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Hopkins receives President’s Distinguished Achievement Award in Core Curriculum Teaching

July 5, 2021
Hopkins receives President’s Distinguished Achievement Award in Core Curriculum Teaching

Profile photo of Mariah Hopkins

Mariah Hopkins, lecturer II in the Department of Biology, has won the President’s Distinguished Achievement Award for Core Curriculum Teaching. The award recognizes her tireless dedication to both teaching, curriculum review, and course innovation and design.  

"I am honored and humbled to be selected as this year's recipient of the Core Curriculum Teaching Award out of a pool of such accomplished nominees," says Hopkins. "The core curriculum objectives of critical thinking skills, communication skills, empirical and quantitative skills, and teamwork unite faculty from across the university and are central to our students' success."

For Hopkins, teaching is much more than effective content delivery. Not only does she employ a variety of pedagogies to teach her students, Hopkins also has her students develop a sense of autonomy and responsibility for their learning. By ensuring her students cultivate a solid foundation in science and a solid background in learning, they can grow the skills needed to become informed citizens and excel in careers in science. 

Understanding the different ways students learn, Hopkins incorporates case studies, bio-interactives, virtual labs and interactive mini-lessons within all her courses. Hopkins links her assignments to Bloom's taxonomy, guaranteeing that course activities provide the scaffolding necessary to build from foundational understanding to creation and generalization. 

As one student notes:

“She doesn't just teach the material, she ensures that we understand and relate to it in any way made possible. I appreciate her enthusiasm for the subject and it is refreshing that she is willing to help us whenever needed.”

Hopkins’ students work in groups to investigate case studies and solve course related tasks. This learning dynamic combines teamwork and communication skills with critical thinking and quantitative/empirical skills. Hopkins believes that having her students take a collaborative approach to real-world problems in her introductory classes sets the stage for them to thrive in their time at UTSA. 

Taking an “innovate, then evaluate” approach, Hopkins keeps up to date with the latest technologies to incorporate into her classes. After debuting these new technologies, she painstakingly evaluates their effectiveness based on student surveys and performance. This ensures her classes maintain academic rigor with optimum learning methods. 

According to another student’s feedback:

“Dr. Hopkins really cares about the success of her students. One thing I noticed about her that I have never seen in other professors is she asks the students feedback about all aspects of the course, and really listens to them and adapts her class to make it so everyone has a chance to succeed. It’s very refreshing to see a science professor care so much about her students.”

Hopkins was selected to redesign Contemporary I (Bio 1233), a core course for non-biology majors. Shifting the traditionally in-person course to an asynchronous online modality, the course received excellent reviews from students, with an overall rating of 4.66, and an overall rating of the teaching at 4.75. This feedback is particularly notable, as core science courses generally have lower reviews from students who are not science majors. 

"Witnessing my students' success this past year has been one of the greatest rewards I have experienced as a teacher, and I am excited to be a part of the team contributing to UTSA's core curriculum in coming years!" says Hopkins.

Hopkins is currently the co-chair of the ad-hoc Curriculum Committee and a member of the Academic Policy and Curriculum Committee (APCC) for the Department of Biology. She has also co-authored a grant proposal to fund two UTSA undergraduate students’ summer research. 

Her service to the broader science community includes reviewing manuscripts for 13 publications and reviewing grant proposals for both the National Science Foundation and the L.S.B. Leakey Foundation. Her current research projects include topics in STEM Education and GIS Modeling & Spatial Epidemiology.

“I am delighted to see such an innovative leader be recognized for her commitment and success,” says David Silva, distinguished professor of physics and astronomy and dean of the College of Sciences. “She is blazing a trail for all COS faculty as we strive to enhance student engagement and success via the introduction of new on-line methods and techniques.”

The Core Curriculum Teaching Award recognizes excellence in core curriculum teaching that include innovation and rigor in the classroom, a strong commitment to the aims of the core curriculum through innovative course development and assessment, and positive student feedback.