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Fourth MU Professor Awarded 2007 Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence

April 4, 2007

Story Contact:  Katherine Kostiuk, 573-882-3346,

COLUMBIA, Mo. — University of Missouri-Columbia Chancellor Brady Deaton and Chairman Jim Schatz of Commerce Bank today awarded one of the 2007 William T. Kemper Fellowships for Teaching Excellence to Lois Huneycutt, associate professor of history in MU's College of Arts and Science.

Deaton, Schatz and a group of professors, administrators and staff paid a surprise visit to Huneycutt's classroom to honor her with the Fellowship, which includes a $10,000 award. Fellowships are awarded to five outstanding teachers at the University of Missouri-Columbia each year.

The William T. Kemper Fellowships for Teaching Excellence were established in 1991 with a $500,000 gift. Kemper, a 1926 MU graduate, was a well known civic leader in Kansas City, Mo., until his death in 1989. His 52-year career in banking included top positions at banks in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. Commerce Bank manages the trust fund.

Lois Huneycutt, associate professor of history

Lois Huneycutt is a specialist in medieval history, dealing with events and structures that existed 600 to 1,000 years ago. She is dedicated to encouraging students to develop a critical understanding of a strange and distant human condition and to comprehend circumstances very different from their own.

Huneycutt's teaching is designed to get students to go beyond their initial distance and alienation from history and to begin to identify with the people of the past, whose lives, experiences, assumptions and expectations were very different from their own. Huneycutt believes that challenging students to confront these differences will lead them to develop a critical sense of empathy and an ability to listen to and empathize with people who are different from them.

Huneycutt's instruction goes beyond classic instruction techniques to include forms of active learning, in which students must exert their own efforts to develop a sympathetic understanding of the past. She also assigns group and individual projects involving oral reports, in-class debate and role-playing exercises in which students take on personae of people in the past.

"The willingness to be available for her students and to support them, advise them and mentor them, is perhaps the most important feature of Huneycutt's teaching," said Jonathan Sperber, Curators' Professor of History.

Sperber said that what makes Huneycutt unique is "her commitment to developing a sense of critical empathy in her students, her use of active learning in her classes, and the extraordinary efforts she makes to encourage and support her students." Huneycutt encourages her best undergraduate students to present the results of their research at professional conferences, and she works with graduate students to reduce their seminar papers or aspects of their theses into presentable form, encourages them to submit these papers to scholarly conferences, and takes them with her to such conferences. Sperber called her "the model of an intellectually and personally engaged faculty member."

A former student said that after the first day of Huneycutt's class, she became "hooked on the subject and was enthralled by her lectures." Another former student said that Huneycutt "notices students' classroom performance and makes them aware of opportunities" and that she "makes herself available for brainstorming and developing ideas."