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Pupil’s Choice

Victor Asal Wins This Year's Torch Award 

Torch Award winner Victor Asal stands with his mother, Ruth Asal, and Anna Agnes, the graduating senior who nominated him for the award. (Photos by Sarah O’Carroll)

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 26, 2018) — Professor Victor Asal seems pretty sure where his student Anna Agnes is going to wind up.

“Anna, when you are president, I’d like you to invite me to the White House,” Asal said Friday at a reception recognizing him as the 2018 Torch Award winner. “I’ll tell you what I think and you won’t have to listen to me.”

Agnes has been listening to Asal for years, and it’s because of his willingness to share what he thinks that moved her to nominate Asal for the Torch Award, which recognizes outstanding teaching. This year, more than 60 faculty members were nominated by graduating seniors for the award. Three “outstanding nominees” and one winner were chosen by a panel of former Torch Award winners.

Outstanding nominees recognized at the Torch Award reception are, from top, Jeffrey Berman with his nominators, Kayla Rees, left, and Ilene Rothman; Delores Cimini, with nominator Nicole Bulanchuk and guide dog Dora; and William Husson, with nominator Sarah Reilly.

Vice Provost and Dean for Undergraduate Education Jeanette Altarriba said her office “takes special pride in recognizing outstanding and transformational teaching” which, she said, “happens all across our campus, in all schools and departments, and is practiced by all different types of professors.”

Agnes started taking courses with Asal, an associate professor in the Political Science Department and chair of the Department of Public Policy at Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, in her freshman year. By the end of the year she was interning and doing research for him. “I spent time doing research on actions for and against the LGBTQ community around the world to help drive policy directions,” she said.

Last fall, Asal asked Agnes to be a teaching assistant in one of his classes, a rare opportunity for an undergraduate, and in the spring he served as her thesis advisor. Agnes credited her professor for teaching her about “diversity and inclusion, understanding and dealing with different individuals’ perspectives, quantitative and qualitative research,” and for always being there for his students.

“The students are the reason I love teaching,” Asal said at the Torch reception, thanking Rockefeller College for creating an environment that honors teaching. Rockefeller colleagues were on hand to honor Asal, as were members of his family, and faculty, staff and students from across the University.

Asal’s own research focuses on policy and political response to violence, terrorism and political discrimination against sexual minorities, women and ethnic groups, as well as nuclear proliferation. He teaches courses on world and comparative politics, political violence and oppression, negotiation and research design.

In addition to Asal, Friday’s reception honored the three outstanding nominees for Torch Award: Jeffrey Berman, a distinguished teaching professor in the Department of English; M. Dolores Cimini, director of the Middle Earth Program and assistant director of the University Counseling Center; and William Husson, a lecturer in the Communication Department.

All three outstanding nominees were introduced by the students who nominated them, all of whom spoke about how the professors saw their potential, encouraged them and supported their academic and personal growth throughout their time at UAlbany.

Past Torch Award winners were introduced by Linda Krzykowski, assistant vice provost for student engagement. “We thank you for all you do to teach, motivate and mentor our undergraduate students,” she said.

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