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News > Academy professor wins national award
Academy instructor named Colo. professor of year
Dr. Frances Pilch was named the Colorado Professor of the Year Nov. 18, 2010, by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Dr. Pilch is a professor and deputy department head for the Air Force Academy's Department of Political Science. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Academy professor wins national award

Posted 11/18/2010   Updated 11/18/2010 Email story   Print story


by 2nd Lt. Meredith Kirchoff
U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs

11/18/2010 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- For someone who considers herself just one among an incredible faculty, a professor in the Academy's Department of Political Science was distinguished from her peers by being named one of the U.S. Professors of the Year by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education Thursday.

Dr. Frances Pilch was recognized in Washington, D.C. as the 2010 Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Colorado Professor of the Year.

"Every day I am amazed at the quality of the faculty at the Air Force Academy," Dr. Pilch said. "Every person I encounter could be the professor of the year."

The rigorous nomination and selection process considers undergraduate educators from across the country. Dr. Pilch was chosen from more than 300 top professors and is one of 38 state winners.

Dr. Pilch, who has taught at the Academy since 1998 and currently serves as the Political Science Department deputy head, said student testaments are what she considers the greatest honor upon receiving the award.

In his letter of recommendation, now-2nd Lt. Bradford Waldie wrote, "It would be a vast understatement to say that she has been an inspiration, a trusted mentor, and an integral part of my development and education while working toward my undergraduate degree."

"What they said was really, really beautiful because every teacher, I think, has a mission to try to promote learning, to make a difference in their students lives," Dr. Pilch said. "A lot of times, you don't know whether you have accomplished that or not, but these letters came back, and they both talked about the difference I had made in students' lives, and that's what teaching is all about."

Pioneering a collaborative effort to develop the course War Crimes, Genocide and Human Rights, Dr. Pilch emphasized her passion for raising consciousness in future Air Force officers.

"I have sought to emphasize the fundamental dignity of every human being, the joy of leaning, and the development of critical thinking skills that aid in the search for meaning and truth," she wrote in her personal statement for the award application.

"Dr. Pilch's success in encouraging learning beyond the school boundaries is only matched by her ability to engage her students within the classroom," then-Cadet 1st Class Waldie wrote. "(Her) unmatched teaching ability has transformed a course to which cadets would, in most cases, be averse to signing up for into one of the most powerful and thought-provoking courses offered at the Academy."

With her son being a 1993 graduate of the Academy, Dr. Pilch says she feels a personal connection to the task of educating cadets. She continues to challenge her students to take advantage of the abundant cultural immersion opportunities the Academy offers, and to think critically about how problems they see can be addressed.

"We teach the brightest students in America, and we're entrusted with their development as they become officers," Dr. Pilch said. "I just love being a part of this mission; it is such an honor to be here."

Dr. Pilch is a native of West Point, N.Y. She earned her bachelor's in political science at the University of Connecticut, and her master's and doctorate degrees in international relations from Yale University.

11/26/2010 2:19:48 PM ET
As a former colleague of Fran's I couldn't be happier for her. Congratulations on an award well-deserved
Jim Kinzer, Chicago
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