2016 BEACONS OF EXCELLENCE WINNERS

Following a thorough evaluation process, the fifth annual Beacons of Excellence Award winners have been selected from numerous nominations. This award recognizes individuals, programs and centers that provide transformative experiences to undergraduate students while at the University of Utah.

The Beacons of Excellence Award was conceived as part of a 2011 initiative to “reimagine the undergraduate experience” at the University of Utah. This award seeks to celebrate those who have dedicated considerable efforts to ensuring undergraduate students have meaningful opportunities for growth.

This year, three individuals and three programs/organizations will be recognized at a luncheon on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, from 12 to 1:30 p.m. in the Union Ballroom. If you would like to attend, please RSVP  to Patricia West at twest@sa.utah.edu by Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016.


David H. Temme, professor of biology.

David H. Temme, professor of biology.

David H. Temme, professor of biology, seeks to truly transform learning by encouraging students to engage in critical, creative thinking. Temme helps teach his students how to learn instead of following the rote memorization typically attached to scientific instruction. He enriches his students’ lives by teaching them how to apply their newly gained biology knowledge to everyday life. In the words of one of his students, Temme “has flipped the idea of typical education on its head. He asks his students to do more than simply regurgitate information presented in class. He hopes they will be able to apply that knowledge to problem solving.” Another student says, “He is an advocate of education and wants his students to be stretched in ways that will help them in the future. I will honestly thank Dave for the rest of my life.”

Kerry Jacques Magiske, former professor of exercise and sports science.

Kerry Jacques Magiske, former professor of exercise and sports science.

Kerry Jacques Magiske, former professor of exercise and sports science, brought energy and passion to her teaching and, in turn, helped her students become passionate about science. She demonstrated her deep care for her students through her investment in their learning and growth and through her attentive listening to their feedback to improve her lectures and classes. One student remarked, “Her love of the ESS subjects she taught was evident in the way she lit up the room as soon as class started because she was so passionate about what the students were going to learn today.” Magiske truly loved teaching and cared about the success of each of her students. “She is the most incredible instructor I have met,” said another student. “She cares about each individual student’s success and goes above and beyond to create relationships with all of her students.”

Taunya Dressler, assistant dean in the College of Humanities.

Taunya Dressler, assistant dean in the College of Humanities.

Taunya Dressler, assistant dean in the College of Humanities, finds new and innovative ways to enhance the learning experience for undergraduate students in many different majors. She has developed numerous programs for students at the U, including the Humor Me Project, the Humanities Scholar Program and a first-year orientation presentation, which assists students through the complex petition process and aids them when life events get in the way of academic pursuits. Her efforts have sparked new life into the U’s programs. Dressler also helps U staff by encouraging college advisors to take advantage of professional development opportunities. One faculty member writes, “Taunya is not only one of the most intelligent and organized people at the university, she is also a woman of great compassion and energy.”

John R. Park Debate Society.

John R. Park Debate Society.

John R. Park Debate Society is a program run by the College of Humanities that teaches students how to be good communicators and strong leaders, both in-demand skills that help students be competitive for future jobs and develop high-quality interpersonal relationships. The society engages students in public discourse and fosters continued academic success that thereby prepares undergraduates to affect communities in positive ways. One of the oldest debate societies in public higher education, the John R. Park Debate Society wins more state, national and international awards and tournaments than any other group on the U campus. One student states that “this program has changed my life and given me a sense of purpose in college by providing a structure and supportive environment that keeps me motivated in school and community events. I have personally learned team building, competing with respect and distinction, as well as a true passion for community involvement.”

Mestizo Arts & Activism Collective.

Mestizo Arts & Activism Collective.

Mestizo Arts & Activism Collective is a program that empowers historically marginalized young people living on the west side of Salt Lake City by increasing graduation rates in this underserved population and encouraging them to overcome their circumstances. The MAA Collective inspires collaboration among intergenerational participants, including University of Utah undergraduates, graduate students, faculty from the College of Education and other university and community partners. The curriculum is developed and facilitated by undergraduate students, positioning them as leaders within the collective and giving them deep leadership experience. Now in its 10th year, the collective shows zealous commitment to bettering the lives of youth and seamless collaboration between generations.

U psychology professor Frank Drews.

U psychology professor Frank Drews.

The Human Factors Certificate is a program run by the College of Social and Behavioral Science to offer undergraduate students an opportunity to earn a certificate in “human factors,” a subject concerned with the application of people, their abilities, characteristics and limitations to help design equipment, environments and jobs. This certificate, created by U psychology professor Frank Drews in 2005, provides undergraduate students with an opportunity to learn more about humans and the tools they use on top of their undergraduate degree in psychology, mechanical engineering, biomedical informatics, nursing or other fields. One student wrote, “I am now a Ph.D. student in human-computer interaction at CMU, and there is simply no way I would be here today without the experience I had as a student of human factors at the University of Utah, and without having had Frank as my undergraduate research advisor.” A faculty member also wrote, “Not only has the program enriched student experiences, it has also promoted many faculty collaborations that did not exist prior to its inception. I feel that the program, and Dr. Drews for creating it, has really hit a homerun.”