|Dr. Mike Kugler, associate professor of history at Northwestern College, has been named this year’s recipient of the Northwestern Teaching Excellence Award. He received a $1,500 check and a plaque at the college’s Honors Convocation May 2.
The award is sponsored by the Alumni Association and the Student Government Association (SGA). Students nominated 18 professors for the honor, with 41 nominations being received. A selection committee—composed of two SGA members, three members of the Sigma Tau senior honor society and the past two award winners—pared the nominees to three finalists.
Factors considered in the decision-making process included the number of nominations in relation to candidates’ teaching loads, quality of nominations, professional development, research and publications, institutional service and student course evaluations.
The other finalists were Rick Clark, instructor in Spanish, and Wayne Westenberg, assistant professor of math education.
Students who nominated Kugler for the award describe him as a lively, humorous professor.
“He taught with a fun and passionate attitude toward the material that made me want to learn,” wrote one.
Another said, “He makes history come alive by taking someone from history and putting what they have done into relevance to today’s world, showing how it has affected us today.”
Kugler, who says his examination of history encourages him to answer questions about his faith and his role in society, is also noted for helping students to become more critical thinkers.
“Professor Kugler truly challenges students to think deeply and challenge their long-held beliefs in order to more fully understand the world,” wrote a third student.
A member of the Northwestern faculty since 1994 and an assistant coach for the men’s soccer team, Kugler is known for periodically changing how he teaches his Western Civilization course. “I lead them through a chronological study of history, but we work around themes and questions they might be interested in, like ‘What is politics about?’ ‘What is the role of art in society?’ ‘What separates the sacred from the secular?’”
“He genuinely cares that I learn the material,” wrote a student who nominated Kugler for the award. “He is open to setting up a meeting to discuss things I’m confused about—his office is open for me to stop by and talk, and he’s also offered his home phone number if I need help.”
A specialist in 18th-century Enlightenment history, particularly the study of Scots debating the role of the Christian faith in secular culture, Kugler has presented his research at conferences in Ireland, as well as at the Conference on Faith and History, the American Society of Eighteenth Century Scholars, and the North American Conference on British Studies. He has had articles published in Fides et Historia and The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation.
Kugler earned a doctorate in history from the University of Chicago and a master’s degree in history from Western Washington University. He completed his undergraduate work at Judson Baptist College.