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Her mastery of a new teaching medium and her consistently top-notch performance in many different classes are two of the reasons University of Wyoming Assistant Professor Tracy Skopek is rated among the best instructors in the Department of Political Science.
She had to develop a new pedagogical style to meet challenges presented by the distance learning format of the department's Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.) program, which she has directed since 2006.
Skopek's success in meeting these distance learning challenges paid off when she earned this year's Hollon Family Award for Teaching Excellence in Off-Campus Programs. In 1986, C.E. "Jerry" Hollon, former UW trustee, established the award to recognize "contributions to the general extension outreach programs of the university."
Skopek joined the UW faculty in 2003 to teach in the M.P.A. program, primarily offered off-campus through the UW Outreach School. These classes are taught by a combination of video conference sessions along with intensive weekend courses held at central locations.
"This is a challenging structure because few faculty members experience this format during their graduate educations. Therefore, they have no frame of reference when preparing their first outreach classes," says Jim King, professor in the UW Department of Political Science. "Without question, Professor Skopek met these challenges, mastered this format and is now an exceptional teacher of outreach classes."
Her teaching assignments for the M.P.A. program have included three of the five core courses and various seminars and topics courses as electives. She has directed experiential learning activities of M.P.A. students, taught the department's primary University Studies courses -- American and Wyoming government -- on campus and for several years and has supervised the Washington Semester Program.
"One of the reasons Professor Skopek is such a valuable member of our faculty is the wide range of classes she offers," King says. "Few in any department match the diversity Professor Skopek brings to our program."
Her teaching strengths also were noted by some of her students.
"I am impressed with Professor Skopek's breadth of knowledge and her ability to relate the theories presented during the semester to specific points in governmental history," one student writes. "This ability ties academics to the practical world."
Another adds, "Professor Skopek's assignments are very relevant and she offers enough of a challenge to really apply the classroom knowledge. I will finish this course with a solid grasp of the various contemporary issues facing personnel management while having a sufficient historical perspective to fall back on when needed."
Skopek received her B.A. (1992) degree from the University of Texas, Austin: and both her M.P.A. (1995) and Ph.D. (2000) degrees from Texas Tech University in Lubbock.