WCU’s Chris Cooper named ‘Professor of the Year’ by Carnegie Foundation

Chris Cooper, associate professor and head of the Department of Political Science and Public Affairs at Western Carolina University, has been named the 2013 “Professor of the Year” in the state of North Carolina by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Cooper is among faculty members from 36 states who were selected from more than 350 top professors in the United States for this year’s awards. Announcement of the awards was made Thursday, Nov. 14.

A faculty member at WCU since 2002, Cooper earlier this year was named one of the best teachers in the University of North Carolina system in recognition of his engaging and dynamic teaching style. He was among 17 recipients of the 19th annual UNC Board of Governors Awards for Excellence in Teaching announced in March.

Cooper regularly wins rave reviews from his students and earns praise from his faculty colleagues as an engaging professor who is energized by his interactions with students, said Richard Starnes, dean of WCU’s College of Arts and Sciences.

“This award from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching simply confirms what his students and colleagues already know – Chris Cooper is a gifted teacher who fires his students’ imaginations and love of learning through his infectious passion for political science and his sincere dedication to their success,” Starnes said. “He is a true teacher-scholar who challenges, empowers and motivates his students every day.”

As an active researcher, Cooper has written numerous articles, including editorial columns for newspapers across the state, and has made many appearances on local TV and radio stations because of his expertise on political issues. He involves his students in research projects, and 10 of his students have been chosen to present at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research over the past few years. He also has co-authored several papers and newspaper articles with students.

He and his former WCU faculty colleague Gibbs Knotts, now chair of the political science department at the College of Charleston, are co-editors of “The New Politics of North Carolina,” published in 2008.

Cooper was the 2011 winner of WCU’s Distinguished Scholar Award and a 2007 winner of the university Chancellor’s Award for Engaged Teaching.

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation have been partners in offering the U.S. Professors of the Year awards program since 1981. Additional support for the program is received from Phi Beta Kappa, which sponsors an evening congressional reception, the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education and other higher education associations.

For this year’s awards, CASE assembled two preliminary panels of judges to select finalists. The Carnegie Foundation then convened the third and final panel, which selected four national winners. CASE and Carnegie select state winners from top entries resulting from the judging process. Cooper was selected from faculty members nominated by colleges and universities throughout the country.

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is an independent policy and research center that supports transformations in American education through tighter connections between teaching practice, evidence of student learning, the communication and use of that evidence, and structured opportunities to build knowledge.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., with offices in London, Singapore and Mexico City, CASE is a professional association serving educational institutions and the advancement professionals at all levels who work in alumni relations, communications, fundraising, marketing and other areas.

Chris Cooper

Chris Cooper