Dr. Cheryl Vamos receives inaugural Dean’s Excellence in Teaching Award

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In recognition of her ability to “reach deep within and far beyond to provide extraordinary learning moments for students,” Dr. Cheryl Vamos, a USF College of Public Health (COPH) assistant professor of maternal and child health and an alumna of the college, is the first recipient of the Dean’s Excellence in Teaching Award.

The award is presented annually to one COPH faculty member who has been with the COPH for at least five years as an instructor or professorial-ranked faculty and who has taught in the college for at least five years. Recipients receive a one-time bonus of $3,000.

 Cheryl Vamos, PhD, MPH, is the first recipient of the Dean’s Excellence in Teaching Award. (Photo by Caitlin Keough).

Cheryl Vamos, PhD, MPH, is the first recipient of the Dean’s Excellence in Teaching Award. (Photo by Caitlin Keough).

“I have always known that I love teaching and working with diverse groups of students and colleagues,” Vamos commented. “But there is this unique thrill and sense of community when you realize you are valued for the significant contributions you bring to these discussions—either in the classroom or during research meetings. This collective, reciprocal learning process is one of the elements I love most about teaching.”

The COPH has identified eight domains that exemplify excellence in teaching. They include:

  • demonstrates a thorough knowledge of subject matter
  • demonstrates student-centered mentorship (e.g., gives prompt feedback, is accessible outside of class, etc.)
  • demonstrates effective active-learning strategies (e.g., encourages students to be lifelong learners and engage in higher-order thinking)
  • communicates achievable-yet-high expectations
  • promotes a community of learners
  • demonstrates effective communication skills
  • assesses teaching continuously and systematically (e.g., conducts mid-course reviews, recognizes limitations and learns from them)
  • demonstrates a strong commitment to teaching quality (e.g., invites and accepts feedback, tries new teaching techniques, etc.)

Vamos received this award, in part, due to the diversity of her “teaching” interactions and modalities, the volume and success of the students she has worked with, and because of her own desire to exude excellence throughout her teaching, research and service activities.

“I am humbled and honored to receive this award,” Vamos said. “I believe the skills that students and professionals hone during their learning—things such as critical thinking, advocacy and communication—are some of the greatest lessons we can impart. I also have come to appreciate the value of the field of ‘health literacy,’ not only to health behaviors and outcomes (my area of research), but also to teaching. I want my students to be able to access, understand, evaluate, communicate and apply information and skills to solve complex public health problems that impact women, their families and their communities.”

Vamos, along with the other COPH faculty, students, alumni and staff, learned she had been selected for the award when COPH Dean Donna Petersen made the announcement at the State of the College address, held in September.

Story by Donna Campisano, USF College of Public Health