PULLMAN, Wash. — Richard S. Zack, associate professor of entomology at Washington State University, will receive the Marian E. Smith Faculty Achievement Award during “Celebrating Excellence: An Evening Honoring Our Faculty and Staff” banquet. The open-to-the-public event will be held the evening of March 26 in Beasley Performing Arts Coliseum.
The award, this year’s recognizing the 2002-03 academic year, is bestowed each spring on a WSU faculty member in recognition of significant and meritorious achievement in teaching during the prior academic year. Recipients also receive a $5,000 award.
Zack has been selected for the award for his innovative reinvigoration of the entry-level course “Insects and People” (Entomology 101). By changing student evaluations in the course from a mid-term and final format to a weekly quiz-and-assignment format, he was able to unlock the world of insects for students who are often non-science majors.
He undertook the project with the help of four students. Together they set out to create a more exciting course, Zack said. To revamp the course he solicited and integrated the input of former student as consultants, converted traditional lectures and photographs to Power Point presentations and Web availability, and incorporated a journal assignment into the course.
The enrollment in the entomology course grew from 23 students in 1997, to 48 in 1998, to 176 in 2003.
His students, however, offer the best indication of Zack’s dedication and commitment as a teacher. “He truly loves what he teaches and this love is reflected in his style,” said one nominator. “His excitement for his work spread throughout the class and stimulated us to learn.”
“Dr. Zack infused his passion for a knowledge of insects to over 100 students from all backgrounds and interests,” said another nominator. “As a future educator, myself, it was a joy to watch his enthusiasm, energy and ability create a learning environment appropriate for all students in our class.”
He has been featured in a number of articles in WSU’s student newspaper, The Daily Evergreen, receiving its Matthew R. Weaver Distinguished Professor Award, and his course “Insects and People” has been listed as one of the “must-take courses” at WSU.
Zack’s commitment to teaching extends beyond WSU. He has been active in the Formal Teaching Conference of the Entomological Society of America for a number of years and has served two terms on the organization’s Education Committee. At a recent meeting, Zack was invited to present a paper on his innovative classroom techniques.
He has coordinated with colleagues in service workshops at annual state meetings for science teachers, including managing a sessions of more than 40 elementary teachers to address the many questions they brought to the teaching of science.
Zack has authored or co-authored more than 45 refereed publications. His recent awards include the Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching, Entomological Society of America (2001, 2003); the R.M. Wade Foundation Award for Excellence in Teaching, WSU College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences (2001); and the Teaching Award of Merit, National Association of Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (2001). He has also given a number of presentations on insects and ecological issues.
An Ohio native, Zack began his career at WSU in a staff position in 1981 and moved to a faculty position in 1997. Zack earned a bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University (1974), a master’s degree from Kent State University (1976) and a doctorate from WSU (1982).
Reservations for the March 26 “Celebrating Excellence: An Evening Honoring Our Faculty and Staff” banquet are required and may be made through the WSU Conference and Professional Programs Web site at http://www.capps.wsu.edu/showcase. For those without Web access, Conferences and Professional Programs can be reached by telephone at (509) 335-3530 or (800) 942-4978.