UNC students honor teachers and staff for excellence

From left, John David Mendoza Brodeur, Ted Leinbaugh, Eunice Sahle, and Alain Aguilar.

Students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill honored three faculty members, six teaching assistants and one staff member April 12 for teaching excellence and service to undergraduate students.

Faculty members winning 2011 Student Undergraduate Teaching Awards were Alain J. Aguilar, a lecturer and director of the fitness professional concentration in the exercise and sport science department, who hails from Columbus, Ohio; Theodore Leinbaugh,  professor of English and comparative literature from Washington, D.C.; and Eunice Sahle, associate professor of African and Afro-American studies and global studies from Ottawa, Canada. All three teach in the College of Arts and Sciences; they received $5,000 each.

The graduate student teaching assistant winners, who received $1,000 each, included

  • Neal Viradia from Cary, who teaches biology. He seeks a master’s degree in the Gillings School of Global Public Health and a medical degree in the School of Medicine; and
  • Elizabeth Johnson Darden from Raleigh, who teaches economics and environmental studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. She seeks a master’s degree in city and regional planning, also in the college.

The other four winners, also in the College of Arts and Sciences and teaching in the same departments in which they study, were

  • Jason Robert Combs from Lakeside, Calif., a doctoral candidate in religious studies;
  • Tyler David Jones from Hendersonville, a doctoral candidate in chemistry;
  • Michael K. Muraya from Nairobi, Kenya, a master’s degree candidate in computer science; and
  • Forrest Spence from Camden, S.C., a doctoral candidate in economics.

Also receiving $1,000 was University staff member John David Mendoza Brodeur of Durham, honored for service to students with a 2011 Student Undergraduate Staff Award. A native of Millis, Mass., Brodeur directs Carolina Leadership Development, which offers programs, services and academic courses for anyone interested in leadership at the University; associate director of the Carolina Union; and a clinical instructor in education.

Outgoing Student Body President Hogan Medlin recognized the winners at the annual Chancellor’s Awards Ceremony, which also honored students for excellence in academics, leadership and public service.

The student selection committee chooses recipients who promote the value of undergraduate teaching by their example; demonstrate concern for each student through interaction and approachability inside and outside the classroom; create meaningful learning experiences; and maintain high expectations of students.

“Student Undergraduate Teaching and Staff Awards are the only teaching and staff awards that are entirely funded, nominated, and selected by undergraduate students,” said Leena Patel, a sophomore from Chattanooga, Tenn., who co-chaired the selection committee with senior Anna Krueger of Trion, Ga.

“The awards recognize and honor faculty and staff who have gone above and beyond the requirements of their job to improve undergraduate education,” Patel said. “We received many competitive nominations this year. The recipients have profoundly impacted and shaped undergraduate students at Carolina.”

The awards are the only teaching and staff awards directed and funded by students. The teaching awards were created in 1989 and the staff award in 2004. Students voted to increase their fees to fund the awards.