Dr. Laird Edman, professor of psychology 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 on April 29.
The award is sponsored by the Alumni Association and the Student Government Association (SGA). Students nominated 27 professors for the honor, with 65 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 four finalists.
Factors considered in the decision-making process included the number of nominations in relation to candidates’ class sizes, quality of nominations, professional development, research and publications, institutional service and student course evaluations.
The other finalists were Dr. Graham Lemke, associate professor of business and economics; Dr. Dick Van Holland, professor of business and economics; and Dr. John Vonder Bruegge, instructor in religion.
Edman, in his fifth year on the faculty, is described by students as passionate about psychology, students and teaching. “I’ve never been so pushed or stretched to learn,” says Kelsey Arvidson, a graduating senior psychology major from North Oaks, Minn. “He teaches in a way that is challenging and eye-opening, and he’s always willing to help. He’s completely brilliant, and he shares his knowledge in a way students can understand.”
Jacob Parsons, a freshman biology health professions major from Los Alamos, N.M., says Edman is “one of the most dedicated, wise, real, honest and influential persons—let alone professors—I have ever encountered. He is a huge asset to this campus as a philosopher, professor, mentor and fellow Christian.”
Edman is praised by students for his integration of faith and learning. “He is intentional about preparing students for the real world of psychology but also being able to have an answer for our faith in an often secular field,” says Emily Griese, a graduating senior with a psychology major from Platte, S.D. “Through class activities in which we take differing perspectives and argue opposing viewpoints, we are not only educated on why we should have the faith we do, but why others don’t. In doing so, we are becoming truly educated on being a psychologist with a Christian faith.”
A co-director of Northwestern’s Honors Program, Edman is committed to his students in and out of the classroom, according to those who nominated him for the award. “He has been an influential mentor for many of his students, not only by allowing them to come to him with classroom issues, but also issues concerning their faith and relationships,” says Griese.
Edman advises senior research students and teaches Research Methods, History and Systems of Psychology, General Psychology, Learning and Cognition, Statistics, and Christ and Psychology at Northwestern. He previously taught at the University of Minnesota, Iowa State University, Waldorf College and Luther College, receiving Iowa State’s 2003 Honors Faculty of the Year Award and Waldorf’s 1995 Professor of the Year Award.
Edman’s research on critical thinking and emotional intelligence has been published in Psychological Reports, The Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, Resources in Education, Teaching and Learning in Honors, and The National Honors Report. He has also presented papers, workshops and seminars—including many in collaboration with Northwestern students—at the annual conferences of the American Psychological Society, Association for Psychological Science, National Collegiate Honors Council and American Educational Research Association.
Edman earned a doctorate in educational psychology that focused on cognition and learning from the University of Minnesota, as well as master’s degrees in counseling psychology and English literature from the University of Notre Dame. He completed his undergraduate studies at Luther College.