Veronica Austen Recognized with Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award
The University of Waterloo’s Senate recognized Veronica Austen, PhD as the recipient of a Waterloo Undergraduate Students Association (WUSA) Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award. Austen is the Associate Dean at St. Jerome’s University (SJU), and an associate professor in the university’s Department of English.
“Veronica is being recognized for her tireless commitment to teaching and to her students,” noted St. Jerome’s University’s President and Vice Chancellor, Peter Meehan. “These are hallmarks of St. Jerome’s mission at the University of Waterloo. Our entire community could not be more proud of her for being recognized by her students in this way.”
The WUSA Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award is presented every year to professors who have demonstrated an outstanding contribution to undergraduate student learning. The award recognizes non-conventional teaching techniques, opportunities for experiential learning, and a long-term commitment and dedication towards ensuring academic success for undergraduate students. Instructors are nominated by a student, and then endorsed by their class of students. Final award decisions are made by the WUSA Teaching Award Selection Committee comprised of Undergraduate Student Senators, and WUSA’s Vice-President Education, and Academic Affairs Commissioner. It is the only award given by the University of Waterloo Senate selected entirely by undergraduate students. Due to the pandemic, both the 2019 and 2020 awards are being distributed at the same time.
Austen’s 2019 award recognizes her exemplary dedication and approach providing a well-supported learning environment for her students. Her willingness to change her course technique to maximize student learning; her welcoming office hours; how she encourages students to take risks in their assignments; dedication that includes proactively checking in with students who seem to be struggling; and her willingness to connect with and help students, were all recognized in the nomination. She is also acknowledged for her community work at St. Jerome’s University, which includes helping to co-organize the university’s Reading Series guest lecturer program.
Veronica Austen joins current and fellow award-winning St. Jerome’s University Department of English colleagues, including WUSA award recipients Chad Wriglesworth (2014, 2018) and Norm Klassen (2018); and Associate Professor Tristanne Connolly, who in 2010 received the University of Waterloo’s Distinguished Teacher Award.
“Back when being on campus was a thing, our department was there and our doors most often were open, so I've always had colleagues with whom I could discuss ideas. Having that kind of environment where we can talk teaching is a gift,” noted Austen. “As well, beyond the English department I've always had colleagues who can help when I've needed to better understand how to reach a student who is more centred in a different field of expertise.”
St. Jerome’s University congratulates Austen for her achievement and her dedication to serving the mission of the university. Interim Vice President Academic and Dean, Cristina Vanin, acknowledged that the award “is a wonderful and very well-deserved recognition by students of Veronica’s undergraduate teaching.”
“I'm honoured that my students took the time to nominate me and/or to speak to my nomination,” stated Austen, who acknowledged that the award is particularly special because it was initiated by students. “I can do the kind of teaching I like to do because my class sizes have remained manageable enough to pay attention to each student as an individual. And from my PhD onward, I’ve always had wonderful mentors both at UW and at St. Jerome’s.”