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Karen Barr

Bower was't the only Penn State Beaver faculty member to receive a University-wide teaching award last year.

Karen Barr, senior instructor in business, received Penn State’s 2012 George W. Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching. Named for Penn State’s seventh president, the award honors excellence in teaching at the undergraduate level. She was one of only six faculty members across the University to receive the 2012 award.

Barr has taught at Beaver campus for 13 years. Her course load typically includes accounting, finance, and business law and ethics, classes that are prerequisites for all business majors.

While Barr’s classes are often taught in a large lecture format, her dynamic teaching style, entertaining wit, and personal attention to each student make her classes feel far more intimate.

“It’s nice to be recognized for the dedication and hard work,” she said. “Everyone deserves to be recognized.”

Bower and Barr join other Beaver faculty members who have been recognized by the University over the years.

Dr. Robert Szymczak associate professor of history, and the late Dr. John Simpson, retired associate professor of chemistry, received the Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2002 and 2001, respectively.

Dr. James Monroe, retired associate professor of physics, received the Eisenhower Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1989. At the time, the award was called the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching.

 
Dr Robin Bower

As she normally does several times a week, Dr. Robin Bower greets her students as they enter Room 4 of the General Classroom Building with a warm, friendly “good morning.”

“Class has begun. Let’s get started on today’s topic,” she says, immediately receiving her students’ full attention.

It’s Comparative Literature 131: Crime and Detection in World Literature and, unlike her typical Spanish language classes, Bower teaches this class in English.

She fires up her PowerPoint presentation, hits the lights, and begins the conversation for the day. However, instead of sitting in a chair in front of the class or simply standing at the podium, she constantly moves around her attentive audience.

Bower, associate professor of Spanish, has been teaching at Penn State Beaver for 12 years and, during that time, she’s served the University well.

She’s been the Beaver campus faculty representative to the University Faculty Senate since 2004, during which time she has chaired the Committee on Undergraduate Education and the Committee on Educational Equity and Campus Environment.

In addition, Bower has taken Beaver students to Spain for education abroad experiences during spring breaks in 2005 and 2010 and coordinates the campus Honors Program.

But it’s the countless students she’s taught over the years that have brought Bower the most joy, and it’s her outstanding teaching skills for which she’s most recently been recognized.

In April 2012, Bower was honored with the Penn State Milton S. Eisenhower Award for Distinguished Teaching.

She was one of only two faculty members across the University to receive the prestigious award last year.

“I was thrilled. There are no words to say about winning. I was grateful to my students for having put me in the ring to be considered,” Bower said.

The Eisenhower Award for Distinguished Teaching, established in 1992, is bestowed upon faculty members who are outstanding professors as well as mentors or sources of support for others.

Nominees must be tenured, full-time faculty members for at least five years and must carry undergraduate teaching as a major portion of their academic duties.

Bower’s award nomination was submitted by Dr. Donna J. Kuga ’78 H&HD, director of academic affairs, as well as by students who have taken a course with Bower. Kuga said the ability to win is determined by classroom evidence, student evaluations, and the comments and content of colleagues’ reviews.

“I rely very heavily on what students think, not just for a certain semester, but semester after semester after semester,” Kuga said. “The fact that our faculty is receiving these prestigious, University-wide awards is outstanding.”

Bower, who is highly respected by her students, past and present, said, “I believe in my students. I’m just trying to teach them to believe in themselves.”