UI professor wins earns national recognition
University of Idaho College of Natural Resources professor Karen Launchbaugh, who specializes in rangeland ecology and management, brought home an award from Washington, D.C., last month recognizing her as Idaho’s Professor of the Year.
The awards were presented to the winners at the Washington, D.C., Press Club Building Nov. 20.
“It was amazing,” she said. “I didn’t think I deserved it. It was just really humbling.”
Each year, a professor from each participating state is presented with a Professor of the Year award and this year Launchbaugh was one of only 31 professors across the country recognized for her teaching abilities.
In the last two years alone, Launchbaugh has received three other awards for her professorship.
Jodi Walker, UI College of Natural Resources spokeswoman, said she was involved in the process that earned Launchbaugh the award. The Carnegie Foundation, which includes some of Launchbaugh’s past students, was partly responsible for her nomination as well, Walker said.
The award is based on dedication to teaching and Walker said she believes the award truly went to the right person.
“Karen exemplifies everything that is right about teaching. She is the most passionate and enthusiastic teacher that I have ever been around,” she said.
Walker said Launchbaugh has a unique teaching style. She said Launchbaugh often takes her students on weeklong camping trips to study wildlife, rather than simply lecturing in a classroom every day.
“Karen is incredible for our college, and she’s a fabulous spokesperson for her own program,” Walker said. “Launchbaugh is the only rangeland professor to ever receive this award, and is honored to be the first in her field.”
Each nominee had to fill out extensive paperwork, including letters of recommendation and a personal statement about their own personal passion for teaching. Launchbaugh’s past awards and shining recommendations from her peers and colleagues recognized her incredible work ethic and played a significant role in her selection for the award, Walker said
Launchbaugh said she has an inherent passion for teaching and believes teaching has changed for the better since she was a student herself. She said she has enjoyed watching the profession change and shift over time and feels happy to have contributed to its growth.
“I’m the guide, I’m the coach, but we’re all in it together,” she said.
Launchbaugh said teaching is all about engaging students. She said as she continues to try to improve her teaching style and skills, she embraces the feeling of togetherness in and out of the classroom.
Katrina Hicks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org