Professor, Graduate Students Named Distinguished Achievement Award Winners


The Association of Former Students
Written by: Ashley Green (cehdcomm@tamu.edu)
Post date: April 19, 2016

Dr. Robert Woodward, clinical assistant professor of learning sciences, has been named a recipient of the 2016 Texas A&M University Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award for individual student relationships.

This award recognizes employees whose professional relationships with students are particularly helpful and inspiring.  They go beyond the requirements of their appointments to give time and effort to student growth and service.

Dr. Woodward, a three-time graduate of Texas A&M, joined the College of Education and Human Development faculty shortly after receiving his Ph.D. in 2004.  He served as a lecturer from 2004-2011 when he received a clinical professor position and has been serving in that role since.

Dr. Woodward’s nominator described his commitment to students, saying, “he views his role as one of helping students secure the futures they envision for themselves after graduating by facilitating their applications and acceptance into specialized programs and internships and fostering their researching and writing skills through guided undergraduate fellowships.”

“As a faculty member, you’re expected to embody the three characteristics of research, service and teaching.  I really combine all three of those together,” explained Dr. Woodward.  “When you look at individual student relationships, whether at the undergraduate level or graduate level, it is empowering students to achieve what they can whether it’s in the classroom, on research projects or on any other initiatives they’re trying to pursue to help them reach their goals.”

Most recently, Dr. Woodward has increased his student mentorship and is working with undergraduate researchers, walking them through the process of learning research techniques, submitting an IRB and getting a publication.  Dr. Woodward has also worked with his graduate students to produce 15 publications in peer-reviewed journals.

Dr. Woodward is also the director of the Youth Adventure Program, a career-exploration program for middle and high school students.

“I love it when I see one of our former students from that program on campus.  That’s a validation of those efforts,” said Dr. Woodward.  “We talked to them about the university and they’re able to look at a career path that might be right for them that involved coming to A&M and they’re here.”

As for faculty who may be struggling to connect with their students, Dr. Woodward has this advice - open up a dialogue at the beginning of the semester and be available.

“One of the things that I do to open every single class is I give students the syllabus and I give them a blank note card.  On that note card, I have them write down a question they might have about me, the class – anything from what my favorite breakfast cereal is to who I think is going to win the national championship,” said Dr. Woodward.  “They don’t put their name on it.  Everything is fair game.  I pick a random assortment of those questions and I answer them in class so they can see that I’m a real person.  Yes, I’m the professor.  Yes, my name is on the front part of the syllabus and yes, I have a Ph.D., but aside from that, I’m a sports fan, I’m an Aggie fanatic.  I’ve had to demonstrate twerking in class.  I’ve had to answer what my favorite combination of two animals would have been.” 

There are a variety of ways to measure and gauge student success.  For Dr. Woodward, the key is helping students achieve what they would not have been able to do on their own.

“Our jobs wouldn’t exist if the students weren’t here.  Every job and position here at the university revolves around a vibrant and eclectic but energized and efficient student population.  When you look at that mantra of research, teaching and service, I think they all go together.”

Deanna Kennedy, assistant professor of kinesiology, was selected to receive the Association of Former Students Distinguished Graduate Student Award for Excellence in Research Doctoral.  Luke Lyons, graduate student in curriculum and instruction, was also selected.

Drew Pickett, a Ph.D. student in kinesiology, was also selected to receive a 2016 Distinguished Graduate Student Award for excellence in teaching.  “I think my commitment to my students was a big part of my nomination,” explained Pickett.  “I try to give each student the tools they need to succeed in the classroom and after leaving the university.”

“Drew has been an outstanding instructor and online course facilitator during his time in our program.  The award is well deserved,” explained Dr. Rick Kreider, professor and head of the Department of Health and Kinesiology.

The Distinguished Achievement Awards were first presented in 1955.  They honor faculty and staff in the areas of teaching, research, student relations, graduate mentoring, extension/outreach/continuing education/professional development, administration and staff support.  This year’s awards will be presented on April 25, 2016, at 1:30 p.m. in Rudder Theater.  In recognition of their achievements, each recipient will receive a cash gift, engraved watch and a framed certificate.