When students leave Andrew Smith’s office at ASU, they are carrying new reference materials — or maybe they have a copy of his mushroom risotto recipe.
Smith’s engaging approach and enthusiasm for working with students in his conservation biology courses at Arizona State University earned him “Professor of the Year” honors this week from the ASU Parents Association. He was one of 25 professors nominated for the annual award.
“I was just dumbstruck,” said Smith, who has taught at ASU for 28 years. “It’s just such an honor.”
The association gave Smith a $20,000 cash stipend to pay for an undergraduate student assistant for two years. He also will join the ASU Distinguished Teaching Academy and help the association select next year’s top professor.
Nominations are made by students, faculty and Parents Association board members. Letters of recommendation must be turned in by the nominator, two students, the professor’s department chairperson or dean, and two faculty members. Professors submit a statement to the board, describing their teaching philosophies and accomplishments over the past three years.
Smith said he makes a point of dispensing the information he picks up at international workshops to help students learn more about what it takes to be successful professionals. Sometimes, he reaches for books on the shelves of his unofficial conservation science library, handing over his own books and data to guide students.
“I try to give enough details so that they understand the intricacies of what they have to go through on a day-to-day basis,” he said.
The Parents Association created the honor more than a decade ago to reward faculty who are passionate and successful in instruction and research. Smith joins 10 other professors who have received the award.
Five of this year’s top nominees were given special recognition for being great instructors and mentors: Amy Ostrom, marketing; Ileana Orlich, languages and literatures; Bertram Jacobs, School of Life Sciences; and José Náñez Sr., social and behavioral sciences. They each received a $1,000 stipend.