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Buban: More MC changes, more it stays the same

Mackenzie Mahler
11/11/2011
Sociology and anthropology professor Steve Buban delivers his Hatch Award acceptance speech at the President's Homecoming Gala.
At the President’s Homecoming Gala last month, Monmouth College sociology and anthropology professor Steve Buban received the Hatch Award for Distinguished Teaching.

It marked the second time Buban had received one of the college’s top faculty honors, as he previously earned the Hatch Award for Distinguished Service. Winning an award for teaching means something different to him, however.

“It’s much more gratifying to win an award for teaching rather than service,” he said. “The main reason we are here is to be teachers.”

So, how is Buban’s teaching noteworthy? He describes his teaching style as being “informal, yet lecture-based.” He constantly tries to engage his students and create relationships with them. He wants to create an environment in which students are free to speak their mind, yet still respect others’ opinions. Buban doesn’t hide the fact that he uses “old-fashioned” techniques during lectures. “I’m definitely not one for technology,” he said.

Buban was also pleased that the award meant he made a difference in at least one person’s life – his nominator. That individual wrote, “I always admired Professor Buban because he spoke with us and not at us. … He was instrumental in my decision to do the urban studies program in Chicago. Professor Buban rocks!”

“I have no illusions about what this award means or what it says about me as a teacher,” he said. “I’m sure there are many other teachers out there that deserve it before I do and may never get recognized.”

Humble as he may be, Buban agrees that it is good that teaching is being publicly acknowledged.

It’s no surprise that Buban values teaching so much. After all, he’s been a part of the Monmouth College faculty since 1977. When asked how the college has changed since then, he replied, “It has changed both dramatically and not very much.”

On the surface, he explained, the college has gained many new things over the years, both in terms of facilities and in a doubling of enrollment.

“It used to be very rare to go to graduation and not recognize every single person,” he said. “In the most important way, however, Monmouth College hasn’t changed that much.”

The dedication of the faculty to giving the students a liberal arts education has remained intact despite the fact that there has almost been a total turnover since Buban arrived. He believes that Monmouth’s faculty is “the heart of the college.”

Buban thinks that the college’s future looks very bright. In addition to many talented young faculty members, Buban sees the administrative leadership as an asset to the school.

“They are very in tune with the faculty and are advocates for keeping the liberal arts education alive,” said Buban.

The board of trustees is also very supportive of the college and tries to help it advance, he noted.

“If all of this continues,” he concluded, “Monmouth College will continue to do a good job of building successful careers for its students.”