Barbara K. Bekken, assistant professor of geosciences in the College of Science at Virginia Tech, received two university awards this spring — the 2010 Edward S. Diggs Teaching Scholars Award and the 2010 Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Sponsored by the Virginia Tech Academy of Teaching Excellence, the Diggs Teaching Scholars Award was established in 1992 and is presented annually to three Virginia Tech faculty members to recognize exceptional contributions to the teaching program and learning environment. A cash award is given to each recipient and their academic department. Diggs Teaching Scholars are invited to lead the Diggs Roundtable -- a series of presentations and a discussion of their innovative teaching -- a year after receiving the award.

The award is supported by an endowed fund from an estate gift by the late Edward S. and Hattie Wilson Diggs. Mr. Diggs was a 1914 graduate of Virginia Tech.

Created in 1982 by the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, the Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching is presented to two Virginia Tech faculty members each year. Recipients are selected by the university’s Academy of Teaching Excellence from among those faculty members who have received certificates of teaching excellence from their respective colleges in the preceding three years. Each recipient is awarded $2,000, and is inducted into the Academy of Teaching Excellence.

Bekken came to Virginia Tech in 1992 and almost immediately began developing new approaches to course design and teaching. Her teaching methods strongly reflect her belief that scientists can no longer work in isolation, but must include other disciplines into their work.

To put this philosophy into practice, Bekken led an interdisciplinary team in developing a four-semester course in earth sustainability as part of the curriculum for liberal education. As director of this course, Bekken has demonstrated her leadership skills by bringing together a team of instructors from around the university. The popularity of the course among students is indicated by course evaluations and student comments.

Bekken has received exceptionally high ratings from students in each of the courses she teaches.

"Barbara has a demeanor and classroom presence that makes the students feel at ease while at the same time keeps them actively engaged in the learning process," said Robert Bodnar, University Distinguished Professor of Geosciences. "I am proud to call Barbara a colleague. She is clearly someone who is making a difference."

Bekken earned her master's degree from the University of Washington and her Ph.D. from Stanford University. She was recently named a Fellow of the Geological Society of America and has received numerous other awards and honors.

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