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MU Professor Awarded 2015 Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence

April 1st, 2015

Story Contact: Nathan Hurst, 573-882-6217,

COLUMBIA, Mo. – University of Missouri Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin and Commerce Bank Chairman Jim Schatz of Commerce Bank today awarded one of the 2015 William T. Kemper Fellowships for Teaching Excellence to Nicole Monnier, an associate teaching professor of Russian in the MU College of Arts and Science.

Loftin, Schatz and a group of professors, administrators and staff surprised Monnier by honoring her with the Fellowship, which includes a $10,000 check. Kemper Fellowships are awarded to five outstanding teachers at the University of Missouri each year. This year is the 25th anniversary of the first William T. Kemper Fellowships for Teaching Excellence.

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 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.

ATTACHED : Monnier Bio

Nicole Monnier
Associate Professor
Department of Russian & German Studies
College of Arts & Science
MU Faculty Member Since 2000

Nicole Monnier’s colleagues say that her success as a teacher and an adviser stems from her sense of purpose: guiding students to the highest level of achievement they can attain.

“Monnier seems to possess an almost innate ability not merely to teach the subject under study but also to educate the student — to help him or her gain interest in the topic and in the culture that suffuses it,” says Gennady Barabtarlo, professor of Russian at MU. “In fact, her chief strength lies in that Nicole sees the student as the focus of her efforts, not the ‘teaching process,’ not the subject and certainly not herself. This is the most effective way of teaching a humanities course. In my opinion, that’s what the word ‘pedagogy’ really means.”

Monnier emphasizes that teaching is a process that continually attempts to adapt to changes in subject matter and student needs. Through this process, Monnier says, students can not only learn Russian effectively but also gain skills to equip themselves to become lifelong learners. As coordinator of first-year Russian, Monnier has maintained and strengthened the program at a time when interest in Russian studies has been waning. Monnier developed the writing-intensive Russian Civilization course as well as many other courses in the program.

“The first-year Russian program at our university, which Dr. M oversees, is by far the best-taught and most organized introduction to a language that I have ever experienced,” says Lauren Fath, an MU master’s student in Russian and Slavonic studies and a doctoral student in English. “Dr. M kindled in me, and in my peers, a heartfelt appreciation for the Russian language. Under her instruction, I came to embrace the complexities and beauty of a foreign language in a new way. Sensing my enthusiasm for Russian, Dr. M urged me to enroll in Russian literature courses at the graduate level.”

In addition to teaching and managing the first-year Russian program, Monnier serves as the study-abroad coordinator for her department’s program with Saratov State University in Russia. Monnier also serves as the faculty adviser of MU’s Russian Club. She is a member of MU’s Faculty Council and Fellowships Office Advisory Committee as well as numerous graduate committees.

“Monnier has contributed passionately and brilliantly to every aspect of the teaching mission,” says Tim Langen, chair of the Department of German and Russian Studies at MU. “She has taught very large and very small courses, to freshman and graduate students, and her teaching is singularly effective. Her advising activities, both formal and informal, encompass everything from course selection to life decisions, and students in her care unvaryingly express gratitude for the help she gives them. She serves on local and national committees with unwavering focus on the process and quality of education in the broadest sense.”

Monnier earned a bachelor’s degree in Russian from Mount Holyoke College and master’s and doctoral degrees in Russian literature from Princeton University.