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Professor Wendy L. Hill of Lafayette College has been named Pennsylvania’s Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The award salutes her extraordinary dedication to teaching and exceptional impact on and involvement with undergraduate students.

Hill was selected for the award from among 17 nominees representing 15 Pennsylvania colleges and universities. The U.S. Professors of the Year program, supported by the entire higher education community, is the only national award program that honors college professors who excel as teachers and influence the lives and careers of their students. It is a collaboration of the Carnegie Foundation and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).

Hill is an associate professor of psychology, specializing in comparative and physiological psychology, and chair of Lafayette’s new program in neuroscience. She played the lead role in creating the neuroscience program, an increasingly popular, interdisciplinary area of study that focuses on the ways in which humans and animals are affected by the activities of the nervous system.

“Largely because of Wendy Hill’s efforts, Lafayette College is poised to have one of the preeminent undergraduate neuroscience programs in the country,” says Julio J. Ramirez, the R. Stuart Dickson Professor of Psychology at Davidson College, with whom Hill has collaborated in national efforts to advance undergraduate neuroscience education. “Her vision of education is one that will ensure Lafayette’s students will be among the best educated in neuroscience in the nation. Her contributions in promoting excellence in neuroscience education at the national level are already being felt.”

Lafayette’s neuroscience and psychology programs are both being strengthened by a $10 million contribution received this year from alumnus Walter Oechsle, a 1957 graduate, and his wife, Christa. The gift will fund a major transformation of Alumni Memorial Gymnasium to provide outstanding facilities for these programs, in addition to supporting faculty and course development.

Hill has developed and teaches several introductory and advanced courses, including Introduction to Psychological Science, Psychopharmacology, Physiological Psychobiology, and Advanced Behavioral Neuroscience. She also teaches a course called Evolution, Science, and Society in the interdisciplinary Values and Science/Technology (VAST) seminar program. VAST exemplifies Lafayette’s distinctive character as a liberal arts college with strong science and engineering programs.

“Dr. Hill finds out what each student needs and then sees that he or she gets it. She works incredibly hard in conceiving, preparing, and practicing her teaching, and in evaluating the outcomes of her teaching,” says Ann V. McGillicuddy-DeLisi, professor and head of the psychology department. “There are many stories about her courses that are told and retold from one class of students to the next. She creates a whole new set of memorable learning experiences as part of her courses, for the next generation to be as fortunate as the ones that came before.”

Hill calls research “the heart and soul of science” and has published 20 articles in her field’s leading scholarly journals and presented dozens of talks at national and international scientific meetings. She has received research awards from numerous organizations, including the National Science Foundation, the American Museum of Natural History, the American Ornithologists Union, the Fulbright Commission, and the Sigma Xi Research Society.

She says her own research program is “an integral part of my teaching,” and its hallmark is extensive collaboration with students. In her 10 years at Lafayette she has mentored more than 60 students pursuing many different majors in research projects covering a wide range of disciplines, both in and out of her own areas of specialization.

“I believe that research makes science an adventure,” Hill says. “The students are colleagues. They are not here just to wash bottles and clean floors. We really are working together.” Many of the students Hill has mentored have published articles in scholarly journals and presented papers at professional conferences.

June Schlueter, Lafayette’s provost, says, “Even at a college that is nationally recognized for its commitment to undergraduate research, particularly in the sciences, Professor Hill’s work is exceptional.” Susan A. Basow, professor of psychology and former department head, calls Hill “a wonderful role model of a dedicated research mentor.”

“Both the number of students supervised and the quality of their work, as indicated by professional presentations and publication potential, are exceptional,” Basow says. “Her achievements in this area are particularly notable since her students frequently are working on projects not directly part of her own research program. Furthermore, the types of research the students undertake require a tremendous amount of training and supervision, which she generously provides.”

“I am enriched by every new scientific adventure with every new generation of students,” Hill says. “I enjoy each new discovery. I learn as they learn, and I am a better teacher for it.”

Kerry Jones, a 1996 Lafayette graduate who is currently pursuing advanced studies in biology at Indiana University, says, “The summer before my junior year, Dr. Hill asked me to join her for a month at the Malheur National Wildlife Range in Oregon conducting field research. It was a summer that I will remember for the rest of my life. I fell in love with field research, and it came as no surprise to Dr. Hill when I proposed to do a senior honors thesis that involved that project.

“I really got to know her as a person, and yet, at the same time, she was an adviser to me,” Jones says. “I am proud to say that by next year I will have two publications as a result of my research experiences with Dr. Hill. I will always try to meet her standards.”

Joe Luke, a senior majoring in biology, says, “Dr. Hill has been a gift to me. I have studied under her research program for the past two years, and the experience has done wonders for me. And not only does she care for her students in the classroom, she truly cares about her students’ lives. She has sat down with me various times to discuss my future goals and how she can provide me with a good future.”

In spearheading the development of Lafayette’s neuroscience program, Hill has spent several years researching how other schools developed their neuroscience programs and attending workshops sponsored by Project Kaleidoscope, a national alliance, supported by the National Science Foundation, committed to strengthening undergraduate education in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology. She is coauthor of the Project Kaleidoscope publication “Undergraduate Education in the Neurosciences: Four Blueprints.”

Hill joined the Lafayette faculty as an assistant professor in 1989. She served as Metzgar Assistant Professor, an endowed position, from 1991 to 1995, when she was promoted to associate professor. She has twice been honored with major campus-wide Lafayette awards, the Thomas Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Award for outstanding teaching and scholarship and the Marquis Distinguished Teaching Award for exceptional contributions to students, the curriculum and the College.

Hill received a Ph.D. from the University of Washington through the department of psychology’s Animal Behavior program, with a minor area in zoology/ecology. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology, with honors, from Douglass College, Rutgers University. Before coming to Lafayette, Hill conducted postdoctoral research and taught as an adjunct faculty member at Rutgers for five years.

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, a policy and research center located in Menlo Park, California, is devoted to strengthening teaching in schools and colleges in the United States and abroad. CASE is the largest international association of education institutions, with more than 2,800 colleges, universities, and independent elementary and secondary schools as members. Representing these institutions are more than 25,000 professionals in the disciplines of alumni relations, communications, and fund raising.

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