History Department
History Department

Dr. Toyin Falola receives 2010 Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award

Toyin Falola feature graphic

Falola is recognized by colleagues and students for his tremendous contributions to graduate student teaching and mentoring.

Falola, the Frances Higginbotham Nalle Centennial Professorship  and Distinguished Teaching Professor, is the recipient of the Office of Graduate Studies (OGS) Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award.

Each year the OGS at The University of Texas at Austin accepts nominations for Outstanding Graduate Teacher. The criteria is rigorous. The professor must have shown outstanding skills at both supervising theses, reports, and dissertations, as well as, classroom teaching.

Along with being the recipient of numerous teaching awards, author, co-author, editor and co-editor of more than 100 books, Falola convenes an annual Africa conference. This year will mark the 10th anniversary of the conference and the theme is Women, Gender, and Sexualitites in Africa. It will be held on the university campus March 26-28, 2010.

In the notification letter, Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies Victoria E. Rodríguez wrote, "The award selection committee was greatly impressed by the exceptional support of your colleagues and students, and I heartily concur." The award will be presented at a banquet in May at the Four Seasons Hotel. The University Co-op underwrites the $3,000 prize.

"There are a few times in graduate school when you meet a professor who is completely dedicated to the academic welfare of his students," Nana Akua Amponsah wrote. "One such professor is Dr. Toyin Falola."

"He goes out of his way to make sure that students studying under him develop the intellect and historical knowledge required to navigate their way both inside and outside the academic field," she added. "Many times, he quizzes students to a point of frustration, just so they explore and conceptualize multiple perspectives, and indeed, be comfortable in venturing into new academic territories outside of their sphere of knowledge and interest. I cannot think of anyone more deserving...congratulations 'Oga' and may you be around for generations of students venturing into studies in African history to benefit from your academic prowess."

Jessica Achberger wrote, "Working with Dr. Falola has been the most important and rewarding experience of my graduate career. He has taught me so much, not only about African history, but also about teaching, mentoring, publishing, leading, and genuinely caring about the lives and careers of others. I am a better scholar, professional, and person because he is my advisor."

"Professor Falola displays a true sense of commitment to African scholarship," Tosin Abiodun said.

In a collaborative letter to the Graduate Teaching Award Committee, the graduate students wrote, "Perhaps, his greatest accomplishment has been in the number of meritorious scholars that he has guided and advised within the field. As his graduate students, we would like to express our gratitude for the myriad of ways in which Dr. Falola has molded us into successful and confident scholars."

They praised the scholastic environment of excellence Dr. Falola has created as a foundation for the Africa program in the History Department. "Beyond this historiographical foundation, Dr. Falola also takes pains to include less-expected skills into his curriculum, such as public speaking and teaching experience," they wrote.

They also said that it is the incredible support from each other "as a collective body" that he fosters to critique each others' work that make the graduate educational experience so inviting and rewarding for them. The students, in turn, even in the present economic condition of the nation, receive "an unprecedented rate of job acceptance, with every single scholar he has graduated going on to find a position in higher education."

These comments were submitted by his students: Tosin Abiodun, Jessica Achberger, Emily Brownell, Roy Doron, Kwame Essien, Ryan Groves, Jason Morgan, Segun Obasa, and Charles Thomas.

From his colleagues, the recommendations for this award were equally enthusiastic and gracious. Professor and Graduate Advisor of the Graduate Program, Jim Sidbury, pointed out that both of them started at the university in 1991. At that time, there really weren't any graduate students working on African history.

Falola changed all that. Now, "...since his arrival, we have become a major training institution for African History, perhaps the main U.S. institution training scholars in the history of Anglophone West Africa (especially Nigeria and Ghana)," Sidbury wrote.

While mentoring and working with his own students, "he has served or is serving on 66 dissertation committees....he has built the African history program almost single handedly," he added. He tirelessly works to get funding for students to travel to Africa and has been know at times to use the funds from his own Professorship to ensure they have this critical experience. And he generously shares his time with other professors' students as well.

Professor Juliet E.K. Walker, founder/director for the Center of Black Business, History, Entrepreneurship, and Technology, submitted a resounding letter of recommendation for the award. "What is especially impressive in the scholarship of Toyin's students is that their work is seminal, creative, theoretically sophisticated and on the cutting edge of scholarship in African and African Diaspora history."

Moreover, and most significantly, so far, there have been three festschriften published in his honor—the only historian in the world to have this distinction....Professor Falola is an effective and dedicated scholar and teacher whose infectious enthusiasm for learning inspires his students, both undergraduate and graduate, as well as colleagues, who unashamedly make visits to his classes, including myself, his colleague in the history department, to pick up cues on successful teaching at UT," Walker continued.

As part of the recommendation process, course syllabi from the last three years must also be submitted to the Graduate Teaching Award Committee. For a touch of Falola's magnanimous and gregarious personality, here is an excerpt for his explanation on the mass volume of syllabi submitted:

"On the African Diaspora class, I have 10 different syllabi. Crazy? No. I formulate a syllabus when I know the research interests of the various students. So also with the other classes. I do not think that a one-size-fits-all syllabus can work as we tap the students from various Depts. Thus, the syllabus varies form year to year, as I change the focus to meet specific needs. TF"

No wonder so many people think he deserves the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award.

Related Links:
Toyin Falola
Africa History Conference: Women, Gender, and Sexualities in Africa
History Dept. Graduate Program
Office of Graduate Studies teaching awards

Previous History Dept. faculty recipients:
1998 Wm. Roger Louis
1995 Richard Graham (retired from UT)
1991 Lewis Gould (retired from UT)

By M.G. Moore

Banner: M.G. Moore and Jackie Llado
Photo of Dr. Falola: Marsha Miller