Rhona Campbell Free, a University of Notre Dame graduate and professor of economics at Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic, has been named 2004 U.S. Professor of the Year.
Selected for her outstanding teaching, commitment to undergraduate students and influence on teaching, Free received top honors in the masters universities and colleges category, which includes more than 600 colleges and universities nationwide.The award is presented annually by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
Free is the second Notre Dame figure in three years to earn a U.S. Professor of the Year award.Chemist Dennis Jacobs, now a University vice president and associate provost, was honored in 2002 in the research and doctoral universities category.
What makes Rhona Campbell Free unique is the creative and open approach she brings to teaching,said John Lippincott, CASE president.While she is deeply committed to her discipline of economics, she enthusiastically uses pedagogical approaches and tools more common to other disciplines to reach and motivate students.Dr. Free starts with the premise that all students can be successful in her economics courses, and her optimism enables her to devise different ways of reaching students whose levels of experience and interest vary.
A member of the economics faculty at Eastern Connecticut State University since 1983, Free earned her masters and doctoral degrees in economics from Notre Dame in 1980 and 1983, respectively.She is known for her innovative ideas and cross-disciplinary approaches to instruction.Mark Yeomans, a former student, noted,Some professors take a difficult subject and complicate it.It takes a special teacher to be able to take the same subject and make it accessible for all students.
Since 1981, the U.S. Professor of the Year program has recognized excellence in undergraduate teaching and mentoring.Campus provosts and academic vice presidents make nominations, and current and former students, colleagues and peers from other institutions participate in the selection.National winners in four categories receive a $5,000 prize from the Carnegie Foundation.
These U.S. Professors of the Year have distinguished themselves in their profession by their commitment to advancing knowledge and to motivating, inspiring and empowering their students,said Lee S. Shulman, president of the Carnegie Foundation.Through their contribution to excellence in teaching and extraordinary dedication to their students, they have dignified and elevated the profession of teaching and created a legacy of knowledge and practice that others can build upon.