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Two professors honored for excellence in teaching

Sept. 10, 2009

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University will present its 2009-10 Distinguished Teaching Award to Dr. Chad Edwards, associate professor of communication, and Dr. Peter E. Parker, professor of paper engineering, chemical engineering and imaging.

Being named a Distinguished Teacher is the highest honor the University bestows on faculty members for their work with students. This year's recipients will be honored during WMU's Academic Convocation, set for 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, in the Dalton Center Recital Hall.

The annual event will feature WMU President John M. Dunn's State of the University address as well as the presentation of several other campuswide awards honoring this year's Distinguished Faculty Scholar, Emerging Scholar and Distinguished Service award recipients.

WMU's Distinguished Teaching Awards program was launched in 2006 to honor up to three full-time faculty members each year. Edwards and Parker will join six other faculty members who have been honored since the award program's inception. A similar honors program, the WMU Alumni Association Teaching Excellence program, ran at the University between 1966 and 2001 and honored 131 faculty members during that time.

Dr. Chad Edwards
Associate Professor of Communication
2009-10 Distinguished Teaching Award Recipient

Edwards has taught at Texas Tech University, South Plains College, the University of Kansas, Ohio University and Marietta College. Previously, he has received outstanding teaching awards from both the University of Kansas and Texas Tech University.

Many of those nominating Edwards for WMU's Distinguished Teaching Award cited him for making his classes rigorous and challenging, yet participatory and fun. He also was praised as a teacher who brings energy and creativity to small classes as well as large ones, such as the introductory course in communication that routinely enrolls more than 100 students.

"I looked forward to this mass lecture class...and every session provided me with engaging activities and multimedia presentations that heightened my interest in course material," one nominator wrote."

Graduate students who have worked with Edwards as research assistants noted that he mentors as well as trains them. "I learned about giving lectures, integrating activities, making student connections," one wrote, "but mostly, I learned humility and something to aspire to...He is a natural teacher."

As another graduate student put it, Edwards is kind, considerate and compassionate, helping guide students in their preparations for taking the Graduate Record Exam, applying to graduate school and writing letters of recommendation.

In addition, Edwards' colleagues expressed admiration for his innovation in creating research teams composed of graduate and undergraduate students who participate in hands-on social science research that has yielded multiple publications and conference papers.

Dr. Peter E. Parker
Professor of Paper Engineering, Chemical Engineering and Imaging
2009-10 Distinguished Teaching Award Recipient

Parker, who in 2008 received the Outstanding Teaching Award from the WMU College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, is the founder and creator of the University's chemical engineering program. The first person from the engineering college to earn the campuswide Distinguished Teaching Award, Parker not only teaches, but also advises some 150 chemical engineering students and serves as advisor to the student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineering Club.

He takes students to national meetings, ushering them into the profession, and volunteers in WMU's efforts to recruit and retain students. He also hosts cookouts for students at his home and works to create a strong sense of community around the campfire.

"He throws a party to mix the upperclassmen and incoming students together...," one of his supporters wrote. "He generously opens his home...He's a brave man and a good cook."

Other nominators lauded Parker for the personal attention he gives to students. "Dr. Parker is one of a kind, and deserves the Distinguished Teaching Award for all his hard work and genuine interest in students," one of them wrote.

Another of his students called Parker "intelligent, kind, approachable—a great teacher and an excellent mentor." And a former student reported that he "has an open door policy" for both current and prospective students, usually putting aside what he's doing to spend extended time with them.

Nearly all of Parker's student supporters said he goes beyond the classroom. "He's always there for his students," one wrote. "He wants all his students to succeed, but never compromises his teaching. He expects hard work and dedication...In turn, he provides at least the same level of commitment."

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Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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