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Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor Award

Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor Award

Since 2001, The Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor Award annually recognizes four SMU faculty members for their notable commitment to and achievements in fostering student learning. These are teachers whose concerns for higher education go beyond classroom boundaries and often the boundaries of their own disciplines. In student mentoring, in discussions about teaching, and in continuous reflection about their own successes and ways to improve, they represent the highest achievement in reaching the goals of higher education. Guidelines for nomination and selection are here.

Recipients receive a $10,000 award and membership in SMU's Academy of Distinguished Teachers. For two years following the award, they participate actively with other members of the Academy in providing campus-wide leadership in teaching and learning.

Here are the 2017 recipients of the Award:


W. Keith Robinson is an associate professor of Law in the Dedman School of Law. He received his J.D. from Duke University’s School of Law, and joined the SMU faculty in 2011.

His recommender states that his teaching is “characterized by clarity, organization, innovation, and a passion for students and his field.” He teaches a variety of classes and strives to teach beyond the classroom, both through his work through the Tsai Center and individualized mentoring of students. The review committee was impressed with his ability to foster innovation within the classroom such by a recent course proposal utilizing technology by encouraging students to develop a functional app that can be adopted by a legal clinic or legal service organization. Professor Robinson’s course evaluations are consistently high, and as one student said about his experience, “by far the most I have ever learned from attending a class at SMU Law.”


Stephen Sekula is a member of the faculty of SMU’s Dedman College and is an associate professor of Physics. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and joined the SMU community in 2009. He a previous recipient of the Golden Mustang Award.

Professor Sekula’s teaching philosophy is described as simple: physics should be available and accessible to all people, regardless of their level of preparation or interest. His approach to physics is to engage all students in an interactive and participatory way to teach them the subject, while maintaining a sense of humor. He is consistently considered as “one of the best professors I’ve ever had” by his students. Professor Sekula continuously seeks to engage with students through creatively designed syllabi, and shows tremendous effort and devotion to his students, including preparing YouTube videos for his courses.


Kumar Venkataraman is the James M. Collins Chair of finance in the Cox School of Business. He received his Ph.D. from Arizona State University and joined the SMU community in 2000.

Professor Venkataraman’s student evaluations are consistently some of the highest in the Cox School and he has been recognized with numerous teaching awards, including the Boghetich Family Distinguished Teaching Award and was honored by Poets and Quants as one of the “Best 40 Business School Professors Under the Age of 40.” His department chair describes Professor Venkataraman as “an exceptionally gifted teacher who has had a significant positive impact on our students.” He puts a lot of work into his overall product and works to help students better appreciate how theory meets practice. In addition to his stellar work inside the classroom, he brings in outside speakers and preps them in a way that engages students, yet keeps it relevant for the course’s learning objectives.


Kathleen Wellman is a Professor of History in Dedman College. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and joined our faculty in 1989.

Her department chair describes her as one of the strongest advocates for our undergraduate students and continuously keeps them in mind through all of her activities. She successfully leads discussion-based classes, and as one student said, “I really enjoyed the discussion component of this class. It really helped engage with and understand the material.” She is willing to take on new classroom challenges and experiences, as she led the SMU-in-Paris study abroad program, both by offering courses and managing the operation. She is admired for her ability to self-reflect and assess in the middle of her course, rather than being overly restricted by the syllabus.