Fairfield University's Betsy Bowen named Professor of the Year



Honor bestowed by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching

Image: Betsy BowenThe esteemed Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, has selected Betsy Bowen, Ph.D., a Fairfield University scholar as the next Connecticut Professor of the Year for 2010. The U.S. Professors of the Year program salutes the most outstanding undergraduate instructors in the country - those who excel in teaching and positively influence the lives and careers of students. This marks the second year in a row that a Fairfield University faculty member has won the award. Laura Nash, Ph.D., associate professor of music was named in 2009.

Bowen, a professor of English and director of the writing center at Fairfield University was selected from more than 300 top professors in the United States - an award she is really proud of. "You don't expect your work to get noticed. To be recognized by others is a thrilling experience," says Bowen. She will receive a certificate of achievement and be honored at a luncheon and awards ceremony today at the W Washington D.C. Hotel, followed by an evening reception at the Folger Shakespeare Library Exhibition Hall in Washington, D.C.

A Fairfield resident, Bowen, 56, has been teaching undergraduate students at Fairfield University since 1988. One of the vanguards in the service learning movement at the University, Bowen has been recognized for her extraordinary efforts in improving the teaching and learning environment for students, faculty, and community partners. She believes cultivating a sense of social responsibility teaches students to use what they have learned in the classroom for real and pressing purposes. "Students at a Jesuit school are called to become men and women for others," says Bowen. It's for these reasons she has designed educational opportunities for students to deepen their understanding, and to help others. "Fairfield students gain, not only the opportunity to test what they have learned about literacy, but also the chance to learn from and serve the community beyond the University," she added. Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, Paul Fitzgerald, S.J., says Bowen is so deserving of this award on so many levels. "She is an excellent classroom instructor, one who creates a common environment for many different types of learners and one who builds a community that respects diverse learning styles," says Fitzgerald.

A former high school teacher, Bowen's academic career accomplishments allow her to sport another impressive title - associate director of the Connecticut Writing Project (CWP), a nation-wide network of educators dedicated to improving the teaching of writing in elementary and secondary schools. "I taught high school English and Latin in Maine, so I am passionate about the work being done to improve teaching and learning in Connecticut's K-12 schools," says the award-winning professor.

An advocate for expanding literacy opportunities for students and improving the development of teachers in Connecticut's K-12 public schools, Bowen says improving teaching not only requires good ideas and thoughtful scholarship - it also requires money. Since 2000, she has co-authored grants, and secured more than $340,000 in federal aid in support of teacher development and literacy enrichment programs.

Robbin Crabtree, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Fairfield says Bowen is more than an effective teacher, and supportive mentor, she is an educator-scholar-citizen. "Through her work with CWP and many grant writing efforts, Dr. Bowen has provided leadership to literacy programs across the state for teachers and students," said Crabtree.

Colleagues say Bowen is a teacher's teacher; one who shares her expertise with others. "Dr. Bowen has earned a reputation as one of the most innovative and student-centered faculty members we have in English - or anywhere in the university," said James Simon, Ph.D., chair of the English department. Bowen also supports the use of technology in the classroom. "Her student's benefit from using laptops and iPods during lectures, and Bowen is constantly trying new teaching approaches in class," he added.

Bowen earned her bachelor of arts degree from Colby College, a master's degree from Middlebury College Bread Loaf School of English, and a Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University. She was the first in her family to go to college, and after 20 years of teaching, still has a burning desire to teach and serve others - a trait her family ignited in her. Bowen says, "I knew when I was going to college, I wasn't going alone. I was carrying the dreams of generations of my family with me."

On campus, students refer to Bowen as an effective teacher, mentor, and someone who expects a high level of hard work. Kate Reilly, a senior from Albany, New York says Bowen challenges you to think critically, analytically, and carefully. "Her calm demeanor, and deep interest in students' writing and growth lend character to her teaching style," she added.

The U.S. Professors of the Year program is administered by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. CASE and Carnegie select state winners from top entries resulting from a judging process. It is the only national program to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching and mentoring.

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Media Contact: Mark Gregorio, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, mgregorio1@fairfield.edu

Posted on November 18, 2010

Vol. 43, No. 121