U of T honours great teaching, research

They’re renowned for their wit, creativity, ability to inspire students and colleagues – and an intense dedication to innovation in teaching.

Two faculty members from the Faculty of Arts & Science and one from the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering are the 2016 recipients of the President’s Teaching Award – the University of Toronto’s highest honour for excellence in teaching.

Alison Gibbs is an associate professor (teaching stream) in the department of statistical sciences. Professor Jonathan Rose hails from the Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering while Professor James Thomson is appointed to the department of ecology and evolutionary biology.

Read more about the Awards


“Outstanding teachers bring creativity and energy to the challenge of education, constantly searching for ways to innovate and to improve the undergraduate experience,” said University of Toronto president Meric Gertler. “We know that we need to help prepare our undergraduates for a lifetime of success and a lifetime of learning – and Alison Gibbs, James Thomson and Jonathan Rose are doing just that, tapping into their students’ curiosity and helping them develop quantitative and qualitative skills.

“They inspire their colleagues and motivate their students.” 

The associate chair for undergraduate studies in statistics, Gibbs earned both her MSc and PhD at U of T before undertaking postdoctoral studies at York University. Gibbs has been at the centre of curriculum renewal at a time of rapid enrolment growth. She led the creation of the applied statistics specialist program and the development of such innovative courses as Statistics: Making Sense of Data. A Massive Open Online Course, it has attracted of more than 60,000 active students and was made possible with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Alison’s commitment to the ways statistics is taught ensures that the faculty and university remain leaders in statistical education,” said Professor David Cameron, dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science.

A triple alumnus of U of T, Rose was a pioneer in the area of field-programmable gate arrays before shifting his research concentration to software design. Among his courses is ECE 1778, a course in innovative app creation offered to graduate students from all areas and departments. Read more about Rose.

“Professor Rose consistently goes above and beyond in his efforts to give students the best possible learning experience,” write the signatories to his nomination letter.

Thomson, who earned his PhD at the University of Wisconsin, is a world authority in pollination ecology, plant reproduction and bees. Student citations make reference not only to his clarity and helpfulness but his “dry sense of humour.” In 2013 he was one of the winners of the Outstanding Teaching Awards conferred by the Faculty of Arts & Science.

Also announced are the 2016 recipients of the University of Toronto Early Career Teaching Award.

They are: Christian Caron, assistant professor (teaching stream) in the department of sociology in the Faculty of Arts & Science, Alen Hadzovic, assistant professor (teaching stream) in the department of physical and environmental sciences at the University of Toronto Scarborough and Anthony Niblett, assistant professor in the Faculty of Law.

Teresa Kramarz, assistant professor (teaching stream) at the Munk School of Global Affairs of the Faculty of Arts & Science, is the winner of the 2016-17 University of Toronto Teaching Fellowship.

The university also announced that the Academic Board approved the appointment in 2016 of five University Professors. The University Professor is the highest academic rank awarded by U of T, recognizing unusual scholarly achievement and pre-eminence in a particular field.

The 2016 appointments are:

Richard Florida, an authority on cities, innovation and urban economic development at the Rotman School of Management; John Hull, also of the Rotman School, whose research focuses on derivatives and risk management; Ato Quayson, of the department of English in the Faculty of Arts & Science and director of the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies, whose fields are African literature, postcolonial diaspora studies, urban studies and literary theory; Arthur Ripstein, an expert in political philosophy and legal theory at the Faculty of Law; and Peter Zandstra, a researcher in stem-cell bioengineering who is cross-appointed to the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering and the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME).

“The University of Toronto owes much of its reputation to the excellence of its professoriate,” said Professor Cheryl Regehr, U of T vice-president and provost. “I am delighted to have the opportunity to acknowledge the outstanding achievements of our finest faculty members by granting them the university’s most distinguished rank.”

The President’s Teaching Awards are overseen by a committee chaired by the vice-president and provost. Nominations are forwarded through the office of the dean of the relevant faculty.
Terms of reference include “strong evidence of excellence in the classroom, innovation in the development and delivery of the curriculum, publication of textbooks or books or articles on pedagogy, participation in major conferences or meetings relating to pedagogy, local, national or international teaching recognition, and letters of reference attesting to the nominee’s outstanding leadership in teaching.”

Winners receive an annual professional development allowance of $10,000 for five years. They are also designated as members of the University of Toronto Teaching Academy for a minimum of five years. 

Read about Diane Horton, winner of a 2015 President's Teaching Award 

Read about Greg Evans, winner of a 2015 President's Teaching Award

Read about Andrew Peterson, winner of a 2015 President's Teaching Award


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