Sudha Krishnaswami’s finance classes are so incredible, she has been known to convert non-finance majors to embrace, love and major in the subject.
Elizabeth Steeby and Randy Bates propelled their work as professors of literature and writing to launch an ongoing service learning project that brings student teachers into New Orleans’ jail every week to teach literacy and creative writing to female inmates.
Erik Hansen is known to be a talented screenwriting instructor, but his colleagues say his phenomenal commitment to student development underpins that work. His mentorship gives students confidence to teach, write, fail and improve.
University of New Orleans Provost Mahyar Amouzegar on April 24 honored these four outstanding faculty members with the institution’s inaugural Faculty Excellence Awards.
Krishnaswami, professor in the Department of Economics and Finance, was recognized with the Faculty Excellence in Teaching and Teaching Innovation Award.
Hansen, assistant professor in the Department of Film and Theatre, received the Excellence in Mentoring Award.
“Excellence in teaching, mentoring and service is part of our core value system and all of us are working diligently to further this mission, the mission of the University of New Orleans,” Amouzegar said. “The Faculty Excellence Awards are so designed to establish a new tradition, a tradition that continues to recognize our best.”
Steeby and Bates joined forces in 2015 to create a service learning course that immerses graduate students in writings related to issues of incarceration. Students are then paired with more experienced instructors or volunteers to go together to the jail to teach inmates on weekly rotating basis.
Kim Martin Long, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Education & Human Development, called the work Steeby and Bates do “worthy service indeed.” In a state that incarcerates more people per capita than anywhere else in the world, their efforts to educate the incarcerated is a service to their students and “an entire community that needs healing,” she said.
“Elizabeth and Randy are convinced that education and empowerment are key to manifesting a different vision for our city,” Long said. “They believe that incarcerated people deserve to imagine their lives as creative agents and to move out of their circumstances toward better futures.”
Krishnaswami joined the University of New Orleans 22 years ago. She teaches the core required finance course for all business majors, the finance capstone class, the required MBA finances case course and advanced seminar courses in corporate finance and risk and uncertainty.
Walter Lane, associate professor and chair of economics and finance, said it is intentional that Krishnaswami’s teaching load enables her to touch students at all levels of their educational trajectory. “I wanted to make sure that every student who graduates from UNO with a finance major has to take her so that they will have the fundamental knowledge that we want them to have,” Lane said.
Students consistently rate her classes at 4.5 or above on a scale of 1 to 5. They describe her as responsive, helpful, passionate and “spectacular,” Lane said “Perhaps one of the best teachers I have ever had,” wrote one.
Junior transfer student Julie Montalbano entered to Krishnaswami’s class as an accounting major but switched to finance after she said Krishnaswami imparted her enthusiasm for the subject matter through her teaching.
“She’s just vibrant,” Montalbano said. “Her passion for her subject matter is unmatched. Students want to be in her class and they want to become intellectually involved with their studies.”
Montalbano, who was so taken by Krishnaswami’s instruction that she nominated her for the award, said the professor’s finance lessons are purposefully planned and her assessments are rigorous but aligned to her instruction. Her office is always open after class and that she invited students to visit her if they need extra support.
“Professor Krishnaswami gives me a reason to feel proud to be a student in the College of Business Administration at the University of New Orleans,” Montalbano said.
Hansen, assistant professor of film and theatre, has taught screenwriting at the University of New Orleans since 2008. While he has been honored for his teaching in the past, Long said that he has a way of teaching that makes him an effective mentor.
“He leads. He shows. He guides,” Long said. “I am very proud of Erik for being honored with this award.”
Former student Virgile Beddok, now on faculty at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said that Hansen has been a source of “constant inspiration and personal support.” Though Beddok is a native French speaker, Hansen provided Beddok with patient support that gave him the confidence he needed to write effectively in English and to work as an artist in a foreign country.
“He remains true to his role as guide and mentor, constantly available for feedback, but not interfering with what he values the most: the genuine creative process of an individual,” Beddok said.
As part of the recognition, Krishnaswami and Hansen each received $5,000 and Bates and Steeby split the award, receiving $2,500 each.