Excellence in Teaching

Our History of Excellence in Teaching

Andrews Hall in spring

A History of Excellence

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 CAS and UNL 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.

Teaching

Kwame Dawes leads a discussion of African poetry with his students

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 English association, 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 Fran Kaye accepts the Louise Pound-George Howard Distinguished Career Service Award in 2016

University-Wide Departmental Teaching Award (UDTA)

An UDTA is presented in honor and recognition of a department/unit within NU 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.

Department of English (1994)

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.

Robert Brooke (2015)
Laura White (2014)
Stephen Buhler (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.

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.

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)

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. 

Jennine Capó Crucet (2018)
Tom Gannon (2018)
Kelly Stage (2017)
Stacey Waite (2015)
Peter J. Capuano (2015)
Shari Stenberg (2014)
Roland Vegso (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)
Tom Gannon (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.

Robert Lipscomb III (2015)
Bobbi Jo Olson (2013)
Susan Martens (2012)
Julie Iromuanya (2010)
Tamy Burnett (2009)

Feedback

Student Dominic Yarabe and Professor Ken Price reviewing research on a laptop
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 English alumna (M.A. 2009)

“In my Ph.D. program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I was given the time and resources to write a book on the history and culture of taxidermy [ ... ] This book enabled me to get a job teaching nonfiction in the M.F.A. program at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and I credit the opportunities at Nebraska and specifically the Place Studies program for making it happen.” – Dave Madden (Ph.D. 2010)

“Professor Foster was always so encouraging and supportive, and really helped shape me intellectually and as a person," says Cabela. "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, English and Film Studies Major (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, English and Communication Studies double major (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, alumna (M.A. 2009)

“Coming to the University of Nebraska has helped me really define the focus for my skills and experiences, [especially] being able to work with Dr. Beverly Rilett in her Editing & Publishing class to make an actual book that my team and I can call our own.” – Dallas Gist, English major (B.A. 2017)

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