Kay Widdows Receives Top Teaching Award

by Jim Amidon

April 26, 2013

Kealoha “Kay” Widdows, a 26-year teaching veteran at Wabash College, received the McLain-McTurnan-Arnold Excellence in Teaching Award at the College’s annual honors convocation, Awards Chapel.

Widdows holds the John H. Schroeder Interdisciplinary Chair in Economics at the liberal arts college in Crawfordsville.

Kay Widdows applauds her colleagues after she received the Excellence in Teaching Award“Her given name, Kealoha, translates, ‘A great friend who will always be by your side,’” said Dean of the College Gary A. Phillips in presenting the prestigious award. “Kay is a great friend who is always by the side of students and faculty, a sister liberal arts traveler whose imagination opens doors here and worlds away, a teacher who exemplifies for students, faculty, staff, presidents, and trustees the best liberal arts teaching this small College has to offer.”

The Excellence in Teaching Award honors the memories of Reid H. McLain ’27, Clair McTurnan ’10, and Kent Arnold ’29, and is given to a member of the faculty who has distinguished him or herself by innovative and engaging teaching. 

“This, to me, is Wabash's highest honor, and I feel especially privileged to be recognized by my colleagues, all of whom are great teachers, advisors, and hardworking community members,” Widdows said. “All of us at Wabash who ‘profess’ owe a huge part of any success to the quality of our students — the raw material that walks in the door, accords us respect and attention, makes decisions, works hard, and walks out four years later as men who will make a difference in the world. It's the learners who do the work; the teachers are merely facilitators, advisors, and cheerleaders.”

Kay Widdows and Dean Gary PhillipsWiddows joined the Wabash faculty in 1987 after completing her bachelor’s degree at Reed College, her master’s degree at the University of Chicago, and her Ph.D. at Purdue University. Prior to her arrival at Wabash, she was an economist for the Budget and Planning Office for the Missouri State Government.

In addition to teaching more than three-dozen distinct courses in her tenure, Dr. Widdows has an impressive administrative record, as well. She has served as Chair of the Economics Department, Chair of the Division of Social Sciences, and Acting Dean of the College. She has chaired the Faculty Development Committee, Off-Campus Studies Committee, and the Freshman Tutorial Committee, and has served on two Presidential Search Committees.

In addition to her excellent teaching at Wabash, she has taught students around the world. Dr. Widdows has served as a visiting professor at a university in Malaysia, was the resident director of the Great Lakes Colleges Association’s Japanese Study Program at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan, was a visiting scholar at the National Chengchi University in Taipei, Taiwan, and was a visiting instructor for the University of Virginia’s Semester at Sea program.

She helped establish Wabash’s Asian Studies Program through a Mellon Foundation grant, and has been a major contributor to Wabash’s partnership with the Indiana University Kelley School of Business for its dual degree program in accounting.

Kay Widdows listens as Dean Phillips reads her citation“No faculty person is a better ambassador for Wabash or what we aspire to do with students here,” said Dean Phillips. “No faculty person better exemplifies the type of peripatetic teaching that changes the lives of students and faculty.”

At Wabash, Dr. Widdows regularly teaches Introduction to Economics, Intermediate Microeconomics, Industrial Organization, and International Economics. She is also interested in the economics of the arts and recently received a GLCA New Directions Grant for her study of cost trends in artisan violin making.

Her belief that her students need to see the world in order to be effective leaders in it is seen in the many Immersion Learning Courses she has taught. She has led students to three continents, including to Ecuador to study the political economy of oil production and to Europe to learn about policy-making in the European Union.

“I continue to believe that travel is a great teacher, and that if managed correctly, it can open doors to the imagination in ways that are simply not possible here,” Widdows said. “The opportunity for economists and students of economics to go around the world … can be a life-changing experience.”

Outside of her academic interest, Dr. Widdows is an accomplished pianist and enjoys playing chamber music with students.


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