Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, January 16, 2012

Coppola wins national teaching award

Baylor University has named U-M chemistry professor Brian Coppola as the 2012 recipient of the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching, the only national teaching award — with the single largest monetary reward of $250,000 — presented by a college or university to an individual for exceptional teaching.


“Baylor University is very pleased to honor Dr. Brian Coppola of the University of Michigan with Baylor’s 2012 Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching,” says Elizabeth Davis, executive vice president and provost at Baylor. “Dr. Coppola is an internationally known teacher/scholar, who combines an impressive academic record with a stellar reputation for the extraordinary impact he has had on undergraduate students and the educational enterprise.

“For the duration of our storied 166-year history, Baylor University has dedicated itself to the development and shaping of our students through the value we place on extraordinary classroom teaching. Our outstanding faculty continue that tradition to this day by equipping our students to reach the highest levels of academic and educational achievement,” Davis says. “The Cherry Award allows us to extend that experience by bringing to our campus some of the world’s greatest teachers, such as Dr. Coppola. We congratulate our 2012 Cherry Award recipient and we look forward to welcoming him to Baylor University.”

Coppola, the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Chemistry, says he is deeply honored to be named as the recipient of the 2012 Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching.

“This is a special and wholly unique recognition that highlights the basic foundation of two of civilization's most important activities, namely, teaching and learning,” Coppola says. “At the heart of it all, excellence in teaching means that professors are inspiring, educating, and elevating the next generation to help advance our understanding of the world, and to help improve the human condition."

The Cherry Award program at Baylor is designed to honor great teachers, stimulate discussion in the academy about the value of teaching and encourage departments and institutions to value their own great teachers. Along with a record of distinguished scholarship, individuals nominated for the Cherry Award have a proven record as an extraordinary teacher with a positive, inspiring and long-lasting effect on students.

Coppola was named a finalist for the Cherry Award in April 2011, along with fellow distinguished teacher/scholars Heather Macdonald, Chancellor Professor of Geology at the College of William & Mary, and Allen J. Matusow, W.G. Twyman Professor of History at Rice University. As finalists, each professor received $15,000, while their home departments also received $10,000 for the development of teaching skills.

Coppola visited the Baylor campus in November 2011 to present his Cherry finalist lecture on “The Liberal Art of Chemistry: Stories about Human Nature.” As the 2012 Cherry Award recipient, Coppola will receive the $250,000 award and an additional $25,000 for his home department at U-M. He is expected to teach in residence at Baylor during spring 2013 semester.
Coppola recently completed 10 years as the department’s associate chair and also serves as associate director for the U-M-Peking University Joint Institute, in Beijing, China.

A Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Coppola has been honored numerous times for teaching, including his selection in 2009 as the CASE/Carnegie U.S. Professor of the Year (for doctoral institutions). Coppola was among the first group of Carnegie Scholars affiliated with The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s CASTL program.

Coppola co-founded and was the first co-director of the IDEA Institute (Instructional Development and Educational Assessment), a collaboration between LSA and the School of Education. Students have the opportunity to collaborate on teaching projects with the faculty members in the same way that they pursue their research projects. IDEA also targets precollege teaching and learning with the same challenge: how can teachers bring their own ideas forward by collaborating with university students and faculty members.