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Aug. 26, 2008
Contact: Jill Jess, University Relations, (785) 864-8858.

Kemper fellowships handed out to three more KU professors

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas “surprise patrol” handed out $5,000 Kemper Fellowships for Teaching Excellence to three unsuspecting professors last night and today.

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

Winners announced last night and today are: John Nalbandian, professor of public administration; Kristi Neufeld, assistant professor of molecular biosciences; and John Hoopes, associate professor of anthropology.

In all, 20 professors will be honored and $100,000 distributed this year as part of the Kemper tradition. Presentations for Lawrence campus faculty members will continue through Tuesday, Sept. 2. Four professors at the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., also will be honored.

The William T. Kemper Foundation was established in 1989 after the death of the Kansas City, Mo., banking executive and civic leader. 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.

More about today’s winners:

John Hoopes
Associate professor of anthropology

John Hoopes knows how to make “fantastic” preconceptions work in his anthropology classroom. “Pop culture provided a valuable ‘hook’ to grab interest for frequent ‘teaching moments’ about how to distinguish racism, nationalism, belief and science,” he says. Students in his classes take away more than a knowledge of the subject, they learn a new way to think. “The course was one of the best I have taken at KU,” says one student. “Learning to be a better critical thinker is one of the best tools one can use in life.” His colleagues in anthropology agree and say this is just one example of what makes Hoopes a superior professor. “He simply loves teaching and is especially committed to very high standards and promoting (essentially demanding) critical thinking the classroom.”

John Nalbandian
Professor of public administration

John Nalbandian’s passion for serving students carries over into lifelong mentorships. “There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t apply what I learned from John about city management and serving the public,” noted one former student who serves in a senior position in a major city. Nalbandian’s expertise is recognized nationwide, say his colleagues in the Department of Public Administration. “John is the undisputed intellectual leader not only in our department but in the United States in the teaching of professional local government administration.”

Kristi Neufeld
Assistant professor of molecular biosciences

Kristi Neufeld’s colleagues describe her as the premier scientist conducting basic cancer research on the Lawrence campus. Who knew she was also a playwright? To increase class interactivity in the complex instruction of cell division, Neufeld wrote a four-act play. Students starred as proteins interacting within a cell, complete with silly accents such as “Valley girl, surfer dude and sleazy pickup artist.” Hilarity — and education — ensued. Neufeld’s research infuses her classes with vitality. As colleagues say in nominating Neufeld for a Kemper fellowship: “She truly does give information about cancer to the students directly from someone who is making the discoveries.”

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The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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