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Class of 2017: SMU professor named outstanding teacher by UT Regents

The University of Texas System has recognized SMU Research Assistant Professor Alisa J. Winkler for extraordinary classroom performance and innovation in undergraduate instruction.

Alisa Winkler is an SMU adjunct faculty member and research assistant professor of paleontology in the SMU Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences.

The University of Texas System has recognized SMU Research Assistant Professor Alisa J. Winkler for extraordinary classroom performance and innovation in undergraduate instruction.

Winkler, who is an SMU adjunct faculty member in the SMU Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, was named to the Class of 2017 for the Regent’s Outstanding Teaching Awards of The University of Texas. It is the Board of Regents’ highest honor. It recognizes faculty for the highest quality of instruction in the classroom, laboratory, field and online.

Winkler earned her Ph.D. in geology from SMU in 1990, specializing in mammalian vertebrate paleontology.

“To be honest, when I was young I never thought about being a teacher. Later in life it just came with the territory of being in academia,” Winkler said. “What I discovered as a teacher, however, is how much I enjoy, learn from, and am inspired by my students. Their passion for knowledge is both a challenge and a stimulus for me to continue learning myself.”

She is an associate professor at U.T. Southwestern Medical Center in the Department of Cell Biology, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

In addition to her teaching commitments and some contributions to the higher education literature, Winkler maintains an active research program in vertebrate paleontology as a research professor in SMU’s Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

In recent work, she analyzed research literature for “Fossil Rodents of Africa,” the first comprehensive summary and distribution analysis of Africa’s fossil rodents since 1978, according to SMU professor of geological sciences and vertebrate paleontologist Louis Jacobs, a world-renowned dinosaur expert and president of SMU’s Institute for the Study of Earth and Man.

“Alisa has been recognized for her teaching skills at U.T. Southwestern, but she is also globally recognized for her research on East African fossil mammals, which constrains the age and paleo-environments of human evolution,” Jacobs said. “Working from her research office in the Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, and in the field in Kenya and Uganda, she is a great asset to our students and adds depth to our program.”

Winkler received a B.A. in Biology from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville in 1978. She then earned an M.A. from the University of Texas at Austin in 1982.

She has been teaching anatomy at U.T. Southwestern since 1990. Winkler is currently co-director of the Human Structure course (anatomy, embryology and radiology) for first year medical students, and director of the Anatomy course for health professions students. Both courses focus on a cadaver-based dissection laboratory, and require extensive administrative, organizational and teaching commitments.

Winkler is the recipient of numerous teaching awards from the medical students, including seven pre-clinical teaching awards and a Katherine Howe Muntz Award for Teaching in Anatomy (2010). The Human Structure course was awarded the best course award for first year courses in 2016. She was awarded an outstanding educator award in health care sciences from the health professions students in 2014.

The Regent’s Outstanding Teacher Award was established in 2008 and is offered annually in recognition of faculty members at the The University of Texas System’s eight academic and six health institutions. With a monetary award of $25,000, the Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Awards are among the largest and most competitive in the nation for rewarding outstanding faculty performance.

Faculty members undergo a series of rigorous evaluations by students, peer faculty and external reviewers. The review panels consider a range of activities and criteria in their evaluations of a candidate’s teaching performance, including classroom expertise, curricula quality, innovative course development and student learning outcomes.

Winkler is one of 56 faculty members from across U.T.’s 14 academic and health institutions honored with the award by the Regents Aug. 23 in Austin. — SMU, U.T. System

By Margaret Allen

Senior research writer, SMU Public Affairs