Professors Recognized as “Best” in American Higher Education

November 20, 2014

U.S. Professors of the Year Names Four National Winners; 31 State Winners

A strong desire to mentor students, bring their subject matter alive, and get students “jazzed” about learning are a few of the driving forces behind the four national winners of the 2014 U.S. Professors of the Year awards.

Sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and administered by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, the awards recognize professors for their influence on teaching and commitment to undergraduate students. In addition to the four national winners, 30 winners were named state Professors of the Year and one winner was recognized from the District of Columbia.

National and state winners of the 2014 U.S. Professors of the Year awards will be honored Nov. 20 at a luncheon and awards ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The national winners will speak at the event, after being introduced by current and former students. The four national winners are:

Laurie Grobman, Outstanding Baccalaureate Colleges Professor of the Year: Grobman is professor of English and women’s studies at Pennsylvania State University Berks in Reading, Pennsylvania. Her work as a teacher-scholar, and her commitment to issues of equality and fairness, have led her to integrate service learning into her writing and literature classes. Her students undertake community-based research projects in Berks County that bring attention to historically overlooked groups. Judges recognized Grobman’s leadership in multicultural education and said she has “incorporated an impressive program of service learning and community-based research” into her courses.

John Wadach, Outstanding Community Colleges Professor of the Year: Wadach is professor of engineering science and physics at Monroe Community College in Rochester, New York. Wadach’s dedication to his students goes beyond the classroom walls. His efforts to promote engineering and mentor students are wide ranging: coordinating an annual competition to increase awareness among high school students about STEM fields; working with New York state universities to ensure MCC curriculum meshes with their programs and meets their standards; and developing an event to bring together colleges, employers and prospective science, technology, engineering and mathematics students. Wadach’s achievement in building a thriving engineering program at MCC impressed the judges, who noted his work to transform a traditional lab and lecture curriculum to one based on “design and build” pedagogy.

Sheri Sheppard, Outstanding Doctoral and Research Universities Professor of the Year: Sheppard is professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford University in California. Sheppard was inspired by her time as a senior scholar at the Carnegie Foundation to change the way in which students encounter engineering during their first engineering course. This restructured course allows students to try on the role of engineer in authentic situations and “get jazzed” about the material and its possibilities. She also mentors undergraduate researchers and the next generation of teachers. Judges noted that Sheppard’s courses use multiple active learning strategies and involve students in the professional and technical aspects of engineering, as well as her “large impact” on students, her university and her field.

Patricia H. Kelley, Outstanding Master’s Universities and Colleges Professor of the Year: Kelley is professor of geology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She has incorporated research in her classes for 20 years, and her semester-long authentic research project for undergraduate students has led to poster and oral presentations by students at national meetings of the Geological Society of America. She has published her pedagogy in geoscience literature and has demonstrated its potential to be applied across disciplines. Judges said they admired Kelley as a “highly creative teacher” who has revitalized the study of paleontology at her college, transformed classes to use more active learning strategies and given students a real science experience. They also noted her efforts to help students explore evolution in a spirit of respect.

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

John Lippincott, president of CASE, praised this year’s award winners for their innovative approach to teaching and learning and their ability to challenge their students beyond the classroom.

“Many of these professors eschew traditional lectures and rote memorization drills and instead favor a more research-focused approach to pedagogy,” Lippincott said. “These forward-thinking instructors advocate learning by doing, putting their students in the driver’s seat of their own development. Whether in the humanities or the sciences, they reinforce their students’ critical thinking skills by regularly challenging them to confront tough issues.”

Anthony S. Bryk, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, noted the “extraordinary leadership” of the 2014 award winners.

“Each of our awardees, state and national, brings extraordinary leadership not just to their classrooms, but to their departments, colleges and universities, and their respective professional fields,” said Bryk. “We honor them for upholding and guiding the aspirations of their students, advancing knowledge, and elevating and dignifying the profession of teaching. In recognizing their commitment and excellence, their contributions and their demonstrated passion, we support the centrality of teaching on campus and recognize its importance to the future of our country.”

This year’s U.S. Professors of the Year award winners were selected from a pool of nearly 400 nominees. Judges selected the 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 students.

Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest academic honor society, sponsors an evening congressional reception for the winners at the Folger Shakespeare Library in the District.

Other sponsors of the awards program are the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education,, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the American Association of Community Colleges, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, 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

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education is a professional association serving educational institutions and the advancement professionals who work on their behalf in alumni relations, communications, development, marketing and allied areas.

CASE was founded in 1974 and maintains headquarters in Washington, D.C., with offices in London (CASE Europe, 1994), Singapore (CASE Asia-Pacific, 2007) and Mexico City (CASE América Latina, 2011).