Collegiate Faculty Members Eric Ufferman and Rachel Arnold recognized for teaching excellence.
April 11, 2022
Dr. Rachel Arnold was awarded the distinguished Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching. This yearly award is given to only two faculty members across the entire University so the competition is stiff!
Dr. Arnold came to Virginia Tech in 2002 as an undergraduate. She continued on to earn both her Masters and PhD in Mathematics at Virginia Tech. Upon earning her PhD., she joined the faculty as an Instructor and subsequently became a Collegiate Faculty member in 2017.
Her impact in the department has been extensive, and includes GTA professional development at the department, university, and national levels; curriculum development; and NSF-funded research into teaching and learning.
Both the students in her classes and the GTA's she has mentored speak in glowing terms of her concern for their well-being and of her carefully structured guidance of their professional development. Many comment on Dr. Arnold's dedication to helping them learn to think like mathematicians and to be confident in doing mathematics. As the department's GTA coordinator, she has helped graduate students discover their passion for teaching and refine their understanding of teaching.
Dr. Arnold's research in mathematics education is the development of psychological models to help in understanding how students learn mathematics. She implements the findings of her research to design instructional tools for an improved learning experience in the department's 3000-level mathematics courses.
"Rachel Arnold is a deeply committed, precociously talented teacher of mathematics. She is also a leader, both in curriculum development within the department and in GTA professional development at the department, university, and national levels."
Dr. Ufferman was awarded the College of Science (COS) Certificate of Teaching Excellence. The COS awards only three certificates of teaching excellence each year, so nominees have to go beyond outstanding teaching in order to stand out.
Dr. Ufferman distinguished himself not only through his effective teaching, but also for his use of alternative teaching strategies and for his development of curriculum materials used in a variety of courses.
His skillful teaching, student mentoring, and content development have made crucial contributions to some of the most innovative courses taught by math faculty members. Broadening Engagement and Participation in Undergraduate Research (BEPUR) is an instantiation of principles practiced by Dr. Ufferman for some time. The materials developed by him for BEPUR represent a significant advance in the integration of disciplines that the CMDA program, in which Dr. Ufferman also teaches, strives for.
Other examples of his curriculum work include exploratory “labs” in which students explore tangible constructions that motivate the abstractions in his Modern Algebra (MATH 3124) classes. He has developed group problem sets for his combinatorics classes (MATH 3134), that guide students towards increasingly more sophisticated problem-solving methods. Dr. Ufferman also keeps the Cyptography courses (MATH 4175-4176) current through project-driven units on new topics in cryptography.
"Eric Ufferman is an unusually versatile, talented, enthusiastic teacher. Since beginning work at Virginia Tech in 2012, he has taught at every level of the undergraduate curriculum. Much of this teaching has been in courses noteworthy for their rapidly growing enrollments and evolving subject matter. Eric has been a leader in developing lessons and materials that keep pace with topical evolution while giving students career-defining experiences."
This is the third year in a row that one of the awardees for the College of Science Certificate of Teaching Excellence came from our department. Dr. Ufferman joins past certificate recipients, Dr. Rachel Arnold (2021) and Professor Mark Embree (2020).
Both Dr. Arnold and Dr. Embree went on to receive the Alumni Award for Teaching Excellence the year following the year they received the COS award! This means that this year is the second year in a row that one of the two awardees came from our department.