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Caskey Russell Receives Ellbogen Teaching Award

May 2, 2016
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Caskey Russell

Caskey Russell, University of Wyoming Department of English associate professor and head of the American Indian Studies Program, knows what it means to give back to the state of Wyoming.

For more than 10 years, his considerable service to the university and the state has included bridging the gap between the Wind River Indian Reservation, its high schools and UW, “playing a significant role in welcoming our own domestically diverse population to UW,” says Susan Frye, UW Outreach School dean.

For the last two years, Frye and Russell have worked on the reservation with UW’s Educational Task Force, which involves monthly meetings with leaders from the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes and members of the UW faculty and administration, to partner on a proposal for a reservation-based bachelor’s degree. A subcommittee also is adding a program that will go hand in hand with an associate degree program from Central Wyoming College in Riverton.

“Professor Russell has been a calm, balanced, thoughtful voice in the midst of these talks. If we are able to see this degree on Native American Leadership and Natural Resources through, it will be in large part because of Professor Russell,” Frye says.

That commitment has made Russell one of three recipients of the John P. Ellbogen Meritorious Classroom Teaching Award. The other recipients are Terry Burant, assistant lecturer in the Department of Educational Studies; and Jennifer Turpen, associate lecturer in the Department of Music.

Russell’s research and teaching include American Indian studies and literature, indigenous sovereignty and critical race theory.

“Many of the titles of Professor Russell’s publications reveal just how intellectually engaged he is with the act of teaching at the highest level, and in areas that encounter some of the most topical and difficult material of our times,” Frye says. She mentioned titles such as “Tolerance and Diversity Cut Many Ways: Conservatism and the American Indian Studies Classroom”; “The Praxis Project: Reinvigorating the Teaching of the Civil Rights Movement”; and “Reaching Native American Families to Increase School Involvement.”

“But, as we all know, being intellectually engaged with the act of teaching does not necessarily a great teacher make,” she adds. “Fortunately, Professor Russell is a superb teacher, and unquestionably one of the very finest at the University of Wyoming.”

Peter Parolin, UW Department of English chair, says Russell sets himself apart as an excellent teacher because of his commitment to students.

“The stellar quality of his teaching evaluations never ceases to impress me. He is a cornerstone of our faculty, guiding students to new levels of expertise in American Indian literature and culture, and helping them gain the skills they need to succeed in all their classes, always contributing his extraordinary patience, commitment and belief in students’ potential,” he says.

One of his students who is working toward her doctoral degree adds: “Professor Russell is so knowledgeable -- so much in command of his field. But he never hammers you with his expertise. Instead, he generously makes his students know that they, too, can learn and talk about what they are learning. They do this together, but he also lets us know we can find truths for ourselves as well as for him and for the class.”

Russell received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English, both from Western Washington University, and his Ph.D. in English from the University of Oregon.

Throughout his career, he has written a book, has contributed articles and chapter writings, received several honors and awards, and has secured several grants.

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