Finalists announced for 2015 Wythe Award


Kiley Wellendorf

Kiley Wellendorf | News Co-Editor

Last week, the 2015 finalists for the George Wythe Award, Buena Vista University’s (BVU) highest award for teaching excellence, was announced. This year’s finalists include the following professors on campus: Professor Beth Blankers, Associate Professor of Accounting; Dr. Bob Blodgett, Professor of Psychology; Dr. Andrea Frantz, Associate Professor of Digital Media; and Dr. Jason Shepherd, Assistant Professor of Computer Science. The Wythe Award, prominent since 1987, gives voice to the BVU community by allowing individuals to nominate a professor who fits exemplifies teaching excellence.

These four professors were hand-picked by students, faculty members, and also members of the BVU campus, and were approached once they made the cut of finalists.

“When I look at the other three people who are finalists, I am so incredibly honored to be considered in that category. They’re just great professors, and being considered equal to or part of that group – that’s win enough for me,” Frantz said.

Blodgett said he was feeling humble after receiving the nomination.

“I feel like I am in really good company,” Blodgett said.

Blankers shared a similar response to Frantz and also felt honored to have an affiliation with this award.

“It is really such an honor to be named a finalist for this award, particularly when I look at the distinguished list of past recipients,” Blankers said.

Overwhelmed, humbled, and honored are common reactions amongst the four finalists whose nominations came as a shock at first.

“BVU is blessed by the skill and dedication of its faculty, and choosing only four faculty members to serve as finalists must be an extraordinarily difficult task for the Wythe committee,” Shepherd said.

These four finalists, whose years at BVU have shaped them as individuals and professors, currently teach a number of classes on campus. The finalists touched-upon all of their classes that hold distinct qualities in determining which class they enjoy the most.

“I like teaching the Accounting Foundations course because I can introduce accounting to students from all across campus,” Blankers said, “And I like teaching the upper level accounting courses because the content is challenging, and I see accounting majors develop academically and professionally as they progress through the courses from semester to semester.”

Shepherd says that it’s fulfilling to teach students to think like computer scientists. Shepherd is able to teach students to think like this through a computational and algorithmic approach.

“As much as I love teaching advanced topics in upper-level Computer Science courses, my favorite course to teach is CMSC 181, Computer Science I,” Shepherd said. “The course really serves two audiences, both aspiring computer scientists and the general education audience.”

“I don’t know if I have a preference,” Blodgett said, “Research Methods and Statistics is fun because I get to see students do research and learn about statistical concepts.”

Frantz finds it difficult to pick a specific class and even refers to her Information Gathering class as a “month-long treasure hunt.”

“I am deeply passionate about the law and ethics class because I find law so incredibly stimulating,” Frantz said, “At the same level, I really love this Information Gathering class that I developed last year mostly because everything’s a surprise in this class.”

Each professor holds an immense passion for their subject of teaching, and while their classroom has experienced important moments, BVU has allowed professors to become more than just professors on campus.

“My favorite moments are the moments we’ve faced together through failure and we’ve come back from the brink,” Frantz said, “That student will come into my class or come into my office usually beaming because they finally passed math, or they’ve achieved something that they didn’t believe they could achieve and they’re back on the right track, and they’re finding success, and I get to live that ride with them.”

“My hope is always that I motivate students to learn and achieve, but I’ve found that students really do motivate me, too,” Blankers said, “I think I work at my best in the college environment.”

Shepherd shares the incredible feeling of allowing students to land a comfortable life after their time at BVU.

“So many of our students matriculate at BVU simply concerned about whether they’re going to be able to get a job after they graduate, and it’s a joy for me when they realize that not only can they get a job, they can get a really cool and highly stimulating job,” Shepherd said.

The winner of this award will receive a sabbatical and a $30,000 stipend for faculty development. The winner will be announced at the Faculty and Staff Recognition Dinner on Friday, May 22.

Graphic by Krystal Schulte