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Regents honor Nate Splett for instructional skills

UW-River Falls Agricultural Economics Professor Nate Splett, who also serves as the associate dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, has been selected for a Teaching Excellence Award by the UW System Board of Regents.

Splett was recognized at the board's Nov. 6 meeting with the presentation of the Regents' 16th annual Teaching Excellence Award along with UW-Oshkosh Communications Professor Douglas Heil, and the Department of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science at UW-Stout.

Splett becomes the fourth UW-RF faculty member to be recognized with the highest teaching award in the 26-campus University of Wisconsin System. Previous recipients include English Professor Nick Karolides, Economics Professor Janna Cowen and Psychology Professor Brad Caskey.

Chancellor Connie Foster applauded the selection of Splett for the award.

"Nate Splett is known throughout the UW-RF community of faculty, staff, students and alumni as a superb teacher. He is a student of his craft who continuously is assessing whether his students are learning and adjusting his activities to ensure that they do.

"His skills in this area are sought after by his faculty colleagues who recognize his exceptional expertise in this area," she said.

"That attention to student outcomes is indicative of Professor Splett's total commitment to fulfilling our primary mission: Student education. UW-RF places a premium on teaching and Nate Splett is a role model to all of us in excelling at what we value most."

The number and quality of nominations for the awards made the process of choosing the winners a significant challenge, said Regent Danae Davis of Milwaukee, who chaired the regents' selection committee.

"Once again, we have the tough challenge of choosing among excellent nominees," Davis said. "We are thrilled with the caliber of talent in our colleges and universities as reflected in this year's winners."

Other regents on the selection committee were Jeffrey Bartell, John Drew, Colleene Thomas, José V?squez and Betty Womack.

Award recipients are singled out for their strong commitment to teaching and learning; use of effective teaching strategies to enhance student learning; and for having significant impact on students' intellectual development.

Splett considers himself a partner in his students' learning experience.

"My challenge to students is to meet their greater purpose as the caretakers and shapers of our humanity, environment and ideals," Splett said.

Splett is well known for balancing theory with real-world applications and for using a variety of teaching techniques and humor to help keep his students engaged.

"Students appreciate his ability to use practical examples to illuminate theory, his patience and his willingness to work with them outside of class until the fog of confusion lifts," said Department Chair David Trechter.

Citing his recent commencement address at UW-RF, Splett said that his "credo is 'Students, Teaching, Purpose' always for our students, always we teach to the best of our ability, always so that our graduates might fulfill their greater purpose. Our university mission is to 'help students learn' and this means that our mission as faculty and teaching staff is to teach to the best of our ability. Our students expect this of us, and I see our faculty and teaching staff fulfilling this mission. It is a privilege to be a teacher among them," Splett said.

In reflecting on the award's meaning to him, Splett drew an analogy of his experiences growing up on farm. He recalled a hard day of haying with his father that was finished just before a much-needed rainstorm.

"'Boy, we hit it just right,'" Splett recalled his father saying. "It was hard work, and will be hard work again tomorrow that I look forward to. But this is one of those perfect moments along the way.

"And, this is what this recognition feels like."

Noting recent visits to the campus by the UW System Board of Regents as well as individual regents, Splett explains that those experiences enabled the UW System's leaders to more fully appreciate the quality of teaching by faculty at UWRF.

"At each of these occasions our commitment and dedication to teaching excellence was demonstrated. I think that when this nomination came before the regents, it represented to them an opportunity to recognize our entire university."

Splett brought a range of experiences to UW-RF when he joined the agriculture economics faculty in 1994. This includes nine years of experience with the Production Credit Association, the Farm Credit Administration and Agribank. He also was a vocational agriculture instructor at Barron and Turtle Lake High Schools. He previously was an instructor at UW-RF for three years.

At UW-RF, Splett teaches courses in agricultural economics, accounting, law, farm management, horticultural management and advanced microeconomic theory. He also has taught adult learners through extension courses and has lectured on farm management in Nicaragua and Russia.

The regents' award marks the fourth major educational award for Splett, who previously was named UW-RF's Distinguished Teacher, its Advisor of the Year, and from Wisconsin Association of County Agricultural Agents received its "Second Mile Award" for distinguished service.

He earned bachelor's and master's degrees from UW-RF, respectively, in agriculture education and agriculture economics, and a doctorate in agricultural economics from the University of Illinois.