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Biological Sciences earns NU system award for teaching excellence
The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s School of Biological Sciences has received the University of Nebraska’s top honor for excellence in teaching.
Announced April 12, the University-wide Departmental Teaching Award is one of the University of Nebraska President’s Excellence Awards. Since 1993, the honor has recognized university departments and units that make unique and significant contributions to the NU system’s teaching efforts. Each winner has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to the education of students at undergraduate, graduate and professional levels.
Honored departments are selected by a committee of faculty members from across the university system. The award includes a $25,000 prize to be used as the department sees fit, for example for travel to a conference, instructional equipment or improvements to classroom space.
The School of Biological Sciences will be honored at the Aug. 17 Board of Regents meeting.
“Our highest priority at the University of Nebraska is to provide outstanding education to our students. The UNL School of Biological Sciences delivers on that mission every day,” said Ted Carter, president of the NU system. “The school’s faculty and staff share a passion for scientific excellence, and they are a model of innovation and collaboration in preparing the next generation of citizens, researchers and educators.
“Our entire university, our communities and our state are stronger thanks to the extraordinary work of the School of Biological Sciences. I’m honored to publicly celebrate their many achievements.”
Under the leadership of Michael Herman, professor and director, the School of Biological Sciences makes fundamental discoveries in the life sciences with research encompassing all levels of biological organization, from molecules to organisms to ecosystems. The school is a hub of life sciences research and education in Nebraska and beyond, generating new knowledge that advances scientific discovery and engaging across the NU system and with public and private partners to find solutions to local and global challenges.
In educating more than 600 undergraduate biological sciences majors and 75 graduate students, along with numerous non-majors, the school’s faculty and staff have demonstrated a commitment not only to quality instruction, but to continual improvement and innovation. Examples include:
The school has taught experiential field-based courses at Cedar Point Biological Station near Ogallala for more than 45 years, providing students with hands-on experience studying diverse local habitats.
The school partnered with the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources to create a “LIFE team,” responsible for delivering an interdisciplinary, multi-college curriculum in the life sciences to stay on the cutting edge of teaching.
Faculty and staff have incorporated innovative elements into the curriculum. For example, students can be selected for an anatomy and physiology internship program in which they take a semester-long course that teaches them how to be a teaching assistant, and then “graduate” to serving as a TA the following semester. The program has helped develop future anatomy faculty and has served as a model for other departments at UNL and elsewhere.
The school developed a new program called “STEM-POWER” that engages first-generation and underrepresented students in a research experience and smooths their transition to college. Through the program, students get a paid research internship in the School of Biological Sciences the summer before enrolling at UNL as freshmen, exposing them to campus life and additional research opportunities. The program is helping to expose more students to STEM fields and grow a skilled workforce pipeline for Nebraska.
Faculty are highly engaged in the community, participating in activities like Sunday with a Scientist at Morrill Hall and a SciComm conference that promotes effective communication of science to students and the public.
Additional NU systemwide awards will be announced.