Western’s Distinguished Teaching Award recipient engages learning inside and outside of the classroom

Contact: Deanne Puca

Dr. David Rudge

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—An innovative and recognized educator, Western Michigan University’s Dr. David Rudge is the recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award and will be honored during the Fall Award Celebration Friday, Sept. 29.

“In his passion and determination to perfect his craft, I have no doubt that Dr. Rudge will continue to drive toward even greater accomplishments in the future,” says Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “His dedication to students is commendable and his scholarly research in biological science is exceptional.”

Initiated in 2006, the Distinguished Teaching Award recognizes faculty members for their teaching work. Rudge, professor of biological sciences who holds a joint appointment in the Mallinson Institute for Science Education, joins 36 other faculty members who have been honored. After earning his Ph.D. and two master’s degrees from the University of Pittsburgh and a bachelor’s degree from Duke University. Rudge joined Western’s faculty in 1999 and researches how the history and philosophy of science, particularly evolutionary biology, can be used to inform the teaching of science. He served as president of the International History, Philosophy and Science Teaching Group and project director of a large National Science Foundation grant to improve middle school science teaching. He is also a member of the board of WMU's Center for the Humanities.

Rudge has been recognized in the past for his exceptional teaching. He won the 2018 College of Arts and Sciences Faculty Achievement Award in teaching. In 2022, he received the Michigan Science Teachers Association’s Science Teacher of the Year Award, College Level, a career award honoring him for more than 20 years of contributions to the field of science education, and is the first WMU faculty member to have ever earned this award.

Dr. John Spitsbergen, chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, calls Rudge a “truly outstanding instructor,” particularly noting his innovative approaches to teaching. One example is the “flipped classroom approach” Rudge used that required students to view online lectures, take online quizzes and do homework outside of class prior to class meeting. Most in-person classes were devoted to answering student questions about the online work with students being split into smaller groups.

“This decision transformed the passive learning environment associated with a traditional lecture to one that prompted active engagement and gave students opportunities to meet and work with one another,” writes Spitsbergen.

Rudge’s work for the Mallinson Institute for Science Education is also praised by its director, Dr. Charles Henderson, who is also this year’s Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award recipient.

Rudge “is truly dedicated to improving how students learn both science and about science. The connection between his teaching, research and service is seamless,” writes Henderson. “His contributions run the gamut from developing innovative ways to use stories from the history of science to teach science, to systematic studies of the efficacy of these approaches in his classroom and broad advocacy of the use of history as a leader both at WMU and internationally.”

His students appreciate his engaging and helpful teaching style, adds Peng Dai, a WMU Ph.D. candidate who worked as a graduate research assistant with Rudge.

“I was struck by his ability to engage students with science stories, reflective discussions and class activities while fostering a welcoming and supportive learning environment. His lectures were clear and well structured,” Dai writes. “His ability to convey complex scientific concepts in an accessible and engaging manner was truly remarkable, and he often used real‐world examples to illustrate content within a context. Additionally, Dr. Rudge made himself available to students outside of class, meeting with them one‐on-one to discuss course material and answer any questions they had."

Rudge will be honored alongside recipients of other prestigious campuswide honors: Distinguished Faculty Scholar, Distinguished Service, Emerging Scholar, Excellence in Diversity and annual Make a Difference awards. The Fall Awards Celebration begins at 11 a.m. in the Kirsch Auditorium of the Fetzer Center with a luncheon to follow and concludes at 1:30 p.m.

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