Howell wins FHSU's faculty innovation award

Dr. Robert Howell, assistant professor of technology studies, has been named by a faculty recognition committee as the recipient of Fort Hays State University's 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/Innovator of the Year and Faculty Advisor of the Year -- are also part of the program. Recipients are selected by a committee chaired or appointed by the respective college deans.

One award is given each month over the period September through April. Howell is the recipient of the Teaching Innovation Award for September. He received a check for $300 and a university lapel pin that signifies teaching excellence. Two-thirds of the financial award is provided by the university and the other third comes from Commerce Bank of Hays, which established a fund with the university to help recognize outstanding faculty teaching.

To win the Teaching Innovation Award from the College of Education, a faculty member must use innovative approaches for instruction and show evidence of original contribution and increased learning effectiveness.

On behalf of the selection committee, Dr. Fred Ruda, chair of the Technology Studies Department, said, "Dr. Howell has only been here for three years, and in this short period of time he has become a noted quality instructor, one that 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 presentations. 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; want to expand their comfort zone."

"After spending the last twenty years in industry I learned one important rule: Provide the best customer service possible or your customers will go to someone who can," Howell said. "I believe customer service is not only true in industry but a must in education as well."

"Students are our customers and we need to provide them with the best possible education for the cost," he said. "It would be a great disservice to send our graduates into the world of work without the proper tools."

To meet students' interests, Howell developed two new courses for Tuesdays and Thursdays. The classes were not part of the curriculum, but rather topics that the students wanted to learn about.

The courses included projects like the conversion of a 1994 Chevy S10 truck into an electrically powered vehicle and the restoration of a '38 Chevy.

"Interest in these classes has been so high that students are asking me to add more classes like them in the future," he said.

Howell came to Fort Hays State University from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2000. His innovative use of technology in teaching was recognized previously when he won the Outstanding Teaching Innovation Award in November 2001.

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