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Aug. 21, 2008
Contact: Jill Jess, University Relations, (785) 864-8858.

Five KU professors surprised today with Kemper fellowships

LAWRENCE — Five University of Kansas professors got a special kickoff to the new school year today when the “surprise patrol” led by Chancellor Robert Hemenway presented them with $5,000 W.T. Kemper Fellowships in recognition of their teaching and advising excellence.

In all, 20 professors will be honored and $100,000 distributed this year as part of the Kemper tradition. The patrol will hand out awards to additional unsuspecting professors Aug. 21-22, Aug. 25-27 and Sept. 2.

The W.T. Kemper Fellowships for Teaching Excellence recognize outstanding teachers and advisers at KU as determined by a seven-member selection committee. Now in their 13th year, the awards have been supported by a $650,000 gift from the William T. Kemper Foundation (Commerce Bank, trustee) and $650,000 in matching funds from KU Endowment.

The William T. Kemper Foundation was established in 1989 after Kemper’s death. The foundation is dedicated to continuing Kemper’s lifelong interest in improving the human condition and quality of life. The foundation supports Midwest communities and concentrates on initiatives in education, health and human services, civic improvements and the arts.

KU Endowment is the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment is the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.

Today’s honorees were:

Elizabeth Asiedu
Associate professor of economics and associate chair and director of graduate studies for the Department of Economics

Elizabeth Asiedu is entering her 10th year of teaching KU students. She arrived here in 1998 after earning her doctorate in economics from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. A native of Ghana, Asiedu is emerging as a leading expert in the field of African economic development. Joseph Sicilian, chair of economics, describes Asiedu as “an exceptional mentor of students. She is fiercely dedicated to her students and this is reflected in their appreciation of her.” Indeed, one economics undergraduate who was assisted by Asiedu in finding an internship in Ghana says, “Please understand my sincerity when I say that Professor Asiedu’s impact on my learning and my life has been profound and lasting, and I hope to consider her my friend for a very long time to come.”

Mary Banwart
Associate professor of communication studies

Mary Banwart is always looking for ways to improve the educational experience in all her classes — making the courses not only more engaging but also more rigorous. And her students take notice: “Dr. Banwart excels at engaging students in the classroom because she is personally invested in the class and excited to be teaching. Her influence has shaped my life phenomenally.” She also has incorporated public outreach activities into her teaching, including recent work with the Kansas Legislature and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. “I’ve been particularly impressed with the way that she has included outreach efforts to involve the university, local and political community in her various courses,” said Robert Rowland, professor and chair of communication studies. Banwart earned her doctorate in communication in 2002 from the University of Oklahoma.

Marta Caminero-Santangelo
Associate professor of English

Marta Caminero-Santangelo’s students quickly learn the importance of classroom participation — her courses are not for the passive. “Marta’s skill at promoting classroom discussion is legendary. This is partly talent, but also a product of conscious attempts to develop her teaching skills,” said Dorice Williams Elliott, associate professor and chair of the Department of English. Caminero-Santangelo spearheaded the creation of the Latino/a studies minor, which was approved this spring. She also organized the first-ever national, interdisciplinary U.S. Latino/a Studies Conference, hosted by KU. Says Williams Elliott: “Marta Caminero-Santangelo is not only a naturally gifted teacher, but also one who continually reflects on her teaching practices and strives to improve.”

Paul Hanson
Professor of chemistry

Paul Hanson demands a lot of his students, but he also gives them a lot of himself. Since 2005, Hanson has taught the two-semester sequence in undergraduate organic chemistry, with enrollments ranging as high as 556 students. “It is a rare day when Paul does not have 10 to 20 students lined up outside his door,” says Joseph Heppert, professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry. “Students seek him out for individual help and flock to his review sessions.” In fact, Hanson won the 2006 H.O.P.E. award. The Honor for an Outstanding Progressive Educator is the only KU award given exclusively by students for teaching excellence. One of his former students captured his experience in Hanson’s class this way: “I learned not only chemistry, but how to study and be a better student.”

Shannon O’Lear
Associate professor of geography and environmental studies

Shannon O’Lear wants her students to know that geography is more than just memorizing state capitals. “(Her) ability to connect complex concepts that stem from her research with the content of an introductory course in human geography is exceptional,” says Terry Slocum, chair of the Department of Geography. Two of O’Lear’s courses are cross-listed as geography and environmental studies. And this fall, she is co-teaching Eurasian Security and Geopolitics, which is cross-listed with geography, political science, environmental studies and the Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies. O’Lear is passionate about teaching. As J. Christopher Brown, associate professor of geography, says in his nomination for O’Lear: “It is not an overstatement to say that when she is not meeting with and mentoring students, she can most frequently be seen engaging other faculty members and graduate teaching assistants on the topic of teaching.”

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