and incredibly open to being helpful.

“ASU has always provided me with amazing opportunities. It’s a great school. I had incredible mentors like Steven Goldinger and Keith Crnic, who supported my teaching goals,” Hansen said. 

“As a whole, our faculty marry their impressive intellectual creativity with true caring to help our undergraduate and graduate students succeed, not only in psychology careers, but in any field that relies on understanding human behavior,” Neuberg said. 

Laura Fields

Marketing and communication manager, Department of Psychology

ASU sustainability alum’s business reconnects people to nature

June 8, 2023

Aly Stoffo’s interest in sustainability stemmed from a childhood love of nature. She often ventured to the protected woods across the street from her Staten Island home.

“If I didn’t have access to this ... I doubt I would’ve formed such a strong connection with nature,” said Stoffo, who is an Arizona State University alum. Aly Stoffo wearing a crown of greenery and smiling with her arms raised and a body of water and trees in the background. Arizona State University sustainability alum Aly Stoffo, founder of Glam Gardener NYC. Download Full Image

Stoffo was able to pursue those childhood interests with two degrees at ASU — a Bachelor of Science in sustainability and a master’s degree in sustainable solutions, both from the School of Sustainability, an academic unit of the College of Global Futures.

Originally starting her higher education journey at a small college in New York, Stoffo explained that adjusting to ASU took some time. However, the move ultimately opened her world, showing the array of possibilities available to her.

“I loved being at a smaller school, like the School of Sustainability, within the massive landscape that is ASU," Stoffo said, "because it was easy to navigate and get to know everybody and have one-on-one relationships with professors, staff and other students.”

During her time as a student, Stoffo had multiple city government internships, addressing New York City’s carbon emission and climate change goals or the city of Tempe’s waste reduction initiatives.

Education has been a consistent theme in all the positions. According to Stoffo, education is “the spark that gets people to change and act.” She realized early in her career that to thrive as a communicator, a business owner or a scientist, one must be an effective educator.

After graduating from ASU, Stoffo was working at a sustainability-centric job in Manhattan that she felt she wasn’t a great fit. So, in March 2020, she quit her job on the eve of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That month, she turned 25 and, very quickly, the jobs she had been interviewing for dried up. Stoffo had no prospects and, due to the pandemic, a lot of time on her hands, so she returned to her childhood interest of nature.

She started an Instagram account designed to be a free resource for city-bound nature lovers – a place where she could share her interest and expertise in gardening and wild edible plants.

She went from one follower to 1,000 in about three months.

The Instagram account that started as a passion project has now grown into a business — Glam Gardener NYC, which offers wild-plant-infused herbal products, outdoor education and merchandise for nature lovers.

“It was really after I graduated from ASU, after learning about sustainable food systems, invasive plants and waste awareness, that I realized the opportunity that foraging offers us.”

Stoffo’s business forages invasive, wild edible plants, which are often ignored or removed, in the northeastern United States to create herbal teas, tinctures and food products.

“What my company aims to do is to offer the benefits of these forgotten or vilified wild edibles by turning them into food products and remedies for healthier bodies and a more balanced ecosystem.”

Connecting to nature through gardening, foraging or simply spending time outdoors has been beneficial for Stoffo’s mental, physical and spiritual health. For those living in a metropolitan area, it is easy to lose that connection.

It's clear to Stoffo that there is much to gain as a person and community when we are connected to nature. “Without this connection, how could we expect that everyday people care for anything else in the realm of sustainability?”

Thanks to this belief and her educational background, Stoffo has built Glam Gardener NYC with sustainability in mind — considering how to ethically hand-harvest local herbal products, which local organic farmers to work with, and how to package and ship products.

“I was so convinced by the need to operate a truly local company during my studies at ASU, thanks to Professor Arnim Wiek, so I try to source supplies from USA-based companies, like our plantable seed paper greeting cards, our organic cotton screen-printed shirts and more.”

After three years of running her business, Stoffo is most proud of the community she has built with Glam Gardener.

“I 100% see a greener and more conscious community being built around me, and I think that having this business has allowed me to be a leader in this space, and I’m so proud of that because it’s going to culminate into a better community and planet.”

Matt Oxford

Assistant Director of Strategic Marketing and Communications, College of Global Futures