James Ntambi to receive campus distinguished teaching award

James Ntambi, professor of biochemistry and nutritional sciences, is one of ten UW-Madison faculty members who will receive 2010 distinguished teaching awards. He will receive the Chancellor’s Award at a ceremony on Wednesday, April 21 at 3:30 p.m. at the Pyle Center.

For 16 of his 17 years at UW-Madison, Ntambi has taught the metabolism section of Biochemistry 501: Introduction to Biochemistry. It serves about 800 students each year and is one of the most demanding courses in biochemistry, according to department chair Elizabeth Craig.
Ntambi’s students have described him as amazing, approachable, engaging, energetic, and entertaining.

“James is a talented teacher and a highly accomplished lecturer both inside and outside the classroom,” Craig notes in her nomination of Ntambi.

“His dedication to teaching has taken him from undergraduate biochemistry classrooms to the development and teaching of a hands-on experience course in international health and nutrition to UW-Madison undergraduates.”

Craig said Ntambi embodies the philosophy that an educational experience at the UW is multi-faceted and involves efforts outside the classroom as well as within it.

“His contribution to international education is a significant service to our department, the university and the international community,” wrote Craig.

Ntambi is a co-founder of Uganda Study Abroad, an extraordinary course known as International Ag 375: International Health and Nutrition. It was the first UW study abroad program to focus on public health issues and to introduce undergraduates to the realities of village life in developing countries.

The students who take the course apply the biochemistry they learn in the classroom to real world problems. They take a three-week trip to Uganda, where they work in villages and see nutritional, environmental and public health problems first-hand.

More than 120 students and 20 UW-Madison and Makerere University faculty members have participated in the program to date. 
One student wrote that the Uganda trip has inspired many of the UW students who have participated in it.

“The inspiration subsequently led to the formation of a student organization called the Village Health Project (VHP) to which James has been serving as an advisor since its founding.”

Kenneth Shapiro, chair of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, and John Ferrick, director of international programs in CALS, worked closely with Ntambi on the Uganda nutrition and public health program and say it is an excellent example of the remarkable impact Ntambi has had on the UW undergraduate educational experience.

“It provided a model for the university’s short term programs, which are now the new frontier in study abroad.  Secondly, it led the Center for Global Health to ask for James’ help in establishing a similar program for graduate students in health professions,” says Shapiro.

Ntambi says that what he enjoys most about teaching is having the ability to teach his students material that can be transferred from the classroom and applied to real world health problems and hands-on experiences. “I endeavor to provide them with opportunities to learn more about themselves and the environment in which they live,” he says, “and I am proud that the students I have taught and mentored are already having a positive impact on science education, research and advancement of human health in the U.S. and abroad.”