Our Outstanding Faculty
Annual Honors Faculty Awards
Each spring, Honors Students submit their nominations for an Honors Faculty member who exemplifies the ideals of Honors instruction. The Honors Program established this award to recognize those faculty members who have made outstanding contributions to the Honors Program, providing exceptional educational experiences to our Honors Students.
Most years, the Honors Faculty Award recipient is formally recognized at a Thank You Lunch toward the end of Spring Semester.
2021 Winner: Professor Leslie Curren, Biological Sciences
Biological Sciences Professor, Leslie Curren
Honors Students say:
Dr. Curren “wants us to leave class having challenged our previous beliefs. This class has changed my outlook on college in general, for the better."
Her course “makes me look forward to coming to campus, creating a very enjoyable learning experience for me at the university."
“It is sometimes hard for me to talk in class and get the words out, but Dr. Curren always encourages us to finish our thoughts. I’m better at that now.”
2021 Winner: Professor Janet Polasky, History
History Professor, Janet Polasky
Honors Students say:
“Easily one of the most engaging and animated professors of my academic career. She encourages students to share their insights and fosters a welcoming environment. It is clear she wants everyone to succeed. She has made an online class feel like I was taking it in-person, and she is the only professor I have had that has been able to do this.”
“Such an amazing professor—so kind and supportive. I loved when she took our class out to dinner! One of my favorite Honors Program memories.”
“Professor Polasky is easily one of the best instructors I've ever had. She's both passionate about her subject and understanding of her students. I appreciate the freedom she grants her students and the support she provides. More teachers should learn to be like her.”
2020 Winner: Professor David Richman, Theatre
Theatre Professor, David Richman
Honors Students say:
"Not only has Professor Richman been an absolute role model, but he has taught our class exceptionally well and bonded us together through experiences that I never would've dreamed of having outside of this class. I've met some of my closest friends through the opportunities he's given us to work together, and he does all of this, as well as teach us and many others the beauty of theatre, with a humble heart. I've never been so grateful for a professor who has shown such talent in his or her field and been able to teach it to the degree he does. I've grown so much in such a short period of time, and I couldn't thank him enough."
"David has been nothing but kind, insightful, and just. He is constantly encouraging critical and evidence-based thinking, which is a skill that is vital far beyond the confines of this course. Additionally, he is always willing to provide feedback and accommodate for his students’ needs. I did not know him prior to taking this course, but he is a professor I will always remember."
2019 Winners: Professors Xuanmao Chen, Biology and Nicholas Smith, Philosophy
Biology professor Xuanmao Chen
Philosophy professor Nicholas Smith
04/03/2019: The Honors Program celebrated the people who teach its classes at a Thank-You Lunch in April. At the event philosophy professor Nicholas Smith and biology professor Xuanmao Chen were presented with the first annual Honors Faculty Awards, given on the basis of student nominations.
The faculty in attendance enjoyed UNH-catered lunch as they pondered the conversation starters found at the center of each table. The first question asked about works of art that had been impactful to their lives, and the second question asked them to recount their best Honors teaching moments.
Director Dr. Catherine Peebles, Associate Director Dr. Katherine Gaudet, and Program Coordinator Kristen Butterfield each spoke to the group of faculty members, thanking them for the contributions to the program.
Honors students Sonja Heels and Dara McWeeney presented the awards to Professor Smith and Professor Chen. They thanked their professors for shaping their classes in a way that is not only informative but also enjoyable and challenging. They appreciate the teaching styles of both Professor Smith and Professor Chen whom each create an environment that allows for comfortable, safe discussion.
In regard to receiving the reward, Professor Smith says:
“I felt really flattered to get the award. The honors faculty are all so inspiring and devoted to their craft, and I appreciate being part of their community so I can put to work all of the things I’ve learned from (stolen from?) them. It takes a village to give these students the education they deserve. I was especially happy that Sonja presented me with the award and shared her heartfelt thoughts about the course—the things about my course that she described as most valuable are exactly the things that I work to provide, so it was so reassuring to hear those words from such a wonderful student.”
Professor Chen can attest to the inspiration that the Honors faculty elicit: “I liked this event very much, a lot of discussion, and very good ideas to improve the program,” he says, adding, “The Honors Program is very important to the success of UNH because they are all good students. We should treat the students very, very well…. to help them achieve academic success.”
Professor Chen believes that interactivity between professors and students is important to enhance the quality of instruction that Honors students receive. He praises his students for being able to interact with him and their classmates, which builds leadership skills that are necessary for success. He thinks that UNH can work to further build these interactions, claiming, “We need to satisfy the level of students that are Honors students. We do have the resources; we are a tier-one research university.”
President James Dean, who was in attendance, invited faculty to ask questions or to make comments in regard to the program. The Q+A allowed faculty to provide input in improving the Honors Program, as it is in the preliminary stage of transitioning to an Honors College.
The luncheon provided an opportunity for thoughtful, effective Honors professors to come together and begin a discussion about how to do better, while also paying tribute to the longstanding successes of the program in serving its students.
“It is an honor to teach these students; I feel very lucky. I am very grateful to my department chair for letting me teach Honors,” says Professor Chen.