STARKVILLE, Miss.--Mississippi State associate professor Rick Travis believes a good teacher doesn't limit teaching to the classroom--it's the starting point.
The faculty member in the department of political science and public administration often carries discussions into the hallways of Bowen Hall and other parts of campus about foreign policy, peacekeeping and nation-building. He believes students should get to know professors outside of the classroom to experience the informal aspects of learning, asking questions during one-on-one discussions.
Conversations with him usually involve digging below surface explanations of political issues, challenging students to think beyond easy responses.
"I will not settle for simplistic or ideological-based answers," he said. "But rather I expect students to explain issues from more than one theoretical perspective."
For his passion in encouraging students to think for themselves, Travis recently was honored as 2010 Mississippi Professor of the Year. The award is given annually by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.
Each year, the U.S. Professors of the Year program salutes the most outstanding undergraduate instructors in the country, faculty who excel in teaching and positively influence the lives and careers of students. It is the only national program to recognize excellence in undergraduate instruction and mentoring.
All undergraduate teachers in the United States, of any academic rank at any type of undergraduate institution, are eligible for the award. Entries are judged by top U.S. educators and other active participants in education.
The Council for Advancement and Support of Education launched the awards program in 1981. That same year, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching began hosting the final round of judging, and in 1982, became the primary sponsor.
K.C. Morrison, head of MSU's department of political science and public administration, said Travis' accomplishment reflects well on the department, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the entire university. Along with Travis' teaching in the classroom, Morrison also said the instructor's role as a department undergraduate adviser shows how much he cares about students.
"As department head, I am astounded, as are his colleagues, at the prodigious effort he puts not only into classroom teaching, but also into advising undergraduate students," Morrison said. "Dr. Travis is superior at it, bringing boundless energy and attentiveness."
Travis has had a reputation for many years as one of the most engaging and student-friendly faculty members at MSU. Recipient of many teaching honors, he has won each of the three undergraduate teaching awards at the university, and was one of the youngest-ever faculty named the Outstanding Honors Faculty Member of the Year and honored with the John C. Grisham Teaching Excellence Award.
When discussing his teaching philosophy, Travis said his courses involve discussions of complex politics, but also relate the serious consequences politics can have on many people throughout the world.
"I teach about war and peace, and ultimately life and death," Travis said. "And when I do my job right, students know that it's not just academic for me or them."
For more information, contact Dr. Travis at 662-325-7866 or firstname.lastname@example.org.