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SAS Faculty Member Wins the Robert Foster Cherry Award

They say teaching is an art—that a good teacher can change a student’s academic journey. Michelle (Mikki) Hebl, current faculty member on the Semester at Sea Spring 2016 Voyage, has this art down to a science. Hebl was the winner of the 2016 Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching.

(© Semester At Sea 2016)
(© Semester At Sea 2016)

The Robert Foster Cherry Award program is “designed to honor great teachers, to stimulate discussion in the academy about the value of teaching, and to encourage departments and institutions to value their own great teachers.‚Äù (Baylor University, 2016)

There are about a hundred faculty nominated for this award and of those hundred, three are chosen as finalists. Each finalist is invited to give a talk at Baylor University to compete for the final prize.

Hebl’s love of research is what aided in the success of her final speech. Her research looks into discrimination practices with a social psychology lens.

‚ÄúI used it to highlight my research,” said Hebl. “I am a social psychologist so I study things like conformity, attitudes, behavior, prejudice and social influence.‚Äù

As this year’s winner, Hebl received a $250,000 reward, with an additional $25,000 going¬†back to her home Psychology Department at Rice University. She¬†will also spend a semester in residence at Baylor University in the spring of 2017.

Semester at Sea is lucky to have someone with such experience and knowledge as part of the faculty on this voyage around the world. This is Hebl’s second voyage on Semester at Sea, her first in the summer of 2014 traveling through parts of Western Europe.

“As soon as I got off that ship I had one prevailing thought—how can I get back on that ship? I just thought it was fabulous. It was surreal being able to visit these places and so great that I was able to bring my research to the ship,” said Hebl.

This voyage she is teaching two classes- Social Psychology, a global lens course, and Psychology of Gender. Hebl has brought her research and passion for teaching to the shipboard community and is more than eager to share that passion with her students. Madison Cannon, a junior at Texas A&M, enrolled in Hebl’s Social Psychology class explained her reaction to Hebl’s award.

‚ÄúWhen I found out Professor Hebl won the award it was not a surprise for me,” said Cannon. “I only knew her for a short time but she has completely captivated our class consistently each time that we meet. It is really rare to find that in a professor who has to teach such a large audience.‚Äù

Hebl is known for her engaging style of teaching and her personable manner, something that makes her teaching style one that resonates with students.

(© Semester At Sea 2016)
Professor Hebl with her class during a field lab in Hawaii.

“What I admire about her is that she can do it all. She brought three kids with her and she can still come to class and make us her priority. She also applies her experiences and makes definitions real life experiences- not like we are just reading out of a textbook,” said Cannon.

Hebl is a light to everyone she meets and her outgoing personality plays an impactful role in the way people respond to her class. Carlos Moreno, Hebl’s teaching assistant who is joining her on the current Semester at Sea Voyage, explained how she has impacted his academic journey.

“She is a transformational role model that allows others to discover their true potential through her own skills and abilities,” says Moreno.

As Hebl continues her research, Semester at Sea is humbled that she has chosen to be part of this shipboard community for a second time.  With her focus on cross-cultural research she will continue to encourage students to think in ways they never have in countries most have never seen.

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