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Western geology professor receives prestigious award

By Annie West | Freelancer
On May 23, 2012

The National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) has named Dr. Stephen Taylor as a recipient for the Outstanding Advising Certificate of Merit in the Faculty Academic Advising category for the 2012 Annual Awards Program.


Taylor graduated with his doctorate in geology from West Virginia University with expertise in geomorphology, environmental geology and geographic information systems. He has spent the better part of 20 years teaching, and has dedicated 12 of those to Western as both a professor and a researcher.
His current research follows an eclectic mix of topics such as watershed analysis, cinder cone volcanism at Newberry Volcano, rapid bio-assessment of salmonid and fingerprint pattern characterization.


Currently, Taylor is an active professor of geology as well as the division chair for Natural Sciences and Mathematics at Western.


When describing himself, Taylor does not see himself as just a professor at Western but many things.
"I am a combination geologist, university professor, coach, councilor and facilities manager," he said.


As a professor, he strives to build a "comfortable, community-based environment for the students with an emphasis on team building, professionalism, peer mentoring and student centered instruction."


This instruction is based on the development of what he calls "hard skills" such as problem solving, quantitative methods and technology integration.


Though Taylor is very involved in his students' learning, he expects his students to give as much as he does, requiring that they actively participate in the learning process, as well as contributing to what he calls the "academic integrity" of the earth science program at Western.


Taylor describes his teaching and advising as an integrated approach based on methods that include an open-door policy with students as first priority (a courtesy that he extends to all students, regardless of major), team approach to teaching and advising, as well as offering personalized attention and life coaching.


Matt Buche, a former student of Taylor's and a Western alumnus who graduated 2009, explained several reasons why Taylor made a good candidate for the NACADA award in a letter to the award committee.
"He deserves recognition for his contribution to students as a faculty advisor for several reasons," Buche said. "His dedication to serve, his genuine passion and concern for their success, and his sincerity in considering each of their unique circumstances to provide relevant guidance."


He explained that part of Taylor's success as an advisor is that he does not treat it as an obligation and "constantly extends his assistance to not just official advisees assigned to him, but to any student seeking his guidance."


When asked about the award, Taylor credits a lot of his success to his colleagues.


"While I am honored by the individual recognition," he said, "this nomination would not be possible without the support and camaraderie that I share with my colleagues on a daily basis."


Currently, NACADA's membership has nearly 10,000 faculty, professional advisors, administrators and counselors across all fifty states and in several countries. Several of those members are other staff and faculty from Western, like Associate Provost David McDonald, who was named the recipient of the Pacesetter Award in 2011, and Dr. Marita Cardinal who, like Taylor, was awarded the Certificate of Merit in the Faculty Academic Advising category in 2010.


According to NACADA, Taylor will be honored and given the award in Nashville, Tenn. during the annual conference this fall.


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