Biology professor receives teaching award

Dr. Elizabeth Heeg-Truesdell, assistant professor of biology at Northwestern College, has been named this year’s recipient of the Northwestern Teaching Excellence Award. She received a $1,500 check and a commemorative plaque at a campus chapel service on April 30.

The award is sponsored by the Alumni Association and the Student Government Association (SGA). Students nominated 23 professors for the honor. A selection committee—composed of two SGA members, three members of the Sigma Tau senior honor society, the past two award winners and a representative of the Alumni Association—pared the nominees to three 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. Dean Calsbeek, associate professor of kinesiology, and Dr. Scott Monsma, associate professor of sociology.

Heeg-Truesdell, in her fourth year on the faculty, is described by students as extremely knowledgeable but able to relate well with students and excite them about the subject matter.

Dr. Heeg-Truesdell has an outstanding ability to relate course material with real-life analogies that are easy to understand and remember,” says senior biology health professions major Rachel Schultz. “Her courses cover not only necessary material, but also offer projects with the opportunity to really dig deeper into what will be significant for students as they pursue a specific field of study. Gaining factual knowledge and the understanding of fundamental principles related to the course are fascinating as well as fun in her classes.”

“Her classes are conducted in a rigorous academic manner that is still friendly and engaging to the students,” wrote junior biology health professions major Jacob Peterson in a letter of nomination. “She is one of my favorite professors because of her willingness to treat students as colleagues in science, not subordinates.

 “She is willing to spend countless hours outside of classes perfecting lectures, helping students grasp material, and checking over her tests to make sure the questions test class material without having a confusing context,” added Peterson.

Andrew Klumpp, a senior music major who took Human Anatomy and Physiology with Heeg-Truesdell, says she is approachable. “She is easy to talk to, and she makes it a priority to meet with students.” Klumpp teamed with her in Northwestern’s Dancing with the Profs competition in February.

Heeg-Truesdell earned a bachelor’s degree in biology health professions from Northwestern College in 2001 and completed a doctorate in biochemistry, molecular biology and cell biology at Northwestern University, where she received the Teaching Assistant of the Year Award in 2003. She has published several articles with her graduate program mentor in journals like Current Biology and Developmental Biology.