Valpo’s Committee to Enhance Learning and Teaching has selected Zuhdi Aljobeh, Sandra Bleza, and George Pati as the 2016–2017 Valparaiso University Excellence in Teaching Award recipients.

The award recognizes a number of outstanding undergraduate faculty and/or units each year for general teaching excellence, with particular attention to excellence in any of three areas: course development, pedagogy, and mentoring/advising. Each award carries a monetary stipend of $3,000 to honor each faculty members’ excellence in teaching on the Valparaiso University campus.

Zuhdi Aljobeh, associate professor of civil engineering in the College of Engineering, was recognized because of his excellence in mentoring and advising. He actively supervises students in research and draws students to onsite experiences such as the Pierce Cedar Creek Institute for Environmental Education in Michigan. His attentiveness and compassion has inspired many students to think of him as a father-figure and someone to whom they can talk to as they discern their paths within engineering.

Aljobeh is drawn to providing unique opportunities for students such as a service-learning trip to Costa Rica, where students design and implement projects. His emphasis on real-world applications of theory boosts students’ confidence in their skills.

Sandra Bleza, a clinical assistant professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions, was awarded the honor for her excellence in pedagogy. The nominating committee emphasized that one of Bleza’s most noteworthy achievements is her ability to create a “supportive learning environment” in medical-surgical nursing, one of the most difficult areas of the nursing curriculum.

Bleza is currently a fellow with the International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning. Her approach emphasizes relationships: her own active engagement and availability for students, as well as the students’ development in being fully present with their patients.

George Pati, Surjit S. Patheja Endowed Chair in World Religions and Ethics and associate professor of theology and international studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, received the award for his excellence in mentoring and advising. Pati makes himself available for advising on many levels; however, students draw attention to his personal impact beyond the academic realm.

Pati recognizes his vocation as facilitating the development of self-actualized individuals. In advising and mentoring, as in teaching, Pati seeks to instill in students the language of ‘we’ instead of ‘I and you,’ so they can bring their own discipline in conversation with the religions and cultures.