UH Hilo faculty members earn coveted teaching awards

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Date: Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Contact: Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 974-7642

For Immediate Release

Three faculty members at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo were honored with prestigious teaching awards at spring commencement.

Marine Science Professor Dr. Karla McDermid Smith received the Board of Regents Award for Excellence in Teaching, which recognizes a full-time tenured or tenure track member of the UH Hilo faculty.

Students and peers alike have praised McDermid Smith for being highly effective inside and outside the classroom, often employing innovative and unusual teaching methods. In one class, several means were used to demonstrate how insects show adaptations for different feeding strategies - - those who use their mouthpieces like pliers (beetles), syringes (mosquitoes) and scissors (damselflies). She also creates and serves a limu luncheon to her Marine Science students.

The Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching by a UH Hilo Instructor or Lecturer was presented to Women’s Studies Instructor Amy Gregg, who received numerous enthusiastic letters of support from students and faculty alike.

Several supporters provided eloquent descriptions of the rigorous standards of excellence Gregg expects from students, while simultaneously holding herself to that same standard in her approach to teaching.

“Her classes are dynamic, interesting and challenging,” wrote one student. “I find it hard to believe just how great her influence on me has been.”

“She has the unique ability to integrate all viewpoints into her subject material and has proven herself to be exceedingly capable of balancing two extreme opinions so that all of our voices are heard,” wrote another student.

Assistant Biology Professor Dr. Jonathan Awaya received the Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, which recognizes a junior faculty member within the UH System.

“Dr. Awaya’s enthusiasm motivates all of us to explore ways to make the most of our educational experience,” said one nominator. “He is passionate in his belief that students here at UH Hilo can be just as competitive as other students from all around the world,” wrote another.

Awaya has earned praise for his commitment to helping students intent on being admitted to medical school. Several nominators have described how he encourages students to pursue independent research projects to expose them to the rigorous academic standards required to succeed in graduate level programs. He also maintains regular contact with faculty at the John A. Burns School of Medicine as advisor to the Aspiring Doctors of Hilo student club in an effort to create opportunities for UH Hilo students.


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