Dougherty receives President’s Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching Excellence
Victoria Dougherty, lecturer III in the Department of Chemistry, has won the President’s Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching Excellence for her passion for student learning and growth. Dougherty takes a compassionate approach to her teaching, inspiring in her students the confidence to conquer difficult material and apply this knowledge in their journey toward success.
"To share an award with such an outstanding group of instructors is such a privilege," says Dougherty. "I work at a university that has a lot of instructors who go above and beyond, and having my efforts recognized is an amazing feeling given the company I keep."
Dougherty notes that each of her Organic Chemistry classes begin in a state of anxiety. Students are often overwhelmed at the difficult material they are about to learn. However, as Dougherty shares her own atypical academic journey with her students, she plants a seed of motivation, rousing within them the belief that, if they work hard, they can succeed just as she has.
From making the first question of each of her tests purposefully easy to quell student’s test taking fears to the wide range of pedagogical techniques and learning styles she employs in her classes, Dougherty enables her students to build a solid foundation of knowledge. Her goal is for her students to not only confidently apply what they’ve learned but successfully build on these concepts in other classes.
As one former student explains, “Professor Dougherty is engaging, approachable, and supportive of all her students. She understands student perspectives and factors their extracurricular and familial lifestyles to help them find their path to success.”
Ranging from freshman-level General Chemistry to Organic Chemistry 2, Dougherty often teaches up to 600 students per semester. Despite this, Dougherty receives an above average evaluation of 4.4 compared to the departmental average of 4.1. In addition, her Organic Chemistry students score consistently above the national average on the American Chemical Society standardized exam.
“Ms. Dougherty is an example of an educator who is both inspiring and exceptional. Her motivation comes from a genuine desire for students to succeed,” says Audrey Lamb, professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry. “She truly loves what she does, and she has become an extremely important member of the chemistry department and an influential role model for our students.”
Dougherty was appointed as the Undergraduate Advisor of Record for the Department of Chemistry in 2014. She advises chemistry undergraduate students and serves on several committees.
Dougherty also helps students outside of UTSA to be better prepared for chemistry classes. She participated in the initiative to align the Alamo College’s chemistry curriculum with UTSA’s and helped coordinate a dual credit chemistry class with CAST Tech High School in San Antonio. Dougherty is working with the College of Education to develop an M.A. in Chemical Education to improve the quality of chemistry instruction in high schools.
Not only does Dougherty care for her current students’ success, she has also made significant strides in ensuring all future students receive the support and resources needed to excel in chemistry.
"Once you get addicted to learning, once you know what it's like to have knowledge, you can do almost anything," says Dougherty. "Everyone should be able to experience that, and I think everyone has the capacity. Engaging them, motivating them, and applauding them - that's my job. I cannot imagine doing anything else."
The President’s Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching Excellence recognizes accomplished faculty whose command of their respective disciplines, teaching methodologies, communication skills, and commitment to learning translate into a superior learning experience for students. These awards are aimed at faculty who maintain high expectations and standards for their students. This ensures academic rigor while meeting the challenges of motivating students and helping them develop into educated, ethical, and responsible citizens.