The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education have named Converse College professor Dr. Joe Dunn as the 2013 S.C. Professor of the Year. Dunn was selected from more than 350 top professors in the United States, and is Converse College’s third professor to receive the award since 2006.
"Teaching is what I do; it is who I am; I can’t be other."
"Joe Dunn is an extraordinary teacher whose passion for history and politics brings excitement to the classroom and truly transforms the lives and perspectives of students," said Converse President Betsy Fleming. "A master teacher-scholar revered by colleagues and students alike, he has created an enduring legacy that reflects the activated voice, added value and transformational vision which distinguish Converse today."
Dr. Dunn is Charles A. Dana Professor of History and Politics at Converse, where he has taught for 37 years. A dynamo of energy and exuberance at 68 years old, Dunn plans to keep on transforming the lives of students for at least another decade or more. “Teaching is what I do; it is who I am; I can’t be other,” he says. “My calling in life is to transform young women into more than they ever conceived they could be.” His successes are legion, and he has a hundreds of former students who proudly proclaim his impact in shaping their perspectives, aspirations and careers.
A scholar with six books and more than 75 published articles to his credit, Dunn’s research and writing are as eclectic as his teaching. While he has gained national standing as an authority on the Vietnam War and the Middle East, he also has published on Southern women, pioneer frontier college founders, church political activists, the Cold War, and innovative teaching strategies. His Vietnam War memoir was cited as one of the best of the genre, and his latest book is a biography and community history of his mother’s life. He has held virtually every faculty leadership position and earned nearly every teaching award at Converse, and has served as chair of the history and politics department for 25 years.
“Next to my wife, son, and daughter-in-law, who are the pillars of my life, is this college – its students, alumnae, history and future,” he said. “How could one ask more in a life? If this award is testament to that commitment, then I am most pleased with the recognition.”
A Teacher’s Legacy
While his scholarly achievements rank among the top in his field, it is the classroom from which he derives his sustenance. “I’ve had offers as dean and a serious college presidency inquiry, but I couldn’t leave this particular place, where I truly believe God granted me the blessing to be,” Dunn proclaims.
Three elements consistently characterize Dunn in his award nominations: an unwavering demand for excellence and for a student’s best – even beyond her own expectations; a requirement for students to invest in their own education; and a dedication to mentorship that goes beyond the typical. Dr. Nitu Bagchi, a professor of political science at Millersville University in Pennsylvania, noted that Dunn adopted her as a young international student from India and guided her career, “He develops strong students, all of whom love him.” She relates a story of returning to Spartanburg from Christmas vacation by bus early in the morning on New Year’s Day, surprised to find Dr. Dunn waiting for her at the bus station. A fellow student had called to tell him that she would be arriving, and he was not going to have her walk back to campus in the dark and cold.
“It was extremely inspiring to have a professor...challenge me to dream bigger, and offer to help me every step of the way as my advisor.”
Former student Valerie Brock Naglich arrived at Converse dedicated to pursuing a music career, but says Dunn put in her mind a vision for the public service career she now enjoys with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “It was extremely inspiring to have a professor identify my scholastic aptitude, challenge me to dream bigger, and offer to help me every step of the way as my advisor,” she said. Dunn mentored Naglich as she secured summer internships with a federal agency, as she pursued her Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Georgia, and through her successful application as a Presidential Management Fellow. “I wholeheartedly credit my success to Dr. Dunn, who established firm goals and challenged me to excel.”
Class of 2013 graduate Morgan Roach, who was awarded a full fellowship to pursue her doctorate at Ohio State University, summed up her sentiments with, “There is something about Joe Dunn that makes every one of his students strive to please him….He has an uncanny ability not only to see potential in us that we cannot see in ourselves, but also to convince us of that which he sees.”
Mentoring his Colleagues, Advancing his Profession
That ability to inspire extends beyond students. Junior colleages Drs. Mirko Hall and Edward Woodfin extoll Dunn as a model for their development as Converse professors. Woodfin notes, “Joe’s greatest strength as a leader is that he is so deeply committed to our success that he is just as pleased to see our work succeed as he is to see his own work succeed.” And Hall emphasizes that he is continuously struck and deeply moved by Dunn’s generosity and genuine concern for students. “I clearly remember him offering me the following advice as a new faculty member: don’t be afraid to love your students and your institution.”
“I clearly remember him offering me the following advice as a new faculty member: don’t be afraid to love your students and your institution.”
Among Dunn’s greatest contributions at Converse is his development and oversight of the college’s nationally award-winning Model Programs. In these diplomatic simulations, students place themselves in the role of the country they represent. They conduct research, formulate policies, write position papers and resolutions, debate and negotiate, forge coalitions, and engage in “crisis” emergencies. “The process develops skills that translate into all aspects of life,” says Dunn. “Over 25 years, my students have perfected what others call the ‘gold standard’ of preparation and performance.” Dunn and his students provide training for model programs at other colleges in the U.S., and have traveled to the Middle East twice to help establish programs there. Fellow Model Arab League adviser, Phil D’Agati of Northeastern University, regards Dunn as “a genuine mentor who loves his profession…his students are truly blessed to be under his care.”
Joe Dunn earned a B.S. degree in history from Southeast Missouri State University, an M.A. and Ph.D. in history from the University of Missouri, and completed post-doctoral work in political science at Duke University. He has taught at the University of Missouri and the University of Maryland—University College Europe, serving in Greece, Turkey, Spain, and Germany.
Over the course of his career, Dunn has given lectures at the U.S. Army War College, U.S. Air Force Command and Staff College, and the U.S. Air Force War College; participated in numerous national security forums; and served as a member of the board of scholars of the Vietnam Veterans Institute. He has been interviewed in The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, US News & World Report, and many other media outlets in this country and abroad. In 2003 he gave the Friend-Bollinger Regional History Lecture, an endowed distinguished professor honor at his alma mater.
Dr. Dunn serves as executive director of the Carolinas Committee on U.S.-Arab Relations, director of the Southeast Model Arab League, and governing board member and director of International Model NATO. He has been a Joseph J. Malone Faculty Fellow in several Middle Eastern countries, delegation leader for the Kuwait Studies Program and the Arab League Exchange Program in Cairo, participant in the Council on International Educational Exchange seminars in Croatia, Bosnia and Jordan; and visiting professor at the University of Iceland. He recently retired as a board member of Medical Missions, Inc., and has engaged in multiple international missionary projects, including fundraising to build an orphanage and churches that are named in his honor in Ghana. Most recently, he has done consulting work on progressive, student-active education in Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.
Dunn was cited twice for the Outstanding Teaching in Political Science Award from the American Political Science Association/ Pi Sigma Alpha National Political Science Honor Society.
About Professor of the Year Award
CASE 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 (POD) Network in Higher Education and other higher education associations. This year, a state Professor of the Year was recognized in 36 states.
The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is an independent policy and research center that supports needed transformations in American education through tighter connections between teaching practice, evidence of student learning, the communication and use of this evidence, and structured opportunities to build knowledge.
Headquartered in Washington, D.C., with offices in London, Singapore and Mexico City, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education 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.