This award is designed to recognize innovation in pedagogy, content, curriculum, and to foster excellence in undergraduate education through new courses.
2014 Honors Professorships
Professor Dennison received the 2014 Honors Professorship award for his course proposal surrounding “Understanding Global Change.” This course is targeted to non-science based majors, delving into the science behind current global change phenomena in a relatable context. This discussion based course also challenges students through lab, modeling and research activities.
Professor Dennison has been at the University of Utah since 2004, and received his Masters and Doctorate degrees from the University of California Santa Barbara, with a Bachelor’s degree from Penn State University. His research interests include remote sensing in relation to vegetation, wildfire and climate change.
Professor Wischer received the 2014 Honors Professorship award for her course titled “Art, Action and the Environment.” This course offers a unique opportunity for students to explore art in the form of environmental action. Students will use text, site visits, discussion and research to address current environmental issues through artwork.
A Wisconsin native, Professor Wischer received an MFA from Florida State University and a BFA from the University of Wisconsin. Professor Wischer creates a variety of artwork including sculptures, installations, video and public works. Her art is on display in numerous locations throughout the United States, Dominican Republic and Italy.
2013 Honors Professorships
Dr. Robert Mayer joined the University of Utah in 1977. His primary appointment is in the Department of Family and Consumer Studies, but he has held adjunct positions in the departments of Sociology and Communication. He draws on his primary area of research, consumer movements and policy, to teach the public policy aspects of personal finance. He has a forthcoming book about Senator Eizabeth Warren and the activist campaign to create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. For the past four years, he has taught an introductory course in Consumer and Family Finance. Professor Mayer’s new course, HONOR 3020 – Financial Citizenship, centers on basic quantitative concepts involved in personal financial decision making, and includes a synthesis of his past teaching. He has been awarded the Superior Teaching Award of the College of Social and Behavioral Science as well as the University of Utah Distinguished Teaching Award.
Dr. Charles Jui is a professor of Physics. He completed his undergraduate work at University of Ottawa, Canada and received his Ph.D. in particle physics from Stanford. His brief post-doc years were spent working on the Large Electron-Positron Collider (LEP) at the European Center for Particle Physics (CERN) in Geneva. Dr. Jui joined the University of Utah as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics where he joined the High-Resolution Fly’s Eye project studying the highest energy cosmic rays. He has also directed the efforts of the Astrophysics Science Project Integrating Research and Education (ASPIRE) that provides online science lessons designed for 7th-9th grade classrooms. The usage of ASPIRE has grown steadily since its inception in 1997 to nearly 2000 visits (~20000-50000 hits) per day, distributed across north America, and with classroom users in western Europe and Central and South America. He joined the honors faculty in 2008, offering the course “Women in Physics and Their Scientific Contributions”. He is currently working on the successor to HiRes: the Telescope Array project (TA) concentrating on understanding the composition of the highest energy cosmic rays. But he is also branching into the fascinating study of complex dynamical systems. Dr. Jui’s new course, HONOR 3030 – Discovering Complex Systems introduces this exciting new field that crosses disciplines from business and finance to physics and computer science to biology and urban geography.
2012 Honors Professorship
Jon Seger teaches evolutionary genetics in the Department of Biology. His work has always centered on problems that elucidate the “quantitative rules” of evolutionary change, for example, how social interactions affect the evolution of reproductive strategies. His current work takes an evolutionary approach to the missing-heritability problem: why are modern genetic tools unable to identify more than a small fraction of the genes that contribute to inherited variation in quantitative traits such as human height? One possibility is that the “dark matter of the genome” includes vast numbers of variable sites that contribute individually tiny but collectively massive amounts of variation.
Seger majored in English and art at UCSB, then worked in environmental education and high-school curriculum development before studying for his Ph.D. with Robert Trivers at Harvard, where he was also strongly influenced by E.O. Wilson, Irven DeVore, Richard Lewontin, Ernest E. Williams and many other faculty and students. He did postdoctoral work with John Maynard Smith at Sussex, W.D. Hamilton at Michigan, and R.M. May at Princeton before joining the faculty at Utah in 1986. He has coauthored many papers with his wife, Victoria Rowntree, who studies the right whales that calve at Península Valdés, Argentina.
Biology 2005. Doing Science: The Biology of Variation.
In the fall semester of 2013, Seger will lead a new course for incoming freshman in the Honors College’s Science & Engineering cohort. The students will conduct open-ended research projects on the genetic and environmental causes of phenotypic variation in quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides). Working in small teams, they design and carry out studies, and frequently report their findings in writing and in verbal presentations to this same panel of nascent experts, and conversely, as members of the panel they will critically evaluate the reports of other teams. The teams’ projects will differ greatly in many ways, but each will dissect the contributions of genetic and environmental factors, and their interaction, within the framework of modern quantitative genetics. Research activities will include designing and carrying out programs of data collection (in the field and in the lab), and analyzing those data using the statistical computing language R. These technical skills will be among the course’s intended learning outcomes, as will an appreciation for (and ability to participate in) the inherently social process of scientific discourse. The skills and understandings gained by students in this course are intended to prepare them to learn as much as possible from their subsequent undergraduate courses and research experiences.
2011 Honors Professorship
Nan Ellin is Chair of the Department of City and Metropolitan Planning. Ellin’s work in urban design, placemaking, community-building and university neighborhood partnerships aims to enhance quality of life, specifically through improving the built and natural environments. She has developed a process for accomplishing this called VIDA: Visioning, Inspiring, Demonstrating, and Advocating. Most recently, Ellin applied this process with students and communities to introduce canalscape. This metropolitan initiative is leveraging the vast network of canals in the Phoenix region, originally built by early inhabitants over a millennium ago, by creating vital urban hubs where canals meet major streets. Canalscape is one of the Green Phoenix initiatives and was awarded an Arizona Humanities Council Grant and designated an Official Arizona Centennial Legacy Project by the Arizona Governor’s Centennial Commission.