The Teacher of the Year Award is the highest achievement a faculty member can receive at the University of Indianapolis, according to the Teacher of the Year website. It is given to a teacher who exhibits dedication and commitment to their students and their craft. UIndy named Associate Professor of History and Political Science Laura Wilson as the 2021 Teacher of the Year.
“I felt incredibly humbled,” Wilson said. “I have to emphasize that word ‘humbled’ because we are an institution that values teaching, that has a tremendous amount of talent and wealth of knowledge in teaching and experience.”
Interim Vice President and Provost Mary Beth Bagg has the responsibility of reviewing the nomination process. Bagg said she was pleased with the list of nominees and supported the decision that the Teacher of the Year Committee ultimately came to in selecting Wilson.
“I have always known her to be a really dynamic instructor,” Bagg said. “One of those faculty members who really has the ability to engage with her students.”
Wilson said she helps her students build their dreams through teaching, mentorship and research. She said she was thrilled about the accolade, but she doesn’t need the award to remind her that teaching is critical.
“It’s absolutely the most important thing we do here at UIndy,” Wilson said. “And it is for me, it’s the reason I’m here. It’s to work with students and it’s to challenge them, inspire them, and to engage with them. I really do appreciate them [the awards], but it’s not the sole factor, it’s not the motivator, it really is our students.”
Bagg said she agreed with Wilson that awards prove that what is done is worthwhile to others and is a contribution to the institution.
“I think that what we really see here at UIndy is a strong faculty who work every day to help our students be successful,” Bagg said. “And I really believe that from the bottom of my heart because I’ve seen it for more than 30 years of working at the institution.”
Bagg said she is proud to be a part of UIndy. She said she is proud of all the faculty who were nominated, but the nature of the way it works is that one person will rise to the top and win the highest honor here at the university.
“I see what great faculty we have, who really work hard for and with our students to help them succeed . . . ,” Bagg said. “All of the people who were nominated are deserving, or they wouldn’t have been nominated initially to be considered for the ‘Teacher of the Year.’”
This is Wilson’s 11th year teaching and her seventh year at UIndy. Wilson said she started teaching when she was a Ph.D. student at the University of Alabama.
“I teach classes on campaigns and elections, women in politics, public policy and American political behavior,” Wilson said. “I’m really interested in how people think, feel and engage in politics.”
Wilson said that conversations about politics are hard, but she thinks they’re really important.
“I love getting to do that on campus, but I do a lot of stuff in the community and I do a lot of media work,” Wilson said. “Because not everyone is in a college classroom and we can’t pretend like the conversations just happen here and they don’t happen once you get off-campus. I love being able to do stuff in the community. So it’s like a larger campus, a larger classroom if you will.”
Bagg also recognized Wilson’s work in the community. She said Wilson is involved in other things around campus so she’s not just working from her department, but also looking for ways to help her students beyond the classroom.
“She started the Gender Center, she’s always applying for grants, looking for opportunities to really move outside the classroom, and find ways to engage students in the community in other ways . . . ,” Bagg said. “At UIndy, teaching is the No. 1 thing, we are a teaching institution, but we also expect that our faculty are engaged in scholarship and service in all kinds of ways and Laura does that. I think that’s a pretty important part of who she is as a person and as a faculty member here at UIndy.”
Wilson said she wants to continue to play a role in her students’ lives for the four years she has with them. She said she wants to build that connection with her students both inside and outside the classroom.
“I want to be a teacher because I had great teachers and they made me love learning,” Wilson said. “I work with people that make me love teaching, but at the end of the day it’s because [of] the students.”