Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2016

Faculty Award winner

Sandra Wheeler

 College of Sciences


As an anthropologist and educator, I engage students in the exploration of human difference and understand it as a strength rather than weakness. In the current political climate where human difference is commonly feared and vilified, we need students to think anthropologically and appreciate the complex and diverse world we live in. As a Lecturer, I teach about human cultural and biological diversity, continually peaking studentsí curiosity about their place in the global community and our place in nature.

I teach across my discipline, building connections among the biological, cultural, and archaeological subfields. I am more creative, innovative, and flexible in designing my course content and assessment due to the various modalities of teaching, challenging my notions of the traditional classroom. Together with my active participation in the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning workshops and Summer Conferences, I have applied new methods in teaching with technology, improved student engagement through assessment, and created new frameworks for building learning communities.

Thinking anthropologically entails speaking anthropologically; to this end, I encourage and facilitate class discussion. In fact, some of the best teaching moments are ones in which I speak very little and focus on moderating and mediating. I apply active learning through discussion to my face-to-face, mixed-mode, online courses, and my courses with laboratory components. Thinking anthropologically also means experiencing the world as an anthropologist. As such, my assignments emphasize experiential learning to reinforce course concepts and allow students to explore methods of anthropological research. Thinking anthropologically also means going public with their skills. Students are challenged with confronting their own experiences with ethnocentrism and biases, bringing them outside the classroom, outside the textbook, and outside the lecture, to foster greater appreciation of their place as global citizens.

Taking anthropology outside the classroom encompasses taking action through public outreach and volunteering in the local community. I demonstrate commitment to public anthropology by mentoring students and encouraging them to be anthropologists by doing anthropology. I serve as a positive role model for diversity inside and outside of the classroom by actively supporting the undergraduate anthropological experience in public outreach, volunteering, and ongoing professional development. As faculty advisor for the Undergraduate Anthropology club and the Graduate Anthropology Association, I coordinate volunteer and donation drives for the Center for Great Apes, a local primate sanctuary. I also coordinate and participate in the Annual Archaeologists for Autism, which brings archaeology to children on the spectrum through experiential learning. Additionally, I organize drawing workshops where students learn the technical archaeological drawing skills necessary for professional fieldwork and employment in archaeology. I am also a mentor with the Alliance Mentoring Program where I serve as a personal role model for a LGBTQ+ student. As an educator, my commitment is to connect with my students in meaningful ways and to provide a dynamic and enriched learning environment that fosters curiosity, critical thinking, and engagement through doing anthropology.