Five Star Faculty Award Given to Albrecht Classen

Five Star Faculty Award Given to Albrecht Classen

By La Monica Everett-HaynesUniversity Communications
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Albrecht Classen
Albrecht Classen

This year's Five Star Faculty Award, the only campuswide teaching award presented by University of Arizona students, will go to Albrecht Classen, a University Distinguished Professor in the German studies department.

"All of our finalists this year, as every year, were phenomenal teachers, all willing to go the extra mile to ensure their students understood the material at hand in new and exciting ways," said Sara Button, who served as the Five Star Faculty Award committee chair.

The student-run committee narrowed the list of student-nominated candidates to five finalists, opting to honor Classen in the end.

Finding out that he was among the finalists "was already a big honor," Classen said. It was his second time, having been named a finalist in the competition during the early 1990s.

"Classen has shown time and time again that he is committed not only to research, as a tenured faculty member, but committed even more so to his students," said Button, a UA Honors College student studying classics.

The committee pointed out that Classen developed a six-unit international studies course in which students travel to Europe to learn about medieval art, architecture, history, literature and religion.

"I really love teaching students," said Classen, who has been teaching for about 35 years, more than 20 of which have been at the UA. 

"I continue to be passionate about what I am teaching," he said. "I'm talking about really fundamental things in life and try and look at different areas and always am fresh."

The selection committee also pointed out that Classen is currently working with both undergraduate and graduate students on a project that is expected to result in a published book.

The Arizona State Museum's Office of Ethnohistorical Research enlisted the support of Classen to translate personal letters written by Philipp Segesser, a German-speaking Swiss Jesuit priest. To complete the project, which should result in a manuscript by the year's end, Classen involved students taking one of his German studies courses.

Classen was recognized for his style in the classroom as well.

"His open-door policy and vivacious teaching style encourage students even in classes of 300 people to engage in lively discussion," Button noted.

The teaching award recognizes "excellence in undergraduate teaching" and was first awarded in 1983. Award winners receive $1,000 for the prize, which is supported by Dennis Ray and Margaret Briehl.

Other faculty members who have earned the award in recent years include Melissa Fitch, an associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese; Stephanie Fryberg, an assistant professor of psychology; Vicente Talanquer, an associate professor of chemistry; and David Soren, a Regents' Professor in the classics department.

Classen said the honor is different from being honored by his colleagues or associates.

"It means that the students appreciate what I am doing. I really feel like I have established a community, and that there is a bond there," Classen said.

"It was an incredible feeling to be honored, and I was stunned," he added. "I try to be the perfect role model, so it's really heartwarming."

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