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The Daily Wildcat

 

    Prof. gets ‘Five Star’ award

    Melissa Fitch, an assistant professor of Spanish and Portuguese, receives the Five Star Faculty Award during class last Friday. The award is given to one undergraduate professor a year by the Honors College.
    Melissa Fitch, an assistant professor of Spanish and Portuguese, receives the Five Star Faculty Award during class last Friday. The award is given to one undergraduate professor a year by the Honors College.

    When Melissa Fitch was awarded the Five Star Faculty Award on Friday, she said she was going to give the $1,000 prize to a student.

    “”I know a student who really needs it,”” said Fitch, an assistant professor of Spanish and Portuguese. “”I had always planned on giving her the money, I just didn’t think I would really get the award.””

    Her commitment to the student-teacher relationship was the main reason Fitch was selected out of the 56 individuals up for the award, said Sara Button, chairwoman of the award committee and a creative writing junior.

    Fitch was also picked because of her level of engagement in the classroom, Button said.

    Committee member Sarah Nelson, a junior majoring in biochemistry and molecular biophysics and molecular and cellular biology, sat in on one of Fitch’s classes during the evaluation process.

    “”She made everyone interact and seemed really involved,”” Nelson said. “”She was really invested in student progress.””

    Fitch is also the director of undergraduate studies for the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. She teaches Latin American cultural classes such as Latin American Feminist Film and Survey of Brazilian Literature, in addition to Portuguese for Spanish Speakers.

    Tamra Kasprzyk, a sophomore majoring in Spanish and Portuguese, is a student in Fitch’s Portuguese for Spanish Speakers class. She nominated Fitch for the award.

    “”This is my favorite class,”” Kasprzyk said. “”I look forward to coming every day, because it’s not just another boring lecture. Everyone actively participates. It’s nice having a teacher who loves doing what she does every day.””

    Fitch was presented with the award in her noon Portuguese for Spanish Speakers class. While the students were still enjoying their cupcakes provided by the Honors College, Fitch announced and distributed the day’s quiz.

    Though the news of the quiz was met with groans from the class, the students were still excited Fitch had won the award.

    Tania Wer, a sophomore majoring in Spanish, said she thought Fitch was a good choice.

    “”I like her because she actually cares about teaching,”” Wer said. “”She is very passionate, especially about Portuguese.””

    Fitch is the 25th educator to win the award after psychology professor Bill Thweatt won the first award in 1983.

    The Five Star Student Faculty Award is presented by the Honors College to one undergraduate professor each year. The winner receives $1,000.

    Professors of any rank who teach undergraduate courses can be nominated by any UA student to be considered. Nominations usually open in February and close around the end of March or the beginning of April.

    Each member of the award committee evaluates the nominees. After reading each nomination, the committee selects five finalists, who are then evaluated in a number of different categories.

    The committee looks at student nominations, candidate interviews, class observations, curriculum vitae reviews, personal statements, syllabi evaluations and lecture notes, Button said.

    This year’s committee consisted of Button; Nelson; Chris Limbach, a junior majoring in engineering physics and astronomy; and Robbie Gonzalez, a junior majoring in biology and English.

    The four runners-up of this year’s competition were David Cuillier, an assistant professor of journalism; Albrecht Classen, a German studies professor; Lucinda Rankin, a physiology professor; and Peggy Gigstad, a registered nurse. Each received $200.

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