Ronald Kleinknecht Excellence in Teaching Award

The Ronald Kleinknecht Excellence in Teaching Award is presented annually to one instructor or visiting faculty member from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences who has made outstanding contributions to teaching at WWU. The award was established by Ronald A. Kleinknecht, the founding dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. 

Selection Criteria

The following criteria and policies are meant to secure comprehensive evaluation and maintain goodwill in the process.

1.  No person will receive this award more than once.

2.  Only the name of the winner of the award will be announced on completion of the process.

3.  The candidate must be an instructor or visiting faculty member in the College.

4.  Nominees will be asked if they wish to be candidates and, if so, required to submit materials to the committee. ­

5.  The award is a teaching award, not a research award; materials submitted should speak to teaching. ­

6.  To secure consistency in the evaluation process:

  • Supporting materials from the candidate will be limited to no more than three years. Student evaluations should be representative of courses taught within three years of teaching at Western. The candidate should provide copies of syllabi, reading lists, writing assignments, final exams, and any related materials used in the courses; more is not necessarily better in these materials.
  • The candidate will supply the committee with two letters of support from students and two letters of support from faculty members, based on observation of the candidate’s teaching.
  • The candidate will provide a current vita.

The candidate may provide up to two pages describing aspects of his/her teaching that may not be covered by the requested materials.


The award recipient will be presented with a Western medallion award at the Celebration of Excellence Awards in June. Depending on availability of funding, the award will normally include a $1,000 stipend.

Award Administration

CHSS Dean’s Office

Nomination Process

Nominations are solicited from alumni, students, and faculty members.  A selection committee will review the candidates’ files and designate the recipient of the award. The committee will consist of one College affiliated tenure-line faculty member, one College affiliated student (selected by the AS Vice President for Academic Affairs), one previous award winner, and will be chaired by the Dean of the College. Nominations open in the fall and are due on December 1. Nominations are currently CLOSED for the 2021 award.


Photo of Stephen Howie, JournalismStephen Howie - Journalism

Stephen Howie is a prize-winning reporter, editor, nonfiction writer, college professor and videographer. His first book, The Bluffton Charge: One Preacher’s Struggle for Civil Rights won the Mammoth Books Nonfiction Prize. From 2016 to 2018, Howie collaborated with Dr. Lorenzo Cohen, director of the Integrative Medicine Program at MD Anderson Cancer Center, to research and write AntiCancer Living: Transform Your Life and Health with the Mix of Six (Viking/Penguin). In addition to books, Howie has written articles, in-depth features, profiles and investigative journalism for top newspapers and magazines across the country. He has published personal essays in prominent literary journals and has shot, edited and produced short documentaries focused on social justice and masculine identity. To see and read examples of his work, visit his website at:

Past Awardees


Photo of Yu LeiYu Lei - Modern and Classical Languages

Yu earned her Ph.D. in linguistics and applied linguistics from Beijing Language and Culture University in 2015. Her research focuses on Chinese linguistics and Chinese pedagogic grammar. She teaches Chinese language classes in all levels. She sees herself as a coach guiding students to study, and to practice, and students are the center of learning. She uses Chinese language and culture as a window to help students see the common and difference between cultures, so students are more open-minded and empathetic to others with diverse backgrounds.

Her students praise her for caring deeply about both their academic progress and their health and well-being both inside and outside the classroom.