MAY 2, 2022 — Diane Abdo, a professor of instruction in UTSA’s University College, has received a 2022 Piper Professor Award for her commitment to higher education and her dedication to the students she has taught for more than four decades.
Abdo is one of 10 professors selected this year to receive the award, which was established in 1958 by the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation to annually recognize professors across Texas for their exceptional instruction and outstanding achievements.
“On behalf of the university, I am delighted to congratulate Professor Abdo on being recognized among the top college professors in the state,” said UTSA Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Kimberly Andrews Espy. “Diane is one of our longest-serving faculty members, and her continued commitment to her students and fellow faculty make her richly deserving of this award. She exemplifies the outstanding faculty at UTSA who advance the success of our students by providing high-quality, transformational academic experiences.”
Abdo is the 11th UTSA faculty member to receive the award.
“Professor Abdo’s dedication to teaching and to her students is unparalleled,” said Debra Peña, director and assistant professor of instruction for The Writing Program at University College. “Serving students, helping them achieve their goals and assuring each student receives exemplary instruction is at the heart of each of Professor Abdo’s courses, committee activities and her community involvement.”
For Abdo, learning has been a lifelong endeavor. Even as a child, she remembers enjoying every day at school and cherishing trips to the city library to explore the stacks of books. Abdo now shares this love of learning in her own classroom, educating countless students during her 49-year teaching career.
“I teach because I love learning,” Abdo said. “A student once asked me why I use the phrase ‘going to school’ rather than ‘going to work’ when I refer to teaching at UTSA. The reason is simple: I learn every time I’m with students.”
The San Antonio native has impacted the lives of students at UTSA and from other schools across the city. After earning her bachelor’s degree in English from St. Mary’s University, she spent nearly a decade teaching secondary education at various San Antonio schools.
During this time, she also completed a master’s degree in English at UTSA. She officially made the transition from student to UTSA faculty member in 1980, after three years of teaching at San Antonio College. Abdo is now one of UTSA’s longest-serving faculty members, and she still finds enjoyment in each class she leads after nearly five decades as a teacher.
“I still look forward to meeting with my students—even if the meeting has to be through Zoom,” Abdo said. “After 49 years in this profession, I am still passionate about teaching. It continues to bring me joy and inspiration.”
A major highlight of Abdo’s time at UTSA has been her work developing new courses for both The Writing Program and the Honors College. With a focus on the “Classroom to Career” model, she aims to provide experiential learning environments for her students to gain real-world, transferable knowledge.
In her Writing for Pre-Law course, for example, she helps students hone their logical thinking and analytical reasoning skills, while learning to write in the clear and concise style that is standard in the legal field. Abdo also brings to her class the practical knowledge gained from earning her Master of Jurisprudence degree from Texas A&M School of Law in 2019.
Abdo’s dedication to experiential learning is part of a larger UTSA initiative to implement programming that enables students to gain a greater understanding of the marketable skills they need to succeed in the workplace. These opportunities are particularly important in linking classroom success to life after graduation, especially for historically underserved populations.
“Her legal writing class was formative to my development as a student and a writer,” wrote one former student who is now attending law school. “I am one of many students who have felt the impact of her teaching and can attribute the trajectory of my career path directly to her.”
As a former journalist and technical writing specialist for her own consulting group, Abdo also incorporates her unique personal experience to construct engaging lessons that are more comprehensive than what would be found in a textbook alone.
Abdo’s innovative course design includes her “Cook. Eat. Write. Repeat.” class, a Writing Program course offered in partnership with the Honors College and one of the most popular classes she has developed. It enables students to create their own cookbook while learning about the historical and cultural aspects of cooking. Students also study the writing, design and collaborative work that goes into publishing a cookbook.
“Her reputation was well-known to me, as it is to all students, for being a must-take professor,” wrote another former student. “Her teaching method proves both effective and invigorating, and her mentorship has been invaluable."
Abdo also has served as the chief advisor for UTSA’s independent newspaper, The Paisano, for the past 40 years. She gives students insight into journalism by exposing them to news writing, design, accounting, marketing, social media and the many other elements that go into producing a news publication. Some of her former students have taken these skills with them since graduating, starting careers in journalism with media outlets like the Los Angeles Times and National Geographic.
“Diane has had a profound, transformative impact on hundreds of UTSA students both in and out of the classroom,” said Heather Shipley, UTSA senior vice provost for academic affairs and dean of University College. “She is among the university’s most decorated faculty for her ability to engage with and inspire students and her dedication to higher education.”
Among Abdo’s previous awards: the University of Texas Board of Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award (2010), the UTSA President’s Distinguished Achievement Award for Excellence in University Service (2014), the UTSA President’s Award for Teaching Excellence (1993) and the St. Mary’s University Distinguished Alumnus Award (2011).
She is also the namesake for UTSA’s Diane Abdo Outstanding Advisor Award, which recognizes one faculty or staff member each year for their dedication to students and organizations on campus.
“Not only have I had the opportunity to get an education,” Abdo said, “but I have had the great fortune to create a life with education at its core.”
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