Michaela Zint awarded Thurnau Professorship

Originally published: 
February, 2019

Michaela Zint

The Arthur F. Thurnau Professorship Selection Committee has designated Professor Michaela Zint as a Thurnau Professor, a distinction that recognizes and rewards faculty for outstanding contributions to undergraduate education. Five tenured faculty members are designated annually as Thurnau Professors and hold this title for the remainder of their careers at U-M. They receive a $20,000 grant to support activities that will enhance their teaching.

“Excellence, innovation, impact and encouragement are a series of powerful words that characterize Professor Michaela Zint’s impact on undergraduate students at our university,” said SEAS Dean Jonathan Overpeck. “Her sustained commitment to student learning extends from the classroom to the real world, in which her former students have made remarkable contributions in making human endeavors sustainable and just.”

Dr. Zint joined SEAS as an Assistant Professor in 1996, and was promoted to Professor in 2015. Her distinguished research career established her as one of the world’s leading authorities on evaluating environmental education programs, an achievement which earned her field’s highest research honor, the North American Association for Environmental Education Outstanding Contributions to Research in Environmental Education Award.

In addition to her research, Dr. Zint’s extensive service record includes her roles as: interim Associate Director of Program in the Environment (PitE); Associate Dean at SEAS; and a member of the SEAS Faculty Transition Team and chair of its Curriculum Innovations Committee.

“Dr. Zint’s U-M service contributions already have, and will continue to profoundly impact undergraduate education,” said Professor Maria Lemos, Associate Dean of Research at SEAS.

In recognition of her work with students, Dr. Zint received PitE’s Outstanding Instructor Award in 2017, and was publicly praised by a 2014 Big Ten Medal of Honor recipient during a speech at that year’s award ceremony. Dr. Zint has been nominated multiple times for U-M’s prestigious student-awarded Golden Apple Award.

Reasons students have expressed for honoring Dr. Zint include being a source of inspiration, providing hands-on, real-world assignments and other unique opportunities that support student learning while benefiting U-M and the surrounding community, and being an individual who cares deeply about each one of her students’ academic, professional, and personal success regardless of their academic or personal background.

Based on her demonstrated commitment to DEI, Dr. Zint was asked to be a member of Rackham’s Mentoring Others Results in Excellence (MORE) faculty committee. As such, she gives presentation across campus about how to improve mentoring of diverse graduate students.

Dr. Zint led the development of My Environmental Education Evaluation Resource (MEERA), which provides environmental educators with resources to conduct and improve evaluations of their programs. She conducts on-going research on predicting responsible environmental behavior. A current study seeks to identify ways a federal watershed education grant program can foster changes in teachers’ environmental education practices and students’ environmental actions. Her research interests include environmental education (behavior change, program evaluation, education for sustainability, professional development, pre-service education); environmental (risk) communication; social sciences and environment; business & environment (especially green marketing); water/fish/fisheries/Great Lakes (issues related to education, communication).

Former PitE student Haley Zapolski (BA ’17) had this to say regarding Dr. Zint: “One big lesson sticks with me from Michaela’s class; I have the capacity to create change…I have a greater sense of confidence in knowing that I am able to teach others, build communities, and get involved in any way I can. Michaela did not only teach me, but empowered me to realize what I am capable of.”

The Thurnau Professorships are named after Arthur F. Thurnau, a student at the University of Michigan from 1902 to 1904, and are supported by the Thurnau Charitable Trust. Mr. Thurnau wished to return to the University something of the value he gained from being an undergraduate on this campus. In that spirit and in his memory, the Thurnau Professorships recognize and reward faculty for outstanding contributions to undergraduate education.