Whether showing up for class in period costume, playing period music, or serving period food (including World War I gruel so bad that some students consider it a badge of honor to say they have tasted it and survived), Associate Professor of History Dr. Edward Woodfin brings history to life for his students in unforgettable ways. His demanding, yet in-demand courses feature innovative and diverse approaches to teaching and learning. A visit to one of his classes—whether it be in a classroom building or outdoors in a hands-on engagement—reveals the sort of teaching skill that distinguishes Dr. Woodfin as the 2012 recipient of the Excellence in Teaching award presented by South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, Inc. (SCICU).
At a time when the validity of the liberal arts is being questioned within the public sphere, Dr. Woodfin cultivates in his students a keen awareness of the relevance of history to today
A former Fulbright Fellow at the Australian Defense Force Academy in Canberra, he leads Converse’s program to guide future recipients of such prestigious external scholarships. During his tenure, Converse students have received three Fulbright Awards in the past four years.
One student observed that “Professor Woodfin is not an easy teacher. …he is a hard grader and…he assigns a lot of reading. Nonetheless, [students] learn in his class. They like and respect him, and many of them come back for more.” Indeed, one senior history major went so far as to sign up for one of Dr. Woodfin’s 100-level survey courses in her senior year saying, “I can’t graduate without one more Dr. Woodfin class and it’s the only one that fits my schedule.”
Whether it is re-enacting the Battle of Crécy on the academic quad or coming to his Latin American History class dressed as an Incan peasant, Edward Woodfin makes history happen at Converse. President Betsy Fleming comments, “Dr. Woodfin brings history to life and develops in his students the skills to understand the past in the context of the present. At a time when the validity of the liberal arts is being questioned within the public sphere, Dr. Woodfin cultivates in his students a keen awareness of the relevance of history to today and works tirelessly to build students’ professional advancement through external scholarships.” Vice President for Academic Affairs Jeffrey Barker adds, “Edward Woodfin is passionate about history and his passion is contagious. Students come away from his classes with a real sense of the importance of the past.”
Dr. Woodfin joined the Converse College faculty in 2005. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in British History from Texas A & M University and graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and History from Baylor University. He has established himself as a dedicated, demanding, and innovative teacher of histor, and in 2008 was recognized with Converse’s Kathryn Amelia Brown Award for Excellence in Teaching. Dr. Woodfin’s courses in British history incorporate his ongoing research, including groundbreaking work on World War I in the Middle East. This June, Palgrave Macmillan will publish his book, Camp and Combat on the Sinai and Palestine Front: The Experience of the British Empire Soldier, 1916-18, which sheds new light on this forgotten theatre of the war.
Each of the 20 member institutions of the SCICU consortium selects one faculty member each year to receive the Excellence in Teaching award, which includes a professional development stipend for the professor. The most important characteristic of the nominees is their demonstration of the highest standards in teaching methods that encourage students to strive for excellence in their studies and pursuits. Dr. Woodfin plans to use the award stipend to do original research on his next book, a study of pioneer WWI-era Australian pilot, Ross Smith. He will incorporate this work into his modern European history courses.
SCICU was established in 1953 with the primary mission of promoting independent higher education in South Carolina. SCICU seeks to advance independent higher education through fundraising, scholarships, research, and by facilitating collaborative activities among the 20 member institutions, which educate nearly 33,000 students each year. For additional information about SCICU, contact Mike LeFever or Brenda Torrance at 803-799-7122, or visit www.scicu.org.