Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives


Biology Professor Wins Teaching Award for the Second Time

  • News Image
    Samra Lazarus talks about why she and fellow students Sebastian Villamil and Steffen Berr nominated Martín Gonzalez for the 2014 Teaching Award.
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    Provost Jim Hunt presents the Teaching Award for a non-tenured faculty member to Erin Crockett, assistant professor of psychology, as student nominators Eowyn Scott, Markie Wendle and Bryony McLaughlin look on.
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    Seniors Braxton Van Cleave, Jake Jansen, Daniel Mataya and Alex Michael nominated Debika Siki (right) for the Teaching Award that went to a part-time or visiting faculty member.

Psychology professor and business professor also win 2014 Teaching Awards

Martín Gonzalez is passionate about teaching biology, and it shows.

Students in his classes have successfully nominated Gonzalez for the Southwestern University Teaching Award − twice.

“His excitement for student learning reminded me why I chose to be a biology major at Southwestern,” said Sebastian Villamil, one of three students who presented Gonzalez with the 2014 Teaching Award.

Gonzalez received the 2014 Teaching Award for a tenured faculty member. The 2014 Teaching Award for a non-tenured faculty member went to Erin Crockett, assistant professor of psychology, and the Teaching Award for a visiting or part-time faculty member went to Debika Sihi, visiting assistant professor of business. The awards were presented at the April 24 faculty meeting. 

Gonzalez has been a member of the Southwestern faculty since 2003 and is currently an associate professor of biology. He previously received the Southwestern University Teaching Award in 2008 and received the 2011-2012 Exemplary Teaching Award from the Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church.

Crockett graduated from Southwestern in 2005 and joined the faculty in 2012 after earning her Ph.D. from UT-Austin and teaching at Southwestern as a visiting professor for one year.

“It is nice to have a professor who was in my shoes not too long ago,” said psychology major Eowyn Scott. “Professor Crockett gives us everything we could possibly need to succeed.”

Sihi has been a visiting professor in the Business and Economics Department since fall 2013, and has taught courses on E-Marketing, Social Marketing, Strategic Marketing, and Business Research and Writing.

“Dr. Sihi goes above and beyond for all her students and we couldn’t be more grateful,” said Alex Michael, one of four seniors who nominated her for the award.

Michael said he signed up for Sihi’s E-Marketing class because he and several of his fraternity brothers started their own company last summer.

“We didn’t realize we would be encountering a professor who would completely alter the course of our business by introducing us to new ideas and new people,” he said.

Sihi will be joining the Southwestern faculty in the fall as a tenure-track professor.

The Teaching Award was created by the Southwestern faculty in 1999 to recognize faculty members who have demonstrated excellence in teaching. Nominations for the award are submitted by students in the spring semester, and recipients are selected by the Honorary Degrees Committee. The awards to full-time faculty members come with a $1,500 prize and the awards to part-time faculty members come with a $1,000 prize.

Melissa Byrnes, assistant professor of history, received the 2014 Excellence in Academic Advising Award, which includes a $500 prize. Byrnes was nominated for the award by junior history major Lauren Gieseke.

“During my three years as a student at Southwestern, Dr. Byrnes has gone above and beyond her responsibilities as my academic advisor,” Gieseke said. “As a first-year student, Dr. Byrnes was instrumental in helping me adapt to college writing and in introducing me to conventions in my discipline, history. These transitions would not have gone nearly so smoothly without her guidance. She is always willing to meet and discuss any sort of academic plans an advisee might have, be they academic, post-grad, career, or study-abroad related.”

In the summer of 2013, Gieseke said Byrnes and her husband even invited her to stay with them in Budapest, Hungary, where they live during the summer.

“Before coming to Southwestern, I never would have expected this sort of interest, involvement and encouragement from a university professor,” Gieseke said. “I think it’s a testament to both Dr. Byrnes and Southwestern that faculty truly go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure their students’ well-being both in and out of the classroom.”