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Cal State LA math professor receives CSU’s Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award

August 30, 2018
Sylvia Heubach

Cal State LA math professor receives CSU’s Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award

August 30, 2018
Sylvia Heubach
Silvia Heubach, a mathematics professor at Cal State LA, has been named a recipient of the prestigious Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award for her innovative teaching practices that have increased student success in mathematics.

“I am really honored to be Cal State LA’s first recipient of the Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award. During my 23 years at Cal State LA, I have been given the freedom and support to develop as an instructor and a leader, and I am proud of the impact of my work on student success,” said Heubach, a resident of Pasadena.

Heubach is one of only 26 faculty members in the California State University system to receive the award, which recognizes faculty leaders who have implemented innovative practices that significantly improve student success.

A committee of faculty and student representatives from the CSU Chancellor’s Office selected the inaugural awardees out of more than 360 nominations.

“These exceptional recipients demonstrate leadership in their respective fields and incorporate cutting-edge techniques into curriculum,” said CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White. “Their commitment to student success ensures that the value of a CSU degree continues to increase.”

Mathematics is one of the biggest hurdles for many students on their path to a rewarding career, noted Heubach.

“I feel very blessed that I have been given the opportunity to develop courses that make mathematics meaningful to a wide range of students and to change their perception of and attitude towards mathematics,” she said.

Heubach was the principal investigator on a National Institutes of Health grant that focused on improving the quantitative reasoning skills of life sciences majors at Cal State LA. A redesigned life science math sequence of courses was implemented in fall 2012 and since then nearly 5,000 students have enrolled in them. As a result, student pass rates have increased and surveys show a positive change in student attitudes toward math.

Heubach is the faculty learning community coordinator for a four-year “First in the World” grant funded by the Department of Education. The project targets bottleneck courses in STEM disciplines, and uses the “flipped” approach to teaching to help students learn and achieve a deeper understanding of difficult concepts.

In the flipped instruction model, students read textbooks and view lectures online on their own, reserving the classroom time for active learning projects and complex problem-solving. Heubach has worked with counterparts at Cal Poly Pomona and San Jose State to offer workshops on the flipped approach.

She has also played a leading role in revamping the path to higher-level math for incoming students. The goal is to have first year freshmen, who would have been required to take developmental mathematics courses, begin instead with a General Education math course that includes a co-requisite support course. As part of a team of math faculty, administrators and staff, Heubach led the redesign of the General Education statistics course, which has an enrollment of nearly 2,000 students this fall.

“Dr. Silvia Heubach’s work to ensure greater success for students in key prerequisite courses such as calculus has enabled scores of students to complete degrees,” said Lynn Mahoney, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Cal State LA. “Her work this past year with colleagues to entirely reimagine first-year math for all undergraduates has been simply outstanding and paves the way for hundreds more students to complete their degrees.

“Cal State LA benefits daily from Dr. Heubach’s commitment to students and to innovative teaching strategies,” Mahoney said.

As part of the CSU recognition, Heubach will receive a $5,000 cash award and $10,000 to be allocated to the Department of Mathematics at Cal State LA to support ongoing innovation and leadership to advance student success.

“I am thankful to be working with an amazing community here at Cal State LA for whom facilitating student success is their main goal. And I’m grateful for the monetary award of the grant, which will support my future endeavors in student success,” Heubach said.

She will be formally recognized at a reception in conjunction with the CSU’s Graduation Initiative 2025 Symposium on Oct. 17-18 in San Diego.

The Faculty Innovation and Leadership Awards program was created as part of the CSU’s efforts to recognize faculty for their crucial work in improving student achievement and their leadership towards reaching statewide Graduation Initiative 2025 goals. The initiative is part of a broader system-wide effort to eliminate opportunity and achievement gaps, and increase graduation rates for all CSU students.

Photo: Silvia Heubach. (Credit: J. Emilio Flores, Cal State LA)

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