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David Sparks Awarded University Professorship In Undergraduate Teaching Excellence

Sparks was awarded the Thaman Professorship in Undergraduate Teaching Excellence.

Jul 23, 2020

David Sparks awarded University Professorship In Undergraduate Teaching Excellence professorship. 
David Sparks awarded University Professorship In Undergraduate Teaching Excellence professorship. 

Dr. David Sparks, professor and associate department head for undergraduate affairs for the Department of Geology and Geophysics at Texas A&M, has been honored with a University Professorship in Undergraduate Teaching Excellence (UPUTE). 

The professorships are conferred upon only the university's most distinguished teachers of undergraduates, andonly faculty who have exhibited uncommon excellence and devotion to the education of undergraduate students at Texas A&M are considered. Sparks was named the holder of the Thaman Professorship.

“We have known for a long time that Dave is an outstanding and distinguished teacher, and that his creativity, ingenuity, and passion are foundational to our strong undergraduate program,” said Department Head Dr. Julie Newman. “It is immensely gratifying that Dave's teaching excellence has been recognized by the Texas A&M University community.”

Sparks teaches a variety of challenging and engaging courses, including but not limited to Planetary Geology, Geological Communication, and Earth Science Modeling. Most recently, Dave developed a class with a novel, game-like approach to teaching not only the related course content, but also developing quantitative skills by solving real-world experiences. 

Additionally, he has helped develop the department’s freshmen and transfer seminars. Dave has presented his seminar development strategies with the College of Geosciences, the university, and the greater geoscience community, and the seminars have become a model for other geology departments across the country. 

Beyond the classroom, Sparks led the way with the department curriculum redesign,  undergraduate mentorship and research. He is part of a research group that is assessing the effectiveness of the redesigned curricula and department climate on undergraduate student learning, with the goal of creating a more inclusive and accessible undergraduate educational environment. 

“The success of the G&G undergraduate program and the individual successes of each of the students in it have always been important to me,” he said. “I'm honored to be recognized for contributions to those successes.”

Previously, Sparks has been recognized with a Montague Fellowship, and the College of Geoscience Dean’s Distinguished Awards for Faculty Excellence in both Teaching and Service. 

By Ali Snell

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