RIVER FALLS, Wis. — Beth Rausch has been named the recipient of the 2017 Keith Wurtz Award for Teaching Excellence for junior faculty at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Rausch, an assistant professor of animal science, joined the UW-River Falls faculty in 2015 and is the lead person for the animal science – companion animal emphasis courses and activities. In their letters of nomination, her colleagues noted several initiatives Rausch pursued and implemented to develop a meaningful companion animal program.
When Rausch took responsibility for the program in its second year of existence, she quickly realized that the companion animal emphasis students were not getting the practical, hands-on animal management and care experience that animal science majors emphasizing in other species enjoyed. She revised two courses to include time for animal interaction so students can apply concepts learned in the classroom. The course revisions created several challenges, most urgently the need for animals. Rausch spent countless hours preparing justifications and attending meetings with administrators to garner the approval to bring dogs on campus. She used her industry connections to form agreements with local shelters to provide animals.
Rausch has also been concerned with out-of-classroom learning experiences for students and has devoted considerable time and effort to developing undergraduate research experiences, internships and the Service Dog in Training program, now called A.D.E.P.T. (Assistance Dog Education Program and Training). A.D.E.P.T is a unique collaboration with Pawsitive Perspectives Assistance Dogs (PawPADs) and engages 12 UWRF students in the comprehensive hands-on training of assistance dogs, from puppy selection to partnering of a finished dog with a person with disabilities.
Although Rausch was informed of the award several months ago, she still had a surprise when the award was publicly announced at the UW-River Falls campus opening meeting in August. Her photo was displayed alongside the Wurtz Award for senior faculty recipient, professor of physics Earl Blodgett. He was one of Rausch’s professors when she was a student at UWRF.
“I was one of those students in the back of the classroom and he probably never knew the impact he had on me,” said Rausch. “He is one of the instructors I model myself after and one of the reasons why I could compete for this award.”
The Keith Wurtz Award was established by Wurtz, a 1941 graduate of UWRF with a legacy of teaching and healing. He majored in agricultural education and science, beginning his career as a high school teacher and retiring as clinical surgical professor. The award is given to two faculty members each year, one junior status and one senior status, who demonstrate “trailblazing” characteristics.
Founded in 1874, the University of Wisconsin-River Falls is located in a scenic community just 30 miles from downtown St. Paul, Minn. UW-River Falls students are empowered, beginning in their first semester, to participate in hands-on research, global travel, and collaborative learning with award-winning and caring faculty.
— University of Wisconsin-River Falls
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