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Professor named top in Ariz., recognized nationally

By

Margaret Coulombe

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education have named ASU scientist Jane Maienschein the 2010 Arizona Professor of the Year. Maienschein, a Regents’ Professor and President's Professor in ASU’s School of Life Sciences, was selected from more than 300 top professors in the United States.

“Teaching is a team sport,” Maienschein says, with credit to colleagues and the Distinguished Teaching Academy that has created a culture of teaching and learning excellence at ASU. Amy Ostrom, a professor of marketing with the W.P. Carey School of Business, won an state award in 2004 and serves as president of the academy. 

“Outstanding teaching and research go hand in hand. They reinforce each other. This recognition is a statement about ASU as a whole and a tradition of caring about teaching excellence.”

Maienschein will be honored at a ceremony today in Washington, D.C. 

Maienschein is director of the Center for Biology and Society at ASU, a dynamic center that promotes the exploration of the conceptual foundations and historical developments of the biosciences and their diverse interactions with society. The center works across disciplines, stimulating intellectual ferment and impact through research and educational collaborations and communications.

Her leadership has created undergraduate and graduate degree programs that attract gifted students from across the country, including Bioethics, Policy, and Law; Ecology, Economics, Ethics and Environment; History and Philosophy of Science; and Responsible Conduct in Research. Some specific projects developed at the center include the Embryo Project, the Bioethics in Films Series (at ASU) and the History of Biology course held at the renowned Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts. What distinguishes her creations most, however, are her attention to innovation and the collaborative sense of community she creates for students. That's one of the reasons she was chosen by ASU's Parents Association as Professor of the Year in 2000.

Maienschein is part of a group of colleagues in the School of Life Sciences who have received millions of dollars from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to develop the School of Life Sciences Undergraduate Research (SOLUR) program, an annual research mentoring program for 100+ students. With SOLUR in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the ASU Barrett Honors College in mind, she organizes student participation in the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting. Roughly a dozen students serve each year in the AAAS session aide program, acting as support staff, communications personnel, and session evaluator, while also presenting posters of their research.

Maienschein puts students in touch with top scientists and top programs in the country, helping them empower themselves for the future, says ASU President Michael Crow: “I congratulate Dr. Maienschein for her recognition and appreciate her tireless and inspirational efforts to strengthen undergraduate education, advance institutional programs of interdisciplinary study and collaborative exchange, and catalyze meaningful changes in scholarship while meeting simultaneously the needs of the individual student.” 

Maienschein is a Fellow of the Association for Women in Science and AAAS, has served two terms as a board member for national AWIS in Washington, D.C., and has served as the first president for the International Society for History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology (which Maienschein says is affectionately called Ishkabibble), and as president of the History of Science Society.

While her awards are many, the true evidence of her gifts as a researcher, scholar and mentor is in the lives that she has changed, like that of Farshad Fani Marvasti, one of Maienschein’s undergraduate students who went on to a medical degree, residency and a fellowship at Stanford University. He says when he thinks of one person other than his parents who has dramatically shaped his life and influenced the course of his career, he thinks of Maienschein.

“She is an incredibly dedicated professor who I believe sets an infallible standard of mentorship that most professors can only hope to achieve. Her impact on students is simply amazing,” he says.

“Anyone who has had the privilege of being a student of Dr. Maienschein inevitably succeeds at the highest level in their chosen field. Because of her scholarly approach to teaching and indefatigable efforts outside of the classroom to better her students and refine their voice as they seek to find their career path, she is undoubtedly one of the greatest professors who has ever lived,” Marvasti says. 

ASU alumna Catlin Schaninger agrees, and says that Maienschein is a caring, enthusiastic and challenging, yet encouraging, educator, mentor and role model.

“I feel truly privileged to have been one of her students," Schaninger says. "The lessons I have learned from her have made me a better communicator, critic, student and patient educator, mentor, and human being and for that I am deeply grateful.” Maienschein was Schaninger’s Barrett Honors College thesis adviser.

Maienschein is the 10th ASU educator chosen by CASE and the Carnegie Foundation as a top professor in Arizona. Previous winners have also come from University of Arizona (4), Northern Arizona University (2), Glendale Community College (1), Phoenix University (1), Pima Community College (1). This year’s 38 state winners and four national winners were selected from nominations from colleges and universities nationwide.

CASE and the Carnegie Foundation have been partners in offering the U.S. Professors of the Year awards program since 1981. TIAA-CREF, one of America's leading financial services organizations and higher education's premier retirement system, became the principal sponsor for the awards ceremony in 2000. Additional support for the program is received from a number of higher education associations, including Phi Beta Kappa which sponsors an evening congressional reception.

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching was founded in 1905 by Andrew Carnegie “to do all things necessary to encourage, uphold and dignify the profession of teaching.” The foundation is the only advanced-study center for teachers in the world and the third-oldest foundation in the nation. Its nonprofit research activities are conducted by a small group of distinguished scholars.

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education is the largest international association of education institutions, serving nearly 3,400 universities, colleges, schools, and related organizations in 59 countries. CASE is the leading resource for professional development, information, and standards in the fields of educational fundraising, communications, marketing and alumni relations.