Finalists Selected for Baylor University’s $250,000 Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching
WACO, Texas (March 22, 2023) – Three preeminent scholar/teachers from United States universities have been selected as finalists for Baylor University's 2024 Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching, the only national teaching award – with the single largest monetary reward of $250,000 – presented by a college or university to an individual for exceptional teaching. The winning professor will be announced by Baylor in spring 2024.
The three finalists are:
- Jay Banner, Ph.D., The F. M. Bullard Professor in the Department of Geological Sciences in the Jackson School of Geosciences, and Director of the Environmental Science Institute at the University of Texas at Austin;
- Claire Katz, Ph.D., professor and interim department head, Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture at Texas A&M University; and
- Kelly Lambert, Ph.D., MacEldin Trawick Chair and Professor of Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Richmond.
As Cherry Award finalists, each professor will receive $15,000, as well as $10,000 for their home departments to foster the development of teaching skills. Each finalist will present a series of lectures at Baylor during fall 2023 and a Cherry Award lecture on their home campuses.
The Cherry Award recipient will receive $250,000 and an additional $25,000 for his or her home department and will teach in residence at Baylor during fall 2024 or spring 2025.
“The Cherry Award reflects a long-standing commitment to outstanding teaching at Baylor University. The faculty members named as finalists are scholars who have made significant, lasting impact on students,” said Kevin Dougherty, Ph.D., committee chair and professor of sociology at Baylor University. “They are pedagogical innovators whose reach extends far beyond their home universities. We look forward to hosting the finalists on campus at Baylor University in fall 2023.”
The Cherry Award program is designed to honor great teachers, stimulate discussion in the academy about the value of teaching and encourage departments and institutions to value their own great teachers. Individuals nominated for the award have proven records as extraordinary teachers with positive, inspiring and long-lasting effects on students, along with records of distinguished scholarship.
The award was created by Robert Foster Cherry, who earned his A.B. from Baylor in 1929. He enrolled in Baylor Law School in 1932 and passed the Texas State Bar Examination the following year. With a deep appreciation for how his life had been changed by significant teachers, he made an exceptional estate bequest to establish the Cherry Award program to recognize excellent teachers and bring them in contact with Baylor students. The first Robert Foster Cherry Award was made in 1991 and has since been awarded biennially.
More information is available on the Cherry Award website.
Jay Banner is The F. M. Bullard Professor in the Department of Geological Sciences in the Jackson School of Geosciences, and director of the Environmental Science Institute at the University of Texas at Austin. His research interests center on climate and hydrologic processes, how they are preserved in the geologic record and how human activity affects the sustainability of water resources.
Banner’s teaching interests are sustainability, environmental science and environmental isotope geochemistry. His K-12 and public outreach programs include the Hot Science – Cool Talks Outreach Series and the Scientist in Residence program, which partners STEM graduate-student researchers with K-12 teachers. Planet Texas 2050 and the Fourth National Climate Assessment are among his recent research projects.
An area of particular interest is determining the extent to which hydrologic processes are governed by changes in climate. The methods used to examine these processes include the textures of ancient marine and groundwater sedimentary deposits, isotope geochemistry, trace element geochemistry and high-precision age determinations of rocks and minerals. He also is involved in research on K-12 education, sustainability education and community engagement in STEM.
Claire Katz is professor of philosophy of education and serves as interim department head of the Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture at Texas A&M. Before joining A&M in 2006, she was associate professor of philosophy and Jewish studies at Penn State University. She teaches and conducts research in two primary areas: (1) the intersection of philosophy, gender, education and religion and (2) K-12 philosophy.
In 2015, Katz launched the preK-12 philosophy program, which are educator workshops for K-12 and university teachers/administrators that have reached more than 100 teachers and administrators in Texas; training for university students in facilitating philosophical discussions with pre-college students; and developing and running a week-long philosophy summer camp (Aggie School of Athens) for middle and high school students from communities across Texas and the U.S.
She is the recipient of several awards, including the 2019 Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award (University Level) for Teaching, the 2019 American Philosophical Association Prize for Excellence in Teaching Philosophy and the 2020 Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence, and was named a Piper Professor in Texas in 2021.
Kelly Lambert, MacEldin Trawick Chair and Professor of Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Richmond, is interested in experience-based neuroplasticity and enjoys teaching behavioral and clinical neuroscience courses. She and her undergraduate students use preclinical animal models to learn about the neurobiology of stress, resilience, depression, parenting, and natural enrichment.
In addition to publishing more than 80 research articles, Lambert has published two textbooks, Biological Psychology and Clinical Neuroscience, and three mainstream books, Lifting Depression; The Lab Rat Chronicles; and Well-Grounded: The Neurobiology of Rational Decisions. Her unique rodent driving research and science outreach program, designed to provide an engaging educational platform to disseminate behavioral neuroplasticity information, has been featured in over 1,500 media stories and highlighted in two documentaries.
She has received multiple teaching awards, including the Virginia Professor of the Year and the State Council of Higher Education Outstanding Professor Award. She received the 2018 International Behavioral Neuroscience Society Career Achievement Award.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked Research 1 institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.