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Around the Columns

Honoring excellence


Dorina Kosztin keeps it interesting for students in a physics for elementary school teachers course.  Photo by Rob Hill.

It’s not often that the MU chancellor gets to plan a surprise award ceremony. Such goings-on are typically well planned and carefully orchestrated, but once a year formality is thrown to honor a few excellent teachers.

In April 2008, Chancellor Brady J. Deaton and Jim Schatz, chairman of Commerce Bank in Columbia, surprised five faculty members in their classrooms to award them with a William T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence.

The fellowship was established in 1991 with a gift from William T. Kemper, BA ’25, who was a well-known civic leader in Kansas City. Each year, the honor — and a $10,000 bonus — goes to five faculty members at MU to recognize their commitment to high-quality education.

“I was so surprised,” says Dorina Kosztin, associate teaching professor in the department of physics and astronomy, and one of this year’s fellows. “All of a sudden I saw this blinding light coming down the steps — I keep it somewhat dark in the classroom so students can see the projector — and then I saw a big procession. Up until that point, I had no idea.”

For the past seven years, Kosztin has taught calculus-based physics for engineers and science majors. “I do whatever I think is going tohelp my students learn,” she says. “Because they’re engineering majors, they have to learn the basics, and I have to show them the real-life application.”

Academic departments nominate faculty for the award. The application includes teacher evaluations from the past five years and students’ letters of recommendation.

Other 2008 fellowship recipients include:

  • Wayne Brekhus, associate professor of sociology and director of undergraduate studies for sociology;
  •  Robert Terry Jr., professor and department chair of agricultural education;
  • Anand Chandrasekhar, associate professor of biological sciences; and
  • Tony Lupo, associate professor of soil, environmental and atmospheric sciences.