Brain Science Lecturer Wins President’s Teaching Award
Jun. 28, 2012
Dr. Van Miller, who received the President's Teaching Excellence Award for Non-Tenure Track Faculty, brings his experiences as a pediatric neurologist to the classroom.
UT Dallas senior lecturer Dr. Van Miller received this year’s President’s Teaching Excellence Award for Non-Tenure Track Faculty, which recognizes his outstanding ability to connect with students and ignite their interests in brain science.
Miller often teaches large classes of undergraduates in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. He is in his fourth year at UT Dallas, after retiring as a pediatric neurologist. He worked for 10 years at UT Southwestern Medical Center and spent another decade in private practice in Plano.
The award committee receives hundreds of nominations every year and considers a broad spectrum of eligible candidates throughout the University. The award comes with a stipend of $3,000 and was presented at the annual Honors Convocation ceremony in May.
“This is an honor, though I think that there are many teachers here at UT Dallas who have been teaching longer and more vigorously than I have, who thus perhaps deserve this award more than I,” he said. “But I am flattered to recognized by President (Daniel) in this way.”
He said he enjoys UT Dallas because he is able to teach a wide variety of courses. These include large classes of Behavioral Neuroscience and Neuroanatomy, but also small, more intimate classes, such as Medical Neuroscience, Medical Neuropathology, Journey Through Medicine, Neuroendocrinology and others. He teaches 500-600 students each semester.
“When occasionally I succeed in conveying how much fun the brain is to learn about and see the ‘aha’ in a student’s expression, then I know I’m doing the right thing, rather than playing golf, which I also still try to do,” he said.
Former student Stacey Mohammadie, who recently graduated and is headed to medical school, said Miller helped her prepare for her future.
“Dr. Miller has the gift of taking complicated material and teaching it as though we are having a conversation,” she said. “With laptops and cell phones perpetually at arm’s length, it is difficult for a professor to hold the attention of 300 college students for 75 minutes. Dr. Miller not only achieves this, but students look forward to attending his classes.
“Dr. Miller has been a huge inspiration to me and played a major role in my decision to pursue a career as a physician.”
Dr. Bert Moore, dean of BBS, said Miller’s dedication exemplifies UT Dallas’ emphasis on high-level instruction for its undergraduate students.
“Van Miller is an exceptional instructor, equally effective in large lectures and smaller, more-focused classes,” he said. “He is able to draw on his extensive background as a practicing neurologist to illustrate mechanisms of neuroanatomy and neurophysiology in an accessible manner that students find intriguing.”
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