The award, presented by the center to approximately nine Virginia Tech faculty members each academic year, recognizes a faculty member's effective, engaged, and dynamic approaches and achievements as an educator.

Among the goals of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning are advancing experiential learning at Virginia Tech and improving student learning through research-based instructional practices and student-centered design. According to Phillips, her approach to teaching ultimately comes down to making the learning experience accessible and enjoyable: “For every class I teach, I start by putting myself in the shoes of the student. What kind of background information do they have? How is this relevant to them? Is my lecture clear from where they stand? From there, I structure my lectures and activities to highlight my top objectives. I position myself as their guide in the exploration process and encourage them to think outside the box.”

Since arriving at Virginia Tech in 2017, Phillips has developed nine new courses in the School of Neuroscience. She described “taking non-traditional approaches to content” and trying “to incorporate a liberal arts approach.” One example is a course entitled, War and the Brain. According to Phillips, “It crosses traditional disciplinary boundaries by embedding neuroscience-relevant issues in the context of history, military, war, and public policy. The course provides multiple perspectives – scientific, clinical, personal, historical, and current.”