Four Female Professors are Selected for Prestigious Wythe Award


Credit to BVU News

Ms. Miranda Pollock, Dr. Gwen Hart, Dr. Bethany Larson, Dr. Andrea Frantz

Olivia Wieseler, News Editor

Four women are finalists for the 2018 George Wythe Award. On Feburary 26, Associate Professor of Graphic Design Miranda Pollock, Associate Professor of English Composition Dr. Gwen Hart, Associate Professor of Theatre Dr. Bethany Larson, and Professor of Digital Media Dr. Andrea Frantz became finalists for showing superior ability to educate and build relationships with students at Buena Vista University (BVU).

The George Wythe Award, named for the famous educator of founding fathers like Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe, was endowed by the late Paul and Vivian McCorkle in 1988. It is considered the highest honor for recognizing excellence in teaching at BVU. The winner of this award will receive a $30,000 stipend for continuing education and research, along with a semester long sabbatical.

Although they come from different backgrounds, each of these four professors have devoted their life to providing a quality education for their students.

Pollock began at BVU in August 2014 as a visiting professor of graphic design. She then went full-time in 2015. She teaches courses in Graphic Design, Animation, and Gender and Women Studies at BVU.

Pollock was shocked when she found out she was a finalist.

“I was surprised, honored, and humbled at the honor of being selected as a finalist,” said Pollock. “I cannot imagine a greater honor than being recognized for being an excellent teacher.”

If Pollock wins the award, she plans to use the money and time to continue her education or develop her art.

“Either of these would enhance my abilities and scholarship, not only as a professional but as a teacher. These would help me become more knowledgeable and a better teacher for my students,” which is what the Wythe Award is all about.

Dr. Hart is in her eighth year at BVU. From an early age, Hart loved the English language. Today, Hart brings the joy she finds in writing to her classroom.

Hart says she felt particularly honored to be a finalist for the Wythe Award because she usually teaches general education courses. For students, faculty, and staff to recognize Hart’s excellence in teaching meant a lot to her.

“It makes me feel good that students who had me for [written communication] or working with me in the CAE felt like they really benefitted from it,” said Hart.

If she is selected for the award, she would use it towards possibly finishing her third poetry collection, conferences like the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, or something similar. Whatever it is, Hart says, “[I hope to] be able to come back and share some of that stuff with people in my classes.”

Dr. Larson is a professor of theatre at BVU. She and her husband, David Walker, moved to Storm Lake, Iowa, in 1994 for her husband to build sets and teach public speaking at BVU. Not long after Walker began his work, Larson was hired as ACES coordinator. From there, she worked her way up the ladder to her position today.

“My astrological sign is Capricorn. Capricorn is a mountain goat. And that’s kind of how I am. I see where I want to go, and I might not get there the fastest, but I very rarely will stop working to get to that goal,” said Larson.

Receiving a nomination and being selected as a Wythe Award finalist, Larson is being recognized for her hard work. To her, being a finalist for the Wythe Award cannot hardly be put into words.

“To be included with these other three women…I don’t even know how to speak about it. It’s glorious and humbling, incredibly humbling. It’s kind of overwhelming,” said Larson.

Larson recognized this award is meant for someone who wants to continue to excel in their profession, not only as a professor, but as a teacher.

“It’s about honoring all this that has happened in my past with all these students that have worked with me, and preparing and creating fertile avenues for future teaching and learning,” said Larson.

The fourth finalist for the award is Dr. Andrea Frantz. Frantz has been teaching for 31 years, 11 of them at BVU.

“It’s clear I dedicated my life to this, and so it is very, very gratifying to know that people around you think that what you do is valuable,” said Frantz.

Frantz hopes that if she would receive the award, she would use it to pursue opportunities that will help her grow as a teacher. She says that since the retirement of former Professor of Digital Media, Dr. Bruce Ellingson, her position in the Digital Media program shifted. She now teaches more photography and radio than ever before. This award would improve her skills these areas that had not originally been her specialty. But first, she would like to go back to Ireland to finish her book.

“I think working on my own individual book as a photographer and a community journalist in that capacity makes me better at teaching it,” said Frantz.

Second, she would like to enroll in the Transom Story Workshop, a nine-week summer course at Cape Cod in advanced audio storytelling.

“It’s kind of a big huge dream of mine especially since I started teaching this, and I think it would make me a better teacher” said Frantz.

All four of these women visibly love and support BVU and all the people in it, especially their students. The students are what drive their work, and each professor is quick to say the work they do with their students is what rewards them the most.

For Pollock, it is encouraging students in their work.

“To be a part of the student learning and growth process is an incredible accomplishment,” said Pollock. “When I watch students struggle and grasp for design solutions and then suddenly develop ideas and designs that are the result of work and trial is an incredibly powerful moment for me.”

For Hart, it is the Hot Dish Literary Magazine.

“It’s not really my accomplishment, because it’s really the students who have done it,” said Hart. “The students have really gone, honestly, above and beyond what I thought they would do. I’m hopeful that’s going to keep growing.”

For Larson, it is all the plays she has directed.

“Every single one of them represents, for me, a family,” said Larson. “The students who were in Little Shop of Horrors or the students who were in Our Country’s Good, that part of what I do is maybe the most gratifying: to bring people together, to make something that is going to matter.”

For Frantz, it is being a part of the student’s BVU career.

“I think my proudest accomplishments actually have been when I’ve watched some of my students walk across that graduation stage knowing that kind of work we had to put in to get that to happen,” said Frantz. “I think that’s why I became a teacher.”

Not only do these four women prove to be excellent educators, but past Wythe Award winners have all been recognized for their merit in teaching.

“I think honestly BVU has more great teachers than we can even honor in a year,” said Hart.

And the professors that represent this award are more than what Paul and Vivian McCorkle could’ve hoped for.

“If you got six students in the class, and you’ve got them excited and they want to learn more than you are normally feeding them, that is the kind of teacher we are looking for,” McCorkle said in a 1993 interview at BVU.