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Highest honor for biology professor

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A University of New Mexico biology professor has been named the nation’s “professor of the year” among research universities, the first from the state to win the honor.

Ursula Shepherd, a 15-year veteran at UNM, won the award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The recognition, given each year to one instructor from a community college, a four-year college, master’s college and Ph.D.-granting research university, is regarded as the nation’s most prestigious undergraduate teaching award.

Shepherd said the award recognizes the quality of education happening every day in UNM classrooms.

“I’m a wonderful teacher. I’m great and I’m fabulous, and I’m no exception to the faculty all around here at UNM. I am simply one of the very wonderful peers and colleagues that I am lucky enough to represent.”

Shepherd was one of 300 professors nominated by their peers. The award was presented recently in Washington, D.C.

“I think it’s especially meaningful because it requires nominations from your peers and from your students,” she said. “It’s very nice for that to happen.”

Shepherd’s success as a teacher is underscored by the success of her students. At least five of every six students who participated in Shepherd’s National Science Foundation-sponsored biology research trips between 1998 and 2006 have gone on to complete medical school, a professional school degree or a Ph.D., Shepherd said.

Other UNM instructors probably have similar student success rates, Shepherd said, but she tracks hers so she can write more competitive applications for future student research grants.

After the award was announced, Shepherd got an outpouring of support from former students who now work across the globe.

“It makes me cry,” she said. “… I’ve had emails and letters from all over the world.”‘
Highest honor for biology professor

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