Fahima Aziz Wins the Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award

Headshot of Dr. Fahima Aziz against a brick wall

Hailed as the “gold standard” of the economics department, Dr. Fahima Aziz is well known for her exceptional commitment to her students and devotion to teaching. Having been with the faculty as a senior lecturer for five years now, Aziz’s efforts have earned her the 2024 Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award, which recognizes non-tenure track professors for making significant contributions to their department, among other things.

A Student-Centered, Nurturing Teaching Philosophy 

Aziz teaches two courses within the department: Introduction to Principles of Microeconomics (ECON 1101) and Economics of Poverty and Income Inequality (ECON 4341), an upper-level course she created from scratch and which always fills up the fastest during registration time.

Aziz believes in teaching the “whole student,” with their varied backgrounds, personalities, and learning styles, rather than focusing solely on filling their brains with theories, models, and principles. As a testament to her philosophy, Aziz conducts “getting to know you” surveys at the beginning of the semester to gauge her students’ strengths and weaknesses and adapts her teaching style to the needs of the class. She also believes that to teach the “whole student” teachers must go beyond teaching class concepts. This is why she has an open-door policy where students can drop in anytime and seek advice on finding internships, learning abroad programs, and research opportunities.

A Teacher, Mentor, and Collaborator 

Aziz builds an active class environment through a variety of engaging activities ranging from debates to learning reflections, driving students to think critically and apply economic concepts to real world situations.

“Dr. Aziz made consistent efforts to underscore the real, human implications of our course topics… [She] took concrete steps to foster a collaborative and more meaningful classroom experience,” says one of her students, Andrew Tisell (BA’23).

Students have often touted her as a great mentor—someone who genuinely believes in their development both academically and personally.

“In all the classes I have taken with Professor Aziz, she asks students what she can do for them, whether it be talking to her in her office, writing letters of recommendation, or giving recommendations… The list is endless of opportunities she gives students to be successful in all walks of life. There are very few professors that truly care the way Professor Aziz does,” says Bella Grandbois, a student who participated in  the London: Economy, International Trade, & Brexit learning abroad program.

Aziz has also been instrumental in getting economics students off the ground with research. Not only is research a part of her poverty and income inequality course, but each semester, she takes the extra leap to collaborate with a number of students on research projects, honors theses, and papers for economic conferences. 

“She made herself available for all the help and support I needed, but she also trusted me to conduct quality research,” says Alyssa Tollefson, who recently presented her research poster at the Minnesota Economics Association conference with Aziz’s guidance.

“More just like her please!”

Aziz’s successful efforts to coordinate multiple classes, some of them as large as 750 students, while being accessible to everyone and assisting students even after graduation has been praised as a remarkable feat.

“Dr. Aziz’s work is having a huge impact on student experience here at Minnesota, ranging from what she does with her massive intro operation, to what she does with her core upper-level class, to everything in between,” says Thomas Holmes, chair of the economics department. 

If there’s anyone who deserves recognition for all the work they put into uplifting the student experience at the University and leaving a remarkable lasting impression, it’s Fahima Aziz. The general sentiment of everyone in the department–undergraduates, graduates, and faculty alike–is “more just like her please!”

This story was written by an undergraduate student in CLA.

By Anushka Raychaudhuri 


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