Dr. Melissa Walker, associate professor of history at Converse College, was a top-five finalist in early November for the 2006 Governors Professor of the Year award for four-year colleges. She was the only finalist from a private college. Her placement for such a prestigious award is the latest recognition for her being one of the most respected and accomplished teachers at Converse, in the state of South Carolina and beyond.
A native of Maryville, TN, Walker has received every teaching awardincluding the OHerron Award for Faculty Excellence (2002) and the Kathryne Amelia Brown Award for outstanding teaching (2001)and nearly every other award granted by Converse. Her passion for history and discovery are clearly reflected in her teaching methods as she involves her students as active participants in their learning. She is the author of several books which detail the stories of Southern rural women, 12 articles in journals and edited collections, 15 encyclopedia articles and 28 book reviews.
Walker is also held in the highest regard by other educational and historical organizations. In 2004, she served as the master scholar for a Teaching American History grant sponsored by the US Department of Education. As a master scholar, she provided public school teachers with instruction in American history. She has been a recipient of the John Trotwood and Mary Daniel Moore Memorial Award from the Tennessee Historical Association and the National Mortar Board Award for Excellence in Advising. In 1998, she was Joseph J. Malone Faculty Fellow to Syria. She currently serves on the editorial board of the South Carolina Historical Magazine, has served on the Executive Council of the Agricultural History Society, served a five-year term as executive secretary for the Southern Association for Women Historians and was a project scholar for the South Carolina Humanities Councils Barn Again! program which was part of the 2003.-2004 Smithsonian Institutions Museums on Main Street program.
But its the Converse classroom where Dr. Walker makes a difference everyday in the lives of students. Whenever possible, she seeks to give students real-world experience in doing hands-on historical research. Students often complete oral history interviews and local history research papers in her class. The best local history research papers are deposited at the Spartanburg County Public Library for the benefit of future researchers. In the past ten years, approximately 30 such papers have become part of the local history collection at the public library. Occasionally through her contacts in the community, Dr. Walker is able to develop opportunities for students to complete research projects that add to the local historical record in other ways. In fall 2004, students in her African-American history class completed a research project that became part of a book published by the Hub City Writers Project. South of Main traced the history of a black neighborhood in Spartanburg that was razed by urban renewal in the 1970s. Students work became part of two chapters of the book.
In another example of her integrated teaching style, she designed a short-term course on the Revolution in the Carolinas, with classes being taught on the actual battlefields and student research literally taking to the field. She has expanded this latter effort in a National Endowment for the Humanities grant application to bring high school teachers from around the country to South Carolina to learn about the Revolutionary War at the actual historical sites.
Walker earned her B.A. from Maryville College; her M.A. from Providence College and