Robert Austin portrait
Europe, Russia & Eurasia, Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies, Munk School

Professor Robert Austin receives Outstanding Teaching Award

The University of Toronto’s Faculty of Arts & Science has recognized Robert Austin with an Outstanding Teaching Award for the 2021-22 academic year. Austin, a professor, teaching stream, at the Munk School’s Centre for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (CERES), also serves as CERES’ associate director.

The Outstanding Teaching Award recognizes excellence in undergraduate and graduate education with a focus on classroom instruction, course design and curriculum development. Winners receive $2,500 and a commemorative certificate.

“The quality of our undergraduate and graduate teaching is essential both to our success as a university and to our ability to attract and retain top-quality students,” said Melanie Woodin, dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science. “We received nominations from across the Faculty, and among these strong candidates, it is clear [Professor Austin’s] teaching is exemplary. His nomination file demonstrated widespread enthusiasm for his contributions and achievements as an outstanding teacher.”

Austin is known for placing great emphasis on the quality of student experience at U of T. He was instrumental in piloting the International Course Module and has led trips for undergraduate and graduate students to Albania, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Hungary, Kosovo and North Macedonia. Drawing on his experience as a journalist and historian in the Balkans and throughout eastern Europe, he frequently engages international guests to speak with his students, including diplomats, politicians and even the current President of Kosovo.

“Professor Austin’s course assignments and the academic and intellectual engagement he provides for students are nothing short of remarkable,” said Peter Loewen, director of the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy. “[He has shown] an exceptional commitment to building a field of educational opportunities for students, highlighting the exciting intellectual issues in the study of Europe, while also connecting these with the trenchant role of Europe in the world.”

Austin’s students agree. “Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Professor Austin is by far the most outstanding instructor I have seen at the University of Toronto,” said Foti Vito, a U of T law student who took three of Austin’s courses as an undergraduate. “He has distinguished himself as an instructor through his exceptional ability to turn lectures with more than 50 students into energetic discussions where all 50 students are engaged and immersed in the material.”

“The welcoming, inclusive, and truly unparalleled classroom environment he fosters allows us to think more critically about the material by providing space for students to build connections between historical developments and current events. He is an incredibly kind and caring professor and prioritizes student mental health inside and out of the classroom,” says Vito. “Students are always able to approach Professor Austin about absolutely anything and I sincerely admire how he goes above and beyond his duties to help students academically, professionally, and personally.”