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Educators Honored with University Foundations Awards

University Foundations faculty pose together
University Foundations faculty summit and reception, spring 2019, Aaron Bacus Photo

University Foundations held its first faculty summit on Friday, March 29, which gathered together faculty from across the university to talk about Boise State’s general education courses, from Geology 100 to Spanish 101.

Faculty attended a plenary session of the summit focused on better transmitting the importance of general education and the University’s shared learning goals to students. Then faculty split up to join one of 10 breakout workshops to more deeply consider their own courses and disciplinary categories.

The faculty summit closed with Boise State’s first annual University Foundations teaching awards, celebrating exemplary teaching for non-majors. Faculty were nominated by fellow instructors or department chairs based on evidence of exemplary teaching, creativity in course design or implementation, and excellence in translating disciplinary methods of inquiry to non-majors.

“These are faculty that have not often been recognized for their efforts and I was very happy to be able to recognize their exceptional contributions,” said Professor John Bieter, interim director of the program.

Around 500 people teach foundation courses on campus, and those courses expose all undergraduate students to a range of disciplines outside their major. Foundations courses make students into better citizens with broad perspectives on an ever-changing world, Bieter said.

The following instructors received awards for their excellent teaching:

  • Foundations of Writing: Lori Chastaine Michas, English

“She pays attention to the learning that happens within her classroom, and adjusts her teaching to meet students where they are at,” said nominator Tiffany Hitesman.

    • Foundations of Oral Communication: Jonathan Krutz and Mary Olson, marketing

“This class was one of the most beneficial and fun classes that I have taken,” said one of Krutz’s students.

“Feels like not enough time as I am so interested and happy in this class,” one of Olson’s students said.

      • Foundations of Arts: Ann Price, theatre arts

“She has been teaching Intro to Theatre for us for the past 25 years,” said nominator and department chair Richard Klautsch. “She has never once in her time teaching Intro to Theatre settled for the status quo or passed up a chance to find new ways of engaging her students (the vast majority of whom are not theatre majors).”

      • Foundations of Humanities: Jennifer Black, English

“I had always assumed that online learning was a lesser substitute for bricks-and-mortar education, but teaching [the online course Black developed] demolished that assumption. I saw great learning outcomes, excellent student participation, and students often emailed me to thank me for the class,” said nominator Samantha Harvey.

      • Foundations of Mathematics: Eric Knowles, mathematics

“This course actually teaches real-world scenarios in which an understanding in math is beneficial. This helped to anchor my understanding of the importance of the topics, and strengthen my drive to understand them,” said a student of Knowles.

      • Foundations of Natural, Physical, and Applied Sciences: Tiffany Watkins, physics

“Her PHYS 211 section consistently draws the largest enrollment. She is devoted to the scholarship of learning and to evidence-base teaching approaches, and she inspires enthusiasm for science among college students from all majors,” said nominator Susan Shadle.

      • Foundations of Social Sciences: Michelle Kinney, anthropology

“This class was formatted and delivered in a manner which everyone could learn, if you didn’t learn it was your choice,” said one student.

      • University Foundations 100: Stewart Gardner, political science

“His lectures are mind-blowing!” said one student.

      • University Foundations 200: Chris Klover, university foundations

“Chris exposes students to multiple real-world issues that students have the potential to impact. As one student noted, ‘this class . . . . broadens students views on the world, the local community, and even themselves,'” said nominator Matt Recla.

      • Finishing Foundations: Tara Penry, English

“Tara illustrates how humanities-based skills, too often disparaged as impractical, can be leveraged to do important change-making work on campus and in the community. Her approach puts student experience and expertise at the center of the course, empowering them to take ownership of their skills and experiences,” said nominator Kelly Myers.


Boise State also has been working with the Idaho State Board of Education to broadly recognize outstanding teaching in general education courses for non-majors, which can be particularly challenging courses to teach. Six of Boise State’s winners will become the university’s nominees for the new statewide awards (which also will include nominees from other colleges and universities in Idaho).