Dr. Robert Howell wins faculty innovation award

HAYS, KS -- Dr. Robert T. Howell, assistant professor of technology studies at Fort Hays State University, has been named by a faculty recognition committee as the November recipient of the university's Outstanding Teaching Innovation Award for his performance in the College of Education.

The faculty recognition program rewards outstanding teacher innovators and outstanding mediated classroom teachers from each of the four colleges of the university. Two other special awards -- Teacher/Scholar/Innovator of the Year and Faculty Adviser of the Year -- are also part of the program. A committee chaired or appointed by the respective college deans selects recipients.

One award is given each month from August through May. Howell received a check for $300 and a university lapel pin that signifies teaching excellence. The university provides two-thirds of the financial award and the other third comes from Commerce Bank of Hays, which established a fund with the university to help recognize outstanding faculty.

Speaking on behalf of the selection committee, Dr. Fred Ruda, Technology Studies Department chair, said, "Dr. Howell has only been here for two years and in this short time he has become a noted quality instructor, one who has gained the respect of students as well as colleagues. I have personally observed him in and out of the classroom. He is knowledgeable and enthusiastic. He constantly strives to improve his teaching, both in content and presentation. Because of his extensive background and obvious love for teaching, he has developed new classes. Bob uses every conceivable means available in his teaching. He incorporates problem solving, group activities,
individual modeling and independent learning. In short, Bob gets students to want to learn and want to expand their comfort zones."

Howell said that he has learned one important rule in teaching: "provide the best customer service possible or your customers will go to someone who can."

"Students are our customers and we need to provide them with the best possible education or they will go somewhere else," he explained. "It would be a great disservice to send our graduates into the world of work without the proper tools."

Howell also has developed two classes as special topics to gain students' interest. One such class was converting a 1994 Chevy S10 truck to electric power. Another was restoring a '38 Chevy. Students spent many hours working on the projects, he said.

Howell said that the classes also occupied a large amount of his time, but "having seen so much interest generated makes it worth it."

Howell came to Fort Hays State University from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2000. He received his Ph.D. in vocational and technical education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1999.

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