Helping her fellow faculty members turn their teaching into scholarship is how Kimberly Williams will spend her year as K-State's Coffman Chair for Distinguished Teaching Scholars.
Williams, professor of horticulture, is the 16th faculty member appointed to the chair since it was created in 1995. The chair highlights K-State's commitment to excellence in undergraduate teaching and learning. Though the appointment lasts a year, all who are selected retain the title throughout their career.
"Kimberly Williams' long-standing and well-established interest in, and focus upon, the exploration of teaching as scholarship makes her an ideal holder of the prestigious Coffman Chair for Distinguished Teaching Scholars, K-State's highest accolade for teaching excellence. We will all benefit from the work that she will do on this topic in the coming year," said April Mason, K-State provost and senior vice president.
Teaching as scholarship is a concept Williams strongly believes in and why she has made it her project as Coffman Chair.
"Teaching scholarship is an important aspect of my work, and I consider it part of my teaching appointment," she said.
Williams defines the concept of teaching as scholarship as the thoughtful planning, conducting, evaluating and finally publishing, via peer review, work associated with teaching and learning.
"One advantage of approaching teaching as scholarship is the improvement of undergraduate learning because these activities closely align with assessment of student learning," she said. "Another advantage is that it helps the teaching professoriate garner rewards and recognition for their work, such as career advancement, that are perhaps more easily associated with research scholarship."
As a mentor to other faculty with teaching appointments, Williams said she has sometimes observed the perception that excellence in teaching is undervalued.
"My personal experience is that approaching teaching as scholarship is a way around this dilemma," she said. "As Coffman Chair I will have an opportunity to learn a great deal more about how teaching as scholarship is accomplished, valued and rewarded across the wide range of disciplines at K-State. My goal is to integrate the concept into our institution's faculty resources so that teaching faculty interested in implementing these ideas will have a foundation of information from which to draw."
Williams said teaching and learning are her passions.
"The opportunity to teach subjects that I personally find exciting and challenging has always been the driving force behind my desire to pursue a career in academia," she said. "I enjoy the challenge of explaining a difficult subject and the reward of seeing the flash of recognition in students' eyes when they master it. It's extremely rewarding to walk with students during their undergraduate journey. It's an exciting time in their lives as they discover their own passions and set forth on careers."
Williams has been recognized several times nationally for her teaching. She received the 2009 North Central Region Award for Excellence in College and University Teaching in the Food and Agricultural Sciences from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and in 2007 she was named a Teacher Fellow by the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture. She also has earned several honors from K-State's College of Agriculture and student organizations for excellence in teaching and advising.
Along with her teaching duties, Williams has a 40 percent research appointment that focuses on solving problems of the floriculture industry through applied research.
"My interests in recent years have been physiological disorders of floriculture crops, and increasing water and nutrient retention of the root media that these crops are grown in," she said.
Williams graduated from K-State with a bachelor's in horticulture and earned a master's and a doctorate from North Carolina State University. She returned to K-State in 1997 as an assistant professor and was promoted to full professor in 2006.
"I am very honored to serve K-State as the Coffman Chair. I look forward to working with administrators and faculty across campus to continue K-State's strong tradition as a student-centered research institution," she said.