MISSOULA – University of Montana history Professor Kyle Volk is an inspirational educator who holds his students to the highest expectations, so it was no surprise to his students and colleagues when he recently was awarded the 2014 College of Humanities and Sciences’ Helen and Winston Cox Educational Excellence Award.
After coming to UM in 2007, Volk quickly became a prominent figure in the history department. Specializing in the political and legal histories of 19th-century America, Volk took on courses across the history curriculum, from teaching 400-student introductory classes to leading small-group undergraduate research seminars, and mentoring graduate students and doctoral candidates.
“His nomination materials presented him as a dynamic and energetic teacher,” said College of Humanities and Sciences Associate Dean Jenny McNulty.
His upper-division course, Intoxication Nation: Alcohol in American History, was named “one of the top-five courses every UM student should take” by the Kaimin newspaper, and is one of the most popular classes on campus. The carefully designed course is one of several new classes Volk has created that examine big themes in American history in new and exciting ways.
“I push students to ask their own historical questions with major stakes that matter for how we see the past as well as the present,” Volk said. “It’s important to develop students’ intellectual capacities, active reading, critical thinking, informed discussion, deep research and compelling writing – so that they may begin to answer such questions in creative and complex ways.”
Outside the classroom, Volk is involved in a variety of activities. He serves as the director of undergraduate studies in history, coordinates biweekly seminars, mentors undergraduate and graduate students, and advises the UM chapter of the history honors society Phi Alpha Theta. His research has been supported by institutions such as the American Society for Legal History, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
According to Department of History Chair Robert Greene, “There is no other professor in this department who spends more time advising students, providing them with feedback on their papers and drafts and helping them improve their writing skills than Dr. Volk.”
The Helen and Winston Cox Educational Excellence Award is made annually to UM faculty in the College of Humanities and Sciences who are not yet tenured and demonstrate superior teaching, advising and mentoring of students.