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2017 Regents' Outstanding Teaching Awards

Dr. Jill Fleuriet

Dr. Jill Fleuriet

Inspiring students to live intentionally

On the steamy summer afternoon of Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, Jill Fleuriet, associate professor of anthropology and associate dean of the Honors College, walked off a plane from Guadalajara, Mexico, accompanied by 12 UTSA undergraduate students and her colleague Michael Muehlenbein. They had just completed an intensive eight-week research and service learning course in three locations that students will remember for the rest of their lives.

Intellectual curiosity, excitement and a sense of interconnectedness is what Fleuriet strives to develop in her students through creating opportunities to learn in nontraditional spaces and in the classroom. In fact, she admits she still gets chills when a student or class has that "click" moment of deeper understanding of local and global issues and their own roles in them.

This summer's course was full of those "click" moments. The course topic was to delve into the linkages of human and animal health in a changing climate. Students surveyed over 1,200 people in San Antonio and Brownsville about knowledge of the Zika virus and conducted 80 hours of observations at zoos to gather people’s ideas about animals that could impact animal and human health through increased risk of touching and illegal pet ownership. Students conducted service learning at Sea Turtle Inc. at South Padre Island through beach cleanup to rehabilitating enclosures for turtles. They also helped at the primate sanctuary, Primarily Primates, in San Antonio by prepping daily diets and enrichment for primates. They learned about urban water ecology by clearing invasive species and debris from the headwaters of the San Antonio River.

Engagement in learning through issues important to students flows through all of Fleuriet’s courses. Fleuriet draws inspiration from the famous educational philosopher John Dewey.

"To Dewey, education was a process of intentional living," she shared. "I agree. My goal as an anthropology professor is to guide students to critical, informed thinking about what it means to be human, how to be culturally and biologically interconnected in our global society, and how they can use that insight to be better global citizens."

Fleuriet is a cultural, medical anthropologist with an expertise in ethnic and gender health disparities in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. Fleuriet came to UTSA in 2003 after completing her Ph.D. at Stanford University. Originally from the Rio Grande Valley, Fleuriet wanted to teach and conduct research on issues that matter to people in South Texas and the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. Her passion for South Texas is evident in her service work as well, from conducting program evaluations of local arts programming’s impact on elder well-being, to designing curriculum in cultural relativism for the Children’s Shelter, to developing educational materials for docents at the Institute for Texan Cultures.


Since joining UTSA in 2003, Fleuriet has taught courses on Death & Dying: Contemporary Cultural Perspectives, Medical Anthropology, The Fieldwork Experience, and Applied Anthropology, among others. Last summer, she co-led a study abroad course on Cross-Cultural Medicine in Guadalajara, Mexico. She advises departmental Honors students, Honors College students, M.A. and Ph.D. students in their individual research projects whose topics range from narratives of gender and autoimmune disorders to citizenship and dialysis access for end-stage renal disease patients in the Rio Grande Valley.

One of Fleuriet’s former students wrote, “Dr. Fleuriet is undoubtedly the most influential person in my academic career. She has profoundly shaped me both as a human being and as an anthropologist.”

In 2015, Fleuriet won the UTSA President's Distinguished Achievement Award for Teaching Excellence and in 2016 she won the UTSA President's Distinguished Achievement Award for Community Engagement. This summer, she was honored with the prestigious UT System Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award.

Without a doubt, Fleuriet has made a tremendous impact on the lives of many UTSA students.

"Watching Jill hone her natural gifts as a teacher over the past several years has been an inspiring experience," reflected Dan Gelo, dean of the UTSA College of Liberal and Fine Arts. "Students know when a faculty member genuinely cares about their wellbeing and progress, and Jill's care is so evident in everything she does. No wonder she has earned so many perfect "5" ratings in her teaching evaluations for the past three years! Whether running a seminar class, prepping Rhodes Scholar candidates, or engaging students in her health research projects in the South Texas community, Jill Fleuriet has proven to be a key figure in the UTSA mission."


Story by K.C. Gonzalez