Laura McLary, professor of German at the University of Portland, was named Oregon Professor of the Year by the national Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the international Council for the Advancement and Support of Education on Thursday, Nov. 19.
The award committee cited McLary’s innovation and dedication to teaching international languages, highlighting her leadership in growth of the University’s German language program.
University president Fr. Mark L. Poorman, C.S.C., noted, “This is a wonderful recognition of Professor McLary’s distinguished work as a scholar, teacher and promoter of global education. Laura has built a strong and thriving major that has continued to grow steadily at the University of Portland. She has also been instrumental in creating an effective mentoring program that has led to numerous Fulbright awards for UP students and graduates. We are so proud that Laura has been awarded Oregon Professor of the Year, and we look forward to celebrating this accomplishment with her.”
Previous UP professors who have been recognized by the national organization include Kate Regan, who was named National Professor of the Year; Becky Houck, Terry Favero and Karen Eifler, who were all named Oregon Professor of the Year.
“Teaching for me always starts with my students,” says McLary. “My German program’s flexible framework allows for a rich diversity of content topics and student interests, in tandem with a scaffold approach to supporting students’ development of language and cultural proficiency.”
McLary says her role as an effective professor is highly valued at UP, where “our primary focus as teachers is always student learning and formation.”
“I am very happy teaching in an environment that puts students first. And working with our students is a daily joy for me.”
Most of McLary’s students participate in the University’s study-abroad program in Salzburg, Austria, where she studied as an undergraduate student.
“I have allowed the strong connection to Salzburg to serve as a cultural underpinning in my courses, tapping into students’ experiences abroad and anticipating the experiences of students before they depart,” she says.
Scott Knackstedt is among the many UP alumni who were encouraged by McLary to apply for a Fulbright Scholarship. He was one of only 18, and the only American, to be offered a Fulbright in Austria in 2006-07. The experience opened up new opportunities for Knackstedt, who has worked as a consultant in international governmental affairs since 2009.
“I would not be in the position I am in today without Dr. McLary’s support,” Knackstedt said. “Dr. Laura McLary is someone who continues to reach out to her students, witness their potential, and bring out the best in each of them.”
Katy Caldwell, another former student, said “Dr. McLary has the rare ability to make her students feel comfortable and challenged at the same time. She accomplishes this by making every student feel valued as an individual learner.”
“Dr. McLary is an extraordinary German professor, but her University-wide leadership regarding global and intercultural competency is also widely recognized and greatly appreciated,” stated Thomas Greene, University provost. “She leads a collaborative group of faculty and staff who collectively are advancing opportunities for students to develop and hone the skills and attitudes for global competence. Her boundless energy and contagious passion are among the many attributes making her a great colleague.”
McLary expressed her gratitude for her current and former students who “inspire me on a daily basis.” She adds that she is indebted to her UP colleagues “who are a constant source of support.”
“Professionally, I am glad that this award will bring attention to the strong culture of teaching we cultivate here at the University of Portland,” she said. “I am especially delighted that it will bring attention to the way those of us in German studies in the USA bring creativity to our teaching, making it a fully relevant area of study for university students to support their development as literate and articulate global citizens.”
McLary has taught German at UP since 1999 and served as the chair of the International Languages and Cultures program from 2004-07. Prior to coming to UP, she was a professor of German at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss., for three years. She earned both a Ph.D. and master’s degree in German language and literature from University of Massachusetts Amherst. She earned a bachelor’s degree in German and international studies from Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
As a high school student in Ohio, she decided to study German because she wanted to “gain access to the rest of the world.” Her passion for German studies developed as an undergraduate in college, studying abroad in Salzburg, Austria.
“I fell in love with the ambiguities of the culture, especially its strong literary and arts tradition.”
The University of Portland is an independently governed Catholic university guided by the Congregation of Holy Cross. U.S. News & World Report ranks the institution as one of the top ten regional universities in the American West. It is the only school in Oregon to offer a College of Arts & Sciences, a graduate school, and nationally accredited programs in the schools of business, education, engineering, and nursing.
— Story from University of Portland Media Relations by: John Furey