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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Lisa Modenos Wins Distinguished Teaching Award

Apr 20, 2021

We are proud to announce that UWW Department of Interdisciplinary Studies Senior Lecturer Lisa Modenos has won the 2021 Distinguished Teaching Award (DTA). High school dropout turned anthropologist and professor, Lisa Modenos has dedicated her career to serving nontraditional students. Lisa was nominated by students and selected in a competitive process by a committee of former DTA recipients for her extraordinary teaching and advising abilities, and for the unique ways she fosters a sense of belonging and encourages students to be themselves. 

One student commented about meeting Modenos at the on-campus UWW new student orientation: “As soon as Lisa stepped up to the podium, I felt a sense of belonging. Something I never felt as an 18-year-old student at my previous university. I felt as if she were speaking directly to all of the fears and anxieties I had about starting school again. I felt she understood what I was looking for in an educational experience and truly understood where I was coming from.”

Another student commented, “I had not a single mentor in my life that demonstrated what success and positive education looked like until I met Professor Modenos… She helped me believe in myself and to not define myself by my past. Because of Professor Modenos, there are pockets of positivity and progress taking place directly in the Western Massachusetts community, in states all across the country, and even in countries far from our own borders.”

Modenos’s teaching style is grounded in her own first-generation, working class identity, and her course evaluations are outstanding, reflecting the ways in which she values and respects her students. Students describe her as “Responsive, considerate, understanding, kind, enlightening, knowledgeable, and comical,” “the perfect ambassador for UWW” who “understands the context of a returning, working student.” Several remarked on her ability to inspire critical thinking and meaningful discussion.

Since 1961, the University of Massachusetts has presented the DTA to instructors who demonstrate exemplary teaching at the highest institutional level. This campus-wide honor is the only student-initiated award on campus.