Alison Nugent honored with UH Board of Regents Teaching Award


Dr. Alison Nugent, assistant professor of atmospheric sciences, was honored with a 2020 Board of Regents Medal for Excellence in Teaching from the University of Hawai‘i (UH).

Since coming to UH Mānoa in 2017, Nugent has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in Weather and Climate, Mountain Meteorology, Atmospheric Processes, and Meteorological Instrumentation. In all of her courses, she encourages students to be quantitative, write more clearly, learn practical and applicable information about the atmosphere, and to actually go outside to observe and gather real data.

When asked about her approach to teaching, Nugent replied, “I think of it this way: what do I want students to remember from my class 10 years from now? The broad answer is that I want them to trust the scientific process, trust themselves and their ability to learn, and to have at least a basic understanding of the natural phenomena that surrounds them every day.”

Nugent brings to the classroom her research expertise and interests in tropical mountain cloud and rainfall processes. This includes studies of rain on Oʻahu and other islands from trade-winds or tropical storms, and studies of how sea-salt or vog particles impact clouds and the formation of rain drops. She has also developed a new instrument, which she and her students use to observe sea-salt in the atmosphere.

“I feel proud to be awarded this honor,” said Nugent. “I feel a sense of happiness that I’ve found a job that I love to do—that doesn’t feel like a job—that is also appreciated by others. And while I feel incredibly lucky every day to be able to interact with students and to spread knowledge about our Earth, I feel especially lucky today with a sense of validation that my efforts are also valued by the community I love so much.”

“I am very proud of Dr. Nugent’s achievement,” said Jennifer Griswold, associate professor and interim chair of the department of Atmospheric Sciences. “It is a well-deserved award for her dedication to teaching atmospheric science.”

“One final aspect of the classroom community that is important to my overall teaching philosophy is that I do not view myself as being any better than anyone else,” said Nugent. “I may know more about atmospheric sciences than the students do, but they certainly know more about other topics than I do. I think it is this aspect of equality that makes it easier for students to ask me questions during lecture and to feel comfortable in their learning environment.”