The U.S. Professors of the Year Program salutes the most outstanding undergraduate instructors in the country—those who excel in teaching and positively influence the lives and careers of students, according to the Carnegie Foundation and CASE.
This is the second time this year that Foster has received a significant award in Washington. She was named a Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher in March, one of only seven teachers nationally to receive the award and one of only two university professors to be honored.
A resident of Wakefield, R.I., Foster is the third URI professor to receive the Carnegie/CASE award. Roger LeBrun, professor of entomology, was selected in 2001, and Scott Molloy, professor at URI’s Schmidt Labor Research Center, was selected in 2004.
Foster said the Sondheim award honors a professor’s impact on an individual while the Carnegie/CASE U.S. Professors of the Year program focuses on a professor’s broader role in innovative teaching and scholarship.
“I feel this award honors URI’s commitment to teaching,” Foster said. “I am so proud to be in the company of Professors LeBrun and Molloy. Roger and Scott are great storytellers, and I believe we all share a love of using stories in the classroom.”
She said the three are also the first in their families to earn bachelor’s degrees.
“We understand the challenges faced by first-generation college students, and we are committed to our working-class roots,” she said. “We identify with those students today.”
Foster said the award reinforces her commitment to teaching. She added that teaching is a long-term investment, and she cautioned against measuring teaching effectiveness entirely against short-term, outcome-based measures. “I am not saying we don’t need standards, but the results of effective teaching can present themselves long after a student leaves his or her school or college.
“For me teaching is building relationships through subject matter,” Foster said. “It’s opening students’ eyes to the tools they need to live a good life.”
Foster, who joined URI’s Philosophy Department in 1992, also has received the URI Foundation Teaching Excellence Award, American Philosophical Association’s Teaching Award Citation, and the College of Arts and Sciences Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising.
A Professor of the Year was recognized in 36 states. They are chosen on the basis of impact on and involvement with undergraduate students; scholarly approach to teaching and learning; contributions to undergraduate education in the institution, community and profession; and support from colleagues and current and former undergraduate students.