Our History of
Excellence in Teaching

Teaching Awards Feedback
Kwame Dawes

The Department of English was only the second department to receive the University of Nebraska’s system-wide departmental teaching award. The award was an official recognition of our decades-long investment in the university’s pedagogical mission.

Since that time, the department has continued to lengthen its record of teaching excellence. Our instructors are widely recognized for the innovative spirit that they bring to their classrooms. The deep commitment to our students that permeates the culture of our entire department has been officially acknowledged by the College of Arts and Sciences, UNL, as well as the wider profession.

The numerous college, university, and system-wide teaching awards testify to our commitment to teaching, as do the large number of pedagogical publications our faculty and students have produced over the years. But we are perhaps most proud of the high praise our teachers receive from their students. The department’s unusually high teaching evaluations inspire all of us to keep working hard on behalf of our students.

Our Teaching

Students review a digital humanities project with professor Matt Cohen

Teaching in the Department of English at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln is characterized by small group work in seminars. The backbone of our degree is a friendly and conversational classroom of around 20-35 students. Students are actively encouraged to participate in class; professors have the opportunity to get to know the students and their work quite well. We also have a strong and active Advising Office and believe that helping students negotiate what can often be a complex structure (a university degree) is vital.

Our students play a strong and active role in creating their own learning environment. Students have their own advisory boards (undergraduate and graduate), their own literary magazine (Laurus), and are active throughout the university’s cultural and social life. Many of our students go on to work in jobs that emphasize the ‘soft skills’ of personal engagement, working in small groups, and creativity. The Department of English shapes its teaching around these practices.

Teaching Awards

Professor Laura White shows student Amzie Dunekacke an illustrated book from the nineteenth century

University-Wide Departmental Teaching Award (UDTA)

The University of Nebraska’s system-wide teaching award honors a department or unit that has made a unique and significant contribution to the teaching efforts of the University and which has outstanding esprit de corps in its dedication to the education of students. The Department of English was the second department to receive this award.

John E. Weaver and Aaron Douglas Professorships for Teaching Excellence

Established in 2008, these professorships are awarded to faculty holding the full professor rank who demonstrate sustained and extraordinary levels of teaching excellence and national visibility for instructional activities and/or practice.

Grace Bauer (2019)
Robert Brooke (2015)
Laura White (2014)
Stephen Buhler (2010)

Hazel R. McClymont Distinguished Teaching Fellow Award

Funded by a generous gift from Hazel R. McClymont, this award honors exemplary teaching that promotes critical and creative thinking, enables active and continuous learning, supports a community of teacher-scholars, and encourages students to become responsible members of global society.

Joy Castro (2020)
Shari Stenberg (2015)
Debbie Minter (2010)

The Academy of Distinguished Teachers

The Academy of Distinguished Teachers was established in 1995 to recognize and support the outstanding professors at UNL who are not only experts in their content area but have continuously demonstrated excellent pedagogy in teaching their students, in developing curricula, and in designing new modes of instructional delivery. In 2008, the new John Weaver and Aaron Douglas Professorships of Teaching Excellence were created to honor faculty with sustained records of teaching excellence. At the same time membership in the Academy was closed.

Amy Goodburn (2002)
Joy Ritchie (2000)
Stephen Buhler (1999)
Robert Bergstrom (1995)
Barbara DiBernard (1995)

University of Nebraska Award for Outstanding Teaching and Instructional Creativity (OTICA)

Two OTICA awards are presented each year in honor and recognition of meritorious and sustained records of excellence in teaching and creativity related to teaching to full-time faculty members.

Robert Brooke (2022)
Laura White (2010)
Joy Ritchie (2004)
Barbara DiBernard (2000)
Stephen Buhler (1999)

Annis Chaikin Sorensen Award

The Annis Chaikin Sorensen Award is an annual award presented to recognize an individual for his/her outstanding teaching in the humanities.

Roland Végső (2022)
Amelia M. L. Montes (2021)
Stephen Behrendt (2018)
Julia Schleck (2017)
Maureen Honey (2016)
Joy Castro (2011)
Laura White (2010)
Debbie Minter (2009)
Nicholas P. Spencer (2008)
Fran Kaye (2007)
Venetria Patton (2003)
Rashmi D. Bhatnagar (2000)
Grace Bauer (1998)
Charles W. Mignon (1993)
Joy Ritchie (1992)
Katherine Ronald (1991)
Stephen Behrendt (1990)
Leslie Whipp (1989)
Moira Ferguson (1987)
Susan J. Rosowski (1986)
James McShane (1985)
Gene Hardy (1982)
Paul Olson (1979)
Bernice Slote (1975)
Wilbur Gaffney (1974)
Robert Hough (1973)

Harold and Esther Edgerton Junior Faculty Award

The Harold & Esther Edgerton Junior Faculty Award is presented each year to honor an outstanding junior faculty member who has demonstrated creative research, extraordinary teaching abilities, and academic promise.

Hope Wabuke (2019)

College Distinguished Teaching Award

In 1976, the Nebraska Legislature authorized the presentation of $1,000 stipends to selected faculty members to recognize excellence in teaching. Fifteen awards are available each year and the distribution rotates among the Colleges. 

Pascha Sotolongo Stevenson (2022)
Hope Wabuke (2022)
Ng’ang’a Mũchiri (2020)
Rachael W. Shah (2019)
Jennine Capó Crucet (2018)
Tom Gannon (2007 & 2018)
Kelly Stage (2017)
Stacey Waite (2015)
Peter J. Capuano (2015)
Shari Stenberg(2014)
Roland Végső (2013)
Stephen Ramsay (2013)
Seanna Sumalee Oakley (2012)
June Griffin (2011)
Julia Schleck (2010)
Debbie Minter (2001 & 2009)
Marco Abel (2008)
Nicholas P. Spencer (2001 & 2008)
Robert Brooke (1996 & 2007)
Amelia María de la Luz Montes (2005)
Gwendolyn Audrey Foster (2004)
Venetria Patton (2003)
Laura White (2003)
Chris Gallagher (2002)
Malea Powell (2002)
Rashmi D. Bhatnagar (2000)
Amy Goodburn (1999)
Gerald Shapiro (1997)
Sharon Harris (1996)
Robert Stock (1996)
Ellen Eggers (1995)
Judith Slater (1994)
Wheeler Winston Dixon (1993)
Robert Narveson (1993)
Fran Kaye (1992)
Stephen Buhler (1991)
Maureen Honey (1991)
Gerry Brookes (1986 & 1990)
Ned Hedges (1990)
Robert Knoll (1960 & 1988)
Linda Ray Pratt (1988)
Barbara DiBernard (1985)
James L. Roberts (1984)
Robert Bergstrom (1983)
June Levine (1981)
Dudley Bailey (1979)
Louis Crompton (1978)
Charles Stubblefield (1978)
Stephen Hilliard (1977)
Roger Welsch (1960)
Ray Frantz (1967)
Thomas Raysor (1958)

Dean's Award for Excellence in Graduate Education

The Dean's Award for Excellence in Graduate Education Award honors faculty members whose dedication to graduate students and commitment to excellence in graduate mentoring have made a significant contribution to graduate education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Grace Bauer (2017)
Maureen Honey (2016)
Jonis Agee (2014)
Sharron Harris (1999)

Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award

The Office of Graduate Studies recognizes the valuable role that graduate teaching assistants play in enhancing undergraduate learning. The Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award honors graduate teaching assistants who have demonstrated special effectiveness in teaching undergraduates in a variety of settings.

Claire Jiménez (2021)
Katie Schmid Henson (2019)
Katie McWain (2018)
Robert Lipscomb III (2015)
Bobbi Jo Olson (2013)
Susan Martens (2012)
Julie Iromuanya (2010)
Tamy Burnett (2009)

Robert L. Hough Distinguished Teaching Award for Lecturers

Caterina Bernardini (2021)
Rachel Cochran (2020)
Nicole Green (2019)
Michael Page (2019)
Anne Nagel (2018)
Robert Lipscomb (2017)
Pascha Sotolongo Stevenson (2016)
Beverley Rilett (2015)

Student Feedback

Amanda Gailey talks with students in her English 379 class during a letterpress demonstration

I left the English department ready to engage with the most exciting and difficult scholars because I was always asked to think about the humanities capaciously there. The diligent, generous mentorship of UNL faculty gave me the resources to think expansively while also challenging me to develop my own research interests. In particular, Marco Abel remained committed to my academic development long after I left UNL...always reminding me that true intellectual engagement is neither a finite resource nor a specialized matter.

Lenora Hanson (M.A. 2009)

“What makes [Jonis Agee] such an excellent teacher, and what I’ve tried to emulate here [at Ohio State], is that you come to her, and she treats you like a fellow writer and professional...She was so generous with her time and so knowledgeable about the business of publishing but also the craft of a book and just phenomenal. One of the things I try to carry on here is that generosity of spirit, because I think you don’t find that everywhere.”—Nick White (Ph.D. 2016)

“I chose my major after starting Introduction to English Studies (ENGL 200) and Introduction to Poetry Writing (ENGL 253). My professors in those classes, Dr. Pascha Stevenson and Dr. Katie Henson, were the first people to make me feel like I could truly be successful pursuing what I'm passionate about...I've always loved poetry, but within [Dr. Henson's] classroom, I felt safe and supported writing about my own experiences. I was exposed to many different forms and contemporary poets.”—Madison Sides (B.A. 2023)

“Professor Foster was always so encouraging and supportive, and really helped shape me intellectually and as a person...Thanks to her I was one step ahead on post-modern and feminist film theory when I got to the University of California. Professor Dixon also helped prepare me for the demands and high expectations of the industry. His lessons have always held me in good stead.”—Tom Cabela (B.A. 2001)

“Professor Dixon, Professor Foster, Professor Buhler, and Professor Borstelmann (in History) encouraged me to consider pursuing my Ph.D...In my English and Film studies courses, I developed strong analytic writing skills. I developed critical thinking skills as well, as my professors invited me to interrogate the ideological underpinnings of different cultural products. I apply these skills to different scenarios, including when I engage in debates about politics, economics, culture, and the environment.”—Megan Black (B.A 2009)

“I met my favorite English professor, Dr. Ramsay, [and] we talked about my confusion, my passion for humanities, especially writing, and what I should or should not do in the future. ‘You're a born writer,’ he said to me. I know I've found the thing I want to live on.”—Xinyue Wang (B.A. 2018)

“Even though I wasn't specializing in rhetoric & composition as a masters student, [Professor Stenberg] encouraged me to enter the conversation. That encouragement has had a lasting impact on my trajectory.”—Jennie Case (M.A. 2009)

Share your experiences

Whether you received a B.A., M.A., or Ph.D., if you are a UNL English or Film Studies alum, we want to hear from you! Our alumni pages, which are continually updating, allows us to showcase our alumni and help today's students imagine what is possible.

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