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Konen, Morris, Swedlow honored with awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching

April 19, 2011

Michael Konen, Michael Morris, Brendon Swedlow and Jeanne Jakubowski

Michael Konen, Michael Morris, Brendon Swedlow and Jeanne Jakubowski

Teachers cannot fake or hide genuine enthusiasm for knowledge. They cannot keep it to themselves, or can they control when they spark it in their students.

This month, NIU honors three of its teachers – Michael Konen, Michael Morris and Brendon Swedlow – for passing their zeal onto their undergraduate students. The trio is this year’s recipients of the awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

The spirit for learning that Konen, from the Department of Geography; Morris, from the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures; and Swedlow, from the Department of Political Science, all in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has garnered them one of the university’s longest standing and prestigious honors.

And along with the NIU community, they can thank their students and colleagues who nominated them through letters filled with resounding praise.

“My teachings include one of life’s lessons,” Konen said. “I tell my students to be passionate about their careers; be passionate about their work. It’s OK to be a soil nerd.”

“I teach my courses as much like law school courses as possible to help pre-law students develop legal skills and give them a sense of what law school is going to be like,” Swedlow said.

Sadly, the award was bestowed on Morris four months after he died of cancer.

“I can confidently say that Dr. Morris was the most influential teacher I had in my years at NIU,” Andrew Knoblauch told the nominating committee. “I have a huge amount of respect for this man, and I know that NIU is a better place because he is with us.”

Initiated in 1966, the awards honor excellent undergraduate teaching at the university, encourage improvement of instruction and promote discussion among members of the university community on the subject of teaching.

Nominees must be full-time faculty whose major responsibility is teaching and must have worked at least five full academic years at NIU. Konen and Swedlow each received a check for $2,000.

Jeanne Jakubowski, an English instructor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, also was recognized with the Excellence in Undergraduate Instruction award.

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