Texas Tech University

History Department Wins Departmental Excellence in Teaching Award

Glenys Young

May 1, 2015

The $25,000 prize may go toward the creation of a digital history lab for online teaching.

Sean Cunningham

The Texas Tech University Teaching Academy recently honored the Department of History with the Departmental Excellence in Teaching Award.

The Departmental Excellence in Teaching Award is presented in recognition of a department or comparable academic unit that has made unique and significant contributions to the teaching mission of the university and has a spirit of unity in its dedication to the education of students at the undergraduate, graduate and/or professional level.

“According to the chairperson of the search committee for this year's selection, one of the main things that stood out about the Department of History is the consistently high teaching evaluations for its faculty, particularly in the large service courses offered,” said Shannon Bichard, chairwoman of the Teaching Academy. “The faculty in the department are also involved in multiple activities to promote the scholarship of teaching.”

The general criterion for the award is the existence of a teaching culture that reflects commitment to students, makes teaching a high departmental priority and facilitates teaching excellence throughout the department.

“Many people think studying history is about memorizing names and dates. In fact, the study of history is the study of who we are and why we are the way we are,” said Sean P. Cunningham, interim chairman of the department. “Our teachers respect this and do what they can to make sure our students engage the past with an eye for not only understanding what happened, but also for understanding and debating why something happened and what the impact of that something was on the long-term development of the world in which we live. I think our teachers do a great job of making the past relevant to a new generation of future leaders.”

The award carries a $25,000 prize to be used for the enhancement of teaching in any way the department determines.

“Very tentatively, we plan to use our award to develop a digital history lab in Holden Hall,” Cunningham said. “Among many other uses, this lab would enable our instructors to more easily create high-quality courses for online teaching.”

The mission of the Teaching Academy at Texas Tech University is to advocate for teaching excellence, promote service related to the university's teaching mission, advise and mentor colleagues and others and share knowledge about teaching strategies and their implementation as appropriate.

“I'm incredibly proud of this award, and am very thankful to have been chosen,” Cunningham said. “American higher education often gets caught in a research-driven rat race, which creates a world in which being a good teacher sometimes gets forgotten or ignored. We believe that research and teaching go hand in hand, but in this case, it's nice to be recognized for the most critically fundamental thing we can do at a university: educating students.”