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Uri Treisman teaching freshman calculus

Uri Treisman Receives James Bryant Conant Award from Education Commission of the States

November 16, 2020|By Dana Center Communications

Philip ‘Uri’ Treisman, founder and executive director of the Charles A. Dana Center at The University of Texas at Austin, has dedicated his career to improving mathematics and science education on a national scale, leading to measurable gains in student performance in these subjects and improvements in course success for elementary school children through university undergraduates. Now he is the recipient of one of the most prestigious awards in American education, the 2020 James Bryant Conant Award from the Education Commission of the States.

Uri Treisman
Uri Triesman, recipient of the 2020 James Bryant Conant Award.

In bestowing the award, the Education Commission of States acknowledged Treisman’s “commitment to the field of math education and … dedication to ensuring all students have access to quality education and instruction.” Past winners of the award – from governors and senators to trailblazers in children’s programming and advocacy – include some of the most recognizable names in policy and education.

“Uri Treisman’s inspiring and far-reaching efforts have had a nationwide impact,” said Paul Goldbart, dean of UT Austin’s College of Natural Sciences. “They have led to improvements in students’ engagement with STEM subject matter and bettered performance in math and science courses, not only here on our campus but for students in classrooms and at universities across the U.S. This recognition is a testament to his outstanding service to the people of Texas, our university and the country.”

Treisman’s legacy has been as a mathematics professor partnering with community and state leaders to solve complex problems for hundreds of thousands of students. His early curiosity about how best to support his own students inspired him to tackle challenges at the policy level by collaboration with state education agency leaders, chancellors, philanthropists and legislators.    

“I want to congratulate Uri Treisman on receiving this prestigious and well-deserved honor,” said Angela Evans, dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs. “His dedication to the equity-minded reengineering of preK-12 and postsecondary education improved public education systems across the country.  Uri’s work stands with the giants in education from former Commissioners and Secretaries of Education, to Members of Congress who fought for educational reform, to well-respected scholars and practitioners in all levels of education.  The University has a treasure in Uri.”

Uri Treisman working with students in 2019.
Uri Treisman working with students in 2019.

Treisman is a University Distinguished Teaching Professor, professor of mathematics and professor of public affairs at UT Austin. As executive director of the Dana Center, he spearheads improvements in student access, support and success in math and science – as well as addresses critical policy and systemic issues that so often create barriers to student success.

In its official announcement, the ECS highlighted two of his initiatives that have made a big impact on math education across the country.

Treisman launched the Dana Center Mathematics Pathways, which rethinks and redesigns entry-level college math programs to better support students, move them into credit-bearing courses sooner and ensure that courses align with their long-term career interests. One study reports that students who enroll in a DCMP course are 50% more likely to pass college-level math than students who are enrolled in traditional/developmental math courses. 

Treisman also founded the Urban Mathematics Leadership Network, supporting statewide mathematics leadership teams in America’s largest urban K-12 school districts to help identify, improve and bring to scale innovative solutions to common problems. 

Last year, Treisman was featured in the book The Years that Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us about the unique teaching strategies he has developed through teaching freshman calculus courses for over 40 years. His work has helped UT Austin reach its goal of boosting four-year graduation rates from 52 percent to 70 percent

“All of this started by being a teacher,” Treisman reflected. “When I began as a teacher, I focused on the problems I could solve with my students in my classroom. Then I understood that improving their lives required changes in departments, at the university, and in their communities. … I learned if you’re going to work at scale, you have to be involved in policy making.”


>> Listen to a story featuring Treisman’s student success work on the university’s Point of Discovery podcast 


Treisman has served in various capacities for several organizations and boards working to improve math education for American students, and his work and contributions have been recognized by numerous entities, including the Mathematical Association of America, the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges, the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics and the Mathematical Sciences Education Board of the National Academy of Sciences. He was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2017.

Named for the co-founder of ECS and former president of Harvard University, the James Bryant Conant Award recognizes outstanding individual contributions to American education. The award, which is the most prestigious award given by ECS, was established in 1977 to memorialize Conant, a pivotal figure in the education reforms of the 1950s and ‘60s whose efforts continue to shape schools today. The honor is bestowed upon individuals whose efforts and service have created a pronounced and lasting influence on American education and have demonstrated a commitment to improving education across the country in significant ways. Past winners include U.S. Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall, former U.S. Senator and Governor Lamar Alexander, Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman and children’s television icon Fred Rogers.

Treisman will deliver acceptance remarks at ECS Live on Wednesday, November 18. Registration is free.

Note to reporters: Photos of Dr. Treisman are available for download here

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