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First David J. Beck Teaching Excellence Award announced at LU

Ashwini Kucknoor, associate professor of biology, is Lamar University’s first recipient of the David J. Beck Teaching Excellence Award. Lamar University President Ken Evans interrupted one of Kucknoor’s classes to
Ashwini Kucknoor
Ashwini Kucknoor, Kenneth Evans
announce her selection for the distinction and present her with a $25,000 check.

“I was shell-shocked and overwhelmed, especially the way it all went down during my class with Dr. Evans walking into my class,” said Kucknoor, who has been at Lamar University since 2010. “I had never expected it.”

Kucknoor was one of 73 nominations submitted by students, faculty and administration for the award. Of those 73 nominees, 25 faculty members completed the application process. The candidates were interviewed by a selection committee to determine who best represents “the pinnacle of teaching excellence and whose academic performance brings acclaim to LU.”

“Honestly, a big shout out to my student, Carlo Vanz, who nominated me without my knowledge, as he was leaving LU to pursue his Ph.D. in immunology and microbiology at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio,” said Kucknoor. “Due to my summer teaching assignment and lack of time, I almost didn’t turn in my application, but decided to give it a try because I did not want to disappoint Carlo.”

Kucknoor, who earned her Ph.D. in molecular microbiology from the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, came to LU from Washington State University where she was an assistant professor of research in the School of Molecular Biosciences. Prior to her work at WSU, Kucknoor completed postdoctoral research in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Kucknoor has made 29 abstract presentations, published 24 peer-reviewed articles and been the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards during her career. In June of this year, she was one of 22 attendees nationwide to take part in a week-long workshop on DNA barcoding aimed at enhancing student learning by adapting course-based undergraduate research experiences in teaching undergraduate biology courses.

“My professional goal is to reach as many students as I can by adopting most, if not all of the proven styles/strategies out there, by constantly updating my teaching techniques, by taking a personal interest in students' struggles and successes and by going that extra mile at times, in the best interest of the students,” said Kucknoor. “I'm sure my fellow nominees were all also doing similar things as well.”

The David J. Beck Teaching Excellence Award was given to her for her personal teaching philosophy and style, her instructional goals, strategies and methods as well as her approach to engaging students in active and collaborative learning experiences.

Through a generous gift to the Lamar University Foundation, Houston attorney David J. Beck established the David J. Beck Teaching Excellence Award. Each year, a recipient of the David J. Beck Teaching Excellence Award will receive $25,000 and will retain the title of Beck Teaching Excellence Award recipient throughout her or his academic career.

LU President Kenneth Evans explains, “Mr. Beck is a great friend of our university, where he inspires and enables the highest level of scholarship and research through the David J. Beck Fellowships given each year to two outstanding undergraduate students.” The Beck Fellowship has been awarded since 2009.

“His most recent unique offering of support extends to the foundation of the university, our faculty,” Evans said. “There is a wonderful alchemy taking place by combining pedagogical prowess, a passion for teaching and genuine interest in student success. Mr. Beck’s generous gift supports the very best in teaching at Lamar University and will have a lasting impact on our faculty and student success.”

​“My heartfelt gratitude to Mr. David J. Beck for his generosity, and his support to promote faculty excellence,” said Kucknoor. “I consider myself both honored and humbled to be the one out of the 73 amazing colleagues. This award to me is yet another milestone that will keep me going ahead on the same path with the same amount of zeal and passion.”