Dr Michael Stephens Named CSC Teaching Excellence Award Winner


Photo Tena L Cook/CSC

      Chadron State College music professor Dr Michael Stephens is this year’s winner of the school’s Teaching Excellence Award.

Stephens will now be considered for the state college system award against the winners from Wayne State and Peru State.

      Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Dr Rachelle Rider was the other nominee for the Chadron State Award.

     Liberal Arts Dean Dr. Jim Margetts, in his nomination, said Stephens, who came to CSC in 2007, is genuinely student-centered and has a knack for creating learning activities that engage and motivate students.

      Stephens believes change is best achieved incrementally with time provided to develop new approaches and ideas. That led him to develop a Music Theory Foundation course that helps students have more time to be prepared for the curriculum and advance through it effectively.

     A 2020 national study that asserted music theory in the U-S is racist led Stephens to incorporate discussion and assignments based on popular music early in the music curriculum, resulting in increased student engagement. It also helped diversify the traditional Western European-centered approach to music theory.

     Stephens said he also took it upon himself to become well-informed about the music curriculum and the CSC education department’s course sequence for future music teachers – leading him to write advising templates for more than 10 years. 

     His citation for the Teaching Excellence Award says that as a result of his accumulated expertise, he is sought out by students and faculty who have questions about advising, course rotation, and graduation requirements.

     Colleague and department chair Dr Rick Puzzo says that by eliminating courses that are no longer needed, combining other courses, and creating new ones, Stephens has helped streamline the curriculum and helped CSC be competitive among peer institutions.

      In addition to his academic work, Stephens is an increasingly well-known composer. His works have been selected for the Kearney New Music Festival 4 times since 2018 and been commissioned to compose numbers for several music organizations in Nebraska. Dr Stephens has also been invited to be a guest conductor at various events.