Kathy Davis has been honored as the recipient of the 2010 Division of Instructional Innovation and Assessment Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Established in 2006, the award recognizes faculty who are engaged, dynamic instructors who inspire others, embrace innovation, collaborate with colleagues, assess teaching and learning, and use technology to engage students.
A member of the university’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers since 2001, Davis is the associate chair of the Department of Mathematics and undergraduate mathematics advisor for the College of Natural Sciences. As a member of an academic unit that serves 12,000 students each long semester, Davis has found many ways to excite undergraduates about mathematics by showing students what math is and how it touches their lives.
Davis loves showing non-majors that they can both appreciate math and use it with competence. And she loves talking with math majors about their hopes and goals. She believes that the greatest joy inherent in teaching math is the frequent opportunity to help students achieve the moment of discovery, when they see something they previously failed to grasp, perhaps even after several attempts.
Davis teaches introductory as well as advanced undergraduate courses. In past summers she has also co-taught Research Experience for Undergraduates courses with John Gilbert on signals, discrete Fourier transforms, and wavelets.
Davis’ research specialties are harmonic analysis and biomedical signal analysis. In recent work as a biomedical signal processing consultant, she was investigating designs for a monitoring device that would allow medical personnel to receive information about a soldier’s health from the field, allowing medics to render aid during the “golden hour” after an injury, when chances are best for saving lives.
Davis sees in the mission of a public university both a mandate to transform students’ competencies and to stretch their capabilities. When asked about the quality of preparation students brought to the university, she replied that the job of a public institution was not to judge the quality of the students, but to offer the best education we can to every student we have. She said, “Whether students are ill prepared or well prepared, the real issue is that they need to transition from high school-level thinking to university-level thinking.” She sees the purpose of teaching as “stretching the student to do more than they ever thought they could and understand more deeply than they ever thought they could.”
At a ceremony during halftime of the Texas-Baylor men’s basketball game, President William Powers presented the award to Davis, accompanied by Provost Steven Leslie, Dean of Natural Sciences Mary Ann Rankin, Chairman of Mathematics William Beckner, Dean of CIE Judy Ashcroft, and Associate Dean of DIIA Robert Bruce.