Bell Given Kirwan Undergraduate Education Award
October 05, 2011 History
ARHU's Richard Bell, assistant professor of history, honored for his exceptional contributions to undergraduate education.ARHU's Richard Bell, assistant professor of history, honored for his exceptional contributions to undergraduate education.
Former University of Maryland President William E. Kirwan and Patricia H. Kirwan have established a fund to support annual prizes. The Kirwan Undergraduate Education Award recognizes faculty or staff who have made exceptional contributions to the quality of undergraduate education at the university.
This year Assistant Professor Richard Bell, department of history, is the recipient. The prize carries an honorarium of $5000 and is awarded at the Campus Convocation each fall.
Just five years after starting his teaching career, Richard Bell has become one of the most sought-after teachers in the department.“He’s someone who’s very excited about what he’s teaching and he makes you excited as well,” says Sarah Eddy ’11, who took three classes with Bell – including one in England – and wrote her senior thesis under his supervision. Bell is an early American and cultural history professor who is demanding but enthusiastic and seeks insight from all his students, even in his largest classes. Teaching everything from introductory U.S. history to highly tailored seminars on Benjamin Franklin, he uses the latest technology to keep classes engaging, breaks classes into groups for better interaction and organizes field trips to bring history to life. “We could tell he put as much, if not more, effort into preparing for class as we did each week. We felt overwhelmed by his expectations at times, but we also felt valued for our hard work and learning,” says Sarah Kolb ’11. In addition to regular classes, Bell also designed a study abroad course that has brought five groups of students to London, England – his homeland – to study the origins of the British Empire. Instead of lecturing and then letting his students go, Bell led the students throughout the city to museums and tea shops to augment their knowledge. “It wasn’t just the history, [he was] exposing us to the culture of that country as well,” Eddy says. Bell hopes to offer study abroad opportunities to other former British colonies in the future. He has won the Innovative Course Design Award from the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, as well as the Undergraduate Studies Course Award for his class “Incarceration Nation” and his study abroad course. Bell’s commitment to undergraduates extends beyond the classroom. He has served as senior thesis adviser for several students and as adviser to the university’s chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the National History Honors Society.