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Exemplary faculty members named President’s Professors


November 10, 2008

Three outstanding professors who have made exceptional contributions to undergraduate education at Arizona State University have been named President’s Professors, in recognition of the level of excellence they bring to ASU.

The award recognizes mastery of subject matter, enthusiasm and innovation in teaching, the ability to engage students both within and outside the classroom, the capacity to inspire independent thinking in students, innovation in course and curriculum design and scholarly contributions. They will be honored at a ceremony on Dec. 4.

Awardees are José E. Nánez, psychology professor in the Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences and director of ASU community outreach; Margaret C. Nelson, associate dean of Barrett, the Honors College, professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and affiliated faculty in the Global Institute of Sustainability; and Max Underwood, professor in the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture in the College of Design.

Nánez has had a life-changing impact on many students, notably those in his lab who have gained entry to prestigious graduate schools and those who may not have even considered pursuing a college degree without his influence. He creates new strategies to advance the university’s student outreach agenda, drawing on his many years of successfully engaging students in his classes.

As a cognitive neuroscientist, Nánez pursues research in visual perception and neuronal organization. He believes that faculty members also should provide an “education of the heart,” helping students love their work, work diligently, become life-long learners and give back to their communities.

Nelson is known for being involved, caring, responsive and innovative in her teaching, placing students in the center of her attention, her life and her career. She is a leader in improving educational opportunities and instructional quality for students. As an archaeologist, she invites students to participate in her field research, combining archaeological analysis with deep and encompassing theoretical insights.

A much-admired teacher, Nelson was named Centennial Professor by the Associated Students of ASU in 2001 and Professor of the Year by the ASU Parents Association in 2005. She also was founding president of the ASU Distinguished Teaching Academy.

Few architecture professors in the United States are as highly respected and recognized as Underwood, who combines the art of teaching with the realities of professional practice. In 32 years as a teaching architect, he and his students have undertaken 36 collaborative visioning projects in the community that evolved into commissions for local professionals, making him a popular resource for practicing architects and an exemplary teacher for his students.

Underwood’s design studios are consistently rated some of the most inspiring among undergraduate and graduate students. He transmits thoughtful scholarship and genuine enthusiasm, teaching them to create and maintain an environment that supports well being.