Amy Nelson, associate professor of history in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech, received the university's 2015 Diggs Teaching Scholars Award.

Sponsored by the Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research, the Diggs Teaching Scholars Award was established in 1992 and is presented annually to up 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. Edward Diggs was a 1914 graduate of Virginia Tech.

Nelson was recognized for her teaching-enhancement project, “Networked Learning Communities in Hybrid Courses," which uses blogs syndicated to a main course website. Students write original research posts on topics of their choosing, using print materials, sources available on the open Web, and databases provided by University Libraries.

The selection committee described her project as “leading edge for its use of active co-learning strategies that expand and extend the reach of the course beyond the physical confines of the classroom and the conceptual constraints of traditional writing assignments.”

“Amy is an exceptional teacher and scholar, who has not only had a significant impact in our department but also far beyond it,” wrote Mark Barrow, professor and chair of the Department of History, who nominated her for the award. “The range and reach of her teaching-related accomplishments are nothing short of extraordinary.”

A specialist in Russian and Soviet culture, Nelson is the author of an award-winning study of musicians in the early Soviet Period. Her current research works at the nexus of animal studies, environmental history, and cultural history and focuses on the cultural implications of domestication and the significance of domestication to the history of the Eurasian plain.

She is the editor of "Other Animals: Beyond the Human in Russian Culture and History" and is completing a study of the dogs used in the Soviet space program. Her recent publications examine the contradictions of animal protection movements in Imperial Russia, the paradoxes of Soviet pet keeping, the career of Anatoly Lunacharsky, and the history and legacy of the space dogs.

During her career at Virginia Tech, Nelson has received two Certificates of Teaching Excellence (2002, 2007), The Carroll B. Shannon Excellence in Teaching Award (2007), and the Alumni Teaching Award (2009).

Nelson was the director of graduate studies in the Department of History from 2007 to 2011 and received a Faculty Excellence Award by the History Graduate Students’ Association in 2008. In 2013, she received the Excellence in Graduate Student Advising Award from the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

Nelson received two bachelor’s degrees from the University of California at Santa Barbara and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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