Phoenix 500 recognizes top-performing faculty, setting the bar for classroom excellence
The University relies on a practitioner faculty model, meaning, UOPX faculty currently work in the areas in which they teach, providing students an opportunity to put skills into practice immediately.
To recognize their contributions to the classroom and the value they bring to their students’ lives, the University in August launched the inaugural Phoenix 500 awards. The awards brings attention to the 500 top-performing faculty and honors them for their commitment to student success.
Anna Garner, JD, director of faculty quality assurance, said that the initiative is a big deal, not only for the incentive but for igniting their passion for teaching.
“We all remember at least one teacher who impacted us, and our faculty are making that difference every day,” Garner said. “Our hope is that this motivates them to continue working hard for their students.”
Winners were selected based on criteria from the annual faculty review process. Emily Breuker, associate provost of faculty engagement, and John Woods, Ph.D., provost and chief academic officer, collaborated on developing a three-level recognition program, the Phoenix 500 award being the second level.
We all remember at least one teacher who impacted us, and our faculty are making that difference every day. Our hope is that this motivates them to continue working hard for their students.
— Anna Garner, JD, director of faculty quality assurance
The Faculty Recognition Committee finalized the Phoenix 500 list following a review by faculty supervisors, and recipients received their bonus in August. The 500 were selected from among the nearly 5,000 faculty members.
The recognition brings to light the immense quality of the University’s faculty population, which boasts an average of 25 years of professional experience and 15 percent who have worked in Fortune 100 companies.
Robert Vella, faculty member in the College of Health Professions, was one of this year’s recipients. He said he is honored and feels recognitions like the Phoenix 500 and Faculty of the Year are incredibly meaningful.
Having served 23 years in the Air Force, Vella said recognition was a key component for motivation and encouraging troops to achieve greater performance.
“I know, first hand, the importance of recognition. Recognition programs rally employee loyalty and productivity at all levels,” he said. “The same holds true for any profession.”
Vella currently works as a state public health official and said the Phoenix 500 is the perfect way to thank instructors who are also working professionals in their field. University of Phoenix values the active and current experience their instructors bring to the table, and those in the fields of healthcare and public health may be feeling added stressors.
With the stress of the pandemic, Vella said the recognition was a much-needed morale booster for him in his teaching life as well as in his role in public health and even on a personal level.
“Being on the front lines of the pandemic, days are long and the emotional toll is high,” Vella said. “To me, recognition and morale go hand-in-hand. We all hope to be recognized for the work we do. This wonderful initiative does just that.”
Since it is the inaugural run of the program, feedback so far is limited to what has been shared since the initial award. Garner said the recipients represent the top 10 percent of the faculty population, so their feedback is important when considering the future of the initiative.
“The biggest takeaway we’ve gotten so far from faculty is that they feel humbled by this honor,” Garner said.