Zak honored with Thurnau Professorship

Professor Don Zak working with students in the field
Originally published: 
February, 2017

U-M Board of Regents appoints Don Zak to Arthur F. Thurnau professorship in recognition of outstanding contributions to undergraduate education

Professor Don Zak is one of the University of Michigan’s six newest Thurnau Professors, an honor granted by the Board of Regents to faculty members who demonstrate an exceptional commitment to and excellence in undergraduate education. Five to eight faculty members are appointed Thurnau Professors each year, a title they carry throughout the remainder of their U-M career.

Zak is renowned as a teacher for his ability to inspire equal parts curiosity and confidence. One student commended his, “amazing talent for designing field learning experiences that challenge students with their complexity, but do not frustrate students with their open-endedness.”

Students and colleagues also deeply value Zak's mentorship, which extends beyond the classroom to personal and professional pursuits. With his guidance, many of Zak’s students have gone on to graduate studies and successful careers in ecology.

As SNRE’s Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Zak has spearheaded significant changes to the core curriculum, which now includes greater emphasis on applied science and experiential learning.

Dan Brown, SNRE’s Interim Dean, said, “Professor Zak exemplifies SNRE's commitment to engaged learning in the field and has helped countless students learn to interpret and understand ecological processes from the clues they observe with their own senses.”

Joining Zak in the 2017 Thurnau cohort are Evelyn Alsultany (LSA American Culture), Valeria Bertacco (CoE Electrical Engineering and Computer Science), Deborah Goldberg (LSA Ecology and Evolutionary Biology), Mark Moldwin (CoE Computer Scieence and Engineering), and J. Logan Shelton (School of Music, Theater & Dance).