President's Commission on Student Centeredness

March Students First Award winners


Devotion, dedication and hard work were among the words of praise used to describe both unanimous choices for March’s winners of the Students First Award.

Joe Sawasky, chief information officer and associate vice president for information technology, and Dr. Andy Jorgensen, associate professor of chemistry, were nominated for helping UT students succeed. 

Sawasky was nominated by a record number of people, all of whom spoke passionately about his leadership in making Information Technology a fully student-centered operation. He has led the development of UT's Information Commons, the new UT Web portal, and the proposed project to make UT a wireless campus, all in order to "make student life and the learning experience better," as one nominator wrote.

"Iwas totally surprised and humbled by the award, as I have always felt that placing students first is just job No. 1 for all of us," said Sawasky after receiving the award. "So many other staff in Information Technology are deserving of the award — and anything attributed to me should really be attributed to my whole team in IT. They’re incredible, and without them, nothing would be possible."

Although Sawasky may have been caught offguard, the multiple people who nominated him had no doubt that he was the vision of student centeredness.

"Joe's vision and outward excitement in working closely with students on the Carlson Library Information Commons Project are very commendable," said Rick Bonitati, senior software specialist. "He is very professional and articulate. And students know they can count on him to see something through from beginning to completion."

Aaron Flynn, acting director of information technology customer service, noted that Sawasky "has an open-door policy with students asking questions. He is always assisting students that have questions or problems, and he follows up on this to make sure that the students are happy."

"Joe is devoted not only to the University IT Department, but to helping the students succeed in their goals," said Daniel Gianetti, a senior in the College of Business Administration. "It was an honor working with a man so dedicated to his job and others."

As director of general chemistry, Jorgensen works hard to ensure that students succeed in the academically challenging subject. After discovering that Chemistry 1230 was becoming a "make or break" class for students interested in STEM majors, he devised a one-hour supplemental course, Problem-Solving in General Chemistry Chem 1200, for students needing additional assistance.

This resulted in soaring retention rates and grades for students who enrolled in Chem 1200, proving that not only does Jorgensen develop new ideas for teaching and learning, but his approaches have been successful.

During the presentation of the award, which took place during one of Jorgensen's lectures, Jacobs said that Jorgensen is one of UT's most dedicated teachers and a model of the student-centeredness to which every faculty member should aspire.

"It is great that the University makes an effort to recognize the importance of student centeredness," Jorgensen said. "Going to a class is a really great way to show devotion as this is where it is most evident. I personally love being in the classroom; it's my natural environment."

Dr. Bernie Bopp, director of the Center for Teaching and Learning and professor of astronomy, wrote in his nomination, "Professor Jorgensen ensures that thousands of UT undergrads at the 1000 level receive the best possible teaching and learning experience … Andy is the best of us."

Bopp added that anyone who spends five minutes in Jorgensen's class would immediately notice "his tremendous enthusiasm, along with his effort for innovation."

"Andy demands much of his students and even more of himself," Bopp said. "He has pioneered some very interesting and innovative approaches to teaching, especially in his large introductory sections, to achieve great teaching with just flair and makes it all look easy."

Nominate a Peer

  • The President's Commission on Student Centeredness is now recognizing University employees who go above and beyond the call of duty to help students and ensure their success.
  • The contest winner will receive a $75 gift certificate to the UT Bookstore, a $25 gift certificate to Starbuck's and a specially designed pin.
  • They also will be eligible to win $1,500 as the student-centered employee of the year.
  • Nomination Form
Last Updated: 6/26/15