Inside Stories

Education Professor Wins Annual UML Teaching Prize

The first Lao American refugee to receive a doctor of education from Harvard University, Phitsamay Sychitkokhong Uy has dedicated her life to the rigors and rewards of education. Noting both the boundaries she has broken and the community she has built in the UMass Lowell School of Education and beyond, the university is proud to announce Professor Uy as a recipient of the 2024 University of Massachusetts Manning Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

An associate professor in the School of Education’s leadership in schooling program, Uy also serves as the graduate coordinator for the Ed.D. program and co-director of the UMass Lowell Center for Asian American Studies.

Uy has successfully won several grants to further these efforts, the latest of which is a five-year, $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education officially designating UMass Lowell an Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving-Institution. The designation was later followed by the establishment of UMass Lowell’s Asian American Center for Excellence and Engagement.

By the nature of the role, educators impact the lives of countless individuals. Cherry Lim, program director for the UMass Lowell AACEE, counts Uy as a mentor and knows firsthand the compassion Uy directs throughout the community.

In her nomination letter for the Manning Prize, Lim wrote of Uy, “As the first tenured Lao American refugee professor in any school of education nationwide, she not only serves as a role model for UMass Lowell students, but for Southeast Asian Americans across the country. Uy’s vision and work for a better world encompass the pillars of the Manning Prize: her commitment to teaching, dedication to her students, and promise to the university greater Lowell.”

Known across the student community as a professor to whom they can turn, Uy’s practice has been informed by time as an elementary teacher, a literacy specialist, an Asian American studies instructor, and a teacher education professor.

She has provided professional development workshops on equity and diversity issues including culturally responsive strategies to engage immigrant and refugee families, and cultural competency for teachers, administrators, and staff, as well as parent workshops for immigrant and refugee families. Her practice has been informed by experience as a diversity trainer for the Anti-Defamation League and as a member of the Diversity Scholars Network at the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity.

Cassie McCallum, an instructional specialist in the Lowell Public Schools, a three-time UMass Lowell alumna and a veteran pupil of Uy’s, heaped on the praise.

“Uy is genuinely committed to her students and cares deeply and holistically about them as academics and human beings,” said McCallum. “While maintaining this level of commitment to her students, she does not fail to hold us all to the highest academic standards. Uy is not only asking us how this relates to our dissertation process, but also have we eaten yet? Her belief in our ability to rise to her ideal has made me a better student, teacher and professional.”

The Manning Prize for Excellence in Teaching was established in 2015 by alumni Robert ’84 and Donna Manning ’85, ’91, and honors outstanding faculty members from each of the five campuses of the University of Massachusetts. This competitive prize is presented to faculty members who demonstrate excellence in teaching along with exemplary dedication to students and the campus community.

Prior UMass Lowell honorees include psychology Associate Professor Stephanie Block (2023), chemistry Associate Teaching Professor Khalilah Reddie (2022), online education, accreditation and licensing Associate Dean Stacy Szczesiul (2021), English Associate Professor Keith Mitchell (2020), education Professor James Nehring (2019), and marketing entrepreneurship and innovation Emeritus Associate Teaching Professor Deborah Finch (2018).

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