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Texas A&M anthropologist Catharina Laporte teaching engineering students enrolled in one of her classes at Texas A&M University
2023 Texas A&M Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence Dr. Catharina Laporte, teaching engineering students enrolled in one of her previous ANTH 370 "Cultural Diversity and Ethics" classes. | Image: Center for Teaching Excellence

Dr. Catharina Laporte, an instructional associate professor in the Department of Anthropology, has been recognized with the 2023 Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence Award, the most prestigious faculty honor bestowed by Texas A&M University in recognition of classroom performance.

Laporte, who earned her both her master's and Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from Texas A&M in 2011 and 2013, respectively, is the first recipient in Texas A&M Anthropology’s history and the 18th current or former faculty member in the College of Arts and Sciences recognized with the award since it was first presented in 2003. She joins Dr. Bala Shetty, a professor in the Department of Information and Operations Management in Mays Business School, in being honored this year. Both were formally recognized Monday (April 24) during the invitation-only University Awards Ceremony hosted by Texas A&M President M. Katherine Banks in the Memorial Student Center’s Bethancourt Ballroom.

The coveted award, established in 2003 by former Texas A&M President Robert M. Gates to underscore the importance of teaching at a major research university, provides for presentation each year of two Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence Awards. Each comes with a one-time, after-tax $25,000 stipend that includes the title of “Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence” — a designation retained by the recipient for the remainder of his or her career at Texas A&M. Like their predecessors, the two professors are recognized in perpetuity for their sustained excellence and fundamental contributions to student advancement in independent thinking, creative imagination, lifetime learning and discovery-based knowledge.

Texas A&M anthropologist Catharina Laporte poses with her Hullabaloo U Instructor of the Year award plaque with the Academic Building in the background
A decorated teacher, Laporte earned selection in 2021 as Texas A&M’s first Hullaballoo-U Instructor of the Year. | Image: Texas A&M Arts and Sciences Marketing and Communications

Laporte joined the Texas A&M faculty as a lecturer in 2014 after earning her Ph.D. She was promoted to instructional assistant professor in 2015 and subsequently to instructional associate professor in 2019. In addition, she served as director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Anthropology from 2019 to 2021. Her previous teaching awards include selection as Texas A&M’s first Hullaballoo-U Instructor of the Year in 2021, one of seven inaugural recipients of the Provost Academic Professional Track (APT) Faculty Teaching Excellence Awards in 2020 and the inaugural Texas A&M Student Government Association/Texas A&M Universities Libraries Open Educational Resource Champion Award recipient in 2017. She also earned a Texas A&M Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement College-Level Award in Teaching in 2020.

During the past decade, Laporte has dedicated herself to undergraduate teaching, building a solid reputation along the way for unparalleled excellence in student-centered teaching as well as service to the university through development of curriculum standards and her mentorship of both students and fellow faculty. Using insights from her previous management career in multinational corporations in combination with her education, Laporte designs and teaches high-impact, multi section, active, hybrid and flipped courses specifically designed to combine an anthropological mindset with an appreciation for cultural diversity. Regardless of format and delivery model, the course aim remains the same: to illuminate different perspectives and solutions to real-world phenomena and projects.

“Dr. Laporte truly exemplifies the outstanding faculty member for whom we believe this award is intended,” said fellow Texas A&M anthropologist Dr. Sharon Gursky. “She applies the fundamentals of our discipline — cultural relativism, an appreciation for diversity and inclusion, and holistic thinking — in every element of her teaching efforts. Her exuberance for teaching, the energy she puts into her craft, and the intellectual growth and excitement for learning she inspires in her students are tremendous.”

As a faculty fellow of the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE), Laporte has developed various online teaching videos and delivered dozens of different university-wide presentations on pedagogy, active learning, assessment and best teaching practices. Many of the materials she has developed for her courses are routinely used by other instructors nationwide, including her water boiling role-play exercise now in use at University of California, Berkeley, and Yale University as well as by professors in the Texas A&M Colleges of Engineering and Agriculture and Life Sciences. Likewise, her diversity lesson plan is regularly used by the Texas A&M Office for Diversity and student groups across campus.

Texas A&M anthropologist Catharina Laporte
Image: Courtesy Dr. Catharina Laporte

In addition to transformative teaching, Laporte often facilitates workshops and conversations on campus to inspire and create community with other faculty, staff and students. Since 2019, she has mentored 10 diverse merit-based Posse Foundation Scholars as well as new Posse mentors at Texas A&M, which is set to sponsor five Posse cohorts in 2024. Laporte also serves as an informal and formal mentor to numerous faculty and future faculty, both within her department and across the university and nation. Often called to serve on teaching-related university-wide task forces, she has served on the President’s Path Forward Working Group 35, First Year Experience, Transformational Teaching and Learning Conference, entrepreneurship and distance education committees. Laporte chaired the university-wide IT Governance Teaching and Transformational Learning Technologies Committee and was co-chair of the Learning Management System (Canvas) selection committee. She also was instrumental in helping to design and prepare faculty to teach in the Innovative Learning Classroom Building, which came online at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting shift to online learning.

During the past year, Laporte has turned her focus to faculty development, working with the CTE and Vice President for Faculty Affairs to organize a semester-long faculty book community featuring more than 100 Texas A&M scholars leading up to the most recent Transformational Teaching and Learning Conference in 2022. This past summer, she also received a $10,000 College of Arts and Sciences merger grant aimed at bringing together teaching-focused faculty in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning project involving the CTE and nearly two dozen award winning educators across the college who are exploring student and faculty (dis)engagement and related solutions.

An active member of the Texas A&M Faculty Senate since 2017, Laporte also served three years on the Senate Executive Committee from 2019 to 2021. In addition, she serves on the board of the Human Relations Area Files hosted by Yale University.

Nominations for the Presidential Professor awards are made by students, faculty members and deans in each of the university’s colleges and schools. To be eligible for the award, nominees must be full-time faculty and hold the rank of lecturer, senior lecturer, assistant professor, associate professor, professor or distinguished professor.

To learn more about the Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence Award or other Texas A&M faculty recognitions and honors, visit the Office of Faculty Affairs website.