Five UMass faculty awarded 2024 Manning Prize for teaching excellence

BOSTON – Five exceptional University of Massachusetts faculty today were awarded the 2024 Manning Prize for Excellence in Teaching, an annual $10,000 stipend given to one faculty member from each campus in recognition of exemplary teaching and commitment to students and their campus community.

Former UMass Board of Trustees Chair Robert Manning and his wife Donna Manning, who are both graduates of UMass Lowell, established the endowed teaching award in 2016. In 2021, they made a $50 million gift to UMass – the largest in UMass history at the time – a portion of which established an endowment to fund the Manning Prize in perpetuity. With the selection of this year's winners, 45 UMass faculty members now have the distinct honor of being Manning Prize recipients. 

Robert received a bachelor's degree in information systems management from UMass Lowell in 1984 and Donna earned a nursing degree in 1985 and an MBA in 1991 also from the Lowell campus.

“Having had excellent professors who played an important role in our college experiences, Donna and I are extremely proud to be able to recognize outstanding faculty from each of the campuses every year,” said Robert Manning. “Faculty members shape lives and this prize is intended to be a recognition of these faculty members’ unique contributions to their students and their campus.”

Rob Manning, who retired as the executive chairman of MFS Investment Management, is a former chairman of the UMass Board of Trustees and the current Chair of the UMass Foundation Board of Directors. Donna worked as an oncology nurse at Boston Medical Center for 33 years until her retirement in 2018. They are among the largest contributors to UMass in its history and each received an honorary doctor of humane letters from UMass Lowell in 2011.

"We are extremely grateful to Rob and Donna for their incredible generosity and lifelong commitment to UMass," said UMass President Marty Meehan. "In addition to recognizing our amazing faculty, their philanthropy reaches every campus and supports students, facilities and research. They have a legacy of leadership and philanthropy here that will benefit UMass students, faculty, and staff for decades to come."

The Manning Prize is open to all full-time faculty, tenured and non-tenured. Each campus has a nomination and selection process, which includes student and peer input to ensure that the selected faculty members meet the criteria of being excellent teachers and engaged members of the campus community.

This year’s Manning Prize winners are: 

Brokk Toggerson, Ph.D. 
UMass Amherst 
Senior Lecturer in Physics

Brokk Toggerson is a senior lecturer in physics who has made transformative contributions to education and inclusivity. Dr. Toggerson joined the UMass faculty in 2015 and quickly distinguished himself through his dynamic and inclusive approach to teaching large introductory physics courses. Colleagues and students unanimously praise his impact and recognize his deep commitment to inclusivity and student success.

Dr. Toggerson transformed the large physics courses he teaches – often perceived as barriers to success particularly for underserved students – into learning spaces of inquiry and problem-solving through his innovative teaching methods and a teaching philosophy that emphasizes “depth over breadth.” His department chair praises him as a "master at Team-Based Learning (TBL)" and “a shining example of the power of well-informed innovation in teaching.”

Dr. Toggerson, who holds a doctorate in physics from the University of California Irvine, is a highly respected educator who has made significant contributions to the field of education. He is recognized by his colleagues for his "pioneering work on using open educational practices in his teaching." He created a free online textbook that saved students more than $1.3 million over the past eight years. This achievement earned him the title of OER Champion by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s Open Education Advisory Board in 2022.

Dr. Toggerson's significant achievements reflect a commitment to educational excellence, inclusivity, and innovation, profoundly influencing the UMass Amherst community and setting a high standard for teaching excellence. His contributions to the field of education have been recognized by his peers and students alike, and he continues to inspire future educators to strive for excellence and inclusivity in their teaching practices.

Mohamed Amine Gharbi, Ph.D. 
UMass Boston 
Assistant Professor of Physics 

Dr. Mohamed Amine Gharbi has been an assistant professor of physics at UMass Boston since he joined the faculty in January 2018. Dr. Gharbi specializes in manipulating soft materials to assemble functional nanomaterials and biomaterials, aiming to create innovative "reconfigurable" systems with broad technological applications. His interdisciplinary approach integrates physics, materials science, chemistry, biophysics, and engineering.

Dr. Gharbi’s commitment to teaching holds a central role in both his academic career and personal journey. He finds immense joy in simplifying complex concepts and sharing the wonders of physics with students from diverse backgrounds. Since joining UMass Boston, he has taught a range of courses at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Notably, he has developed introductory physics labs tailored for life science students, aiming to enhance physics education for learners with varied backgrounds. By integrating principles of soft condensed matter physics, Dr. Gharbi seeks to illustrate the interdisciplinary nature of physics and inspire students to recognize its relevance across various disciplines.

Dr. Gharbi’s teaching and research activities involve mentoring undergraduate and graduate students. He has adapted many research projects to inspire undergraduates and engage them with early exposure to hands-on research experiences. His primary objective has been to inspire students from diverse backgrounds to explore the world of academia and equip them with the skills necessary for pursuing advanced studies and careers in STEM fields. 

Dr. Gharbi's research efforts have yielded numerous peer-reviewed articles in esteemed journals. He earned his Ph.D. in condensed matter physics from the University of Montpellier, France.

Erin K. Krafft, Ph.D. 
UMass Dartmouth 
Associate Professor of Crime & Justice Studies 

Professor Erin Katie Krafft, Ph.D., has an established record of implementing unique, innovative, and student-centered teaching methods including collaborative teaching, service learning, and experiential learning. Dr. Krafft joined UMass Dartmouth in 2017 as an associate professor of crime and justice studies, director of urban studies, and assistant director of the Office of Faculty Development.

Dr. Krafft, who earned her Ph.D. from Brown University, promotes a pedagogy built on accessibility, inclusivity, interdisciplinarity, and collaboration. Her course design incorporates diverse approaches and instructional methods—everything from whiteboard mind-maps, moving around the classroom, and “quiet questions” to scavenger hunts and an online “Picturing the City” forum created by students in her blended courses. Through such immersive and active methods that reach across different instructional modalities, students grow to see the classroom not only as a place of learning but also as a learning experiment in which students have a valuable place.

Dr. Krafft has partnered with faculty members across colleges to create opportunities for students to engage in interdisciplinary dialogue about social justice, marketing and brand awareness, affordable housing, and access to clean water. 

A former Leduc Center for Civic Engagement Service-Learning Fellow, she worked with her colleague, Dr. Heather Turcotte, to create a spring break service-learning trip to Plenitud, Puerto Rico, an educational permaculture farm. This program has drawn students across colleges and disciplines to examine the intersection of their respective fields as a way to address storm-resistant and sustainable farming and building practices in an area beset by poverty, natural disaster, and political marginalization.

Phitsamay S. Uy, Ed.D. 
UMass Lowell 
Associate Professor at the School of Education’s Leadership in Schooling Program, graduate coordinator for the Ed.D. program, & co-director of the Center for Asian American Studies

Dr. Uy is the first Laotian American refugee to receive a Doctor of Education from Harvard University and become the first tenured faculty member in the School of Education in the United States in 2017. Dr. Uy’s teaching experiences include being 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. Dr. Uy is known across the student community as a professor to whom they can turn. She provides food, counsel, tutoring, and kindness.

Dr. Uy’s research focuses on Southeast Asian educational experiences and family and community engagement. She has won several grants, the latest of which is a five-year, $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education that officially designated UMass Lowell as an Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving-Institution (AANAPISI) in 2021. The designation was later followed by the establishment of UMass Lowell’s Asian American Center for Excellence and Engagement (AACEE). Dr. Uy has pushed to make equity a major focus of work at the School of Education, acting as the impetus for a major overhaul of several programs.

Susan Zweizig, M.D. 
UMass Chan Medical School 
Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Director, Division of Gynecologic Oncology 

Susan Zweizig, M.D., is a professor in the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Radiation Oncology at UMass Chan and is the director of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology. She is a dedicated physician and surgeon, clinician educator, mentor, and leader both within UMass Chan and nationally in her specialty of gynecologic oncology. She received her bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley in biology and her M.D. from Harvard Medical School.

As division director, she leads OB/GYN resident training and medical oncology fellow education in gynecologic oncology. Dr. Zweizig has led the undergraduate reproductive pathophysiology course for over 20 years through numerous curriculum developments, successfully leading the continual evolution of educational approaches and adapting to learners’ needs and preferences. She is the recipient of numerous teaching and educational awards in and outside of UMass Chan and has served as the chair of education and previous chair of compliance for the Society for Gynecologic Oncology (SGO), the national organization for her specialty, as well as past president of the New England Association of Gynecologic Oncologists.

Her colleagues and students describe her as impactful teacher with unwavering patience, vast experience, and impeccable surgical skill.  Since joining the faculty in the Department of OB/GYN at UMass Chan in 1994, Dr. Zweizig has been devoted to furthering the school’s education mission and has made notable contributions to curriculum development and delivery across all four years of the undergraduate curriculum, in education and learning opportunities, and with interdisciplinary graduate medical education trainees across numerous departments and specialties.