Knotts wins UNC teaching award

Gibbs Knotts, associate professor of political science and public affairs at Western Carolina University, has been named one of the best teachers in the University of North Carolina system in recognition of the way his classroom enthusiasm for politics and government inspires students to become better citizens.

Gibbs Knotts

Gibbs Knotts

Knotts, head of WCU’s department of political science and public affairs, is among 16 recipients of the UNC Board of Governors Awards for Excellence in Teaching.

Clarice Cato Goodyear, a member of the Board of Governors, is scheduled to present Knotts with the award at WCU’s commencement ceremony Saturday, May 8, for students from the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Education and Allied Professions, and Health and Human Sciences. He also will speak at the Graduate School commencement ceremony Friday, May 7.

A faculty member at WCU since 2000, Knotts is highly regarded as a skilled classroom teacher by faculty colleagues and by undergraduate and graduate students, Chancellor John W. Bardo said in announcing the honor as part of the annual spring Awards Convocation on Friday, April 16.

“His excitement for teaching is not only contagious, but also inspiring,” Bardo said. “He motivates students to become engaged individuals who are active participants in their learning. Gibbs also moves student growth and learning beyond the classroom by utilizing service-learning projects.”

In one project, students from one of Knotts’ classes designed, implemented and analyzed a survey for the Downtown Sylva Association, Bardo said. “This hands-on experience gave students a chance to better understand the course’s learning objectives while at the same time assisting a local community organization,” he said.

Don Livingston, professor of political science and public affairs, called Knotts “a role model for his undergraduate students and a mentor for his graduate students.” Chris Cooper, associate professor of political science and public affairs and director of the master’s degree program in public affairs, praised Knotts for his ability to show students “how the totality of their educational experiences translates into success outside of Cullowhee.”

Former student Leslie Fleisher, a retired teacher with 15 years of experience who decided to work on a graduate degree through the MPA program, called Knotts the finest teacher he has ever had. “It would be an easy choice for me,” he said. “I have never been more privileged as a student than to have been taught by Dr. Gibbs Knotts. He is a teacher that comes along only once in a generation.”

Knotts earned his bachelor’s degree in political science in 1993 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his master’s degree and doctorate in political science from Emory University in 1997 and 2000, respectively.

He has served as head of the department of political science and public affairs since January 2008. Associate dean of the Graduate School and Research from July 2005 through June 2007, he is WCU’s faculty athletics representative. Knotts directed the MPA program from January 2003 through June 2005.

A prolific contributor to scholarly journals, he is called upon frequently by the news media for commentary on state, regional and national political issues. He and his WCU faculty colleague Chris Cooper are co-editors of “The New Politics of North Carolina,” published in 2008.

Knotts received the WCU Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2004.

He and the 15 other award recipients of the UNC honor, representing an array of academic disciplines, were nominated by special committees on their home campuses and selected by the Board of Governors Committee on Personnel and Tenure.

Established by the Board of Governors in April 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching and to reward good teaching across the university, the awards are given annually to a tenured faculty member from each UNC campus. Winners must have taught at their present institutions at least seven years. No one may receive the award more than once.