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Two longtime BHSU professors honored with the 2014 Distinguished Faculty Award

   
 Jace Decory
 Dr. Robert Schurrer

Two longtime Black Hills State University professors, Jace DeCory, assistant professor of history and American Indian Studies, and Dr. Robert Schurrer, professor of exercise science, were recognized with the 2014 Distinguished Faculty Award, a prestigious honor which is bestowed upon them by their colleagues.

“While we have not had co-recipients in the past, both Rob and Jace have given many years of outstanding service to our students, the campus, and the region.  Thus, it is appropriate to recognize both for their distinguished careers,” according to BHSU President Kay Schallenkamp.

DeCory and Schurrer have more than 50 years of combined service to BHSU and the surrounding community. DeCory has been a faculty member since 1984 and Schurrer since 1990. 

“I feel blessed to do something I love and to do it in our sacred Black Hills,” DeCory said.

DeCory, who received her bachelor’s degree in anthropology and American Indian Studies, never thought she would end up in higher education, a path both her mother and father followed. However, after she graduated one of her colleagues asked her help in developing curriculum for Turtle Mountain Community College in North Dakota. After she created the curriculum, they asked her to teach the courses.

Unsure of what she should do, DeCory prayed to the spirits for guidance. She has been in education ever since.

“Jace is truly the epitome of a talented and dedicated educator. Her passion for teaching, her compassion for her students and her integrity as a teacher are both obvious and infectious,” Dr. Ahrar Ahmad, BHSU professor of political science and director of graduate studies, said in his nomination letter.

Ahmad praised DeCory for her willingness to branch out into teaching new areas and incorporate new resources into her “pedagogical repertoire.” “She keeps up with current research and uses new techniques and technologies to become a self-consciously evolving educator. “ DeCory has taught new courses in Ethno Botany with science instructors, has collaborated in teaching a new course on American Indians in Film and Media, and has worked toward establishing a graduate program in American Indian Studies.

Dr. Urla Marcus, director of the BHSU Center for American Indian Studies, knows DeCory as both an instructor and a colleague. Marcus first met DeCory in 1994 as an incoming freshman. “She made a highly favorable impression on me as a student, and she continues to make a favorable impression on me as a colleague.”

DeCory has devoted her entire career to the advancement of American Indian Studies and culture both inside and outside of the classroom, Marcus said noting DeCory’s organizing of the BHSU feather ceremony, now in its 29th year, and the Red Shirt Cultural Holiday Exchange which provides K-8 students of the Red Shirt School gifts during the holiday season.

DeCory has also been a guest lecturer on various topics, has authored numerous publications and papers and presentation on Lakota culture and the role of American Indian/Lakota women.

Dr. Robert Schurrer

Schurrer teaches exercise physiology, nutrition, wellness, fitness assessment and wellness evaluation. He has served as the program coordinator for the exercise science program which has had exponential growth from 23 students in 1990 to 206 majors this year.  He has authored numerous publications in the area of sport performance and health aspects of exercise, and has made significant contributions to research and application of research findings in tribal communities over the past decade.

In her nomination letter for Schurrer, Sandy Klarenbeek, BHSU instructor of health education, cited Schurrer’s role in the grant application to the National Institutes of Health that resulted in the awarding of the three-year $1 million Project EXPORT grant to BHSU to develop collaborative research studies with tribes in Montana and Wyoming. He was also a key researcher for a three-year Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant awarded to the Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council and BHSU. Schurrer developed, in collaboration with tribes, a culturally tailored diabetes self-management education curriculum and trained health educators on disseminating the information to tribal members with diabetes.

Aside from his work with research and the community, Schurrer spends significant time advising and providing educational and career guidance to his students.

“His genuine care for the students is emphasized by the number of alumni that visit his office and his amazing ability to remember names and detailed histories of past students,” according to Christine McCart, assistant professor of outdoor education. “Because of his mentoring, students have gone on to diverse positions and graduate programs throughout the country.”

The BHSU Distinguished Faculty Award is presented each spring to encourage and reward outstanding teaching and professional dedication by faculty members at BHSU. The recipient(s) is formally recognized during the spring commencement ceremony and is invited to deliver a keynote address at the following year’s commencement ceremony. In addition, the recipient(s) receives a monetary award for personal and professional growth.

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