Jacob Cooper Wins Teaching Award in Honors

June 9, 2021

Jacob Cooper Wins Teaching Award in Honors

By Christina Wardwell

While classes have been online for most of the year, students seek out teachers that can overcome difficult circumstances and deliver exciting material to keep students involved in school. Each year, students nominate a UW professor that they think challenges and inspires Honors students across every major. The teacher with the most nominations receives the Honors Excellence in Teaching Award (HETA). This year’s winner has brought extraordinary levels of knowledge, enthusiasm, and dedication to the online classroom: Dr. Jake Cooper from the Department of Biology!

Dr. Cooper graduated from U.C. Berkeley with a B.A in math and biology. He later earned his PhD at the University of Washington where he now focuses on game theory. Dr. Cooper teaches Honors 221 Game Theory and its Applications. This course focuses on the mathematical toolkits used to analyze any interaction in which decisions must be made a.k.a “games.” From penalty kicks in soccer to nuclear disarmament, students get to learn how we do — and do not — all just get along. 

Cooper with students at game theory lunch
Dr. Cooper with students at a “game theory” lunch (pre-COVID event)

Not only is Dr. Cooper dedicated to keeping his classroom dynamic and exciting, he also is committed to educational equity. For instance, his Honors seminar Educational Psychology and the College Experience focuses on how students learn best and why students have different college experiences. Dr. Cooper also volunteers with prison education programs, such as University Behind Bars, where he promotes educational access for people who are (or have been) incarcerated. 

If you are not convinced of Dr. Cooper’s remarkableness, then read what other students have to say about him. One student wrote:

“Jake Cooper has gone above and beyond to make his Honors course the best it can be despite the online format. He checks in with students regularly about the structure of his course and makes adjustments as needed. He finds a middle ground between instructor lecturing and student interaction, yet throughout both sections of class makes an effort to check in with students about their learning and engagement. He shows up to class prepared and with enthusiasm for the subject he’s teaching and the students he teaches.”

Another student reported: 

“Dr. Cooper is very passionate and knowledgeable about his course content. He frames the content so it is applicable and intriguing. He has created a class structure based on the information learned from the studies we discuss (real life application!). This results in students having a comfortable and beneficial experience. The structure makes class very engaging, promotes discussion and connection to other students, and values learning above all else. He respects everyone’s time and accommodates as needed.”

Dr. Cooper would like students to know that he feels his work in the Honors Program is “freeing and holistic,” saying that the Honors Program encourages him to critically reflect on his course material and teaching. He truly loves getting to know and understand the cool community of students the Honors Program attracts. In fact, he has run into many of his students at Crags climbing center in the IMA and hopes that the gym will reopen soon.

Most importantly, Dr. Cooper looks forward to seeing this amazing generation of students take over society. He is constantly impressed by his students’ ability to make thoughtful contributions in class, despite the online format. 

Hooray for Dr. Cooper! And special thanks to students who made HETA nominations and to all of the wonderful faculty who create an enthusiastic and dynamic classroom environment!