Lori Holleran Steiker Wins UT’s Largest Undergrad Teaching Award


Something fishy was clearly up outside the School of Social Work this afternoon. The trumpet section of the Longhorn Band played arpeggios on the sunny lawn, a grinning student jogged by with a cluster of orange and white balloons, and about 15 professors and students gathered on the steps, talking in hushed voices and glancing around nervously. There was a great deal of giggling.

At 2:15, UT student Kennon Kasischke shepherded everyone inside. “Shh!” someone urged. Then Kasisch and Jordan Metoyer, who together chair the Friar Centennial Teaching Fellowship, held open the doors of the Utopia Room, a large auditorium, and the crowd tiptoed in. When the trumpeters blasted the first notes of “Texas Fight,” the class erupted in cheers and clapping. Students looked up from their notebooks with confusion and surprise that soon turned to laughter. And at the front of the classroom, Lori Holleran Steiker smiled and shook her head in disbelief. [Watch a video of her reaction here.]

“Wow, this is such an honor. It’s the passion and the energy of my students that feeds everything I do,” she said after she’d been handed a giant check. “I’m so thankful and I love you guys so much—oh, my family is here!” Holleran Steiker exclaimed as her husband, son, and father walked down from the back of the auditorium to embrace her.

An associate professor in the School of Social Work, Holleran Steiker is a nationally recognized expert on substance abuse and the prevention and treatment of drug and alcohol addiction in youth. She’s also the winner of a long litany of teaching awards—but none with a presentation quite like this.

In addition to being the only UT teaching award that involves ambushing a professor mid-lecture, the Friar Centennial Teaching Fellowship is the largest undergraduate teaching award at UT. Since 1987, the students in the university’s oldest honor society have been soliciting nominations for the most inspiring, challenging, smart, and fun teachers on the Forty Acres. It’s a major project that involves gathering nearly 200 nominations, visiting classes to observe, and interviewing colleagues and former students of the nominees. Selected entirely by students, the award has gone to campus legends like Jim Vick, Sheldon Eckland-Olson, and Elizabeth Richmond-Garza.

This year, says selection co-chair Metoyer, Holleran Steiker stood out. “We talked to so many former students who said she completely changed their lives,” Metoyer says. “They’d say things like, ‘I’m the person I am today because of her.'”

Holleran Steiker is the first social work professor ever to receive the $25,000 honor.

Kennon Kasischke, left, presents the 2014 Friar Centennial Teaching Fellowship to Lori Holleran Steiker.

Photo by Anna Donlan.



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