12 WSU faculty members honored with Presidential Teaching Excellence Awards

OGDEN, Utah – For Brandon Burnett, Weber State University assistant chemistry professor, human connections are the best part of his job.

“I’m not a chemist. I’m a teacher who happens to teach chemistry,” Burnett said. “There’s a humanity to my job that’s lost when I’m a chemist. As a teacher, I’m beholden to my students and their development, to help them as people.” 

Though he’s finishing up his fifth year as a faculty member, Burnett said he initially fell in love with “all the things that make Weber State great” – small classes, one-on-one student-teacher interactions – when he was an undergraduate chemistry student at the school. 

“Now being on the opposite side of it, it’s the same things I loved from the beginning,” he said. “I love being able to know my students, being able to interact with them personally and going on this journey with them,”

Burnett was one of 12 Weber State faculty members selected as a recipient of this year’s Presidential Teaching Excellence Award. Thanks to the generous support of Marcia and Bob Harris, and other donors, Weber State established the award to honor teachers whose work helps students achieve significant success. Each faculty member received a $5,000 award, either as a cash stipend or to enhance their teaching through professional development, curriculum development, research, or equipment and technology acquisition. Students and fellow faculty members submitted nominations from which the final 12 were selected.

  • David Aguilar-Alvarez, exercise and nutrition sciences assistant professor
  • Brandon Burnett, chemistry assistant professor
  • Sally Cantwell, associate degree nursing program director and nursing professor
  • Brian Chung, zoology professor
  • Tamara Goldbogen, Beverley Taylor Sorenson Endowed Chair for Arts Learning
  • Spencer Hilton, computer science-school of computing chair and instructor
  • Brandon Koford, economics chair and associate professor
  • Kristina Moleni, social work instructor
  • Marianna Norseth, foreign language adjunct faculty
  • Will Pollett, English instructor
  • Tressa Quayle, nursing assistant professor
  • Gene Sessions, history professor

“After reading the many submissions, the outstanding efforts of our Weber State University faculty to provide quality teaching and learning left me inspired,” President Brad Mortensen said. “The many ways our faculty manifest teaching excellence bring significant and important results for our students and their success.”  

Mortensen visited the classrooms and offices of the winning faculty members to notify them of their nomination. Tamara Goldbogen, director of the Arts Learning Collaborative and the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Endowed Chair for Arts Learning, said  Mortensen’s visit surprised her so much, she “jumped up and knocked over a bunch of stuff that I had precariously balanced on a music stand.”

In nominating Goldbogen for the award, a former student wrote that she “worked tirelessly to create an inclusive environment for any level of experience. The course always felt like a safe place where I could create and try new things with my peers.”

Goldbogen said one of her favorite parts of teaching is working with students who start a class saying, “I’m not creative,” but leave with a new appreciation for the arts and their abilities.

“Teaching classes across the university has given me the opportunity to work with amazing students from a wide variety of majors,” she said. “My job at WSU is never boring, and I am extremely grateful to be in the position to share the arts with our students and the community.”

For Burnett, receiving the Presidential Teaching Award was a combination of emotions: humbling, nice and affirming.

“A lot of people tend to have imposter syndrome. Getting an award like this calms those voices,” he said. Students who nominated him wrote that Burnett was most deserving. 

“Dr. Burnett is the kind of professor you wish to get for all of your classes. He cares about his students and their success and is always willing to go the extra mile to help.” This year’s honorees are recognized on the faculty symposium website, which also includes a video of President Mortensen presenting the awards.

For photos, visit the following link.


Visit weber.edu/wsutoday for more news about Weber State University.


Jessica Kokesh, social media editor
801-626-7948 • jessicakokesh@weber.edu


Brenda Marsteller Kowalewski, associate provost for high-impact programs & faculty development
801-626-6006 • bkowalewski@weber.edu