Shafer receives Vice Chancellor’s Award in Excellence for teaching

COLLEGE STATION — Dr. Scott Shafer of the Texas A&M University System’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has been awarded a 2012 Vice Chancellor’s Award in Excellence in teaching.

He was presented the award Jan. 8 at the Texas A&M AgriLife Conference held on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station.

The Vice Chancellor’s Awards in Excellence were established in 1980 to recognize the commitment and outstanding contributions of faculty and staff across Texas A&M AgriLife and provide opportunity to celebrate the achievements of those honored.

Shafer, a professor and associate department head in the recreation, park and tourism sciences department of the college, has taught at Texas A&M for 17 years. He holds a doctorate from Clemson University in park, recreation and tourism management, a master’s from the University of Utah in recreation and leisure studies, and a bachelor’s from Texas A&M in recreation and park administration.

“Dr. Shafer is clearly among the elite teachers at Texas A&M, as his teaching record sets a standard for excellence on our campus,” wrote department head Dr. Gary Ellis in his nomination. “His excellence in teaching has been recognized in many ways, including the highly prestigious Association of Former Students Distinguished Teaching Award.”

Ellis noted that Shafer’s primary undergraduate teaching responsibility in the subject of park planning and design, including a lab which allows him to interact directly with students and provide hands on learning experiences. He noted that the students’ “remarkably high evaluations” make it clear that they recognize Shafer’s teaching excellence and ability to translate theory into real-world experience.

Every semester, Shafer selects a real world, hands-on park planning and design project, ensuring each student is actively engaged in the project, Ellis stated in his nomination.

“Last year his class designed trails for six elementary schools in inner city Fort Worth as part of an effort to promote physical activity and reduce childhood obesity,” he wrote. “Dr. Shafer’s class provided students invaluable learning experiences but also provided Fort Worth a tangible product that will provide residents enduring benefits.”

According to the nomination, Shafer also partnered with Dr. Gerard Kyle in pioneering programs in the department in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji through organizing, leading and teaching study-abroad courses since 2006 in addition to his standard teaching assignment.

In 2007, he organized the “Summer Enrichment Camp to Discover RPTS” on campus that targeted minority recruitment and retention, stimulating the interest of potential minority students from high schools and junior colleges in joining the department.

He also arranged a directed studies course for a group of 402 undergraduate students to compete in an Environmental Protection Agency national competition, as well as helping organize and lead a short course to the Big Bend area of West Texas to give students experience in conservation and natural resource management.

“His accomplishments at the graduate level are similarly impressive,” Ellis wrote .“His course evaluations have been very high and he has effectively mentored graduate students through the research process as well as practicum process. It is a testament to him that he has mentored over 65 graduate students since coming to Texas A&M.”

Ellis also noted that Shafer’s research interests “focus on examining the recreational experience and relationships between users and natural resource places, planning processes and the design of leisure places.” This includes investigating recreational experiences using a variety of theoretical and conceptual approaches to help direct management, planning and design of parks, trails, lakes, coastal zones and other natural resources.

He added Shafer “has a remarkable talent for connecting with students and sparking their interest in subject matter,” and that, “(He) does not simply teach; he stimulates lifelong learning, a passion for being relevant, and leaving a place better than when a person arrived.”

“Dr. Scott Shafer has been a highly effective professor, academic advisor and planner on numerous student projects,” wrote former student Lavell Merritt, manager of the San Antonio ProRanger Program of the National Park Service, in his nomination support letter. “While I worked on my doctoral degree, Scott was my advisor and always available to me. He stimulated me to challenge myself and excel.”

Merritt wrote working with Shafer “improved and added exponentially” to his skills to reach the highest professional levels.

Shafer’s other awards include a Distinguished Achievement Award in teaching from the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; an Outstanding Alumni Award from the University of Utah, an Educator of the Year award from the Texas Recreation and Park Society and a Professor of the Year Award from recreation, park and tourism sciences students at Texas A&M.

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