Dr. Jessie Luna received this year’s Faculty Excellence Teaching Scholar Award from CSU’s Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President. This award recognizes especially notable teaching and learning impact by an early-career professor represented by innovative teaching, course design, curriculum, or other accomplishment that enhances student success.

Luna was honored during the Celebrate! Colorado State Provost Awards Ceremony held April 10 on campus. Last year she was awarded the 2023 College of Liberal Arts Excellence in Teaching Award. As a student wrote in Luna’s nomination for that award:

“The compassion she leads with is something I have not seen in many instructors. It is hard to explain the impact, other than that Dr. Luna makes me feel like a human being who matters — an experience I don’t often have in other classes, especially as a member of a deeply marginalized group of people. If I could sum up the experience of being Dr. Luna’s student, it would be that she expects her students to learn, in all our beautiful, messy imperfection. The impact of this is freeing: I feel safer to ask questions, explore new ideas, and go out on a limb than I do in any of my other classes, and as a result, I have learned so much more.”

“As an educator, Dr. Luna embodies teaching excellence, though her passion for teaching, quality of courses, creativity and innovation in teaching methods, challenging coursework, approachability to students, support for students beyond the classroom, and superb formal and informal student evaluations,” wrote Sociology’s Interim Chair, Dr. Michael Carolan, in Luna’s nomination this year.

Luna joined CSU Sociology in 2018 and has since taught over 3,500 students. Her course offerings include SOC 205: Sociology of Race and Racism; SOC 220: Environment, Food and Social Justice; and SOC 380A2: Science and Technology in Society. She also regularly teaches SOC 668: Environmental Sociology at the graduate level.

“Dr. Luna’s courses are also among the more difficult courses to teach, given the current political climate. For example, SOC 205: Sociology of Race and Racism requires her to teach about and facilitate discussions around topics like institutional racism, white supremacy, interpersonal micro-aggressions, and the histories of chattel slavery, race, and racism,” noted Dr. Stephanie Malin, Associate Professor of Sociology, in her nomination packet. “Dr. Luna’s approach is intentionally discussion-based and revolves around inclusive pedagogy and scaffolded work—an especially impressive pedagogical orientation given that the course enrolls over 100 students.”

Each semester, students applaud Luna in their course evaluations, and numerous students look specifically look when registering. As one student wote, “I would take any class just because she is teaching it, that’s how awesome she is.”

“Dr. Luna is more than just a professor, she is an amazing person. I took her class my first year here at CSU, and I can truly say her class has changed my life. Unfortunately, her class took place during the black face incident on campus. I have never once had a professor be as transparent as her, during a situation as such. Being a person of color she allowed for everyone in the class to express themselves through actions as well as thoughts through the end of class participation. She not only taught us she also learned a lot from how we as her students experienced her class…she truly understood our frustration as students of color and allowed us to showcase that.” This student later told Dr. Luna that the White nationalist student cried and apologized at the end of the semester.

“Her classroom does not feel like professor and students; rather it feels like an entity of thinkers collectively embarking on an intellectual journey.”

“I never once felt talked down to or ‘taught’ in the stereotypical teacher-to-student type of way. Dr. Luna acknowledged what her students had to say and knew exactly how to incorporate her material into those conversations. And when I say conversations, those are what they were. Sure, lectures are important — especially when systemic racism is a complex topic with a long history — but the class felt more like a meeting of people who wanted to learn more and make a change in the world.”

In Luna’s nomination, Dr. Malin described how “Dr. Luna has pioneered a new course for our department, SOC 380A2: Science and Technology in Society. This course interrogates the history and foundations of scientific knowledge production, and challenges students to tackle current debates around both science and technology. Dr. Luna has pioneered new, outside-the-box pedagogy for this course, building the course around ‘projects.’ In one project, students conducted interviews with people who were skeptical of mainstream science, and in another project the entire class went a week without their smart phones. Students have gushed about this course in their evaluations, with multiple students writing that this course was ‘the best course they have taken at CSU.’ I have no doubt that Dr. Luna will continue to bring these sorts of groundbreaking, engaging courses to CSU students.”

Dr. Carolan concluded his nomination by stating, “In sum, Dr. Luna demonstrates the hallmarks of an excellent teacher in her: course development and design; teaching quality and interactions with students; fostering of supportive learning environments; and engagement in strengthening her own teaching and that of others.”