Rob Stephan Receives Creative Teaching Award

May 14th, 2024

Dr. Rob Stephan, Associate Professor of Practice in the Department of Religious Studies and Classics, has been awarded the University’s 2024 Leicester and Kathryn Sherrill Creative Teaching Award.


Announced by the Office of the Provost, the award is given by the University of Arizona Foundation in recognition of “unusually outstanding teaching methodologies; a demonstrated effort to ensure the quality of students' learning experiences; and consistently high scholarly standard in both rigor and currency of course content.” Stephan will receive a $2,500 award and the placement of a plaque in the Donna Swaim Honors Lounge in the Student Union Memorial Center.


Since arriving at the University of Arizona in 2016, Stephan has become known for his creativity and passion, attracting thousands of students each year (4,467 students during the 2023 calendar year) and putting large introductory courses in Classics at the top of students’ lists of “must-take” classes, for any major.


“Dr. Stephan has the kind of presence in the classroom that can hold the attention of hundreds of students, and his presentation of materials, both in class and online, are visually and pedagogically stunning,” said Karen Seat, Head of the Department of Religious Studies and Classics. “A consistent theme in student testimonials is how Dr. Stephan put them at ease as nervous freshmen entering large lecture halls for the first time, and how he always made the time to help them overcome stress and uncertainty in pursuing their studies. Clearly, Dr. Stephan is doing important work at our university as we endeavor to recruit and retain students, including first-generation and underserved student populations.”


“He doesn’t just stand out as the best teacher at the university, both for general undergraduate courses and advanced graduate ones, he reinvents what it means to be the best and sets a higher standard for other teachers,” wrote one student. “He is an unending fountain of enthusiasm and knowledge, capable of keeping up with all the students he speaks with and approaching them in both a friendly and scholarly manner.


“From the three classes of his that I have taken, Dr. Stephan has consistently been a passionate, caring professor who puts his all into his classes to make sure that they are fun, thought-provoking, and accessible,” wrote one student nominator. “I have never had another professor dedicate this much time and energy to perfecting their classes, and that has made my college experience all the better. Dr. Stephan has turned me, a STEM nerd, into a lover of the ancient world. That is something I had thought impossible until I took his classes.”


“His passion for Classics is undeniable and he shares this passion with each of his students through incredibly engaging video lectures, creative assignments and well-structured learning modules. He cares deeply about the success of his students and makes that readily apparent through quick replies to emails as well as personalized feedback on every assignment,” wrote another student. “His enthusiasm for the Classics is contagious as his video lectures are filled with striking visuals, witty humor, and incredible storytelling that capture the minds of his students and draw us into the life of these ancient civilizations. There truly is no other professor like Dr. Rob Stephan.”


This is just the latest teaching award for Stephan, who won both the Margaret M. Briehl and Dennis T. Ray Five Star Faculty Award and Gerald G. Swanson Prize for Teaching Excellence in 2021 and has received the College of Humanities Distinguished Teaching Award, in 2020, and Distinguished Undergraduate Advising/Mentoring Award, in 2019