This year's Belbas-Larson Awards for Excellence in Teaching will go to Dr. Christina (Tina) Keller of the Department of Physics in the School of Arts and Sciences, and Professor Gregory Huckabee of the Division of Business Law, Management and Marketing in the School of Business. The awards will be presented at the 2006 spring commencement ceremony on May 13 at 9:30 a.m.
These awards, which earn the recipient $5,000, were established by 1956 USD graduate Dean Belbas of Edina, MN, and Sioux Falls, and his friends, Harold W. and Kathryn Larson of Bemidji, MN, and Scottsdale, AZ.
Keller teaches demanding subjects such as experimental modern physics and electromagnetism. She helps recruit some of the most talented students by serving on Fast Track and the Presidential Alumni Scholarship Committee.
Keller's teaching philosophy is to instill in students a fundamental understanding of physics, while at the same time inspiring them with the same enthusiasm she has for the subject. In addition to classroom activities, Keller believes that student-faculty interaction outside of the classroom is also a vital part of the learning experience. To this end, she makes herself available to students outside of the normal classroom hours and she treats them with the utmost respect by getting to know them as individuals; their names, their faces, and their other interests.
Eric Omdahl, a student who supported Dr. Keller's nomination, praised Keller's teaching methods and her commitment to USD.
"Dr. Keller is constantly absorbing information and passing it on to students through her passion for education and development of her students. The dedicated Coyote, she is at nearly every home sporting event and encourages her students to go and wear red to support the team," Omdahl said.
Another student, Steve Giuseffi, echoed Omdahl's statements and added, "She embodies the academic excellence and personal touch that distinguish The University of South Dakota."
Huckabee demands high standards of performance for himself and for his students. He believes that achieving student learning comes from setting challenging and, at times, seemingly unreachable standards.
Huckabee has been a leader in implementing service learning projects in his classes, such as "Coyoteopoly," which has sponsored two record-breaking community food drives and a toy and a school supplies drive for Iraqi children.
In his capacity as the coordinator for International Studies, Huckabee sought opportunities for students to receive an international business education in a foreign environment, placing students at international business entities such as Volkswagen and Horthampton Trust Hospital in England.�
Student Joseph Van Sloten emphasized Huckabee's devotion to his students.
"Professor Huckabee is a highly dedicated professional who definitely knows how to motivate his students to strive for excellence in everything they do � both in the classroom and in person," said Sloten.