The Harold S. Morton Jr. Undergraduate Teaching Award for 2022 has been awarded to Raymond Pettit, an associate professor of computer science.

UVA Engineering dean Jennifer L. West announced the award at the School of Engineering and Applied Science’s annual reception marking the end of the academic year, during which retiring faculty also are honored.

West read from the award committee’s notes: “In a crowded field of strong nominees, Professor Pettit stood out for the scope of his positive influence teaching CS1110 and 1111. By noticing students’ and TAs’ identities as intertwined with their learning, and by leveraging relationships, accessibility and fun, he is able to make students feel welcomed and respected, even when total enrollments topped 600 students in a semester.”

CS1110 and 1111 are first courses in programming, software development and computer science, which introduce students to computing fundamentals and computational thinking. For students in CS1110, the course is often their first exposure to programming.

The committee provided comments from students, who said Pettit made them want to learn more about programming and was “quite helpful, had good spirits, and adjusted the schedule to help students.” The nomination also noted Pettit goes out of his way to recruit TAs and that “he has had a transformative effect” in a course that serves both majors and nonmajors, West said.

“I want to thank Raymond for exemplifying excellence in teaching and learning,” West said to conclude the presentation.

The teaching award, which comes with a $500 prize and engraved plaque, is named for a former mechanical engineering faculty member known for his uncommon skill and dedication. According to the award description, thousands of UVA Engineering students benefited from Morton’s patience, clarity and mastery of his subject.

“This Undergraduate Teaching Prize is established in his name to remind us regularly of his talent and his vision, and to reward those who choose, as Harold did, to devote themselves to undergraduate teaching,” the call for nominations reads.

Pettit takes inspiration from his own days in school and work experiences after graduating, but, he said, it’s also those around him who make a good educator.

“After being a fulltime software developer for 12 years, I decided to return to academia to be the kind of professor I would have wanted to have when I was in school,” Pettit said. “At UVA, having so many excellent computer science professors and computer science education researchers for colleagues really helps to improve my level of teaching. And, of course, the students are bright and good people, which makes teaching as satisfying as I’d hoped.”

Faculty, instructors or lecturers who taught a 1000- or 2000-level course during the applicable academic year are eligible for the award.

According to the criteria, “it is expected that the recipient will display some aspect of uncommon teaching skill such as the introduction of novel instructional methods, extraordinary effectiveness in delivering the material, the generation of exceptional enthusiasm for the subject among the students, or the development of particularly interesting and engaging applications of the material.”

Raymond Pettit portrait

Raymond Pettit, associate professor of computer science