On June 9th, the Womxn’s Hub at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) named the winners of their seventh annual Dynamic Womxn of UCI Awards. The Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning (OVPTL) is proud to announce that two of its valued team members, Andrea Aebersold and Megan Linos, were among this year’s award winners.

Speaking on why he personally nominated Andrea for this year’s award, Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning Michael Dennin explains, “We nominated Andrea Aebersold for the Academic Achievement Award because she is consistently empowering people, all while keeping her friendly attitude and welcoming demeanor to allow everyone to grow and succeed.”

The Academic Achievement Award honors members of UCI’s female community who are committed to creating a space to advance women in academia. As the Director of Faculty Instructional Development at the Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation, few have done more than Andrea to accomplish this goal.

For instance, Andrea arrived on campus during UCI’s multi-year, $67 million effort to create the Anteater Learning Pavillion (ALP). With two large lecture halls, ten classrooms, three computer labs, six high-tech tutorial rooms and study spaces where students can congregate, the ALP offers a space that encourages student collaboration and deeper thinking in ways that traditional classrooms are not equipped to accomplish. Andrea was responsible for designing the requirements for faculty to teach in the ALP. She created the Active Learning Institute (ALI), a specialized training program designed to teach UCI’s faculty how to leverage active learning principles to support pedagogical innovation and improve student outcomes. Faculty who wished to maximize the effectiveness of their teaching in the ALP enrolled in ALI training and needed to pass an assessment of their active learning practices in order to receive official certification from the program. Nearly 200 faculty have done so in less than two years. 

Val Jenness, Acting Vice Provost for Academic Planning and Distinguished Professor of Criminology, Law and Society, was one of the very first faculty to enroll in the ALI. Speaking on her experience working with Andrea, she says:

As a participant in the inaugural class of faculty who benefited immensely from the Active Learning Institute, I saw firsthand the many ways in which Andrea’s commitment to high-quality education is manifest, including by training faculty to teach in engaging and inclusionary ways. Her expertise, collegiality and teaching acumen lift all boats by advancing evidence-based pedagogies in classrooms across campus. This, in turn, serves our diverse study body well. Her impact on classroom teachers extends to literally thousands of students on campus. I am one of the many who are fortunate to learn from her: we’re fortunate to have her elevate teaching and learning, and the students we teach are fortunate to learn in ways that benefit them now as well as in the future. Andrea is incredibly deserving of this recognition—it punctuates the transformative work she does day in and day out here at UCI. 

Cathy Vimuttinan, Lecturer in the School of Humanities, also speaks positively about her time at the ALI:

Andrea fosters inclusion and connectedness in all of the working groups, discussions, and institutes that I have been privileged enough to participate in. In the Active Learning Institute, she highlighted not only the theory and research on active learning, but also provided practical suggestions, solutions, and opportunities for personalized planning. Rather than just convey the definition of active learning, ALI was a forum for empowering instructors and for enabling them to ascertain the best strategies for their students. Alumni walk away knowing that although the institute may have ended, the support is ongoing. The support of this community under Andrea’s leadership, truly allows me to continue to reflect, hone, and adapt to the ever-changing landscape of teaching and learning.

Andrea’s work with the ALI is not her only accomplishment. She also plays a key role in the annual Celebration of Teaching Awards, which recognizes faculty excellence in undergraduate teaching. Working in partnership with the Council on Teaching, Learning, and Student Experience, Andrea solicits award nominations across campus, organizes the event itself and even presents some of the awards.

At the end of Winter Quarter 2020 when UCI campus transitioned to a remote environment amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Andrea dedicated herself to providing much-needed guidance and support to UCI faculty. From training faculty on strategies for remote teaching to organizing support networks to connecting faculty with on-campus resources, Andrea took charge and worked tirelessly to make the transition as seamless as possible.

Through her work, Andrea has directly supported the advancement of female leaders by creating a space to help women advance in academia. Additionally, her passion for teaching and learning serves as an inspiration for female staff, faculty and students across all levels of higher education. Celebrating Andrea’s success and congratulating her for receiving the Dynamic Womxn of UCI’s Academic Achievement Award raises the visibility of female leaders across academia.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s Dynamic Womxn of UCI Awards were presented remotely via Zoom. In lieu of an in-person awards ceremony, the Womxn’s Hub has created a video to congratulate this year’s award winners. To show your support for all of the women who are making a difference at UCI, please view the video here.

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