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K-State Today

April 30, 2012



Making a difference: Outstanding educators receive Commerce Bank Teaching Award

By Communications and Marketing

A good teacher can make a big difference to a student and that's why Kansas State University is honoring four faculty members with the Commerce Bank Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award.

The 2012 recipients of the award are: Tim Bolton, professor of physics; Howard Hahn, assistant professor of landscape architecture and regional and community planning; Swinder Janda, professor of marketing; and Yacoub Najjar, professor of civil engineering.

Sponsored by the William T. Kemper Foundation and the Commerce Bancshares Foundation, the award includes a $2,500 honorarium and is coordinated through the Kansas State University Foundation.

"Commerce Bank and the William T. Kemper Foundation have partnered with K-State for 17 years to support excellence in undergraduate teaching," said Tom Giller, Commerce Bank president, Manhattan. "We're pleased to join with the university in honoring educators who've had a superior influence on student success."

University President Kirk Schulz said rewarding outstanding teachers helps the university move closer to its 2025 goals and to the community that supports it.

"I'm grateful for Commerce Bank's contributions to help recognize these skilled educators who are playing an important role in moving K-State forward to becoming a top 50 public research university by 2025," Schulz said. "Community support is invaluable for the success of K-State's teaching faculty."

Bolton started his career at K-State in 1994 as an associate professor. He received his bachelor's degree from Stanford University and his doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has published several articles in high-profile journals such as Physics Review Letters, European Physical Journal and Physics Letters B. Bolton enjoys teaching and helping students understand a field that can be intimidating.

"Physics is very enjoyable to teach as I get to have a lot of fun with many classroom demonstrations, and the students usually like the subject if they can get over their fear of the mathematical parts," he said. "I also get satisfaction in that I am contributing directly in helping train more scientists, engineers and mathematicians for the country and the world -- something we need."

Hahn received his bachelor's of environmental studies from the University of Kansas and a master's of landscape architecture from K-State. He has worked at several professional practices in Denver, Colo., and Santa Ana and Costa Mesa, Calif. He started at K-State as an assistant professor in 2008. His research focuses on optimization modeling, wetlands construction and visual simulation. He teaches design implementation and computer technology.

"After spending a couple of decades in professional practice, it was very exciting to return to an academic environment and share some of my experience and insight with students," Hahn said. "I think good teaching is recognizing latent potential in all students -- whether academic or other areas of personal development -- and then discovering keys to help them unlock their potential. Even though teaching satisfaction is its own reward, it is gratifying that many students appreciate my teaching efforts and took the time and effort to prepare the submission package for this award."

Janda is the Robert M. Edgerley chair in global business in the College of Business Administration. He received his bachelor's degree from India's Panjab University and his doctorate from the University of Arkansas. He started at K-State in 1998 as an assistant professor. Janda has taught classes in international marketing, international business, marketing research and consumer behavior in the United States, Germany and Italy. His secret to successful teaching is taking students outside the classroom.

"I am convinced that students learn and retain best when they learn via experience," Janda said. "I strive to create engaging, meaningful and contemporary experiential learning opportunities for my students. The variety of faculty-led study abroad programs I've developed to countries like Argentina, China, Hong Kong, Chile, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and the U.K. are examples of this idea."

Najjar received his bachelor's in civil engineering from Yarmouk University in Jordan and his master's and doctorate in civil engineering from the University of Oklahoma. He started at K-State in 1993 as an assistant professor. His research focuses on the application of artificial neural networks and computational mechanics to advance the civil infrastructure. He has published articles in many journals and has received many teaching awards and honors, including the Midwest Section Outstanding Teaching Award from the American Society of Engineering Education in 2006.

"I don't just enjoy teaching -- I love teaching," Najjar said. "It is my opportunity to reshape and educate the minds for many generations. It gives me great pleasure when I hear about the successes of my former students. I feel that I have contributed somehow to their success. For me this is priceless. I am overjoyed that I have been selected to receive the Commerce Bank Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award. I have promised myself to continue to teach to the best of my abilities. In my book, there are no shortcuts when it comes to teaching