AUGUST 12, 2020 — UTSA’s Nazgol Bagheri and Jodi Peterson have been selected to receive 2020 Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Awards from The University of Texas System. They are among 27 educators from UT System’s 14 academic and health institutions being honored with this prestigious annual award.
“Congratulations to Dr. Bagheri and Professor Peterson on being recognized among the most extraordinary and innovative instructors in the UT System,” said Kimberly Andrews Espy, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “They both exemplify the use of cutting-edge teaching practices that prioritize inclusivity, student-faculty connection, and transformative learning experiences.
Bagheri is an associate professor of political science and geography and graduate program coordinator for the geography and environmental sustainability program. She teaches introductory and advanced courses in geographic information systems and courses in urban sustainability, urban geography, feminist geography and world geography.
As director of the College of Liberal and Fine Arts’ GIS Lab, she helps students from many different majors, backgrounds and research interests learn how to visualize, question, analyze, interpret and overlay spatially referenced data layers to understand relationships, patterns and trends.
Bagheri regularly incorporates community project-based experiential learning into her courses to both enhance learning and to provide her students with opportunities to be in new, professional settings and gain marketable skills.
“My primary goal as a teacher is to assist students to become self-starters, independent thinkers, socially responsible and confident global citizens,” Bagheri said.
She accomplishes this goal by creating caring connections with her students while structuring her courses and interactions around experiential learning, critical being-thinking and inclusiveness.
One of Bagheri’s students stated, “I believe that there are a lot of good professors but very few great professors. As a student, there are many professors that you enjoy taking classes with because of numerous reasons (they explain things well, they are funny, engaging, etc.), but there are very few professors that inspire a love of learning like Dr. Bagheri does. Her teaching style reaches the rare intersection of engaging, creative and uplifting.”
Peterson is a lecturer in the Department of History who has primarily taught large core courses on U.S. history in face-to-face, hybrid and fully online modalities. It’s not uncommon for her to teach 500-plus students each semester.
She was the first faculty member in her department to use open educational resources in U.S. history courses, which has resulted in nearly $50,000 in student savings per semester. She was also first in her department to convert to hybrid and fully online teaching, for which she has consistently received exceptional departmental and student evaluations. Over the past few years, and especially now, Peterson has served as a resource for her faculty colleagues on how to teach effectively online.
By keeping up with best teaching practices, Peterson is able to create meaningful connections with her students across all course modalities.
“When choosing instructional strategies, I take into consideration the ones that best promote critical thinking and the opportunity for students to voice their opinions,” she said. “This policy goes beyond the classroom. I provide a discussion board and GroupMe chats for students to participate in continuous conversation with their classmates as well as face-to-face and online office hours to encourage conversation with me as their instructor. I am always available for my students to ask questions, share thoughts and engage in academic dialogue.”
Her students, in turn, value that connection. As one stated, “Professor Peterson is truly gifted in her ability to bring history alive and to be able to relate it to how we experience our world today. Throughout the course she was engaged and available to assist and encourage. I feel like for the first time I was able to really connect with history on a personal level.”
The Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Awards program was established in 2008 to recognize faculty who demonstrate a history and promising future of sustained excellence in undergraduate teaching.
Including this year’s recipients, 51 UTSA faculty members have received the award. A list of past recipients is available on the UTSA Faculty Awards website.
Award recipients are vetted at their own institutions before advancing to compete at the systemwide level. In their evaluations of a candidate’s teaching performance, members of the selection committee consider a range of activities and criteria, including classroom expertise, curriculum quality, innovative course development and student learning outcomes.
Because of the depth and breadth of educators across the UT System, the awards are among the nation’s most competitive.
With this recognition, Bagheri and Peterson become the newest members of the UTSA Academy for Distinguished Teaching Scholars, a group comprised of Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Awards winners that provides institutional leadership and guidance for excellent teaching at UTSA.
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