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4th Annual TOAST Awards honor transformative online learning

Recognizing its faculty for transformative online classes, the University of St. Thomas-Houston annually honors six faculty members with the Teach Online Awards to Spur Transformation, also known as TOAST. This year’s 4th Annual TOAST Awards event was held on March 20 in the University’s Link Lee Mansion where the event host, Dr. James Monaghan, associate VP of Academic and Student Affairs and director of Online Education, presented honors to Professor Vanessa M. Arline, Dr. Beena George, Dr. Emiliano Gonzalez, Dr. Eric A. Mabry, Dr. Amber D. Miller, and Professor Audrey Utti 

Individually, they were recognized for a passion and presence in their online courses, a learner-centered approach, being communication builders, and creating engaging and challenging courses that foster critical thinking.

Dr. Monaghan later said, “Thank you to all who attended the 4th Annual TOAST Awards. UST President Richard Ludwick and VP of Academic and Student Affairs Dr. Christopher Evans gave inspiring words. In addition, we were all inspired by the awardees sharing insights into how their courses were transformative.”

Awardees Share Insights

Professor Vanessa ArlineProfessor Vanessa M. Arline
Assistant Professor, Carol & Odis Peavy School of Nursing
“My online teaching approach focuses on maintaining a spirit of learner accountability through the comprehensive provision of resources that promote their success. I also consider the four major learning styles and carefully design tools and/or screen resources like videos and animations to both engage my learners and meet their learning needs.”

Dr. Beena GeorgeDr. Beena George
Professor of Management, Cameron School of Business
“I am truly humbled to be recognized among this year’s awardees for online teaching. My core objective with the capstone in strategic management has always been to create an engaging learning experience that instills an enduring appreciation for strategic management. I have always enjoyed exploring tools and technologies that would support those objectives. This exploratory journey has recently been marked by a happy confluence of events: the advent of new apps and technological advancements that have opened unprecedented opportunities for teaching and learning, and the generous support and expertise of our TeachOnline team. I am grateful for the recognition and excited about the future of online teaching and learning."

Dr. Emiliano GonzalezDr. Emiliano Gonzalez
Professor of Education, Undergraduate Associate Dean, Director, Masters in C&I
“The fact students have a choice, in person or online, informs my delivery of content. I don’t try to mirror an actual face-to-face class but rather provide unique opportunities and experiences as to why they chose online work. I experiment with various apps and formats and then give them the opportunity to explore and integrate those apps in what they do daily in their respective classrooms. It is rewarding to see how they themselves experiment with the apps I present as viable tools for teaching and learning. The class is not only about teaching and learning content but asking yourself: ‘How can I integrate this in my class for optimal student success?’ I constantly have them reflect and this in itself, as I tell them, is a powerful app/tool! Reflect, reflect, reflect is key to learning and engaging.”

Dr. Eric MabryDr. Eric A. Mabry
Visiting Associate Professor, Fellow of the Core
“The asynchronous classroom cannot be simply another environment in which our students are beset by a techno-cratic pseudo-reality of another’s making. Instead, it must be a habitat of spontaneity, an ecology of wonder and questions, which encourages students to freely cooperate with their professors in the cultivation of a contemplative way of life.” 

Dr. Amber MillerDr. Amber D. Miller
Adjunct Instructor of Biology
I work to provide inclusivity and accessibility in my Anatomy and Physiology 1 course. This starts with clear organization and communication. I created video tutorials to start the course showing where everything is on blackboard and the additional resources the students have through their textbook platform. These are included on the course blackboard page but are also sent out via email, which improves accessibility and helps to provide familiarity with the course. Additionally, we know not everyone learns the same way so providing multiple opportunities for learning through readings, YouTube videos, and self-recorded lecture allows the students to utilize the methods that work best for them. Lastly, they have multiple opportunities to practice their learning via games and even jeopardy exam reviews during office hours.”

Professor Audrey UttiProfessor Audrey Utti
Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology
“My philosophy is steeped in helping students build their metacognitive skills, empowering them to build the confidence to work towards their personal goals for course outcomes and to feel very comfortable taking what I teach beyond the classroom and into their personal and professional lives. I approach online teaching from multiple angles. I have an easy to follow, approachable and organized course format with clear expectations for both sides communicated up front. Constant communication and timely responses demonstrate to students that I am available to meet and/or answer their questions. I create supportive assignments that push students to apply material to their own and others’ lives. Lastly, I set the expectation of personal accountability; being aware of their own efforts and being honest about what is working or not working in their approaches to the class is key to earning the grade they want or need. A few tips I would share are to create a clear and organized course that is easy to approach and learn from, strive to be super communicative throughout the course, and to always keep your audience in mind during course creation.”

A Proud Celebration

With the 4th Annual TOAST Awards, UST proudly celebrates its honorees and their sharing knowledge in an inspiring and transformative way.