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Butler Chosen to Receive 2017-18 Lilly Fellowship for Teaching Excellence

Caitlyn Butler

Caitlyn Butler

The UMass Amherst Institute for Teaching Excellence & Faculty Development, or TEFD, has informed Assistant Professor Caitlyn Butler of the Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department that its Selection Committee has chosen her as one of eight campus recipients of the 2017-18 Lilly Fellowship for Teaching Excellence. Among several other benefits, the fellowship involves $14,000 in funding split between Butler and the CEE department. “This is a significant achievement given the high volume and quality of nominations this year, which the committee members described as ‘truly astounding,’” said Brian Baldi of TEFD.

A competitive award program with a history at UMass Amherst that extends back to 1986, the Lilly Fellowships enable promising junior faculty members to cultivate teaching excellence in a special year-long collaboration. Each year, eight to 10 teaching fellows are selected to work closely with the TEFD on individual projects that typically involve developing or redesigning a course.

“Congratulations on your selection for a Lilly Fellowship,” said College of Engineering Dean Tim Anderson in a message to Butler. “I am confident you will find this experience rewarding and even more confident the students will benefit most.”

Dr. Butler came to UMass Amherst in 2011 after serving as an Assistant Professor from 2010 to 2011 in the Department of Engineering in the College of Technology and Innovation at Arizona State University. Butler earned her Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from Notre Dame in 2010 and her B.S. in Engineering Science from Smith College in 2004. She is currently teaching CEE 573 Environmental Microbiology and in the past has taught CEE 697P Biological Processes Lab, CEE 370 Introduction to Environmental & Water Resources Engineering, CEE 671 Environmental Biological Processes, and CEE 691A/692A Seminar.

In addition to her Lilly Fellowship, Butler previously received a Student Centered Teaching and Learning Fellowship from the TEFD in 2015. She has also received many other honors and awards, including: a 2015 National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award to support her research into the improved understanding of cross-kingdom biofilms; a 2015 Africasan Research and Technological Innovation Award from the African Ministers' Council on Water for her development and deployment of the Microbial Fuel Cell Latrine; and an American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) ExCEEd Fellowship to attend the ASCE Excellence in Civil Engineering Education (ExCEEd) Teaching Workshop in 2012.

She also runs the Butler Research Group in the CEE department. As Butler explained, “My research objectives focus on developing energy-efficient treatment strategies for wastewater treatment. I examine biofilm systems where microorganisms use counter-diffusional chemical gradients to accomplish treatment goals. I am interested in developing scalable process designs that could be easily integrated into existing treatment infrastructure, but am also interested in the ecology and function of the microorganisms that facilitate treatment.”

Participation in the Lilly Fellows program involves biweekly meetings during the academic year, a new course design (or significant redesign of an existing course), and a proposal for giving a teaching development workshop at the departmental, college-wide, or campus-wide level the year after the fellowship. Each fellow’s department will receive a $7,000 grant toward the cost of a course release, and at the end of the fellowship year the fellow will receive a $7,000 transfer to his/her research trust fund to go toward support of ongoing course development activities, such as summer salary, student support, books, and supplies.

The Lilly Fellows assess their instruction and their students' learning through classroom visits, a review of course materials, and student feedback. Fellows also attend an annual retreat and regular monthly seminars on college teaching organized by TEFD and work with a senior faculty mentor to anticipate many of the challenges and rewards of teaching.

The mission of TEFD is to support the professional development of faculty across all career stages and disciplines with a wide range of programs and resources focused on teaching, mentoring, scholarly writing, tenure preparation, leadership, and work/life balance. (April 2017).