Linda Ferguson, professor of music, was recently announced as the winner of the 2012-2013 Caterpillar Award for Excellence in Teaching. This yearly award is facilitated by the Committee to Enhance Learning and Teaching (CELT) and is supported financially by the Caterpillar Foundation.

Ferguson came to Valparaiso University in 1984, and has since taken on a number of teaching and administrative roles. Throughout her time with Valpo, she has taught music history and literature. While Ferguson has experimented with different teaching methods, she has identified three recurring themes: the inclusion of nontraditional repertoires as a natural part of the history of Western music, the use of current events in the teaching of music history, and an imperative to music students in upper-division courses to consider their writing about music as having potential to serve an audience and purpose beyond the course.

Joseph Bognar, associate professor of music and chair of the Department of Music, nominated Ferguson for the Caterpillar Award. He said that Ferguson has a deep love and knowledge of music history and sees how music is woven into human history: political, social, religious, and artistic.

“Beyond the classroom and even after graduation, Dr. Ferguson supports the developing careers of many of her young students,” said Bognar. “She travels to hear alumni students perform in their graduate recitals and professionally.”

Ferguson has served in administrative roles such as chair of the Department of Music, assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and director of the Valparaiso University Lumina Center and Freshman Seminar Program. Her primary passion, however, remains teaching.

“Valparaiso University is a setting where teaching is the normal and natural way of life, whether in the classroom or in a larger community,” said Ferguson. “For this, I am continually thankful.”

The award will be presented to Ferguson at December Commencement.

“The Caterpillar Award for Teaching Excellence provides an annual public occasion to acknowledge the centrality of teaching in the institution and in the professional work of its faculty,” said Ferguson. “The distinguished cohort of faculty finalists this year, and — I suspect — in all years, represents good teaching in its many forms and methods. I am honored to be among them and grateful to the Caterpillar Foundation for establishing the funding for this award.”

Ferguson will meet with CELT early in the fall semester to explore appropriate applications of the Caterpillar Award funding. Her plans for the 2012-2013 academic year include a fall course titled “Understanding Opera” which will treat a set of six very different operas, while developing the theme of “the role of the audience member.” The spring seminar will be “J.S. Bach: Music, Faith, and Reason,” and will especially emphasize the Mass in B Minor, which is scheduled to be performed by the Bach Institute in that semester.

The recipient of the Caterpillar Award for the 2011-2012 academic year was Scott Duncan, assistant professor of mechanical engineering. His projects included improvements to the Hesse Learning Resource and Assessment Center in the College of Engineering, including whiteboards, textbooks and teacher’s editions to improve tutors’ skills, and SurveyTrac software.

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