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Four faculty recognized for distinguished contributions

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The 2013 recipients of the Distinguished Contributions to Teaching and Learning awards are [L to R] Laura Boisen, David Matz, Darcey Engen, and Colin Irvine.
Each year, the Augsburg College faculty recognize members of their group for outstanding support of students through teaching, advising, and mentoring. Whether they are working with students in the classroom, in the laboratory, or in the community, faculty provide distinctive learning experiences that foster student success and strengthen Augsburg’s reputation as a high-quality liberal arts college.

The 2013 recipients of the Distinguished Contributions to Teaching and Learning awards have made exemplary contributions to creating an engaging academic learning environment through teaching, scholarship, and mentoring and advising.

For Excellence in Mentoring and Advising: Laura Boisen, Professor of Social Work

Laura Boisen is known for her complete dedication to mentoring all those with whom she comes into contact in the Social Work Department, including current students and junior faculty as well as alumni.

Boisen, the field coordinator for students in the College’s Master of Social Work (MSW) program, was recognized for her work to ensure students gain hands-on skills during their studies.

“Laura has taken great pains to ensure that every single MSW student…has a practicum experience that enriches their learning and helps them to achieve a high level of skill and professionalism,” wrote one of Boisen’s colleagues.

Boisen also volunteers her time to coach alumni in their efforts to pass the state social work licensing exam. Nancy Rodenborg, chair of the Social Work Department, said this work demonstrates Boisen’s commitment to helping ensure social workers can provide services within their own communities and cultures.

This sentiment was echoed by a group of MSW alumni who said Boisen “provided the best of the best for us…. It was through Dr. Boisen’s outstanding teaching strategies that we are now able to serve in communities that have long been waiting for members of their community to provide them with the best social services possible.”

For Excellence in Scholarship: David Matz, Associate Professor of Psychology

David Matz is recognized for his commitment to mentoring students through the research process and for his skill at matching students’ interests and ability levels to their work.

“Students who work with him are excited about research and ultimately confident that the work they have done represents quality scholarship in their field,” said Dixie Shafer, director of Augsburg’s URGO program.

Shafer said Matz sets a high bar but helps students achieve his rigorous standards. Some of his students, she said, present their work at national conferences, a high accomplishment for undergraduates.

Matz has served as adviser, professor, mentor, and colleague to Hillary “Hue” Manning ’13 and was a co-adviser on her summer research project

“Dr. Matz was always there to help me plan, keep track of deadlines, and stay true to good scholarship,” she said. “…[He] has challenged me, inspired me, and helped me see how my scholarly strengths fit with the needs of my field.”

In addition to teaching, Matz is the chair of the Psychology Department. His scholarly interests include groups and group decision-making, cognitive dissonance, evolutionary psychology and mate selection, and the relationship between religion and prejudice. Matz established an eye-tracking lab at Augsburg, which is used to study the relationship between physical features, attention, and the perceptions of desirable characteristics in potential mates.

For Excellence in Scholarship: Darcey Engen, Associate Professor of Theater Arts

Darcey Engen ’88 practices her scholarly activity through professional theater work in the community, which enables her to bring her writing, acting, and directing experiences to Augsburg students in the classroom and on the stage.

“I believe it has been Darcey, as much as anyone on this campus, who has helped us understand what scholarship ‘looks like’ for someone centered in the arts,” said Bob Cowgill, a professor of English who has worked with Engen on several Augsburg theater productions.

Engen, who serves as chair of the Augsburg Theater Arts Department, worked with colleagues on an original production, titled Im Telling. The play draws on Engen’s research with mothers in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood and explores issues of “everyday motherhood.” Engen said performing is vital to her life as a professor. “A piece of artistic work created by a performer is her scholarship,” she said. “It’s how we interact with big ideas about the human journey.”

Engen and Twin Cities professional theater artists also have brought the classical theater experience to rural Minnesota. In 2011 and 2012, Engen and her husband, Luverne Siefert ’83, received grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board to create site-specific productions of Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard.  Engen and Siefert adapted the play and performed with actors and musicians from Minnesota communities and the Twin Cities. During summer 2013, an additional grant will allow them to present a site-specific adaptation of Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Visit at historic villages in Minnesota.

For Excellence in Teaching: Colin Irvine, Associate Professor of English

Colin Irvine is recognized for meeting students where they are and helping them achieve success. Colleagues noted Irvine’s ability to make concepts and theories understandable to students at every level.

Irvine is an associate professor of English and the summer research coordinator for the Office of Undergraduate Research and Graduate Opportunity (URGO) at Augsburg. In addition to teaching courses in environmental studies and writing, Irvine teaches a reading and literature methods course in the education department. He has mentored student researchers on a project to annotate Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac and has advised students who have gone on to prestigious graduate programs. During 2011-12, he taught and lectured as a Fulbright Roving Scholar in Norway.

Barbara West, assistant professor of education and director of teacher placement and licensing at Augsburg, said Irvine’s experience as a high school language arts teacher and his years of teaching methods courses at the College give him an exceptional ability to work with teacher candidates.

“The students who have taken Colin’s methods class speak highly of his content mastery and his ability to guide them to acquire effective strategies to engage high school students in learning literature, poetry, and composition,” West said.

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