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The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences celebrates faculty excellence with 2024 teaching awards

Landscape image of the outside of Armstrong Hall with the signaged in the forefront of the image..

Each year faculty members in The College are recognized with awards for teaching excellence. Those honored with the annual teaching awards are the best of the best in providing an excellent education to their students. ASU photo

May 22, 2024

With over a thousand faculty in its humanities, natural sciences and social sciences divisions, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences teaches at least one course to 90% of ASU’s undergraduate student population, both in person and online.

Each year, faculty members in The College are recognized with awards for teaching excellence. Those honored with the annual teaching awards are the best of the best in providing an excellent education to their students. 

“Our primary purpose is to educate the next generation in the power of language, culture and society, critical thinking, scientific exploration and discovery. The faculty and instructors who are nominated for and receive the teaching awards each year are critical to fulfilling that purpose,” said Patrick Kenney, dean of The College. 

“They excel in putting our students’ needs first and in fostering an impactful learning environment to not only explore the humanities, natural sciences and social sciences, but also develop career-readiness skills that will help each student succeed well beyond their time at The College.”

Meet this year’s seven awardees:

Outstanding Teaching Professor Award, humanities

Portrait of Thad Botham.
Thad Botham

Thad Botham has taught at ASU since fall 2006. He currently is the faculty honors advisor for philosophy at Barrett, The Honors College, a founding faculty member of The College's Master of Liberal Studies program and an assistant teaching professor for the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. He is the recipient of the Outstanding Teaching Professor Award in humanities.

In spring 2023, he became the primary faculty advisor for the Undergraduate Philosophy Club. Botham says the club affords the space for him to “mentor mentees as they mentor their own mentees.” 

Botham strives to create an authentic sense of community where students grow and aims to foster a supportive learning environment where students rise to challenges and develop both within and beyond the classroom. He shared that his teaching approach is guided by a central question: "As a result of my instruction and mentorship, who do my students become?"

“I pour my heart and soul into our students,” he said. “I feel seen and honored to have received this coveted and prestigious teaching award. I am thankful ASU is committed to increasing ways to publicly recognize high-quality teaching.”

One of Thad's current research projects explores a major debate in the philosophy of religion involving Thomism, Molinism and Open Theism, which seek to reconcile a god or creator's control with the concept of agency or free will. 

Outstanding Instructor Award

Portrait of Hayden Casey.
Hayden Casey

Hayden Casey is a writer, musician and educator. He is an instructor in the Department of English, and the recipient of the 2024 Outstanding Instructor Award.

Blending critical and creative approaches in his teaching, Casey emphasizes the importance of clear, concise writing across various mediums and ensures his students understand the practical applications of their skills — from professional negotiations to personal interactions.

“This award is a true honor. The time I spend with my students and the connections I form are so meaningful to me, and hopefully to them, so it’s wonderful to see it acknowledged in this way,” he said. “To have even been nominated was a reward in and of itself; to be the actual recipient is near unconscionable.”

Casey's writing has been featured in several literary journals, including Witness, West Branch and Bridge Eight. His work has also been shortlisted for prestigious awards such as the Dzanc Books Prize for Fiction and the Palette Chapbook Prize for poetry. In spring 2025, Casey's debut book, a collection of short stories titled "Show Me Where the Hurt Is," will be published by Split/Lip Press.

Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award, social sciences

Portrait of Alan Gómez.
Alan Gómez 

Alan Gómez is an historian, Southwest Borderlands Scholar and associate professor of American studies and justice and social inquiry in the School of Social Transformation. He received the 2024 Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award in social sciences.

Gómez said he believes in the importance of fostering an environment of trust, risk-taking and analysis, leading to deeper questions and challenging assumptions. 

“Learning is not simply about transforming ideas and theories but changing the material conditions of life,” Gómez said.

“It is a humble honor to receive this award,” he said. “I am specifically indebted to students who work while learning as they remind me of the importance of an educational experience that is useful for living a life inspired by the possibility of changing the world.”

With a focus on social movements, Gómez’s research and publications dive into the dynamics of collective action and resistance against institutional power. 

Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award, humanities

Portrait of Brian Goodman.
Brian Goodman

Brian Goodman is an assistant professor in the Department of English and a faculty affiliate of the Center for Jewish Studies and The Melikian Center for Russian, Eurasian & East European Studies. Goodman has been awarded the 2024 Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award in humanities.

Goodman shared a stand-out lesson in one of his courses where he invites his students to reimagine the political symbolism of the Statue of Liberty in any creative medium, following the reading of the opening chapter of “Amerika,” a novel about immigration to the United States that describes “Lady Liberty” holding a sword instead of a torch.

Every lesson Goodman teaches is intertwined with his own research and writing and includes dynamic conversations on complex concepts and discoveries with his students. In his latest book, he even expressed his gratitude to his ASU students in the acknowledgments section.

His research explores how the intertwined histories of Cold War literature, dissent and free expression have been shaped through transnational cultural exchange.

“The past five or so years in the classroom have been crazy for all of us, teachers and students alike, with a pandemic and spiraling political crises. This award helped me take a step back and think about how much we can accomplish by being open to change, by continuing to use the humanities to ask difficult questions, and by still finding ways to have fun and laugh,” Goodman said. 

“Plus, my 5-year-old told me he was excited for me this morning. (He also asked if I get a trophy.)”

Outstanding Teaching Professor Award, social sciences

Portrait of Jason Kelley.
Jason Kelley

Jason Kelley is a teaching professor for the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. He was recognized with the 2024 Outstanding Teaching Professor Award in social sciences.

His teaching and research focus on transportation planning, sustainable urban design, the historical evolution of urban planning and environmental justice, with a particular interest in pedestrian-oriented development and urban planning in South American cities.

Kelley shares real-life examples from Latin America to offer students a different perspective on urban planning, and emphasizes the importance of recognizing diverse perspectives to gain a comprehensive understanding. He aims for his students to think, “I never thought of it that way,” or “I never considered it from that perspective.”

“For me, receiving this award is the culmination of over ten years of hard work and late nights preparing my classes, as well as wonderful memories of engaging with exceptional students and realizing the hard work is well worth the effort,” Kelley said.

“Receiving this award this year is of particular personal significance. All of my life, the one individual who always provided encouragement and positive motivation in my academic endeavors was my beloved mother. After ten years of being nominated for this award, my mother unfortunately passed away prior to me receiving this honor. I know she would have been exceptionally proud.”

Outstanding Teaching Professor Award, natural sciences

Portrait of Christina Pedram.
Christina Pedram

Christina Pedram has been teaching at ASU since 2017 and is currently a teaching professor for the Department of Psychology. She has been awarded the Outstanding Teaching Professor Award in natural sciences.

Pedram’s teaching approach is rooted in evidence-based practices and a commitment to fostering intellectual curiosity and academic excellence. She challenges students' preconceptions, encourages self-reflection and bridges the gap between research and practice. Her research in best practices for teaching informs her own teaching, driving her to seek innovative strategies to enhance student engagement, comprehension and retention.

Pedram shared that she enjoys teaching PSY 370: Interpersonal Relationships because it connects with students' daily lives. Through discussions, students recognize shared challenges and successes, gain self-awareness and appreciation for diverse perspectives and apply new insights to their own relationships. 

“Receiving the Outstanding Teaching Professor Award from The College is an extraordinary honor, one that fills me with immense gratitude and pride. Teaching has always been my passion, and to be recognized in this way for something I love doing is truly humbling.”

Her research interests are in social psychology, more specifically: prejudice and stereotyping, implicit bias, race and inequality and intergroup processes. 

Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award, natural sciences

Portrait of Arvind Varsani.
Arvind Varsani

Arvind Varsani is a professor in the School of Life Sciences, Center for Evolution and Medicine and the Biodesign Center for Fundamental and Applied Microbiomics. He is this year’s recipient of the Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award in the natural sciences division. 

Varsani shared that he uses a non-hierarchical teaching style that breaks down barriers between educator and learner, and strives to foster an inclusive and equitable learning environment where every student can thrive. His work and lived experiences have equipped him with a deep cross-cultural understanding that plays into his teaching and mentoring approaches.

“This means a lot, specifically that my teaching endeavors, both in small and large classes, as well as research-based, are having a positive impact on the learning outcomes of our diverse students at ASU,” Varsani said. “The students are acknowledging this, and as an educator, this is possibly the most rewarding feedback.”

Varsani researches viruses across various ecosystems, from plants to animals and from the tropics to polar regions, utilizing traditional virology, microscopy, molecular techniques and bioinformatics to characterize viruses and study their dynamics.

Lauren Whitby contributed to this story. 

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