WSU Spirit Mark.For the second time this year, Aaron Whelchel, associate professor of history, has been recognized as an outstanding instructor.

“I was very surprised and pleased to learn about this second award,” said Whelchel. “I was thrilled to be recognized regionally.”

He is the recipient of the 2021 UPCEA West Region Excellence in Teaching Award.

Whelchel was also the recipient of WSU’s student-nominated Excellence in Online Teaching (EOT) Award, sponsored by WSU Academic Outreach and Innovation (AOI), for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Like WSU’s EOT Award, UPCEA’s Excellence in Teaching Award is designed to honor instructors who display outstanding teaching, course development, and mentoring of students and recognize significant contributions to credit or noncredit programs within professional, continuing, or online education.

“Online learning is critical as it provides opportunities for those not able to attend ‘traditional’ courses to continue their education,” said Whelchel. “It also allows for a much more diverse group of students, allowing both the instructor and fellow students to learn from people with a wide variety of experiences. With the tools available to us today, the online classroom can be just as interactive as face-to-face classes—in some cases even more so.”

UPCEA is a leading association for professional, continuing, and online education, serving more than 400 institutions across North America. Founded in 1915, UPCEA provides its members with specialty conferences and seminars, research and benchmarking information, professional networking opportunities, and publications.

Whelchel will be recognized at the organization’s virtual Regions Week Conference Oct. 18-21.

According to Whelchel, his passion for teaching history was ignited by history professors he learned from 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 earned his Ph.D. in world history from WSU in 2011, taught his first WSU Global Campus course the same year, and has been working at WSU’s Vancouver Campus since 2012.

“Aaron is a talented, thoughtful, and outstanding teacher. He brings history to life in the classroom,” said Pavithra Narayanan, academic director and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) at WSU Vancouver. “His colleagues have remarked that Aaron’s engagement with cultural and political topics allow students to understand historical as well as contemporary racial, gender, and economic inequalities.”

Debbie O’Donnell, WSU Global Campus’ vice chancellor of student affairs, says she’s happy to see Whelchel recognized at the regional level.

“It’s vital that we hold up exceptional faculty members and reward their efforts, and we want to do that on the highest level possible,” she said. “The student feedback we have received about Aaron is outstanding and is evidence of his dedication and skill as an online instructor. This regional recognition by the UPCEA is very well deserved.”

O’Donnell, a UPCEA member, nominated Whelchel for the award based on outstanding student feedback from the EOT Award selection process.

“Everyone who is part of the university team is responsible for awards like this,” said Whelchel. “So many provide support that allow me and my students to reach our goals.”

By Jeff Willadsen, WSU Insider