History prof recognized for excellence in teaching

Aaron Whelchel, associate professor of history at WSU Vancouver and WSU Global, is the winner of the 2020-21 Excellence in Online Teaching Award, an annual student-nominated award sponsored by Academic Outreach and Innovation (AOI).

“Dr. Whelchel has an obvious enthusiasm for the material. He gathered wonderfully thought-provoking content, often primary sources, that encouraged me to challenge what I thought I knew about the world,” said Robert Fisher, one of the students who nominated Whelchel.

The award, now in its fifth year, seeks to acknowledge and reward Washington State University faculty members teaching Global Campus courses who employ best practices to engage, inspire, support, and show care for students in an online environment.

Whelchel earned his PhD in world history from WSU in 2011 and taught his first Global Campus course the same year. He has been working at WSU Vancouver since 2012.

Aaron Whelchel

“His approach to distance learning and group work is the most effective I’ve encountered thus far,” said David Bowman, another student nominator. “He was also very enthusiastic… he made me feel like he was genuinely excited to read our papers and not merely fulfilling his duties as an instructor.”

“I was very surprised and honored by receiving this award,” said Whelchel. “It is very gratifying to know that students found the course valuable, engaging, and fun.”

His passion for teaching history was ignited by history professors he had as a student, and their example influenced his current teaching philosophy.

“My goal as a teacher is to help students develop the skills that are critical not only for academic success but also for understanding the context of the world we live in today,” he said. “I value connections and interactions, and work to incorporate these aspects into online learning as much as possible.”

Whelchel was one of 43 online instructors nominated for the award this year.

“It was very clear that the nominated instructors have all made a positive impact on the lives of their students,” said AOI award committee chair Christie Kittle. “That kind of passion and enthusiasm for higher education makes a real difference in our world and is something worth recognizing and celebrating.”

By Jeff Willadsen, AOI, for WSU Insider