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Tommy Holden Named University College Outstanding Teacher

Kayakers huddled in a circle around coach Tommy Holden.

Annually, NC State looks to recognize excellence in teaching by asking each college to nominate spectacular faculty members as their representatives for the Outstanding Teacher Award.

This year, University College has selected Dr. Tommy Holden from the Department of Health and Exercise Studies as its college-level Outstanding Teacher Award nominee. Dr. Holden, an alumnus of NC State, received strong support from his students and peers alike. Jennifer White, an NC State graduate who minored in Outdoor Leadership, credits Dr. Holden as her inspiration to pursue a career in education. “Tommy has a gift of getting to know his students and helping push them in their learning,” explained White. For Dr. Holden, a safe and inclusive learning environment is of the utmost importance as he strives to encourage his students to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills in unique and diverse settings. While teaching, Dr. Holden is committed to his students and their growth, making sure to share lifelong lessons which can be applied to all aspects of their lives even after graduation. Elizabeth Henderson, an NC State graduate and Outdoor Leadership minor, says, “I can think of no one who deserves this award more than Dr. Holden as his lessons are intangible and lasting,” and, “students will learn infinitely more than a figure eight knot from Dr. Holden if they are paying attention.”

Dr Holden with students in woods

Dr. Holden teaches a number of courses within the Health and Exercise Studies Department, including several required for the Outdoor Leadership minor. He is extremely passionate about the outdoors and believes a life outdoors is richer, deeper, and more connected. He enthusiastically shares those beliefs with anyone he meets, especially his students. When asked about his philosophy of teaching, Dr. Holden said, “the students at NC State are incredibly smart. I’m inspired by our students constantly. They could have chosen to attend most any school in higher education, but they chose NC State. I feel it is our responsibility as faculty to engage them, have them think critically, make learning fun and exciting and promote their health and well-being as a whole student”. Dr. Holden and his approach to outdoor education has truly had a lasting impact on many NC State students and how they perceive the outdoors, “I believe if it weren’t for Tommy’s teaching and mentorship I would not have pursued a career in outdoor education”, says Anna Simpson, NC State alumna who also minored in Outdoor Leadership.

Anyone from NC State can nominate a faculty member for one of the six university-level teaching awards. Nominations typicallyoriginate within the faculty’s department and are forwarded to the college-level awards committee for consideration. From there, college nominees are put forth for university-level recognition. If selected as a university-level winner, recipients become members of the Academy of Outstanding Teachers for as long as they remain a member of the NC State faculty. Additionally, the Provost’s Administrative Advisory Committee selects a subset of Outstanding Teacher Award nominees for consideration by the Executive Committee of the Alumni Association Student Ambassadors to be named an Alumni Outstanding Teacher.

This year’s process of selecting the University College nominee for the Outstanding Teacher Award proved to be extremely difficult as a number of spectacular candidates from across University College were nominated. While the Outstanding Teacher Award recognizes excellence in teaching at all levels, University College, in particular, seeks candidates who are knowledgeable, motivating, encouraging, mentoring, and creative both inside and outside of the classroom. Furthermore, the University College Awards Committee looks to nominate faculty who display effective preparation of course materials, appropriate support and guidance, and challenge and push their students to excel while applying what they have learned throughout their coursework to real-world situations.

Dr Holden with students on beach

Dr. Holden earned his undergraduate degree from NC State in Biological Sciences and Business Management. He later earned his Masters of Business Administration from Campbell University and went on to earn his doctoral degree in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management from NC State. He is extremely active in the recreation community both on campus and within the greater Raleigh area and dedicates his time to sharing his love of the outdoors with others. He has also received several awards and grants for his outstanding commitment to educating the Wolfpack community throughout his time at NC State. Dr. Holden shared, “I’m very honored and grateful to receive the Outstanding Teaching Award, especially when there are so many great instructors in DASA and especially in our department, Health and Exercise Studies. It is especially meaningful to be recognized for work in an area that I’m very passionate about, teaching and instructing students at NC State”. It is truly an honor to name Dr. Holden as University College’s Outstanding Teacher for the 2018 – 2019 academic year.