About CASE

Pam Russell
Director of Communications


For Immediate Release
Nov. 20, 2008

CASE, Carnegie Name 2008 Top U.S. Professors of the Year

Winners Saluted for Extraordinary Performance in Undergraduate Education

Washington, D.C.-Four college and university educators who actively involve their undergraduate students in hands-on research are the national winners of the 2008 U.S. Professors of the Year Awards.

Administered by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and sponsored by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the awards recognize professors for their influence on teaching and their commitment to undergraduate students. In addition to the four national winners, state-level Professors of the Year are being recognized in 44 states, the District of Columbia and Guam.

All of the 2008 U.S. Professors of the Year will be honored today at a luncheon and awards ceremony at the Willard InterContinental Washington in Washington, D.C. National winners will offer remarks after they are introduced by former students.

The four national winners are:

  • Outstanding Baccalaureate Colleges Professor of the Year: Jerusha B. Detweiler-Bedell, associate professor of psychology at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore. Detweiler-Bedell pushes students to learn beyond the mere repetition of lessons, believing that psychology, like a foreign language, is best learned by immersion. She challenges her students to investigate real-world puzzles, encouraging them to design and conduct experiments, participate in small group debates and engage in research projects that have resulted in changes on campus. In addition, Detweiler-Bedell co-created an innovative behavioral health and social psychology research lab that integrates students at all levels into the culture of research. "I treat my students not as undergraduates, but as practitioners and researchers in their own right," she says.
  • Outstanding Community Colleges Professor of the Year: Eugenia Paulus, professor of chemistry at North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park, Minn. Paulus elected to teach at a community college so she could "make a difference at a place where everyone is welcome." Throughout her career, Paulus has challenged students to reach their fullest potential, advocating the use of scientific principles to help solve everyday problems. This commitment to their success led her to develop a Web-based, step-by-step tutorial after she realized that many of her students lacked hands-on laboratory skills. And after conducting research showing that local employers needed working students to be proficient in certain laboratory techniques, she developed an industry skills course and helped raise $65,000 for the equipment needed to teach it.
  • Outstanding Doctoral and Research Universities Professor of the Year: Michael Wesch, assistant professor of anthropology at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan. Believing that all good thinking begins with a good question, Wesch created a classroom environment that encourages questions from students that go beyond "what do we need to know for this test?" Instead of lecturing 400 undergraduates in his cultural anthropology class, Wesch has his students work together to design a two-hour simulation of the last 500 years of world history. Coursework continues outside the classroom via a custom Web platform, which integrates blogs, mobile phones and a wiki. The project is then posted on YouTube, creating a global audience and learning community. "My job becomes less about teaching and more about encouraging students to join me on the quest," Wesch says.
  • Outstanding Master's Universities and Colleges Professor of the Year: Wei R. Chen, professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, Okla. Strongly influenced by the teachings of Confucius, Chen engages students in inquiry-based learning through experiments and simulations in his classes. In 2000, he led an effort to establish a biomedical engineering undergraduate degree program at his institution, the first and only such program in the state. Chen's interdisciplinary approach to learning extends to his research on cancer treatment where students working in his lab use laser immunotherapy, a novel treatment method that incorporates fields including laser physics, engineering designs, biology and chemistry. Chen is also tireless in his efforts to use local and regional networks for the benefit of his students.

The U.S. Professors of the Year program, created in 1981, is the only national initiative specifically designed to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching and mentoring.

John Lippincott, president of CASE, said this year's national and state winners are outstanding teachers whose passion for teaching and commitment to student learning represent the best in undergraduate education.

"Great professors transform their students' lives by transmitting their passion for learning," Lippincott said. "This year's U.S. Professors of the Year have demonstrated not just a profound knowledge of their disciplines but genuine excitement for their work, excitement that is compelling and contagious for those fortunate enough to study with them. We celebrate these professors' achievements, not in the laboratory or the library, but in the classroom where they have made the most important contribution of all; they have made lives better."

Anthony Bryk, president of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, also noted the winners' innovative teaching styles and contributions. He added that the national U.S. Professors of the Year share a common trait.

"All four of our national winners have made serious and successful efforts to engage students in undergraduate research, to actively involve them in the practices of their disciplines," Bryk said. "They've approached this in various ways, from bringing students into their research labs or their writing lives as collaborators to giving them field-based, hands-on experiences outside the classroom."

This year's U.S. Professors of the Year award winners were selected from a pool of nearly 300 nominees. Judges select national and state winners based on four criteria: impact on and involvement with undergraduate students; scholarly approach to teaching and learning; contributions to undergraduate education in the institution, community and profession; and support from colleagues and current and former undergraduate students.

TIAA-CREF, a financial services and retirement investment organization, is the primary sponsor of the awards ceremony. Phi Beta Kappa, an academic honorary, will sponsor an evening Congressional reception for the winners at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Other sponsors of the awards program are the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the American Association of Community Colleges, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the American Association of University Professors, the Association of Community College Trustees, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, the Council of Independent Colleges and the National Council of University Research Administrators.

About Carnegie

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is committed to developing networks of ideas, individuals, and institutions to advance teaching and learning. We join together scholars, practitioners, and designers in new ways to solve problems of educational practice. Toward this end, we work to integrate the discipline of improvement science into education with the goal of building the field's capacity to improve.

About CASE

CASE believes in advancing education to transform lives and society. As a global nonprofit membership association of educational institutions, CASE helps develop the communities of professional practice that build institutional resilience and success in challenging times. The communities include staff engaged in alumni relations, fundraising, marketing, student recruitment, stakeholder engagement, crisis communications and government relations. CASE is volunteer-led and uses the intellectual capital of senior practitioners to build capacity and capability across the world.

CASE has offices in Washington, D.C., London, Singapore and Mexico City. Member institutions include more than 3,700 colleges and universities, primary and secondary independent and international schools, and nonprofit organizations in 82 countries. CASE serves nearly 88,000 practitioners. For more information about CASE, please visit www.case.org.

The TIAA-CREF family of companies is a prominent financial services organization dedicated to providing lifetime financial security to those in the healthcare, academic, cultural and research fields; for people whose work serves others. An organization with $495 billion in assets under management as of Sept. 30, 2012, TIAA-CREF has more than 3.7 million participants in more than 27,000 plans and 15,000 public and private institutions.