Professor Rachel Spronken-Smith (PhD ’94) Wins New Zealand National Award

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In August 2015, UBC Geography Alumna Professor Rachel Spronken-Smith (PhD ’94) was one of ten recipients for the New Zealand National Awards for Sustained Excellence in Tertiary Teaching.

She is pictured here receiving the award from the Minister of Tertiary Teaching, the Hon. Steven Joyce at the Awards function in ‘The Beehive’, New Zealand’s main parliamentary building. Rachel won $20,000 for professional development in teaching. Her teaching portfolio documented her teaching journey from her demonstrative work at UBC, to her geography lecturing at the University of Canterbury, and then onto her work as an educational developer at the University of Otago, as well as teaching roles as Dean of Graduate Research there.

In her portfolio she discussed aspects of her student-centred approach, her use of innovative inquiry-based learning approaches, involvement in a global network for undergraduate research, and her leadership in teaching. Although Rachel has been Dean of the Graduate Research School for the past three years, she still manages to do some teaching in higher education and geography. Indeed, this year she had to give a first year lecture to an audience that included her son Liam! As well as university work, she does consultancy work for curriculum renewal and learning through inquiry and, as well as working with several New Zealand higher education institutions, helped curriculum teams from the USA and Canada to undergo curriculum renewal for inquiry-based learning last year at the Institute for Inquiry-Guided Learning run by Emory University in Georgia, USA.