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Dr. Heidi Hanrahan named finalist for West Virginia Professor of the Year

ISSUED: 28 January 2019
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Dr. Heidi Hanrahan, a professor in Shepherd University’s Department of English and Modern Languages, is one of five finalists for the Faculty Merit Foundation of West Virginia 2018 Professor of the Year. Hanrahan was nominated by the university based on her achievements in teaching and her involvement on campus and in the community.

“It’s a really nice honor,” Hanrahan said about being nominated.

“We are thrilled that Dr. Heidi Hanrahan has been named a finalist for 2018 West Virginia Professor of the Year,” said Dr. Scott Beard, provost, who himself was a finalist in 2009. “As a strong scholar, prize-winning, outstanding teacher and advisor, and caring, contributing member of the university and surrounding community, Heidi was a natural choice. Her passion for teaching and helping students achieve their potential is evident in every course or project she works with. She creates an intellectually stimulating environment, one in which students recognize her engaging teaching style. Her teaching evaluations note that she’s a ‘star.’ We couldn’t agree more.”

Aside from teaching English and literature classes, Hanrahan is advisor to Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society, works with students on capstone projects, and helps them present at conferences and publish their work. She also works during summer advising and registration sessions.

“Sometimes I will meet a student when they are here as juniors in high school for open house; then I’ll meet them again when they register as incoming freshmen; and I’ll work with them as they move through the curriculum and see them graduate,” she said. “Being a part of all of those phases of their time at Shepherd is something I really love and take pride in. This is a job that I feel so lucky to have. It energizes me to work with students this way.”

Hanrahan credits her own college experience with helping her become the person she is today. She describes herself as having been a shy and reserved teenager who was always good at school and who in college found her people, her voice, and her passions.

“I think it’s wonderful to work with students at Shepherd who are in lots of ways similar and are finding what they can do well,” Hanrahan said. “Many of the students I work with aren’t English majors. I work with a lot of our core curriculum students, so I’ve had the pleasure of seeing students from all kinds of majors and disciplines really grow and thrive.”

Hanrahan has taught many different courses and estimates she has touched the lives of at least 1,500 students since she started teaching at Shepherd in 2007.

“That personal involvement is one of the best parts of being at Shepherd,” she said. “We get to work with great students, my colleagues are terrific, the staff is wonderful, and we have such a special relationship with the Shepherdstown community. Some of my recent work has really tried to connect what we do in the classroom and in our scholarship with the community.”

Hanrahan has helped organize events such as a poetry festival involving high school students and a panel discussion to commemorate Frankenstein at age 200. She has appeared on local radio talk shows discussing Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson and worked with her colleague, Dr. Carrie Messenger, associate professor of English, to organize a Jane Austen tea party. Hanrahan’s goals as a teacher are to see students succeed academically and develop good reading, writing, and critical-thinking skills.

“If they can do that, they will succeed in any career path they choose,” she said. “I also want students to really feel a love of literature that they will take with them beyond the classroom, and I want them to think about how what we do in the classroom connects to the outside world.”

When she’s not teaching, Hanrahan can often be found cheering for the Rams at basketball, baseball, and softball games. She enjoys reading, going to movies, watching television, and walking around campus and Shepherdstown to exercise and think. Hanrahan and Dr. Amy DeWitt, associate professor of sociology, host and emcee a weekly trivia game every Tuesday night at Café Del Sol in Martinsburg.

Each year the Faculty Merit Foundation of West Virginia recognizes an outstanding faculty member at a West Virginia college or university. The finalists will be honored at an April 9 banquet in Charleston, at which time the Professor of the Year will be announced. The Professor of the Year will receive a $10,000 cash award and a special handmade glass trophy from Blenko Glass Co., with smaller awards going to the other finalists.

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