WWU Professor of History Mart Stewart has been awarded the Inaugural James C. Giesen Teaching Excellence Award in Agricultural and Rural History by the Agricultural History Society, awarded to a nominee who has achieved distinction in the teaching of agricultural and rural history. The colleagues and students who nominated Stewart and the Giesen Award Committee cited several features of his teaching record as distinctive.
According to the Award Committee, “(Stewart's) teaching career has highlighted the social, environmental, political, and economic facets of making a living from the land. He has thought deeply about the significance of rural people and their experiences, not only bringing his own research to bear in the classroom but also in the field experiences he has developed for students.”
They also noted the extraordinary variety of venues in which Stewart has taught rural history, environmental history, and especially the environmental history of agriculture, and the range of pedagogical strategies and curricula options he has developed for doing so. He developed and taught a month-long National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar for School Teachers in environmental history in 1994; taught one of the first environmental history training workshops in Austria as a Guest Professor at the Institut für Interdisziplinäre Forschung und Fortbildung in Vienna two years later; developed courses, seminars and research workshops for senior researchers, high school teachers, and university students and faculty during Fulbright tenures in Vietnam and India (and Nepal); co-directed a three-week resident training seminar in environmental history for university faculty at the National Humanities Center (https://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/) in 2005; created new courses in environmental history while the Thomson Visiting Distinguished Chair in Environmental Studies at Davidson College ( https://www.davidson.edu/) in 2009; taught a week-long training seminar at Beijing Foreign Languages University to faculty and graduate students from sixteen Chinese universities (supported by a China Residency Award from the Organization of American Historians --https://westerntoday.wwu.edu/notes/stewart-one-of-three-us-scholars-to-receive-2014-china-residency-award); taught a course in comparative environmental and agricultural history to a group of American study-abroad students in Vienna (supported by AHA International https://www.studyabroad.com/institutions/aha-international/aha-international-in-vienna-austria-278775); and helped develop the curriculum for an interdisciplinary graduate science program in climate change studies at the Royal University of Phnom Penh while on a Fulbright Senior Specialist appointment there (https://westerntoday.wwu.edu/features/professor-helps-cambodian-university-establish-climate-change-program ).
This latter program has now trained several cohorts of students, and is producing expertise that is making a tangible contribution to Cambodia’s capacity to manage climate change. One of the nominators for the award commented: “His teaching career has thus embodied the virtues of engaged citizenship to which many of us merely aspire in our teaching.”
Stewart has been teaching courses in environmental and agricultural history at Western since 1992 (he is also an affiliate professor at the Huxley College of the Environment). Especially notable was his study abroad course, Vietnam and America, that three times took Western students to Vietnam to do field research. Students built on a completed campus course during their time in Vietnam to develop individual research papers, some of which focused on environmental and/or rural development history. Nominators cited the excellence of the pedagogical design for this course, and the research presentations and publications, some of them in Vietnamese venues, that were the culmination of student projects.
Stewart was also cited for his mentorship of younger scholars working on projects on the environmental history of agriculture, informally in a variety of ways, and more formally as a research advisor, manuscript referee, editor, and conference organizer. The book series, Flows, Migrations, and Exchanges(http://flowsmigrationsandexchanges.com/), that he founded and co-edits at the University of North Carolina Press, has published many first books by early-career scholars, several of which have won awards and prizes.
The nominators and the Giesen Award Committee repeatedly noted the record Professor Stewart has achieved for following through on his mentoring responsibilities to students, sometimes long after they have taken his classes and after they have moved on to other education programs or post-graduate employment. The Award Committee cited Professor Stewart in particular for this: “Mart has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to students. . . It is hard to imagine someone more deserving of the Giesen Award than he is.”
The Agricultural History Society(https://www.aghistorysociety.org/) was founded in Washington D.C. in 1919 to “promote the interest, study and research in the history of agriculture.” Initially affiliated with the American Historical Association, it is the third oldest, discipline-based professional organization in the United States, and has continued to be the foremost international organization in the U.S. for the support of the interdisciplinary study of the history of agriculture.