U.S. Professors of the Year

From 1981 to 2015, the U.S. Professors of the Year program honored outstanding faculty members for their achievement as undergraduate professors. Sponsored by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, it was the only national program to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching and mentoring.

Over its thirty-five year history, 101 national winners were named Carnegie Foundation and CASE named, one annually from 1981-1993, and then four each year from 1994-2015, representing the major types of higher education institution: community colleges, baccalaureate colleges, master’s universities and colleges, and doctoral and research universities. Annual winners were also selected from the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and US territories, when there were enough nominations of high quality from that particular jurisdiction.

From the beginning, the US Professors of the Year program recognized faculty for “extraordinary dedication to undergraduate teaching,” using criteria that invited nominees and their supporters to present a broad picture of the candidate’s pedagogical work. Throughout, the criteria have included (with some changes in wording):

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Featured Publications

The Leading Edge of Pedagogical Innovation: A Portrait of National Winners of the US Professors of the Year Competition, 1981-2015.
By Mary Taylor Huber. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 50 (3-4), pp. 79-83.

What would one see if one had time-lapse video of the pedagogical accomplishments of the 101 national winners of the US Professors of the Year award from 1981–2015? Throughout the sequence, one would see faculty who had become masters of the standard teaching repertoire of their discipline and, as time passed, experiments with different ways of enlivening those forms, connecting theoretical ideas with real-world examples, integrating opportunities for research or community engagement into course design, exploring the possibilities of new technologies, and encouraging more active learning. The roster of winners has always included educational leaders, but in later years, a growing number also engaged in the kinds of inquiry and improvement known as the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Citizens of the Teaching Commons: The Rise of SoTL among US Professors of the Year, 1981-2015.
By Mary Taylor Huber. Teaching & Learning Inquiry, 7 (1).

The 101 national winners of the US Professors of the Year competition (1981-2015) have always included authors of text-books and other instructional materials, but as time went on a growing number were also making their approaches to pedagogical problems public through workshops, conference presentations, and publications. Increasingly engaged in the scholarship of teaching and learning, these outstanding teachers reflect the emergence of a new view of the nature and source of teaching expertise and of what it means to be a “citizen” of the teaching commons.

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