The three most recent Teaching Fellow honorees own a wealth of expertise. They also represent three different Penn State campuses.
Lynette Kvasny, associate professor in the College of Information Sciences and Technology; Laura Rotunno, associate professor of English at Penn State Altoona, and Jennifer Wood, associate professor of communication arts and sciences at Penn State New Kensington, have received the Alumni/Student Award for Excellence in Teaching and have been named 2014 Penn State Teaching Fellows.
The Penn State Teaching Fellow Award, administered by the Alumni Association, honors distinguished teaching, while providing encouragement and incentive for teaching excellence at Penn State. Through the award, three tenured faculty from across the University are recognized annually.
Kvasny, who received the George McMurtry Teaching and Learning Award from the College of Information Sciences and Technology in 2014, has created undergraduate courses on communities and service learning, emerging technologies and popular culture, and digital cultures.
Rotunno, meanwhile, helped launch the Spotlight on Teaching and Research (STAR) series at Penn State Altoona, where she is the honors coordinator. She received Penn State Altoona’s Athleen Stere Teaching Award for 2010–11 and the Grace D. Long Faculty Excellence Award in 2010.
In teaching Effective Speech courses, Wood has students work in groups to encourage one another to identify potential concerns with the syllabus. This then leads to a larger discussion. In her upper-level classes, Wood expects students to work together to develop policies that everyone can follow for that term.
Every year, the three outstanding professors receive two grants apiece: a monetary award of $3,000, and an additional $9,000 to put to creative use within the recipients’ own departments, to be spent over a three-year period. Nominations, sent early each spring to the Schreyer Institute of Teaching Excellence, can stack a couple of inches high. With so many excellent Penn State teachers across the Commonwealth, it is no wonder the pile is enormous. Not only a professor’s own enamored students make recommendations (many do), but parents, alumni, colleagues, administrative staff, and friends of Penn State also submit nominations.
Founded in 1986, the program has honored 48 excellent teachers. Each August, all past and present Teaching Fellows are invited to attend a dinner held in their honor, sponsored by the Alumni Association. At the dinner, there is a general sharing of experiences, and the most recent honorees have the opportunity to present their plans for departmental or student projects.
Since it began, the Teaching Fellow award has evolved. At first, only one Teaching Fellow was awarded per year. An endowment in 1997 made it possible for two Teaching Fellows to be recognized: one from the University Park campus and one from another campus. Then, in 2006, a third Teaching Fellow recipient was added. Now, at least one teacher must be from a campus other than University Park.