UNO Honors Two Professors with Excellence in Teaching Awards

The University of New Orleans International Alumni Association honors two professors this week at a commencement ceremony honoring fall graduates.

Connie Zeanah Atkinson, associate history professor and acting director of the Midlo Center for new Orleans Studies, and Gilda Reed, a psychology instructor, will receive the association's Annual Excellence in Teaching Awards at Saturday's commencement. They have taught at the university 15 and 18 years, respectively.

The awards are designed to recognize UNO faculty who demonstrate the highest achievement in academic instruction, said Pamela Meyer, director of alumni affairs. This year the alumni association's board of directors agreed by unanimous vote to confer two awards and to increase award amounts to $2,000, in order to help further its goal of advancing student success, Meyer said. Award plaques will be presented in the Lakefront Arena's Spotlight lounge during a pre-Ceremony reception.

UNO International Alumni Association Incoming President Fred Rodriguez, a medical doctor who received a bachelor of science in biology from UNO in 1972, will recognize Atkinson and Reed at commencement and welcome new graduates into the UNO Alumni Family. Rodriguez is the Emma Sadler Moss Professor of Pathology at Louisiana State University (LSU) School of Medicine, and the Director of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center in New Orleans. He will serve as association president for the 2013-2014 academic year.

A selection committee including one faculty member and one student from each college, plus an alumni representative, met at the end of October to deliberate and selected two honorees from candidates who had been nominated, Meyer said.

Atkinson has taught courses at UNO in U.S. history, history of New Orleans music, music and tourism, New Orleans jazz in jazz age Paris, public history methods including oral history and history research methods. She became a fulltime member of History Department faculty in 2000. During that time, she has established herself as a popular and effective teacher whose innovative courses have shaped nearly a generation's understanding of the cultural history of New Orleans and the world, said Susan Krantz, dean of the College of Liberal Arts.

"Students and colleagues have pointed to her imagination, her creativity, and above all, her ability to keep students engaged and interested," said Krantz. "She has been successful teaching general education history courses, upper-level courses for our majors and graduate-level courses for our MA students. All of this has contributed to the department's curriculum and enhanced our mission of teaching history to undergraduate and graduate students."

Reed, a psychology instructor at UNO since 1994, appeared this year in the Princeton Review book, 300 Best Professors. She is the only UNO professor and one of three Louisiana faculty to have received this honor across all disciplines. Reed currently teaches eight UNO courses, both on campus and online. After Hurricane Katrina, the University asked departments to increase online offerings and Reed developed curriculums for eight courses and has taught the majority of them for the past seven years, said Paul Frick, University Distinguished Professor and faculty chair, who underscored the rigor required and unique challenges encountered when teaching online.

"...Several years ago, the department began collecting exit information from graduating seniors asking them to evaluate their experiences in the Department of Psychology at UNO," said Frick. "Consistently, Dr. Reed's teaching is viewed by students as one of the most positive experiences during their time at UNO for most psychology majors."

Both Atkinson and Reed demonstrated high scores across a series of qualitative evaluation measures.

"Every year the selection committee and the awardees express how much this award means to them because it recognizes teaching," said Meyer, "which no other award at UNO does."