Dr. Nicole West is the 2021 Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) Faculty Council Excellence in Teaching Award recipient.
The Excellence in Teaching Award is given to a faculty member who demonstrates “excellence, enthusiasm and innovation in teaching.”
West, assistant professor in the department of counseling, leadership and special education in the student affairs in higher education (SAHE) program, has worked at Missouri State for three years now.
In this short time, she has received an award for her research and now an award highlighting her outstanding teaching.
“I was surprised, pleasantly surprised. I think it’s always nice to be recognized by your colleagues, for the work that you do,” West said. “I feel really privileged to teach the courses that I teach, and the students that I teach.”
Her work is not only recognized, but greatly admired by her colleagues.
“Dr. West brings perspective and insight that is completely unique from any other faculty member,” Dr. Reesha Adamson, CLSE interim department head, shared. “She is an invaluable contributor to the university’s progress.”
Innovation when we need it most
2020 has not been an easy year for educators.
“I think COVID has forced a lot of us to become innovative,” West said in an interview. “Many people that were not teaching online have had to figure out how to do that and do it in a way that is engaging.”
Despite the hardships of the past year, West continues to find ways to foster community and make progress in the classroom.
“My students usually show up on that first day of class a little like deer in headlights. It’s always so amazing to me and rewarding that even by the end of their first semester, you can see the exponential growth and confidence they’ve developed in their ability to produce their own research.”
Last spring, due to COVID-19, the SAHE program had to cancel its Hooding Ceremony, which is normally held each May to celebrate graduating students’ accomplishments in the program.
Still wanting to celebrate the students who were graduating, West shared that she, along with some of the other SAHE faculty, including Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Dee Siscoe and Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students Dr. Michele Smith, held a makeshift socially distant ceremony in lieu of the typical hooding ceremony that takes place.
“We met them in one of the parking lots, and we dressed up in regalia, in a very hot part of the year,” West said with a laugh.
The SAHE program is a graduate program at Missouri State that prepares students to become student affairs practitioners in higher education.
Beyond the classroom
In addition to her work in the SAHE program, West’s research and professional service focuses on enhancing the experiences of Black women enrolled and employed in higher education.
“For Black women, there aren’t usually a lot of us working at one institution or in one department. So, trying to find community is sometimes difficult,” said West.
Currently, West is working to translate her research into practice by curating virtual places that enhance community, communication, and collaboration among Black women in higher education.
She has published extensively on this topic, which she refers to in the literature as professional counterspaces.
“Participatory Action Research Counterspaces (PARC) is a methodology that I developed and am essentially pilot testing with a group of Black women, faculty, staff and students on campus right now,” West explained. “I am thinking about ways to leverage technology and emerging social media platforms, like Clubhouse for example, to create virtual professional counterspaces.”
More about Dr. West’s research
West will receive the Excellence in Teaching Award at the NASPA annual conference, which will be held virtually this year, on March 19th.
Congratulations, Dr. West!