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Honors College Announces Second Annual Wong Faculty Engagement Award Recipients

By Mallory Chesser
October 22, 2018

The Honors College is pleased to recognize five outstanding faculty with the Bee and Kee Wong Faculty Engagement Award, which was established by a generous gift from aluma Bee Wong (’87) in 2017. These annual awards support Honors College faculty members who engage students in and beyond the classroom, broaden course and program offerings, spearhead undergraduate research, increase community outreach, and support activities that prepare students for major awards, transforming their lives.

The Wong Faculty Engagement Awards recipients for 2018 are Ann Cheek, Robert Cremins, Doug Erwing, Iain Morrison, and Ben Rayder. 

Ann Cheek has been teaching both introductory and advanced biology courses at the University of Houston and in the Honors College since 2012. Cheek’s Honors biology classes emphasize learning beyond the classroom, requiring students to work in teams to survey the biodiversity on campus and share their results using social media. Cheek also teaches a field research course in which students take advantage of the resources of the UH Coastal Center in LaMarque, Texas, has served as a mentor for numerous undergraduate research projects, and serves on the faculty team for the annual Galápago! Research-Based Learning Abroad course and trip, through which students have the opportunity to conduct research at the Galápagos Science Center. 

Irish novelist Robert Cremins teaches in the Human Situation sequence, provides leadership for the Honors minor in creative work, and has led and taught numerous study abroad and study away courses to New Orleans, the Texas Hill Country, Ireland, Britain, Wales, and Northern Europe. During his eight years in Honors, Cremins has also served as director or reader on many thesis committees and has guided students in various independent study courses for the creative work minor. In spring 2018, Cremins taught a course featuring the work of Donald Barthelme, a founding member of the noted UH Creative Writing Program, culminating in a field trip to the writer’s former home in Houston. In addition to his work with students in class and abroad, Cremins has been a long-time contributor to Honors College magazines and publications. 

Since 2009, Doug Erwing has been teaching Honors courses in U.S. history, political science, and constitutional law. Students enjoy the dynamic learning environment Erwing cultivates in his history classes, noting also that his life lessons, or “DougTalks,” have been transformative to their personal growth. Each semester Erwing hosts two field trips to sites of historical relevance, such as Battleship Texas and the San Jacinto Monument. Erwing was very involved in the UHCAREs initiative in fall 2017, working closely with students to provide more than 1,000 hours of cleanup in the community after Hurricane Harvey. The service projects students began in his civic engagement course have allowed students to make significant contributions, such as collecting and sending school supplies to a rural village in Jamaica, and some have continued to thrive as long-term initiatives of students in the Bonner Leaders Program.

Since joining the College in 2002, Iain Morrison has been teaching courses in philosophy and in the Human Situation course, and for much of that time he has served as a team leader. Since 2016, he has led students in the Phronêsis Program in Politics and Ethics in a one-year research project, he hosts frequent philosophy reading groups, and he has conducted study abroad trips to Greece, Europe, and Israel. Morrison’s engaging lectures and discussions have made a lasting impression on generations of Human Situation students, and his excellence in teaching has been recognized by the Lence Award in 2008, a UH Teaching Excellence Award in 2013, an Estess Faculty Award in 2017, and a Lerner Family Award for Academic Leadership in spring 2018.

In Ben Rayder’s dual roles of director of national fellowships and major awards in the Office of Undergraduate Research and instructional assistant professor, Rayder promotes student success inside and outside the classroom. Since joining the Honors faculty last year, Rayder has been proactive in promoting major award and fellowship opportunities to students, mentoring hundreds of students throughout the long application processes these awards entail. Last year the number of successful major award applicants increased by over 70%, largely due to Rayder’s efforts. Calling international education an important part of his own personal and professional development, Rayder is also committed to encouraging students to study abroad. Next year he will be co-teaching a course on environmental sustainability that will culminate in a trip to Germany and Poland in the summer of 2020. 

Please join the Honors College in congratulating these five faculty members for their extraordinary contributions to undergraduate success.