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UW-Eau Claire History Department Receives
UW System Excellence Award

RELEASED: Oct. 13, 2006

UW-Eau Claire Excellence MedallionEAU CLAIRE — The history department at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is the recipient of the 14th annual Regents Teaching Excellence Award for Academic Departments and Programs.

The award is intended to recognize and reward an academic department or program at a UW System institution that demonstrates exceptional commitment to teaching and learning.

"This is a tremendous honor," said Dr. Kate Lang, associate professor of history and chair of the history department. "Our history faculty are committed to student learning for all of our students, including those who pursue their Ph.D.s, those who teach in the K-12 schools and those who study history as part of a liberal arts education. It's wonderful to be recognized for our commitment and for the faculty's hard work."

The award pays tribute to the history department's dedication and to the faculty's ability to inspire in its students an enthusiasm for learning in the classroom and beyond, Board of Regents President David Walsh and Regent Danae Davis stated in a letter announcing the award.

"Additionally, this award recognizes the spirit of collaboration and cooperation at the heart of your program, qualities that invigorate academic life and are essential the scholarship of teaching and learning," the letter states.

The award is yet another example of the UW-Eau Claire faculty's commitment to students, said Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich.

"The faculty and staff in the history department are doing exceptional things in an effort to give their students the best possible college experience," Levin-Stankevich said. "They're innovative, creative, hard working and always looking for new ways to enhance student learning. I'm especially impressed by their collaborative approach to teaching and learning. They've developed important partnerships within the university and with numerous external organizations such as schools and museums. This department is very deserving of this prestigious honor."

Lang said history faculty recognize that the world in which its students will live after graduation will continuously change, and students must be prepared to adapt to those changes.

"Our students need to be able to think critically and creatively, and to understand how the global community in which we live came to be," Lang said.

In recent years, the department has strengthened its leadership role in student research, secured grants that total more than $3.5 million to establish graduate programs for K-12 teachers, established a center dedicated to history teaching and learning, and created a new undergraduate program in public history.

"These accomplishments have greatly enriched our students, the university and the broader community," Lang said.

The accomplishments reflect the faculty's commitment to building partnerships on and off campus, Lang said. For example, the Center for History Teaching and Learning, a partnership between the history department and the College of Education and Human Sciences, helps develop future teachers and provides continuing education to practicing teachers. Other examples of important partners include the Chippewa Valley Museum and the Wisconsin Historical Society.

The department is especially excited about its newly created public history program, Lang said, adding that the program is an excellent example of how faculty are making meaningful contributions to area schools and communities.

In the public history program, students learn to do professional historical research and writing, and then present their findings to the general public rather than to academic audiences, Lang said. Graduates of the program work in places as varied as state and national parks, museums, archives and businesses, she said, noting that graduates currently work for the History Channel and for the New England Patriots football organization.

Several graduates of the history department stated in letters of support to the awards committee that history faculty contributed greatly to their success in college and beyond.

"My respect for their knowledge, teaching ability and professionalism are great," Melissa Holmen, a 2005 graduate who currently works for the Chippewa Valley Museum and the Eau Claire Historic Preservation Foundation, said of the faculty. "Even after I graduated, their interest in my career continued. One professor taught me how to write grant proposals for state contracts, kept me informed on job opportunities, and gave me advice finding employment in the field of history. These efforts helped tremendously."

Shane Butterfield, a 2002 graduate who is earning his doctorate at the University of Rochester in New York, said the faculty gave him the skills and confidence to think ambitiously as he looked to his future.

"Though all of its faculty members are renowned scholars, the strength of the department is teaching students and developing their abilities," Butterfield said.

The partnerships between faculty in the history and education programs was particularly impressive, said Christopher Cantwell, a 2003 graduate who is earning his doctorate at Cornell University in New York. By working so closely, students planning to teach at the elementary or secondary levels knew their history and learned how to effectively present it, he said.

"Looking back upon my time at UW-Eau Claire, perhaps the greatest thing about the history department and I think UW-Eau Claire in general was the freedom students are given to direct their studies toward topics and projects of their own personal and intellectual interests," Cantwell said. "They allowed me to explore avenues of research that interested me and provided every sort of aid they could to help me grow personally as a scholar."

UW-Eau Claire currently has about 300 students majoring in history and in broad field social science with a history emphasis, as well as 70 history minors. The department's master's program has 28 student enrolled, the maximum possible.

The selection of the history department as the Regents Teaching Excellence Award for Academic Departments and Programs recipient was made by a special Regent committee from among nominations submitted by UW campuses throughout the state.

The excellence award will be presented during the Nov. 10 Board of Regents meeting in Madison.



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