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4 exceptional faculty receive Provost Teaching Awards

ASU sign lit up at night.
February 21, 2024

The excellence of Arizona State University’s academic programs and research is often reflected through rising national rankings and research expenditures, but university leaders, faculty and staff value teaching equally alongside those important measures. Teaching and learning are core to the university experience, and the quality and diversity of ASU teachers and mentors form the backbone of students’ earliest experiences — and potentially their success.

Shining light on some of ASU’s remarkable educators paving the way for students, Nancy Gonzales, executive vice president and university provost, has created a new award, the Provost Teaching Award.

“The Provost Teaching Award is designed to recognize teaching excellence and innovation. The awardees have demonstrated a commitment to fostering an educational environment in which all students succeed and that advances the ASU Charter,” Gonzales said. “I am profoundly grateful for their dedication. Congratulations to our inaugural cohort of exceptional Teaching Professor awardees.”

Todd Sandrin, vice provost of the West Valley campus and dean of the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, points out that 40% of New College students are first generation: “Teaching offers the first environment in which they experience our faculty at ASU. We need to do this part right, to ensure a sense of belonging, and to ensure that students not only graduate with the skills to excel in the real world, but that they understand they have an obligation to put their skills and knowledge to use in their community and the world.”

Four standouts were selected from the more than 5,000 faculty members across the university. These four were nominated by ASU deans and affirmed by the provost for 2023: Associate Professor Jennifer Broatch, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences; Associate Teaching Professor Gregory Broberg, School of Social Transformation; Associate Teaching Professor Tara Lennon, School of Politics and Global Studies; and Professor Tracy Spinrad, T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics.

“The inaugural winners of this award are all deeply committed to our teaching mission and our desire to provide our students with the tools of success. Their devotion to teaching excellence is exemplary,” said Magda Hinojosa, dean of social sciences in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Teaching Professor awardees

Jennifer Broatch, associate professor in the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences at the New College
Jennifer Broatch

An associate professor in the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences at the New College, Jennifer Broatch has focused her career on changing the landscape of modern statistics education: “The pedagogy of statistics education has not kept pace with the role and impact of statistics in society. Traditional approaches don’t use enough technology, don’t meet students where they are and can’t explain how it’s useful. I believe in creating a student-centered culture of learning, so students can see themselves as data-driven decision-makers.”

Broatch’s innovative curricula promotes student success through a range of instructional strategies and inclusive practice activities, including supporting student collaboration with industry partners where they gain critical real-world experience for their senior capstone. In one statistics exercise for students designed to illustrate sampling bias, Broatch incorporates a speech given by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor that offers a window into Latino culture and what it means to identify as a Latina. One student said afterward, “As a Latina, I really connected with the lesson highlighting Justice Sotomayor and her joyful description of my culture.”

Gregory Broberg, associate teaching professor in the School of Social Transformation in The College
Gregory Broberg

Gregory Broberg, an associate teaching professor of justive and social inquiry in the School of Social Transformation, works to engage students in interactive exercises to promote critical thinking about complex justice-related concepts using real-world case examples that highlight the establishment and impact of structural inequalities, better positioning students to dismantle such inequities in their future work. More than 96% of students report that they would take another class with him.

“In addition to his regular and heavy teaching load, he also routinely supervises Barrett Honors theses and contracts, more than 74 thus far in his time at ASU,” notes his nominator, LaDawn Haglund, a former faculty lead for justice and social inquiry. “Dr. Broberg is a crucial contributor to the success of the justice studies program and our students; I don’t know what we would do without him.”

Tara Lennon, associate teaching professor and the associate director of undergraduate studies in the School of Politics and Global Studies in The College.
Tara Lennon

“The ASU Charter reminds us to see carefully what is before us (micro), then to go big in responsibility (macro),” says Tara Lennon, an associate teaching professor and the associate director of undergraduate studies in the School of Politics and Global Studies.

Lennon is passionate about allowing students' voices to be heard in the classroom, and regularly utilizes a wide range of techniques to support student engagement — from Slack channels and interactive polling to innovative “fishbowl” town hall discussions. She believes that such efforts, coupled with innovative simulation activities, allow students to not only practice and develop skills in civil discourse, but to critically examine how domestic and foreign policies influence global sustainability. One student said of the town halls: “I feel I was able to more clearly grasp the concepts after hearing my peers explain their points. This is coming from someone who does not like public speaking much.”

“Tara epitomizes what makes ASU unique in American higher education," said Güneş Murat Tezcür, director and professor in the School of Politics and Global Studies. "She is a dedicated and caring professor who teaches at scale while mentoring our most promising and accomplished students, with very diverse backgrounds and life experiences, in high-impact research projects and internships. It is commendable that ASU, as a leading research university, created the Teaching Professor Award as it gives a very strong signal that teaching is rewarded and cherished in our university.”

Tracy Spinrad, professor in the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics in The College.
Tracy Spinrad

Tracy Spinrad, a professor in the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics and a scholar of the science of human development, has taught nearly 4,000 students over 25 years. Her teaching offers students unique, hands-on opportunities to learn about infant and toddler development both in and out of the classroom, as she frequently partners with organizations to allow students to make a meaningful impact in the community. Students have commented on Spinrad’s clear commitment to inclusive excellence, focusing her scholarship and mentoring of student research on children’s compassion and concern toward racial "in" and "out" groups, and ensuring that she underscores the work of scholars who have been otherwise “hidden” due to their marginalized identities in her courses.

In all, Spinrad’s goal is to bring passion for the science of human development to all of her teaching-related roles: “It’s an honor to be nominated for the Provost Teaching Award. The spirit of this award — recognizing teaching that aligns with ASU’s charter and contributes to student success — is consistent with my strong commitment to fostering student growth and success within and outside of the classroom.”

Nominations for Provost Teaching Awards will be conducted annually, with awards going to two faculty members each year. Nominations are made by deans of academic units, or dean’s designees, and are now being accepted for 2024.

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