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Drake Professors Joyce Njoroge and Maria Valdovinos win the 2024 Levitt Teacher and Mentor of the Year awards 

Tuesday, June 4th, 2024

Drake University faculty members Joyce Njoroge and Maria Valdovinos received Drake’s highest honors for teachers and mentors—the prestigious Madelyn M. Levitt Awards—at the University’s undergraduate commencement ceremony on May 19. 

The late Madelyn Levitt, longtime Drake trustee and honorary alumna, established the awards in 1994 to recognize Drake faculty and staff for their commitment to academic excellence and student success. The honorees embody Madelyn Levitt’s commitment to Drake and her interest in faculty achievement. 

“My heartfelt congratulations go to Professors Njoroge and Valdovinos on being recognized for their exceptional impact,” said Drake University Provost Sue Mattison. “They exemplify the transformative power of education for our students, for their families, and for their communities.” 

Joyce Njoroge, 2024 Madelyn M. Levitt Teacher of the Year 

Professor Joyce Njoroge

The Teacher of the Year award was established to recognize faculty who exhibit an informed mind in inspirational dialogue with students, rigor in intellectual endeavors, and a contagious enthusiasm for their subject matter. Joyce Njoroge, professor of accounting in Drake’s Zimpleman College of Business, was nominated by multiple current and former students, and described as a professor whose support and mentorship has been life changing. One former student said this about Njoroge: 

“The mentoring I received from Professor Njoroge set off a chain reaction for which I will always be grateful. Professor Njoroge provided me with more time, guidance, patience, and support than I ever could have asked for, and I will never be able to repay that debt.” 

Njoroge joined the Drake faculty in 2020 after receiving her doctorate from Washington State University. In addition to teaching, Njoroge is an accomplished scholar. Most recently she published a paper on the efficacy of online homework systems for accounting students. Njoroge also serves as a mentor for Drake’s Crew Scholars program, an academic excellence and leadership development program for students of color. 

“Professor Njoroge’s commitment to innovation in teaching and her boundless dedication to her work has made an enormous impact on our students and our faculty throughout her two decades at Drake,” said Alejandro Hernandez, dean of the Zimpleman College of Business. “We are fortunate to have her as part of the Drake faculty.” 

Maria Valdovinos, 2024 Madelyn M. Levitt Mentor of the Year 

Professor Maria Valdovinos

The Mentor of the Year award was established to recognize faculty and staff who are committed to student success in and out of the classroom. Maria Valdovinos, professor of psychology and neuroscience, was described by her nominators as a catalyst for helping students pursue their professional and personal goals and someone who inspires students to see themselves in ways they never imagined.  

“Professor Valdovinos has an unbelievable amount of knowledge and expertise to share, but the reason she is so deserving of this award is that she doesn’t just teach the subject material—she embodies it, infusing her lessons with enthusiasm, depth, and real-world relevance that captivates her students’ minds and hearts,” said Mattison. 

Last year, Valdovinos was invited to write a chapter for a scholarly book, and she asked some of her students to contribute. In one student’s words: 

“I cannot describe the magnitude of this impact on my education. An opportunity like this allows me to build up my resumé but also my level of confidence in my abilities and experiences. Throughout the process and even now, I still can feel the trust that Dr. V has for me. She never hesitates to remind me of my strengths and accomplishments, especially when I cannot see them. She has inspired me to give myself more credit and consider different things for my future than I would have ever thought possible for myself. I am considering pursuing a PhD because she told me I would be an excellent candidate. Her saying that could change the entire course of my life.” 

Learn more about each award and past recipients of the Madelyn M. Levitt Mentor of the Year Award and the Madelyn M. Levitt Teacher of the Year Award

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