The College celebrates faculty excellence with 2022 Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Awards

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The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University offers courses that nearly every ASU student takes at some point in their college journey.

These courses explore a variety of topics in the social sciences, natural sciences and humanities and are led by outstanding faculty who strive to go above and beyond for their students. 

Annually, one faculty member from each division of The College is selected as a recipient of the Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award, the highest recognition of teaching excellence in The College.

In addition, two instructors are recognized with the Outstanding Lecturer Award and Outstanding Instructor Award.

"This year's recipients have made conscious efforts to serve our diverse student population and adapt to new learning environments," said Patrick Kenney, dean of The College.

“The Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award is one way that we can thank them for their excellence in fostering intentional, inclusive and inspirational learning environments.” 

Meet this year’s awardees:

Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award

Portrait of

Julia Himberg

Julia Himberg, humanities

Himberg is director and associate professor of film and media studies in The College’s Department of English. She is also a faculty affiliate with the School of Social Transformation and The Sidney Poitier New American Film School. Himberg has been awarded, in recognition of her excellence, the 2022 Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award in humanities.

Since arriving at ASU in 2012, she has taught courses on topics such as television studies, gender and sexuality in media, and branding and marketing in the media industries. She is the author of “The New Gay for Pay: The Sexual Politics of American Television Production.”

Himberg is also deeply committed to LGBTQ students. At ASU, she has been the faculty adviser for several LGBTQ student groups including the ASU LGBTQ Support Club and Gamma Rho Lambda Sorority (an all-inclusive LGBTQ and Ally social sorority), and she serves as a board member of GLSEN Phoenix, an organization that strives to improve learning environments for LGBTQ students.

In her teaching, Himberg makes a conscious effort to inspire students to enjoy and crave knowledge and skills that benefit them throughout their lifetimes. Efforts towards diverse and equitable spaces, communities and processes, in and out of the classroom, are central to how she approaches her work as an educator and as one who is openly gay. She has integrated knowledge from workshops on equity and anti-racist pedagogies, accessible teaching practices and alternative grading approaches.

“I am deeply honored by this award and how it reflects students’ awareness of the value of a humanities degree, particularly the important ways it teaches them to think thoughtfully about the world around them,” Himberg said. “I am grateful to The College for this award. … I feel privileged to be a part of this institution and appreciate everything its students, faculty and staff have done to support my growth as an educator.”

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Megan Jehn

Megan Jehn, social sciences

Jehn is an infectious disease epidemiologist and associate professor of global health in The College’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change. She is the 2022 recipient of the Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award in social sciences.

Her research interests include the application of quantitative research methods and technological innovations to improve public health emergency preparedness. In her efforts as a leader at ASU, she strives to support her students’ and mentees’ success.

Jehn serves as the head of the ASU COVID-19 Case Investigation team where she leads many efforts to track and respond to the spread of COVID-19 in the state of Arizona. She also built a public health training program through the ASU Student Outbreak Response Team, and she developed one of the first online global health degrees in the country. 

“My primary motivation at this stage in my career is helping my mentees achieve success and nurturing the next generation,” Jehn said. “This is one of the most meaningful awards that a professor can achieve. At the end of my career, I will not care at all about how many papers I published or what my h-index is. However, I will care tremendously whether I was a good mentor and had a positive impact on the lives of others.”

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Silvie Huijben

Silvie Huijben, natural sciences

Huijben is an assistant professor at the Center for Evolution and Medicine in The College’s School of Life Sciences. She has been teaching at ASU since 2019. This year, she received the Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award in recognition of her work in the natural sciences division.

Huijben studies the evolution of drug resistance in malaria parasites and the evolution of insecticide resistance in mosquitoes. With her passion for her research and the help of a 2021 NSF CAREER award, she has developed a new course-based research experience for fall 2023. Undergraduates will gain research experience via mosquito research in the lab; Huijben also developed lesson plans integrated with an augmented reality game aimed at middle school students to learn about mosquitoes and what people can do to minimize the mosquito issues in their environment. 

As a new instructor, Huijben has found that she gets great satisfaction from teaching when she sees her passion rub off on her students. She strives to teach her students about how relevant the role of evolution is in many aspects of their lives. She aims to inspire them to ask big questions and critically think about the natural world around them. 

“I am extremely honored to receive this award. It shows that The College values the commitment of myself, and by extension the whole evolution instruction team, to provide the best possible learning experience to our students,” Huijben said. “This recognition shows that The College also values efforts to support our students in getting the best learning experience possible.” 

Outstanding Lecturer Award

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Michelle Saint

Michelle Saint

Saint is a philosophy lecturer in The College’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. She is the recipient of this year’s Outstanding Lecturer Award.

She first came to ASU to pursue graduate school. She spent time working in Florida, Washington and Minnesota before returning to ASU.

Saint specializes in the philosophy of fiction and is also committed to pedagogy. She serves as a member of the American Philosophical Association's Committee on the Teaching of Philosophy and has previously served as the co-coordinator for the American Philosophical Association's Teaching Workshop blog series. Currently, her research interests include the application of feminist ethical theory to aesthetics, the role of narrative in psychological well-being and the social significance of fictional artworks.

“I believe, deeply, in the value of compassionate empathy. I strive in my teaching to live up to this guiding value,” Saint said. “Teaching, I think, is primarily a matter of constructing an environment and a kind of interpersonal connection that empowers students to do the hard work of learning; moments when students show that they are empowered in this way make me feel like I’ve done something right. This recognition is an honor, and it is humbling. It’s reinvigorating, and it motivates me to keep trying.”

Outstanding Instructor Award

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Zachary Shaffer

Zachary Shaffer

Shaffer, an instructor in The College’s School of Life Sciences, considers himself a “homegrown product of ASU.” He earned his teaching certification and master's degree in curriculum and instruction and then later his PhD in biology at ASU. He is the recipient of the 2022 Outstanding Instructor Award.

As a behavioral ecologist, Shaffer's research interests include animal behavior, evolution and ecology. In collaboration with Stephen Pratt, he has conducted research involving the collective behavior of insect societies, especially Temnothorax ants.

For five years now, Shaffer has specialized in teaching large-enrollment introductory biology courses and often teaches online classes. Shaffer hopes to spark a gateway for students to begin their own independent explorations of biological science as lifelong learners.

“My mother passed away last year after a long career as an English professor. I try to emulate the kindness I saw in her as a teacher — her natural interest in her students’ lives,” Shaffer said. “This award means a lot knowing how many excellent instructors are working in my department alone. It means a lot that my students themselves nominated me for this award and wrote letters of recommendation.”

Alek Bustamante Valdez
abusta11@asu.edu

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