Archive for Thursday, September 22, 2011

Heard on the Hill: KUMC professors earn last few Kemper fellowships for the year; English, history and psychology departments have earned the most Kemper awards

September 22, 2011


Your daily dose of news, notes and links from around Kansas University.

• Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little this week awarded the last three Kemper fellowships to three professors on the KU Medical Center campus.

It’s a great award that recognizes good teaching. Congrats to the three KUMC winners — Michael Werle, Sandra Bergquist-Beringer and Mark Chertoff.

I wrote a story about these awards in the prehistoric era before Heard on the Hill came into being (in other words, I wrote it last year around this time).

I had a great question submitted by a reader who seemed to notice that some departments got more Kemper Awards than others, and mentioned communication studies specifically.

The story last year that had a big chart that ran in the dead tree edition that listed all these, but I don’t think the chart ever ran online, so many people probably missed it. So, I’m devoting the entire Heard on the Hill post today to sharing it with all of you. Enjoy. I’ve updated it to include this year’s award results.

I’d encourage you to read the story from last year before looking at the data. The story goes into some detail on how this process works. It’s an application process, and some departments place more of an emphasis on these awards than others.

A bit about this information — I got the award information from a master list at KU. A few people who received awards had joint appointments, and I’ve just left those out for comparison’s sake (though I admit this skews things a bit, particularly affecting women’s studies, which has many faculty with joint appointments). The number of faculty in each department I got from counting the number of full-time faculty members listed on the departmental websites in 2010, so it’s a little outdated, and maybe not exactly, precisely right but still gives a good ballpark figure. Some of the listed departments and schools have been reorganized under a new name or no longer exist, and so I obviously couldn’t count the number of faculty in those departments. If a department or school doesn’t have a number of faculty members by it below, that’s why.

English joined the tie at the top of the rankings this year, thanks to professor Anna Neill.

But, anyway, who’s focusing on more of these should be obvious by looking at the statistics below.

• History, 14 awards, 35 faculty

• Psychology, 14 awards, 38 faculty

• English, 14 awards, 37 faculty

• Communication studies, 12 awards, 19 faculty

• Law, 10 awards, 41 faculty

• Political science, 10 awards, 24 faculty

• Molecular biosciences, 9 awards, 35 faculty

• Electrical engineering and computer science, 8 awards, 37 faculty

• Ecology and evolutionary biology, 7 awards, 42 faculty

• Chemistry, 7 awards, 30 faculty

• Anthropology, 5 awards, 20 faculty

• Physics and astronomy, 5 awards, 23 faculty

• Music and dance, 5 awards

• Teaching and leadership, 5 awards

• Mathematics, 5 awards, 41 faculty

• Art history, 5 awards, 13 faculty

• Chemical and petroleum engineering, 5 awards, 18 faculty

• Geography, 4 awards, 24 faculty

• French and Italian, 4 awards, 11 faculty

• Applied behavioral science, 4 awards, 18 faculty

• Theater and film, 4 awards

• Business, 4 awards, 58 faculty

• Journalism, 4 awards, 23 faculty

• Social welfare, 4 awards, 23 faculty

• Sociology, 4 awards, 20 faculty

• Spanish and Portuguese, 4 awards, 17 faculty

• Mechanical engineering, 4 awards, 18 faculty

• Economics, 3 awards, 20 faculty

• Biological sciences, 3 awards

• Special education, 3 awards, 22 faculty

• Geology, 3 awards, 23 faculty

• Public administration, 3 awards, 13 faculty

• Visual art, 2 awards, 28 faculty

• Religious studies, 2 awards, 9 faculty

• Classics, 2 awards, 8 faculty

• Architecture and urban planning, 2 awards

• Design, 2 awards, 13 faculty

• Educational policy and leadership studies, 2 awards, 11 faculty

• East Asian languages and cultures, 1 award, 8 faculty

• Architecture, 1 award, 22 faculty

• Engineering management, 1 award, 1 faculty

• Philosophy, 1 award, 11 faculty

• Education, 1 award

• Slavic languages and literatures, 1 award, 8 faculty

• Aerospace engineering, 1 award, 9 faculty

• Botany, 1 award

• Women’s studies, 1 award, 9 faculty

• Civil, architectural and environmental engineering, 1 award, 26 faculty

• Speech-language-hearing sciences and disorders, 1 award, 12 faculty

• Art, 1 award

• Linguistics, 1 award, 9 faculty

• Psychology and research in education, 1 award

• Pharmacology and toxicology, 1 award, 10 faculty

• Medicinal chemistry, 1 award, 12 faculty

• American studies, 1 award, 10 faculty

• Fine arts, 1 award

• Pharmacy, 1 award

• African and African-American studies, 1 award, 12 faculty

I should say that I don’t mean this as a criticism of the awards, which I think are pretty cool. Nor do I think this diminishes the accomplishments of the winners. I particularly like to watch the videos KU makes of the winners (available on KU’s YouTube channel). I just wanted to shine a little light on the process. And it’s also interesting to see the number of faculty in each department (though, as I mentioned, that’s not a highly scientific count that I performed).

• Heard on the Hill isn’t likely to win a Kemper award anytime soon, but that’s OK with me as long as I keep getting your tips sent to


WilburM 6 years, 5 months ago

Some departments are far more proficient at self-promotion than others. Don't mean that in a bad way, at all. Just a fact of life. My guess is that there are some really good teachers in depts. with lots of faculty and few awards, but a chair who generally doesn't care too much about awards (or is to lazy to put together a file).

yourworstnightmare 6 years, 5 months ago

It is too bad that KU doesn't have something like the Kemper Awards for research excellence.

After all, it is the research profile of an institution that matters in any ranking and in membership in the AAU. Teaching is important, but is secondary to research.

Maybe this focus on teaching and not on research is why KU ranks low on the US News and other rankings, and is on the verge of being booted from the AAU.

For too long KU has focused on teaching, which is all internal and is easy, and neglected research, which is difficult and requires outside judgement against nation-wide standards.

If this does not change, KU will not be in the AAU much longer, especially with schools like Georgia and Utah, more highly ranked than KU, knocking on the door of the AAU.

KU_cynic 6 years, 5 months ago

Re Kemper teaching awards:

  1. Yes, some departments are better at self-promotion than others.
  2. Teachers in large enrollment gen-ed classes (e.g., psych) are exposed to more and more diverse students, and developing a flair as an entertainer delivering basic stuff really helps popularity versus a more demanding professor teaching a challenging upper elective to a smaller group of students.
  3. $7500 is nothing to sneeze at, but it's a bigger sum relative to annual pay for English and history professors than law, business, and engineering professors. The paperwork costs and shame of engaging in self-promotion are the same for all. However, for a high-paid prof to work a little harder at teaching and a little less at research has real costs in terms of the dollar value of a 1-2% merit pay raises that might be forgone -- or a grant application that might be missed, compared to a lesser-paid prof in the humanities or softer social sciences.

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