UM Educators Receive Teaching Excellence Awards

May 14, 2015

MISSOULA – The University of Montana College of Humanities and Sciences recently honored three of its faculty members with awards for teaching excellence.

Stephen Yoshimura, associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies, is the recipient of this year’s Excellence Award for Teaching Across the Curriculum. Lauren Fern, lecturer in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, and Diane Friend, lecturer in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, each received the inaugural Humanities and Sciences Excellence Award for Teaching at the Introductory Level.

Yoshimura has taught courses that span the full range of communications studies curriculum during the past 12 years. His nominators for the award said he engages students from freshman to graduate level, approaching each course with intellectual rigor, creativity and a commitment to student learning and growth.

“Dr. Yoshimura is a model teacher-scholar,” said Sara Hayden, UM Department of Communication Studies chair. “As attested to by the many students who wrote letters in support of his nomination, he is the kind of teacher who is remembered long after students leave our campus.”

Yoshimura also serves as the Department of Communication Studies’ director of graduate studies, and oversees a research program that focuses on the communication of vengeful and jealous emotion. Recently, he began researching the associations between communication in personal relationships and physical and emotional well-being.

“He is a wonderful colleague,” Hayden said. “His work helps the college and our department excel.”

Fern has educated nearly 400 students each semester during her more than 13 years teaching mathematics at the introductory level. She said her ultimate goal is to pass on her appreciation of math to as many students as possible. She also said she finds great value instructing the lower-level courses because she is better able to establish a strong math foundation for students, and can influence their perceptions of math in general.

“I’m psyched to wake up every day and do my job,” Fern said in a recent interview with the Montana Kaimin. “If you find what you love and what you’re passionate about, and you live your life thinking, learning and caring, you can make it a beautiful thing.” 

Friend teaches introductory astronomy courses with subjects that range from The Evolving Universe to the Science of Science Fiction. She teaches students how to gather and analyze astronomical data, and she said she expects every student “to be a thinking, questioning and contributing member of their own academic development.”

Friend’s passion for the stars extends beyond the classroom. In the summer, she often can be found hosting open houses at UM’s Blue Mountain Observatory. During the school year, she delivers planetarium presentations to local schools.

The Humanities and Sciences Excellence Award for Teaching at the Introductory Level was established to recognize non-tenure-track faculty members who demonstrate excellence in teaching at the introductory level. The Humanities and Sciences Excellence Award for Teaching Across the Curriculum recognizes a faculty member for teaching excellence at all levels. Both awards were founded by the College of Humanities and Sciences External Advisory Board. Next year, the Excellence Award for Teaching Across the Curriculum will be renamed to honor Bill Reynolds, a longtime advisory board member and supporter of the college.

For more information call College of Humanities and Sciences Associate Dean Jenny McNulty at 406-243-4458 or email

Contact: Jenny McNulty, associate dean, UM College of Humanities and Sciences, 406-243-4458,