LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas “surprise patrol” today presented four more professors with $7,500 Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence awards.
Today’s winners are:
- Anna Neill, associate professor of English
- Andrea Herstowski, associate professor of design
- Robert Ward, IV, associate professor of molecular biosciences
- Arvin Agah, professor of electrical engineering and computer science.
Today’s winners join Jorge Pérez, associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese, who was presented a Kemper Fellowship yesterday by the KU surprise patrol.
The Kemper fellowships recognize outstanding teachers and advisers at KU as determined by a seven-member selection committee. Now in their 16th year, the awards are supported by an annual gift of $37,500 from the William T. Kemper Foundation (Commerce Bank, trustee) and $37,500 in matching funds from KU Endowment.
The William T. Kemper Foundation was established in 1989 after the death of the Kansas City, Mo., banking executive and civic leader. The foundation supports Midwest communities and concentrates on initiatives in education, health and human services, civic improvements and the arts.
KU Endowment is the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment is the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.
For details, visit www.news.ku.edu/kemper_awards.
Anna Neill, Associate Professor of English
Neill’s strong commitment to KU students and to the community led Marta Caminero-Santangelo, chair of the Department of English, to write, “Professor Neill is deeply concerned with student success at absolutely every level, and with providing her students—and ours—with the tools and support that will help them to succeed.”
Neill’s commitment has extended off campus to the Douglas County Jail, where she co-founded a program to teach writing and literature. She brought her commitment to connecting students to reading material in personal ways to the jail setting. Neill says this creates “motivated” analysis, particularly with inmates resistant to reading materials with no connection to their lives.
From 2006-2009, Neill served as Director of Undergraduate Studies in the English Department. Due to her leadership, the department has been recognized for its ongoing efforts to assess the effectiveness and outcomes of the English major. Recently, Neill has directed her passion to interdisciplinary approaches. In 2009, she was awarded a Keeler Intra-University Fellowship and is currently co-directing a Hall Center Faculty Colloquium, “Consciousness in Interdisciplinary Perspective,” building on her studies combining literature with anthropology and human evolution.
Andrea Herstowski, Associate Professor of Design
Herstowski, a 1990 KU graduate (BFA) who returned to the university in 2002, consistently receives outstanding evaluations from her students. But as Herstowski says, “My students and I go on a journey together,” and she has been heavily involved in entering her students in regional and national competitions. In recent years, her students have been recognized with over 50 awards, including a 2007 Best In Show from Creative Quarterly magazine and a 2011 best Sophomore Portfolio at the 2007 Dallas Society of Visual Communicators conference, a highly regarded national competition.
As instructor of the Senior Portfolio class, Herstowski advises not just on design work but on interviewing, crafting resumes and business cards, and developing professional contacts. As a faculty advisor for the annual Senior Show, Herstowski is part of an event that attracts more than 200 guests, including professionals, friends and family and has led to interviews, internships and jobs being offered on the spot. While she is quick to draw attention to her students’ awards, Herstowski has received numerous honors of her own, including the Ned N. Fleming Trust award in 2010 and a Golden Apple Award from the Dallas Society of Visual Communication in 2007.
Robert Ward, IV, Associate Professor of Molecular Biosciences
When Ward came to KU in 2003, he was assigned one of the department’s most difficult courses, BIOL 350 Genetics. The course, a sophomore requirement for all biology majors, was well established at KU and often the breaking point for students between continuing to pursue a career in medicine or selecting a new major.
Despite good evaluations, Ward undertook an overhaul of this challenging course. He began presenting material so students would understand key concepts rather than large amounts of detail, implemented mandatory discussion sections to give students more hands on material, and approximately eight times a year he dedicates class time to a career that relates to the current topic.
BIOL 350 is a large lecture class, and Ward balances that challenge by working with students personally on experiments, inviting them to meet at The Underground to discuss applying to medical or graduate schools, and inviting undergraduates to participate in an on-going project in his research area.
Ward’s commitment to his students’ success after graduation extends to each of his classes, including two courses he developed specifically to help students enter research careers. He has received high marks for his teaching and has been recognized for his dedication as an advisor. In 2010, he was recognized with the J. Michael Young Mentor Award, and earlier this year, he received the Barbara Schowen Undergraduate Research Mentor Award.
Arvin Agah, Professor of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science
Agah, who joined the Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science in 1997, has received praise not only from his undergraduate and graduate students but also from his fellow professors and from a variety of employers attesting to how prepared his students were to excel.
As past Chair of departmental graduate studies, Agah was instrumental in doubling the number of Ph.D. students. He has personally advised to completion nine Ph.D. students over the past three years and 37 M.S. students during his time at KU. Agah is devoted to undergraduate education and most recently developed a new interdisciplinary program, Interdisciplinary Computing, to combine a focus on astronomy, biology, chemistry, geography or physics with their computer science experience.
A hallmark of Agah’s classes are student competitions where student-designed robots face off against each other. Agah’s students have also won a number of design competitions, including first place for developing healthcare software for Cerner Corporation and a pair of top honors in a space robotics competition.
Previous honors for Agah include an ING Excellence in Teaching award and the Henry E. Gould Teaching Award from the School of Engineering. Agah is also a three-time recipient of a Miller Scholar Award.