Education Professor Wins UW Distance Teaching Honor

April 23, 2012
Man smiling
Cliff Harbour, University of Wyoming College of Education associate professor, is the 2012 winner of the Hollon Family Award for Teaching Excellence in Off-campus Programs.

Students in Cliff Harbour's graduate-level education classes say he has a passion for the course content, is open to different points of view and offers insightful feedback.

They also say his supportive style and responsiveness to individual student needs help create motivating and inspiring class sessions.

Those are remarkable observations, especially considering the fact that his students are not in the same classroom with Harbour, UW College of Education associate professor. Harbour's classes in the adult and postsecondary education graduate program are offered through UW's Outreach School, using distance learning technology.

"Dr. Harbour possesses a deep, experienced understanding of the unique challenges faced by students at a distance, along with the great challenge to offer a course of study that embodies the highest standards of academic rigor and integrity," wrote Larry Jansen, online coordinator for UW Outreach Credit Programs.

For his outstanding work as an instructor, Harbour is the recipient of UW's 2012 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."

Graduate courses taught by Harbour have included community college administration, planning and evaluation, leadership and policy analysis, and trends in ethical, legal and social issues. His students, enrolling from locations around Wyoming as well as out of state, consistently rate his classes and instruction as excellent.

"Dr. Harbour's dynamic teaching style allows students to be fully engaged in their learning processes, even when they have other commitments outside the classroom," wrote Mary Gatua, an international student from Kenya who earned a Ph.D. in adult education from UW in 2011. "In an increasingly interconnected world, distance learning plays, and will continue to play, an important role of enhancing students' educational experiences, as Dr. Harbour so skillfully demonstrated in teaching off-campus courses."

Dane Graham, dean for institutional advancement at Central Wyoming College in Riverton, says he took his first course from Harbour in the spring of 2009 with the intent of having the credits transfer to Kansas State University, where Graham was a graduate student working on an online degree.

"It didn't take me long to notice a distinct difference between this University of Wyoming professor and those at Kansas State," wrote Graham, who will earn his advanced degree this spring through UW instead. "This professor actually went out of his way to engage students. It was as though he genuinely cared whether or not I was grasping the material or connecting with classmates in healthy dialogue."

Graham says Harbour's "personal touch and commitment to educational success and personal growth" set him apart from many of his colleagues.

UW College of Education Dean Kay Persichitte says Harbour has had "a tremendously positive influence" on other faculty members "regarding the opportunity for distance-delivered courses to be not only as rigorous as on-campus ones, but that they can offer special teaching and learning environments that can be better than face-to-face . even more tailored to the individual needs of each learner."

Harbour earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy and political science in 1978 from Rhode Island College, a law degree in 1980 from Ohio Northern University, a master's degree in philosophy in 1987 from Duke University, and a doctorate in education in 2000 from North Carolina State University.

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