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2020 Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence Award Recipients

Texas A&M President Honors 2020 Presidential Professors For Teaching Excellence

Texas A&M University has selected two faculty members for the 2020 Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence Award, the most prestigious faculty honor bestowed by the university. Claire Katz, professor of philosophy and Murray and Celeste Fasken Chair in Distinguished Teaching in the College of Liberal Arts, and Asha Rao, instructional assistant professor of biology in the College of Science, are this year’s award winners

The award is conferred upon distinguished faculty by Texas A&M President Michael K. Young and reflects the recipients’ stellar career and accomplishments in accelerating and advancing knowledge in the classroom.

“Transformational learning is imperative to the success of Texas A&M University and the potential for our students to change the world,” said Young. “I am proud to recognize the excellent teaching of Dr. Katz and Dr. Rao with this honor.”

Katz and Rao will be formally honored at the 2021 Transformational Teaching and Learning Conference May 5, 2021.

The Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence designation was created in 2003 to recognize educators in perpetuity for their sustained excellence and fundamental contributions to student advancement in independent thinking, creative imagination, lifetime learning and knowledge based on discovery.

Each award carries a one-time, after-tax stipend of $25,000. Awardees bear the designation for the remainder of their careers. To be eligible, nominees must be full-time faculty and hold the rank of lecturer, senior lecturer, assistant professor, associate professor, professor or distinguished professor.


Claire Katz

Dr. Katz earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Memphis. 
She regularly teaches courses in gender and religion and feminist
theory and she has written extensively on feminist theory, philosophy
of religion, philosophy of education, and Emmanuel Levinas’s ethical
project. Claire Katz’s research interests are in contemporary French
philosophy, feminist theory, modern Jewish thought, philosophy of
education, and philosophy of religion. Her work focuses on the
intersection of philosophy and religion, with specific interests in
contemporary French philosophy and French feminist theory. Dr. Katz
is Associate Dean of Faculties and the Murray and Celeste Fasken
Chair in Distinguished Teaching and Professor of Philosophy.

“…her insistence on listing graduate students as first author on co-authored publications, her concern for her students’ physical and emotional wellbeing, her eagerness to celebrate their success, and more…these all would be simply more variations on the same theme: Dr. Katz is a transformative presence at Texas A&M. I find it hard to imagine someone more deserving of this award, and I recommend her for it with the utmost enthusiasm.”
Nomination letter from a graduate assistant teacher
Asha Rao

Dr. Rao earned both her master’s degree and doctorate in entomology
from Texas A&M in 1996 and 2002, respectively. She was both a
postdoctoral researcher and assistant research scientist in the Texas
A&M Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering prior to
joining the Texas A&M Biology faculty in 2011, where her research
is focused on agricultural plant science, environmental science and
animal science. Rao served two years as a laboratory instructor before
moving exclusively to the classroom as a lecturer, subsequently earning
promotion to senior lecturer in 2017.

“Dr. Rao is one of the best professors I have ever had. She is quick to demand perfection. She cares that her students actually succeed. She does her best to get us to understand the underlying concepts in each chapter. Not only this, but she is also super funny, and a hard worker. When she talks about what all she has done on campus, I am always amazed. I cannot wait to take her next semester.”
Nomination letter from a student

The full list of Presidential Professors for Teaching Excellence is available for viewing here.