“These honors – the most prestigious in undergraduate higher education – are richly deserved and shine a national spotlight on the distinguished faculty at Creighton who are dedicated to molding students to make a difference in the world,” said the Rev. Timothy R. Lannon, S.J., Creighton University president.
National Professor of the Year awards salute four of the most outstanding undergraduate instructors in the country—those who excel as teachers and influence the lives and careers of students. A winner is selected from each of four categories: baccalaureate colleges, community colleges, doctoral and research universities, and master’s universities. Duda was selected from a field of more than 350 top professors.
Duda uses a combination of active learning techniques and technology to maximize student learning, relying on research that shows that the most effective learning requires both mental effort and active participation.
“Most people need some social interaction to learn,” he said. “So contrary to what we may have learned as kids, it can be a good thing to visit with your neighbor in class.”
Duda has used “clicker” technology in class, to instantly poll students’ understanding of material, and incorporates Project/Problem-based Learning (PBL), experimenting with problems that mimic real-world situations, or “other-world” situations, as in the case of zombies.
In an upper-division mathematical physics course, Duda constructed a group project that modeled a zombie outbreak of the type seen on a popular television show. Students researched, devised and solved mathematical models for the spread of a zombie-like infection.
Duda also pioneered a team-teaching approach at Creighton that paired a physics class with a calculus class, interweaving the two disciplines in a way that reinforced each.
“Dr. Duda’s passionate enthusiasm for physics and continuous dedication to his students were driving factors for us to confidently excel in the sciences and sprout and grow our critical problem-solving skills,” said Anya Burkart, a 2011 Creighton graduate and biological engineering graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
His area of primary research is cosmology centering on dark matter, the mysterious, non-luminous substance that is 90% of the mass of the universe, which he explores through computer-based calculations as well as pencil-and-paper theory.
But Duda’s interest in effective teaching goes beyond his own classes or even Creighton. Because he feels that a lifelong interest in science may be best kindled at the middle-school level, he conducts afterschool science clubs for kids and workshops for public school science teachers.
Duda has been at Creighton since 2003 and received the Dean’s Award for Professional Excellence in Tenure-track Teaching and was co-director of the International Institute for Scholarship Teaching and Learning Scholars and Mentors for 2010 and 2011. He holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Villanova University, where he became a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and a doctorate from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Professors accepted their awards at a luncheon at the Ronald Regan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C., Thursday, November 14.
Each year, Phi Beta Kappa supports the U.S. Professors of the Year Program by sponsoring an evening reception for the awardees at the Folger Shakespeare Library on Capitol Hill.
To learn more about the U.S. Professors of the Year Awards Program, visit the Council for Advancement and Support for Education.
Photo of Professor Gintaras Duda courtesy of Creighton University.