UTM professors ranked as top 20

UTM Professors Dax Urbszat and Monika Havelka have lectured their way into the second round and amongst the top 20 nominees in contention for the 2010 TVO Big Ideas Best Lecturer Award. The Best Lecturer Award seeks to recognize a great professor for his or her excellence in facilitating learning and engaging students in course material.

Psychology Professor Dax Urbszat had been nominated for the 2009 award and made it into the top 20. A lecturer at both the St. George and UTM campuses, he is very popular among students: Each year, nearly 1,400 students seek to enrol in his introductory psychology course.

Urbszat received his Bachelor of Science in Psychology, and Crime, Law and Deviance from U of T. He then went on to obtain a law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School. Passionate about his chosen discipline, he returned to U of T to complete his Masters and Doctoral degrees in Psychology. Last year, Urbszat received the UTM Teaching Excellence Award. In addition to his many accomplishments, Urbszat also has a strong following on his Facebook fan page, entitled Dax Urbszat is Secretly a Superhero.

Urbszat was my favourite professor. I chose to take certain classes because he was the professor, says UTM psychology graduate Alessandra Guaragna.

A student submission endorsing Urbszat for the award stated, Excellent lessons, discussions, assignments, and exam. Ive had a wonderful time in his courses.

Also in the top 20 is Biology Professor Monika Havelka. She has been lecturing at U of T since 2003 and has taught a diverse range of topics such as evolutionary biology, comparative physiology, biostatistics, ecology and environmental science. Biology students describe Havelka as approachable, fair and intriguing. She does her best to entertain her students, going as far as mimicking the creatures of her lecture topics.

Humans resemble juvenile chimps more than we do adult chimps, Havelka explained to students during a lecture. She pointed to a photo of young chimpanzee projected onto the screen. Come on, I have relatives that look like that.

Havelka obtained her Bachelor in Science of Biology from McMaster University. She then spent two years at the University of British Columbia as a research technician. Havelka decided to return to Ontario to complete her Masters and PhD in Zoology at the University of Western.

Her awe-inspiring lectures have allowed students to attain a strong grasp of materials. Dr. Monika Havelkas single greatest

strength is her ability to connect with the needs and wants of students, stated a nomination submission.

Second-year life sciences student Daniella Palumbo is one of the many students that has enjoyed learning from Havelka. Shes the most enthusiastic professor Ive had so far. Ive never seen anyone as excited about biology as she is, said Palumbo.

Biology major David Antongiovanni said that Havelkas lectures are the only lectures that prevent me from falling asleep.
The top 10 contenders will be announced on February 8 and a program highlighting their exceptional attributes will air in March. Chosen by viewers and a panel of three jurors, the winner of the Best Lecturer Award and a $10,000 scholarship to the recipients educational institution will be announced on April 17.

The professors submission videos are available on the Big Ideas program website.

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