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National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition

Past Recipients

See the past winners of the Excellence in Teaching First-Year Seminars Award.

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Lori Holleran Steiker

University of Texas at Austin 

Dr. Holleran Steiker enthusiastically teaches about substance use, misuse, addiction and recovery. She holds the distinguished Steve Hicks Professorship of Addictions, Recovery and Substance Abuse Services in Social Work and serves as the Associate Dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. An innovative leader, she spearheaded Central Texas’ first recovery high school, the UT Opioid Response Consortium, and the UT SHIFT initiative to change the culture of campus substance use towards wellness. Students partner with her on all her community projects and love her engaging and experiential “Young People and Drugs” Signature Course. 

Alma Robinson Headshot

Alma Robinson

Virginia Tech

Alma Robinson is an Advanced Instructor and PhysTEC Teacher in Residence at Virginia Tech. At the core of her teaching philosophy is a need to create an inclusive learning environment where students feel safe to explore their curiosities and are encouraged to be the sense-makers; a place where students believe in their own abilities to learn, are motivated to persevere through their struggles, and feel empowered by their successes. She employs active engagement strategies of peer instruction and collaborative problem solving to promote this environment in her First-Year Seminar for Physics Majors, introductory physics, and physics pedagogy courses.

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Crystal Allen

Lone Star College, North Harris

Crystal J. Allen is an educator with eighteen years of experience in higher education. She currently serves as Program Director and Associate Professor of Education in the Social and Behavioral Sciences, Business, and Economics Division (SBSBE) at Lone Star College-North Harris in Houston, TX. Dr. Allen is responsible for the training, development, and support of over 40 adjunct faculty, teaching the first-year experience course, and implementing programs to advance the student success program at her College. She also manages several student success initiatives with special populations of students including: PUENTE, Dual-credit, Honors, ESOL, Workforce, and Veterans. She is a proud first-generation college graduate, earning degrees from Prairie View A&M University, University of Phoenix – Houston Campus, and Texas A&M University, where she earned her doctoral degree in Educational Administration and Human Resources with an emphasis in College Teaching. Post-graduation, she received the Outstanding Dissertation Award from the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education (AABHE). Her experience as a first-generation college student fuels her dedication to the success of all first-year students. Her research interests include: (a) student success initiatives; (b) first-generation college students and graduates; and (c) the African American college-going family. In 2018, Dr. Allen was the recipient of the Lone Star College Faculty Excellence Award. She was also a contributing editor of the four-year version of Understanding Your College Experience (2nd Edition.) Dr. Allen resides in Houston, TX. with her husband Charles and daughter Celeste.

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Hayley Kazen

Texas A&M International University

Hayley Kazen is an Assistant Professional at Texas A&M International University. Dr. Kazen believes that the tools necessary for success in an educational setting go beyond study skills. For students to be successful, they must learn critical thinking, adaptability, and teamwork. She believes that learning should be a cooperative experience. Learning is a shared responsibility among students and between the teacher and the students. Dr. Kazen believes teachers should make an effort to get to know each of their students, the difficulties they may have that prevent them from learning, and their learning styles. Dr. Kazen plans and teaches several sections of freshman seminars. She has created curriculum using interactive technology to enhance learning via podcasts, supplemental educational programs (Cultural Awareness Day, Café Prof, Globally Connected Classroom), online courses and received Quality Matters certification. She has also created signature assignment to assess core curriculum learning objectives.

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Nirmal Trivedi

Kennesaw State University

Nirmal Trivedi is an assistant professor of English within the Department of English and the Director of First-Year Seminars in the Department of First-Year and Transition Studies at Kennesaw State University. Trivedi is recognized for his focus on using traditional and innovative elements to maximize the educational experience for his first-year seminar students. Trivedi has successfully incorporated innovation in teaching into his classes in ways that acknowledge and cater to changing student needs. One of Trivedi’s innovative assignments was an eJournal called "Year One: A Journal of the First-Year Experience at Kennesaw State.” In this eJournal, students wrote for each other and for other students around the country who were experiencing the challenges of transitioning to college. The digital platform inspired students to more openly seek out an audience by writing directly to their peers. Trivedi aims to challenge his students to exceed their self-imposed limitations through a “problem-based” curriculum that enables dialogue on an initial problem and the literature, resources, and technology needed to succeed. Trivedi has played an important role in revising the curriculum of first-year seminars at Kennesaw State by shifting focus to non-cognitive factors such as resilience, mindset, and belongingness as foundational aspects of a first-year seminar. He believes in the transformative potential that can be found in a first-year seminar and has routinely demonstrated excellence in teaching them.

Stacey Doremus

Stacey Doremus

Georgia Institute of Technology

As the Assistant Director of LEAD Programs and Systems, Stacey Doremus goes above and beyond in her first-year seminars, working to ensure that her students feel not only prepared for college, but ready to take on leadership roles on Georgia Tech's campus and beyond. She has developed a framework that focuses on leadership and collaboration in the classroom, helping her first-year students to understand the value of leadership, communication, empathy, teamwork, and diversity. Her focus in the classroom is not only on teaching students the required course materials, but also on the personal development of all students. Doremus has designed her course so that students get hands-on experience with an array of campus resources in a way that meets the individual needs of each student. Beyond her individual classroom, Doremus has worked with the director of the first-year seminar program to expand this teaching strategy to other sections of the course. The essential elements of her pedagogy include: discovery learning; progressive, holistic, and engaged pedagogy; and empathy.

Lori Blanc

Lori Blanc

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Lori Blanc is an assistant professor of practices within the Department of Biological Sciences and the director of Virginia Tech's Da Vinci Living Learning Communality, which houses undergraduates in biological and life sciences. She believes that if she is truly committed to empowering students through education, she must prioritize their opportunities for learning over her own perceived "success." Blanc leads students to realize their potential and identify strengths through continuous reflection on experience. She intentionally designed the class activities to promote a sense of reflection and connection to the university, which is particularly important for first-year students. Her innovative teaching practice is illustrated by the integration of multiple high-impact and effective educational practices into the Successful Starts in Science first-year seminar sequence. Blanc fosters diversity and global perspectives within community engagement, as well as immersing her students in an educational environment that supports innovation, ideation, and collaboration over competition. Her openness to new instructional strategies provide evidence that she is intentionally and genuinely focused on student learning, particularly that of first-year students in the course.

Christine Harrington

Christine Harrington

Middlesex County College

Christine Harrington is a dedicated instructor who serves in many roles. In addition to holding a full-time teaching position within the psychology department, she serves the Director of the Center for the Enrichment of Learning and Teaching and the coordinator for Education and Student Success Programs. Fostering a strength based mindset is at the heart of her teaching philosophy. She strongly believes in the importance of self-efficacy. She focuses on building academic resilience in her students by helping them develop the skills needed to persevere even in the face of challenging and negative academic experiences. To accomplish high levels of academic resilience, she focuses on their mindset and support system. She helps them develop optimistic attitudes and interpret events productively. Scholarly research on attribution theory, cognitive psychology, and motivational theory guide her actions in the classroom. She emphasizes that mistakes are learning opportunities and sets her students up for successful outcomes by giving intentional and impactful assignments. She increased the academic rigor of the campus's freshman seminar course, rooted in her belief that getting students to engage in higher level cognitive tasks in their first year is a main factor in their success. She serves in a mentoring role, challenging and guiding students on their journey toward their goals. She utilizes reflection as one of her most powerful methods, as she is continually asking students to self-monitor their progress, reflect on what strategies are or are not working, and modify accordingly. By assisting students with reading actual research articles and talking more about research based success factors, students are thinking deeply about student success topics. The theme is holding students accountable while also creating a culture of support. Every action she takes in and outside of the classroom is carefully crafted to support students on their journey toward success.

Stephanie Foote

Stephanie Foote

Kennesaw State University

Stephanie Foote is a dedicated instructor who draws on her own research and the latest advances in the emergent discipline of first-year studies to provide students with the tools necessary for success in the educational environment. She engages students through collaboration and active interdisciplinary inquiry and discourse, a technique that is mirrored in the approach she takes in her research and practice. The resulting pedagogies of this focus have been integrated into the classes she teaches, and many have been adopted by other faculty who teach the first-year seminar courses in the department and at other institutions. Foote involves students in projects and assignments that help them develop the tools to succeed in college while also honing their ability to work as part of a team, develop research skills at the level expected of undergraduate students, and gain experience making presentations in a public forum—all tools they must master to be successful. Experiential exercises engage the students and encourage them to apply the ideas and concepts learned in class. Meticulous in keeping up with the ever-evolving face of education, Foote has embraced the online course model and her willingness to adapt and revise to meet the needs of online learners, as well as using the power of social media by incorporating it into her classes. She strives to create an environment where students will think more deeply, and ultimately, more critically. Through relentless dedication to research and a solid foundation in active and engaging teaching and learning, Foote has proved to be an educator of excellence.

Lee Thompson

Lee Thompson

Case Western Reserve University

Professors often set goals such as creating a connected classroom environment, being accessible to students, and stimulating intellectual discussions. Lee Thompson is a role model to follow—an outstanding professor who has accomplished not only the aforementioned items but so much more. Thompson has taught a first-year seminar on the topic "Is the Mind What the Brain Does?" for several years. Her students consistently give the course extremely high rankings, allowing Thompson to be one of the best-of-the-best at her institution. Thompson seamlessly intertwines academic topics with out-of-class experiences, allowing every student to connect with the material, regardless of learning style. It is Thompson's ability to teach her students critical-thinking, thoughtful, analytical, and academic writing skills while still making her course interactive and enjoyable that makes her a truly standout professor.

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Michele Lee Kozimor

Elizabethtown College

Michele Lee Kozimor helps students strive to lead meaningful lives through her first-year seminar program at Elizabethtown College. Titled "Simple Living," the program seeks to engage students in active learning while connecting them to the community and one another. Kozimor assigns personality inventories to help the students understand themselves and their preferred learning styles. She promotes individual learning by using a wide variety of activities and making personal connections with students. In addition to her work in the classroom, she facilitates programs that encourage meaningful interactions among students and promotes engaged learning by advising a living–learning community.

David Sabol

David J. Sabol

Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)

David J. Sabol is a senior lecturer in the English Department & University College at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). Sabol teaches professional writing and linked composition/first-year seminar courses that include community service, career exploration, and multiculturalism components. As a member of themed learning communities, Sabol collaborates with various faculty to provide first-year students with engaging curricular and cocurricular experiences. In 2001, Sabol co-founded the IUPUI Summer Bridge program, which provides entering students a successful jump start to their college career. He also co-founded and co-facilitates the IUPUI First-Year Seminar Faculty Learning Community, which delivers a multitude of professional development opportunities for faculty.

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