UM Professor Named Montana’s 2015 Professor of the Year

November 19, 2015

University of Montana Professor Doug Emlen poses with some of his rhinoceros beetle research subjects.

MISSOULA – University of Montana Professor Doug Emlen has been named the 2015 Montana Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

Emlen was one of 35 educators selected nationwide from nearly 400 top professors nominated.

“There are a lot of us here at UM who take tremendous pleasure from teaching – finding new ways to excite students, challenging them to think hard about the world around them,” Emlen said. “I’m proud to be one of them and to be recognized for this facet of what we do.”

Emlen teaches Behavior and Evolution, Insect Biology and a number of graduate courses at UM. His colleagues said his classes are extremely popular with UM students. In fact, it’s common for the number of students on the waiting list for his courses to nearly equal the class size limit.

“His courses always rank as overall favorites among graduates of (UM’s) biology program,” said Sarah Solie, a postbaccalaureate student who now studies ecology and evolutionary biology in the Emlen lab. “His ability to so completely draw students into the topic easily made a class of 40 feel like a class of 10.”

UM Professor Erick Greene, who teaches in the Division of Biological Sciences and Wildlife Biology Program, supported Emlen’s nomination for the award. Greene has known Emlen since he was hired at UM in 1997.

“(I’ve) have had the pleasure of seeing him explode into an astounding teacher, mentor, role model, star researcher and all-around great ambassador for science,” Greene said.

Emlen co-wrote “Evolution: Making Sense of Life,” a genetics and evolution textbook, in 2013. His 2014 book, “Animal Weapons: The Evolution of Battle,” recently won the 2015 Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science. But Emlen said receiving an award for his teaching is especially gratifying, because he considers it the best part of his job.

“So often it’s the scholarship we do as faculty that receives the attention – high-profile research papers, books or interviews, for example – but the ‘other half’ of our life is and always has been teaching.

“And as much as I love the research questions, the detective process involved with discerning answers, and even – OK, especially – the critters themselves, it’s the things I do as a teacher that matter the most,” he said.

Emlen’s many awards, honors and grants include UM’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2014, the E.O. Wilson Prize from the American Society of Naturalists in 2013, a Presidential Early Career Award in 2002 and the Young Investigator Prize in 1997.

CASE and the Carnegie Foundation have been partners in offering the U.S. Professors of the Year awards program since 1981.

The Carnegie Foundation is an independent policy and research center that supports needed transformations in American education through tighter connections between teaching practice, evidence of student learning, the communication and use of this evidence and structured opportunities to build knowledge.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., with offices in London, Singapore and Mexico City, CASE is a professional association serving educational institutions and the advancement professions at all levels who work in alumni relations, communications, fundraising, marketing and other areas.

Contact: Doug Emlen, professor, UM Division of Biological Sciences, 406-243-2535, doug.emlen@mso.umt.edu.