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Professor Mark Kelso Wins Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Award

05/06/17 -  

Mark Kelso

The simple act of showing up
Political Science Professor Mark Kelso wins the Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Award

Grey Hunter Hamilton and her late husband, James Pressley Hamilton, had specific criteria in mind when they established Queens most prestigious teaching award in 1997 to honor their parents, Richard M. Isabel Reid Hunter and Buford Frances Hamilton.

Their ideal winner of the Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Award is a teacher with contagious enthusiasm for the classroom who communicates the sheer joy, wonder and awe of learning. Dedicated and patient, this educator clarifies complex matters and inspires students of all aptitudes to accomplish extraordinary things. This teacher generously builds self-esteem and instills the desire to learn; knows students by name, respects them as individuals and treats them with dignity. They could have been describing Professor of Political Science Mark Kelso.

At Queens' first-ever joint commencement on May 6, on a lawn overflowing with seniors, grad students, faculty, staff and families and friends, the university honored Kelso with the 2017 Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Award. In addition to resounding affirmation of his work, Kelso receives $15,000, half of which he will designate for a Queens program or department of his choice.

An Indiana native, Kelso went to neighboring Kentucky to earn a political science degree from Murray State University, then traveled south to Vanderbilt for his Ph.D. He turned east to Charlotte and joined the Queens faculty in 1996.

Chair of the Political Science and International Studies Department, Kelso was first appointed to this position in 1998 and has taken on its responsibility several times through the years. He also teaches in the CORE program and pursues research in environmental policy, electoral behavior and political leadership. He was part of a faculty delegation to China in 1999 and has led student trips to Ireland, Central Europe, Italy and South Africa, as well as spring-break mission trips to Guatemala.

The words of the Queens colleagues, alumni and current students who nominated Kelso paint the picture of a compassionate, brilliant, enthusiastic man. "Wizard-like," he is listening, guiding and laughing -a great, big laugh that his students love to hear and will never forget. His eyes sparkle with delight when "a student has put together a point of view or analogy that they hadn't thought of before."

Associate Professor Alexa Royden believes that her departmental colleague "is the best of us. Anything that is important to the students is important to him. He is a powerful role model for how engagement—that simple act of showing up—can be so transformational to the life of a student."

Kelso is intentional about this: "If I didn't go, I would feel like I was letting them down."

Kariel Parian '11 sums it up. Mark Kelso is one of a kind, she says, "the sort of professor you hope to encounter just once in your life, if you're lucky. He conveys joy, wonder, enthusiasm and awe of learning in the simplest, yet most powerful way - by actually, genuinely, loving teaching." 

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