Hebl wins national teaching award

Rice psychology professor Michelle “Mikki” Hebl is the winner of Baylor University’s 2016 Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching, one of the country’s top collegiate teaching honors.

Mikki Hebl

Mikki Hebl

The Cherry Award program is designed to honor great teachers, stimulate discussion in the academy about the value of teaching and encourage departments and institutions to value their own great teachers.

“Dr. Hebl has a remarkable record of recognized teaching and scholarship awards,” said Michael Thompson, chair of the Cherry Award committee and associate dean for undergraduate programs at Baylor’s School of Engineering and Computer Science. “The Cherry committee was particularly impressed with her passion and enthusiasm for teaching and her ability to engage with both students and faculty across a variety of disciplines.”

As the winner, Hebl will receive a $250,000 award and a semesterlong teaching residency at Baylor. Rice’s Department of Psychology will receive $25,000.

“I feel thrilled and humbled,” Hebl said, praising the two other finalists — Teresa Balzer of Curtin University and Lisa Spaar of the University of Virginia — as “clearly very gifted and accomplished teachers.” She added, “I feel lucky to be in their company as well as the other folks who were considered. And moreover, I just feel lucky to be recognized for something — teaching and mentoring — that I feel so blessed to do as a career.”

Hebl was named a finalist for the award in April 2015; in October she presented lectures at both Rice and Baylor as one of the required activities as an award finalist. Her lecture to a packed McMurtry Auditorium focused on interpersonal discrimination, which she described as “subtle but serious.”

“Research shows that forms of interpersonal discrimination can be just as harmful, if not more, than overt discrimination,” she said in her October lecture.

Faculty can receive the award just once in their careers. John Boles, the William P. Hobby Professor of History at Rice, is a past recipient of the award.

Hebl has received numerous teaching accolades throughout her career, including Rice’s George R. Brown Certificate of Highest Merit. The award is given to professors only once in their careers at Rice, signifying a level of excellence so high over the years that they are retired from the competition for the George R. Brown awards, the university’s top awards for teaching.

Outside the classroom, Hebl is an avid runner who has completed marathons in all 50 states and has run marathons on six of the seven continents. She has described marathoning as “a good metaphor for life.”

For more information on Hebl and her research, visit http://bit.ly/1hrcXiS.


About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.