EPPS Outstanding Teaching Comet Awards

"If you're going to be a teacher, there can't be a more satisfying reward than being recognized by those you teach. I am extremely honored."
― Donald Arbuckle Clinical Professor and PhD Advisor of Public Affairs, winner of 2013-2014 Outstanding Teaching Comet Awards

Students nominated EPPS faculty, lecturers, and teaching assistants in each of the school's degree areas for the EPPS Outstanding Teaching Comet Awards. Faculty and/or lecturers who received the most nominations in their areas were presented with crystal apple paperweights engraved with their names. Graduate student instructors who were nominated received inscribed plaques.

2014 - 2015 List of Winners and Honorable Mentions


Winner: Nicole Leeper Piquero

Honorable Mentions: Denise Boots, Timothy Bray, Elmer Polk

Graduate Student Instructor Winners: Michele Meitl, Mark Saber, Haley Zettler

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Winner: Xin (Sherry) Li

Honorable Mentions: Rodney Andrews, Dann Arce, Luba Ketsler, Stephen Kiser, Asli Leblebicioglu, Daniel O'Brien

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Geospatial Information Sciences

Winners: Byran Chastain, Irina Vakulenko

Honorable Mentions: Anthony Cummings, Denis Dean, Daniel Griffith, Fang Qiu, Michael Tiefelsdorf, May Yuan

Graduate Student Instructor Winner: Yuhong Zhou

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Public Policy and Political Economy

Winners: Jonas Bunte, Rubia Valente

Honorable Mentions: Lloyd Dumas, Dohyeong Kim, Murray Leaf

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Rubia Valente

"Dr. Valente is an incredible professor who is not only genuinely interested in the subject she is teaching, but is also genuinely interested in her students' success. Going into this class, I was not happy at all. I figured I would dread every day of this class, but having such a great professor who teaches the material well and who is always making sure we are all on the same page, understanding the concepts, it put me at ease. I genuinely like coming to class, and it's all down to Dr. Valente. I truly believe that nobody can teach the class like she does. In fact, I am 100% certain that if I had taken this class with any other professor, I would not be writing this nomination today. Thank you, Dr. Valente!"

"She taught a class that I was really interested in."

"One of the best instructors at EPPS. She is not only helpful in class, but outside class too. It is always pleasing that every time I encounter her she always calls me by name, no matter how much time passed by."

"Dr. Valente provided us with excellent insight into the world of International Development. Her class was well structured, engaging, and very informative. She was also extremely knowledgeable of the issues in question and integrated her personal experience as well. In addition to that, Dr. Valente goes above and beyond to help her students both inside and outside the classroom, and shows genuine interest in their personal goals and ambitions. All things considered, she remains as one of the best professors that I've had at UTD."

"Dr. Valente is an amazing teacher who goes above and beyond to make sure that you do not meet just the goals of the class, but that you also meet your own personal goals. She is amazing at reading people and pushing you to give 110% of your true potential. The first day of class she literally already knew each student by first name! She was very patient in class and outside of class during meetings, she never seemed annoyed to discuss something in further detail or to re-explain something. She was very quirky and energetic throughout the entire semester. She shows dedication and passion for everything that she teaches. I had her for IPEC 3349 in the Fall and for EPPS 3405 this semester and her passion is still as strong even though we are studying completely different topics. I feel that Dr. Valente deserves this award more than anyone because she is a true inspiration. She shows that you can be intelligent, a little nerdy (in a good way), and completely down to Earth at the same time. She has a way of making even the most boring lectures engaging and fun."

"I studied World Resources and Development under the tutelage of Dr. Rubia Valente in Fall 2014. Less than two weeks before the start of her class, I had returned to the U.S. from intensive summer study in a semi-rural community in Oman. As a result of my overseas experience, I arrived in Dr. Valente's class with a vivid picture of "development" and its importance to peoples' well-being. In Oman, I was troubled by a range of issues, from sustainable resource use to corrupt governance and gender equality. Though I had seen a number of problems, Dr. Valente's class was fundamental in proposing solutions. She was immensely patient and supportive and always responded thoughtfully to my questions. When Dr. Valente happened not to know the answer, she would seek out useful resources to point me in the right direction. Dr. Valente strikes a remarkable balance between professionalism and approachability. While she is well-versed on a variety of topics in development, I was never nervous to ask her questions. There have been days that I have spent at least an hour (or perhaps two) in her office discussing issues of women's rights. She cares genuinely both about her field of research and her role as an instructor and mentor. A good educator helps you to better understand a subject; a great educator helps you to understand that subject's connection to your life and inspires you to take action. Dr. Valente most assuredly falls in the second category. Her class gave me clarity and perspective, not only helping me to make sense of the development issues I had seen in Oman, but also guiding me toward my future career. Because the support of Dr. Valente and my invaluable mentors here at UT Dallas, I intend to return to the Middle East for a full year of study and hope someday to work in urban development in the Middle East."

"She is a good teacher."

"Professor Valente is an excellent educator. She made statistics very interesting and relatable. She was also accessible and friendly whenever I needed help."

"Dr. Valente is an excellent instructor. It was her mission to make sure the course material was understood."

"Dr. Valente went above and beyond to help me understand statistics and never showed frustration when I was struggling to understand the material. I took a stats class at another university before attending UTD and it was the worst experience with a class I ever had. I dreaded having to take another stats class at UTD. Dr. Valente made sure I got through it though, but not by making the material easier. She didn't give answers away but instead took her time to ensure I found them on my own. She was always available to chat about course material and always approachable. She was professional and treated her students like adults. Before walking into the classroom on the first day I was nervous, anxious, and honestly a little frightened of falling behind in the course. I wanted it to fly by and to be done with it. When the class was over, however, I was surprisingly sad not to be in her class any more. Because Dr. Valente applied the material to real-life situations, the "when will I ever use this?" cliche was never in play. I was even able to use some of the material she taught me in my accounting job. I rated all my professors at UTD, but during the time I was there only 2 truly made an impression on me. Dr. Valente was one of them. I'm not sure a stats class could ever be fun, but she made it about as close to fun as humanly possible. More importantly, she challenged me to spend the extra time and to do the extra work to EARN a higher grade than I would have happily settled for prior to working with her. I wish I could have taken more classes with her."

"Dr. Valente is one of the most passionate professors I have ever had. She teaches in a way that makes you really understand the topics and it makes you want to make a difference in the world. Her encouragement of student interaction in the classroom is very valuable. I believe that every student regardless of their major should take this course with Dr. V, it is very important to help everyone have an idea of what is happening in the entire world!"

"Dr. Valente is a passionate teacher. She values her students and always makes time to make sure they understand her course material. In addition, she creates an interactive learning environment for her students and inspires them to think outside the box. Her World Resources class is a phenomenal class and gives you the essential tools to have a global perspective on current issues. I know that her class will always be a great help to me and fellow EPPS students looking to become future policy makers. Dr. Valente is a brilliant professor and I gladly nominate her for the EPPS Outstanding Teaching Comet Award."

"Dr. Valente is an amazing professor and her class, World Resources and Development, has been by far, one of my favorite classes I have attended at UTD. She encourages her students to discuss their opinions without ever once putting them down. I hope she stays at UTD for a very long time and continues to teach more discussion-based classes!"

"Dr. Valente is a fantastic, knowledgeable teacher, and she is very approachable. I never felt like I could half-do anything in her class because I liked her too much to do that. I wanted to make her proud."

"Dr. Valente is truly one of the best professors at UT Dallas. She makes the student feel like she has a personal interest in their success and goes the extra mile in ensuring that we have ever opportunity to reach our max potential. I have taken every class she teaches, and if there were more than 2, I would take more. She is a great educator."

"I took Dr. Valente's class and she was very passionate about the subject. She made us think of the class not only as subject that we have to pass to get a good grade, but as an opportunity to learn about the challenges that the people of the less developed countries are facing. She helped us to see the world not only through our eyes but through the eyes of those who are living it. In her class I learned that success is not about how much money you can earn, but real success is measured by how many lives you can save and change. I really enjoyed how she handled the class and for these reasons I nominate her for the EPPS Outstanding Teaching Comet Award."

"Dr. Valente was a very hands-on teacher who emphasized guided class discussion to facilitate learning. She knew the right questions to ask to encourage students to not only know the textbook answer, but come to a deeper understanding of the issue at hand. By starting class either with reading a case study as homework, or watching a short news clip or video, Dr. Valente used real world events to make the class more socially aware, and help us understand what decisions had been made in which cases, for what reasons, and how those decisions affected the outcome of an event."

"Professor Valente's class was highly informative and very enjoyable. Not only were academic sources such as books and journals utilized in class, but also other media produced by NGOs or other development organizations. The scope of course readings allowed me to consider the undertaking of economic and human development from a number of different angles: from that of business, local government, civil society, and international aid organizations."

"Dr. Valente is an amazing teacher. She was passionate about the class's subject. She was clear and organized. The student comes to class with a clear understanding of what is expected from him. She encourages class discussion and makes the class an environment of interaction for students not only with the teacher, but with each other as well. The wonderful thing is that the class was structured in a way that improves knowlege due to the amount of reading assigned each week. Also, it enhances writing skills because students were required to write critical summaries for the reading. By doing the readings, the critical summaries and the class discussion; the students' analytical, critical, and cummunicational skills are polished in Dr. Valente's class. The most intriguing is that from the first class, she surprised the class by calling nearly all the students by their personal names without looking to any paper or her computer, which personally made me very confortable in her class. Something else worth mentioning, and it does not apply to me only but to most of my classmates, is that we never touched our phones in class, got sleepy or bored. Her class time went so fast from the beginning of the semester untill the end. Most importantly is that Dr.Valente did not only teach me skills, but she inspired me and other classmates that I knew to care more about the world and to contribute in changing our world to a better world. Because of her class I did an internship in the International Rescue Commitee and I still volunteer there and I volunteer with the Human Right Initiative of North Texas. I am writing this nomination even though I am a busy mother of three children."

"Dr. Valente is not only an outstanding educator but she also is an amazing mentor and support for all her students. I had one of Dr. Valente's classes in my first semester here at UTD, and here I am 2 years later still amazed at how much she cares for my educational aspirations and goals. Her class, World Resources and Development, really opened my eyes to the problems that are often overlooked around the world. It inspired me to be an activist for change and to join student organizations such as IGNITE (a organization to empower women with political ambition), work with the UTD Women's Center, and become an advocate at the Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center. She gave me the motivation that everyone can cause an impact to initiate change, as long as we have the will power and drive to do so, and that no action is too small. Dr. Valente also aided me countless times throughout my educational career here at UTD, from writing recommendations to professional advice, she has always been there for me and I really hope she is awarded the EPPS Outstanding Teaching Comet Award. She truly deserves it."

"The professor truly opened my eyes to the efficacy of female empowerment in economic development. She was passionate, and truly committed as a teacher. I will never forget what I learned in her class."

"Dr. Valente is fantastic! She radiates enthusiasm, and her passion for world issues and global politics is contagious. Her class was such a joy to be in, and I was excited to be there and to learn from (and with) her. What was especially great about her class was that she managed to foster an environment where everyone felt welcome to express their ideas, regardless of the topic. The majority of the class was discussion-based, but her lectures were still incredibly thorough (which made the tests manageable). We were required to write a lengthy paper by the end of the semester, but even that wasn't too daunting because she was always available to help and because we got to choose the topic. I never felt like the class was about the grades but truly about learning the content - content which makes me feel like a more educated person on a holistic level. Since taking her class, I still see her in the halls, and every time, she calls me out by name and asks how I'm doing. It's blatantly obvious how much she cares about her students, and you really don't see that often in college. I don't know anyone who deserves this award more than Dr. Valente."

"Dr. Valente's course "World Resources and Development" proved to be truly inspirational to me. It helped me find my passion in international affairs and map out my future career plans. Her office door is always open for additional advice and support. She is always ready to to help students succeed in and out of the classroom. I am truly thankful for having her as a professor and mentor."

"Absolutely excellent educator. Makes topics interesting and easy to learn. Inspires student to strive for success."

"Good teacher with patience."

"I absolutely hate statistics but I currently have an A thanks to Dr. Valente. She is always available on campus and through email to explain things we are confused about. I meet with her every week and her labs are very helpful. She rocks!"

"She is very patient and also very descriptive. Everyone told me stats would be one of the hardest classes, but Dr. V makes it feel like you are actually learning in an awesome and easy way. She's great!"

"She covers the material very clearly and well. The course is very well organized. It's easy to keep up with course material and what is expected is clearly defined. She communicates very well; she is one of the few professors I have had that actually uses the announcement feature on eLearning to communicate important course information. She encourages people to ask quetions and actually makes sure that people understand the concepts before just moving on. She is very positive and extremely helpful. She makes herself easily available for students to contact her with any questions or concerns. She is very quick to respond to questions and course feedback. Overall, she's just one of the best professors all around. She really cares about what she is teaching, and it's obvious. And I like that she is so passionate about her work and is able to use it to show us some actual applications of the course material. She's just a really nice professor and I absolutely think she deserves this recognition!"

"Dr. Valente takes her time in throughly explaining statistical concepts and is incredibly patient with her students. She is an excellent candidate for the EPPS Outstanding Teaching Comet Award!"

"Dr. Valente is the only thing from keeping me from having a complete nervous breakdown while being introduced to social statistics in her amazing class. She is endlessly patient with every student, always available for all questions, painstakingly uses real world research examples in all of her problems, and will make sure every student has every opportunity for success, while giving equal time and attention to everyone in a seat. Without her, I'd be crying in a corner this very moment."

"Dr. Valente is an excellent professor. By the way she teaches her class, you can tell she cares about her students. Dr. Valente teaches new material in a step-by-step process and students are free to ask any questions as she is going through the material. She really finds ways to help her students understand how to solve statistic problems. Not only is she an excellent professor, but she is a excellent person too."

"Dr. Valente was very good at explaining every concept. I was new to statistics and I feel that I have done very well in the class. Definitely a good recommendation for future students."

"Best teacher I have had at UTD. Very helpful in all aspects of her class. Makes it easy for her students to succeed. Very accommodating."

"Dr. Valente is a great professor. Her patience, leadership, excellent communication skills, and genuine care for students are some of the noteworthy qualities that she possesses. She's extremely helpful and thrives to ensure that her students are succeeding. She was able to make very complicated material seem easy and fun with her teaching skills. Her passion for teaching is easily noticed in the way she interacts with her students. It is truly an inspiration to see how much of a difference a professor who is so passionate about her job makes and who is willing to go above and beyond to ensure that her students are listening and are acquiring new skills while doing so. I have no doubt that she is the best professor I've ever had the pleasure of having."

"Dr. Valente is a great professor. She knows the class material very well and brings her knowledge to help all students succeed."

"Dr. Valente expresses care for all of the students in the class. She continually asks us for questions and concerns regarding the class, and is willing to stay after class to assist with whatever material that student did not have time to ask in class. Her care for the students' success deserves recognition."

"Dr. Valente's World Resources and Development should be a required class for all UTD students."

Political Science

Winner: Brian Bearry

Honorable Mentions: Anthony Champagne, Douglas Dow, Karl Ho, Iliyan Iliev, Banks Miller, Tony Seagroves

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Public Affairs

Winners: Donald Arbuckle

Honorable Mentions: Teodoro Benavides, James Harrington, Doug Kiel, Young-joo Lee, Sarah Maxwell

Graduate Student Instructor Winner: Anna Clark

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Winner: Bobby Alexander

Honorable Mentions: Galia Cohen, Carol Cirulli Lanham, Sara Mokuria, Richard Scotch, Nicholas Vargas

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