“Starman” Fraser Wins Teaching Award

April 28, 2024

“Starman” Fraser Wins Teaching Award

After receiving a record number of nominations, we are thrilled to announce that the 2023-2024 Honors Excellence in Teaching Award (HETA) goes to Dr. Oliver Fraser! This award is determined entirely by quantity and strength of nominations from students enrolled in Interdisciplinary or Departmental Honors at the UW. 

Dr. Fraser is an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Astronomy Department at the UW and brings exceptional experiences to UW students through his classes and in his role as director of the UW’s Manastash Ridge Observatory. He develops active-learning curricula for lecture-based and asynchronous-online Astro 101 courses and trains students to observe in Astro 481. He supports astronomy education beyond the UW through the department’s planetarium programs, the UW in the High School program and the Astronomy Education Clearinghouse.

Dr. Fraser has also been teaching his very popular science communication course, Storytelling in the Sciences (HONORS 220) in the Interdisciplinary Honors Program for several years. 

Select excerpts from nominations

“I am so incredibly grateful and proud to have been a member of Dr. Fraser’s 2023 autumn Storytelling class. Not just for the practical knowledge it provided me and my classmates, but for the relationships it fostered. It provided a space where we felt truly comfortable to genuinely get to know each other and our respective interests. It empowered us by giving us the freedom and agency to address problems that we saw as salient in our own lives and in our world. And it ensured (whether or not initially by choice) that every person’s story was heard, shared and cultivated. This class was without a doubt special and something that made a difference — in my quarter, in my college experience and in my life. And I know that others feel the same way.”

“Out of every class I have taken here at the University of Washington, Dr. Fraser has been the best professor I have ever had the honor of learning from. Hands down. His enthusiasm and dedication are demonstrated in every single class. He goes out of his way to actively check on each of his students and gives thoughtful and supportive feedback on all assignments.”

Q&A with Oliver Fraser

Honors: How do you describe yourself to strangers when they ask what you do?

Fraser: I say that I teach at the UW because, if I lead with being an astronomer, then people don’t ask about teaching! I love being at the observatory, but I’m much more of a teaching nerd than a telescope nerd.

Honors: What do you love the most about teaching Honors students?

Fraser: I love teaching Honors students because they often have wonderful goals, and then it’s easy to put myself into a position of support. Plus, as a teacher, the commitment Honors students have to their own education means every lesson turns out really well! 

Honors: Did you know you have the highest possible score after 83 reviews on Rate My Professor?  How does that compare with winning Honors’ Excellence in Teaching Award?

Fraser: Well, Rate My Professor is pretty anecdotal, but I like that you get people’s unvarnished view! I appreciate that people took time out of their days to write about me, but the HETA comes from the Honors community, so it’s very special. 

Dr. Fraser’s trumpet, too delicate for strong lighting.

Honors: What was your favorite class in college and who taught it?

I can do you one better—my favorite class I’m taking *right now* is UW Concert Band! An Honors student invited me to join a couple of years ago, which was the push I needed. I spend plenty of time up in front of classes, but I love being just another member of the band.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Fraser. We are thrilled to have him in the UW Honors community!