Monday, October 16, 2017

UTSA psychology professor named 2017 Piper Professor

Mary McNaughton-Cassill recognized for her academic, scientific and scholarly achievement

Mary McNaughton-Cassill recognized for her academic, scientific and scholarly achievement.


(May 1, 2017) -- Mary McNaughton-Cassill, a professor of psychology in the College of Liberal and Fine Arts, was named as a recipient of the 2017 Piper Professor Award. The award, established by the San Antonio-based Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation in 1958, annually recognizes 10 college professors in Texas for their academic, scientific and scholarly achievement.

She is the 10th UTSA faculty member to be named as a Piper Professor; her spouse, Professor of Biology Aaron Cassill, was the university's most recent recipient, having been selected in 2013.

"Few faculty members inspire such tremendous respect and admiration among their colleagues and students alike as Dr. McNaughton-Cassill, and I am proud to congratulate her on this recognition as a 2017 Piper Professor," said C. Mauli Agrawal, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs. "She embodies the qualities we often find in outstanding instructors: a passion for her discipline, a commitment to student success, and a readiness to connect with her students in a way that is relevant and effective for them."

A clinical psychologist, McNaughton-Cassill said her teaching philosophy is shaped by her belief that students learn best when they feel their professors genuinely care about their learning and when they see how course material is relevant to their own lives.

"A small amount of caring on the part of a faculty member can make a big difference in the life of a student," she said. "Research actually suggests that when students are personally engaged with the person giving the lecture, they are more committed to learning and understanding the material being presented."

As such, Dr. McNaughton-Cassill is known for being approachable and generous with her time. She serves as the Department of Psychology undergraduate advisor of record and the university's Behavioral Intervention Team. She has supervised more than 100 Independent Study and Master's Thesis projects and has been advisor of more Honors College thesis projects than any other faculty member.

"Although words will fall short, there is no doubt in my mind that Dr. McNaughton-Cassill had the single greatest influence on my undergraduate education," wrote one former student. "She epitomizes the essence of education. Dr. McNaughton-Cassill was more than a professor, she took the time to be a mentor and one who cultivated the best in every student she had."

Another wrote: "Dr. McNaughton is an amazing professor. She not only taught me the subject matter but life lessons, and I think that is what separates teachers from inspiring educators. Dr. McNaughton is an inspiring educator."

McNaughton-Cassill is among the university's most decorated faculty. She was inducted into the University of Texas System Academy of Distinguished Teachers in 2015, the first UTSA instructor selected for the prestigious academy. She was a charter member of the UTSA Academy of Distinguished Teaching Scholars, having been recognized by the UT System with the Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award in 2010.

In the past decade at UTSA, she has received the Student Athlete of the Year Faculty Recognition Award (2007), the Honors College Outstanding Research Mentor Award, (2007), the Richard S. Howe Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award (2011), and the President's Distinguished Achievement Award for University Service (2013).

"I've known Dr. McNaughton-Cassill since she joined UTSA in 1994, and I have seen her build a truly outstanding record as a classroom teacher, mentor to students, and campus paragon for teaching excellence," said College of Liberal and Fine Arts Dean Dan Gelo. "Her students regularly praise her for her down-to-earth demeanor, ability to make complex ideas understandable, and her sincere empathy for students.

"She is not only a highly proficient instructor, but one who has built a career of excellence around teaching in its broadest conceptualization."

The College of Liberal and Fine Arts has exceptional faculty drawn from prestigious institutions nationwide who receive local and national awards including outstanding teaching awards, hold editorships of major scholarly journals, and publish and present their research nationally and internationally. COLFA is the largest college at UTSA and contributes to the education of virtually every student through its core curriculum.

UTSA is ranked among the top 400 universities in the world and among the top 100 in the nation, according to Times Higher Education.

- Rebecca Luther

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