Colorado State University’s Best Teacher Awards recognize educators that are dedicated to their students’ success and provide impactful experiences in an out of the classroom.
Allison White, assistant director of the international studies program and associate professor in the Department of Political Science, and Michael Humphrey, assistant professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Communication, were chosen as recipients of the 2019 Best Teacher Award by the CSU Alumni Association.
Power of mentorship
While White and Humphrey had very different journeys into academia and higher education, they both attribute much of their success to the mentors they studied and learned under throughout their journey.
While White was an undergraduate student studying political science, she initially wanted to become a lawyer and follow in the footsteps of her family. But early in her college career, White’s advisor and mentor, a former Sovietologist for the CIA, inspired an interest in Russian studies. Rather than going to law school after graduation, White decided to pursue her master’s degree specializing in Russian studies.
“Once I decided I wanted to get a Ph.D. I knew that I wanted to be a professor. I had really transformational mentorship when I was an undergraduate and graduate student, and I just thought I would love to be that for someone else,” said White.
Now, she shares that love of Russian politics and history with her students at CSU, applying mentorship into her own role as an educator.
“Dr. White puts her heart and soul into each class, asks students if they need more time in office hours to better understand the topic at hand, and creates the healthiest, safest, and most amazing environment for a student who battles the everyday challenges that college throws at them,” said Anthony Laurita, the student who nominated White for the award.
Humphrey had a less traditional path into higher education, originally starting his career as a reporter, working his way from small neighborhood papers to the larger metro newspaper The Kansas City Star. His writing has also appeared in publications like Salon, National Catholic Reporter, The New Yorker, Forbes, and others. He founded “A Thousand Stories Project,” a life-story writing program sponsored by Kansas City metro-area libraries that empowered everyday people to use journalistic writing techniques to share their story.
After nearly two decades in the industry, Humphrey saw a shift in the way journalism was changing and adapting to technological advancements. At age 40, he went back to school to get his master’s degree from New York University and discovered a joy in mentoring others. As the most experienced in his program, Humphrey found himself guiding and helping his classmates outside of formal class settings.
Soon after graduating from NYU, Humphrey accepted a position as the student media advisor for Rocky Mountain Student Media and began teaching the course “Online Storytelling and Media Engagement” in the journalism department. Humphrey’s mentor, Professor Pete Seel, recognized how much Humphrey enjoyed being an instructor and encouraged him to pursue his Ph.D. to “seal the deal.”
Humphrey completed his Ph.D. at CSU in 2017 and is now an assistant professor for the Department of Journalism and Media Communication.
“I have never worked anywhere or been in any community that I have felt more supported than I do here. I think if you do come across good teachers in your life, there is probably a good chance that they have a mentor they would point to,” said Humphrey. “I have tremendous mentors in the College of Liberal Arts. Those relationships mean a lot and I am much richer because of them.”
White and Humphrey work diligently to not only provide their students with a great education but also to foster an environment where student’s voices are heard and welcomed.
Since the beginning of his career – whether working as a journalist, mentor, or educator – Humphrey has valued the community he surrounds himself with, noting its importance in how he does his job each day. “In general, when we feel like we are a community learning together it makes me want to go to work every day, and I think it helps the students desire to learn and be in class,” said Humphrey.
“He is dedicated to building meaningful relationships with students, and he works tirelessly to make sure every one of them succeeds,” said Sydney Paul, the student who nominated Humphrey for the Best Teacher award.
For White, community is also important. After arriving at CSU, White worked as a professor in the Department of Political Science. This year, she additionally accepted the position of assistant director for the international studies program, giving her the opportunity to work with students from a multitude of academic backgrounds and interests. “There’s a lot of different perspectives and a lot of diversity of thought,” said White.
She enjoys having the opportunity to teach at CSU, noting that college is the perfect environment for students to learn new skills and jump at the many different opportunities available to them. “I like college-age students because they’re at a kind of unique juncture in their lives in which they’re very vulnerable and impressionable in a good way – it’s like the possibilities are open for them and the world is their oyster,” said White.
Alumni Association award ceremony
On March 27, Humphrey and White accepted the annual Best Teacher Awards in the Lory Student Center. The annual banquet honors the six Best Teacher recipients from across the University.