Students in Gregory Eiselein’s courses rate him as one of the best. Now, a leading education academy is doing the same.
Eiselein, professor of English and university distinguished teaching scholar at Kansas State University, has been named the 2013 Kansas Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, or CASE. The competitive honor recognizes excellence in teaching and mentoring and is one of the most prestigious awards for U.S. professors.
“I’m really delighted about winning and I feel very grateful that the university wanted to nominate me for this award,” Eiselein said. “It feels great to win and to know that those who nominated me made a good choice.”
Carnegie/CASE is honoring Eiselein in Washington, D.C.
“We are very proud of Greg Eiselein and believe this honor is well-deserved,” said Kirk Schulz, university president. “Dr. Eiselein is talented, cares about students and embodies the quality educational experience offered at Kansas State University. He will be a key component to Kansas State University becoming a Top 50 public research university by 2025.”
Karin Westman, associate professor and head of the English department, led the nomination efforts, which included letters from his students.
“In his 20 years of teaching at Kansas State University, Professor Eiselein has earned the enthusiasm of students and the respect of his peers,” Westman said. “He has demonstrated a commitment to quality undergraduate education through his teaching and his research. Moreover, he has devoted countless hours of service to the committees and programs most involved with the undergraduate student experience. Through the creation of K-State First and his passionate advocacy of undergraduate teaching, Professor Eiselein has changed how Kansas State University thinks about the education of first-year students.”
Eiselein joined Kansas State University in 1993. He currently teaches a range of courses, including an introductory course about influential great books; a variety of American literature classes; a master’s-level course in cultural studies; and a course that examines the Bible in literature.
In 2008, Eiselein was appointed to the Coffman Chair for University Teaching Scholars — the university’s highest award for undergraduate teaching. Through the position, he helped develop a series of first-year seminars, which culminated in the creation of the university’s first-year experience program, K-State First, in 2010.
The program — which earned the praise of the Higher Learning Commission — includes general education courses that focus on enhancing students’ first-year educational experience and providing them the tools necessary to be successful in earning their bachelor’s degree. As director of K-State First, Eiselein coordinates the program with the offices of the provost, student life and the registrar as well as numerous faculty and departments at the university.
Although 2010’s student group that was enrolled in K-State First has yet to graduate, Eiselein said the data shows that students who participate in the program have an 86.5 percent freshman-to-sophomore retention rate — nearly 8 percent higher than the retention rate of students who were not in K-State First. Similarly, students who participated in the 2008 first-year seminars had a 40.6 percent graduation rate after four years compared to the 24.6 percent nonparticipation graduation rate.
Eiselein is active outside of the classroom and leads student groups to see lecturers on campus. He reads the same books and watches the same movies as his students. He also is active on social media, which he uses to communicate with students.
He said one of his favorite teaching methods is taking seemingly familiar ideas from well-known literature and making them seem strange or unfamiliar when examined carefully. This piques students’ curiosity and makes the ideas seem surprising and fresh, he said.
“Most teachers I know work hard at their profession, preparing lessons and taking time to figure out how best to teach their often complex and difficult subjects,” Eiselein said. “Through my involvement in K-State First and meeting faculty from all across campus, I see so many wonderful and dedicated instructors who could have won this award and deserve to. It really is an honor that they decided it should be me.”
Eiselein received his bachelor’s in history and English from the University of Idaho and his doctorate from the University of Iowa. He also has attended the School of Criticism and Theory at Cornell University and the Université catholique de Lyon, also known as the Catholic University of Lyon, in France. He has won seven additional awards for his teaching.