History department wins award for teaching excellence

History department wins award for teaching excellence

The Department of History at Nebraska is this year's winner of the system-wide departmental teaching award.

Nebraska's Department of History has earned the University-wide Departmental Teaching Award.

The annual award recognizes a department or unit for unique and significant contributions to the University of Nebraska system’s teaching efforts. The winner receives $25,000 to be used in a manner the department sees fit, such as travel to a conference or instructional equipment.

Chaired by James Le Sueur, the Department of History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has 27 faculty and 14 graduate assistants, with nearly 200 undergraduate majors, 60 graduate students and more than 2,000 students who take history courses each semester.

The department has a record of teaching excellence. In the past five years, faculty have developed additional teaching innovations to enhance student learning and engagement. Examples include:

  • The department is a national leader in the digital humanities, playing a key role in the development of Nebraska’s Center for Digital Research in the Humanities. Students learn computer programming, web design, database curation and video development while deepening analytical and interpretive skills.

  • Students in the History Harvest program digitally capture artifacts brought in by the public – letters, photographs and other objects – and document them on a free web archive. The program serves the state and is a model for other universities.

  • In 2009-10, faculty shifted class emphasis from coverage to more disciplinary thinking, involving critical thinking and writing skills. Faculty established new learning objectives at each class level.

  • The department has become a system-wide leader in distance education.

  • The History Club is available to all majors and the national history honor society, Phi Alpha Theta, was revitalized at Nebraska. Scholarly activities outside the classroom deepen students’ learning and engagement. The number of history majors has been consistent in the last decade thanks to a focus on advising and mentorship. The History Alumni Advisory Council also recruits and fundraises.

  • The department has focused on attracting first-year students to history courses. A wider variety of classes are offered and the department also earned grants for improving undergraduate students’ success, which allowed for peer tutoring opportunities and a workshop on increasing student participation and active disciplinary learning.

  • New emphasis on training historians has enhanced the graduate program. Graduate students must take a course equipping them to teach, and they annually organize a conference to share and discuss history research.

  • The department’s mentoring program promotes faculty development, ensuring that new colleagues are engaged in the department’s goals and promoting sustained teaching excellence.

The award was announced March 6.