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Honored to become a HOPE Distinguished Professor

I am honored to have been nominated a fifth time for the Honoring Our Professors’ Excellence (HOPE) award. This award is managed through SMU’s Residence Life & Student Housing (RLSH), motivated by the belief that it is important to highlight those professors who have gone above and beyond their traditional roles. Awards are generated by student nominations, and I was humbled to be nominated by a former student and former and current teaching assistant.

The awards are conferred at the annual HOPE Banquet, which was held this year on the evening of Feb. 15. It was doubly humbling to be placed at the table not only with my nominator, but also the Provost of SMU and the Dean of Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. The food and the conversation were great, and the ceremony was lovely, including video presentations by two of the 16 nominators for my faculty colleague who was bestowed the honor of “HOPE Professor of the Year”!

I was conferred the title of “Distinguished HOPE Professor” this year, along with several of my colleagues (including Prof. David Son, who is partly responsible for inspiring my “flipped classroom” teaching model based on his own experiences). This happens when a faculty member has been nominated 5 or more times. In 2016, I was honored to have been selected as the then HOPE Professor of the Year, and I am grateful to RLSH and the SMU student body for continuing to recognize faculty for being more than what they are tasked to be.

As part of the award, RLSH provides a beautiful copy of the nominator’s letter. Let’s just say I read it alone and away from a chance of interruption to avoid somebody catching me crying. All I will say is this: I certainly love interacting with students, talking to them about physics and about how to develop critical and creative thinking, and encouraging them to go one step further each time … even if they are never fully happy with how far they have walked in physics. I am pleased that my love for teaching and research and mentoring comes through to the point that students take time out of their crazy schedules to nominate me for something like the HOPE award. To be recognized by even one person means a LOT, and helps me to remember to keep it up knowing that someone is getting the benefit.