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Erica Wehrwein awarded Donald F. Koch Quality in Undergraduate Teaching Award

Erica A. Wehrwein, a model educator who has significantly strengthened Michigan State University’s mission to students through outstanding teaching, is recipient of the 2020 Donald F. Koch Quality in Undergraduate Teaching Award as part of MSU’s All-University Awards.

Headshot of Erica Wehrwein
Erica Wehrwein, associate professor in the MSU Department of Physiology, is the recipient of the 2020 Donald F. Koch Quality in Undergraduate Teaching Award. Courtesy photo

The Koch Award recognizes teachers who take pride in and are committed to quality undergraduate teaching and who demonstrate substantial continuing involvement in undergraduate education.

“It is truly an honor to receive this recognition,” said Wehrwein, associate professor in the MSU Department of Physiology. “I will think of Don and Barbara Koch as I continue to dedicate my career to helping support our Spartan students as they learn, grow and achieve their goals. The Kochs showed kindness, generosity and love for MSU. I am deeply grateful to be a part of that legacy through their award.”

One of the reasons Wehrwein came to MSU was to teach the senior Capstone course in physiology. Her vision was to implement a highly integrative course linking concepts in physiology across body systems using current research and methods, tie key concepts from previous courses into a synthesized experience, and connect concepts from physiology, statistics, physics and biochemistry. Her Capstone course is recognized as a best course at MSU and serves as a model for the Capstone experience across campus.

Wehrwein plans her courses to support well-organized, progressive learning that moves from instructor-led studies to student independent projects. The majority of class time involves students working together, collecting data, using white boards to draw hypotheses and predict data, and solving patient cases. To ensure students engage in active, hands-on participation, laboratory experiences, weekly and semester-long research projects, and active discussion of clinical data occur nearly every class meeting. Wehrwein even incorporates her clinical training, research data and patient case studies from her previous work at the Mayo Clinic into classroom material.

Wehrwein shows deep concern and care for her students as individuals and future professionals. Her classroom is inclusive and welcoming, and she has intentionally added professional and career development features to her courses to help seniors prepare for their careers. She regularly announces opportunities for volunteering, career development, and events to support student learning—and meets students each week for career and life mentoring.

Adele Denison, associate professor in the Department of Physiology and Wehrwein's nominator, said it was a privilege and honor to recommend her for this prestigious award.

"Erica's energy and commitment to teaching have been contagious," Denison said. "She continually strives to improve her already stellar teaching. She is an inspiration and role model for other educators. I am grateful that she has been recognized as the outstanding teacher that she is by receiving this award."

Wehrwein has given numerous international conference presentations and published many articles on her classroom innovations. She regularly seeks student feedback to improve the course. Her course evaluations are exceptional and students often state that her course is the best one they have taken at MSU.

“As a department, we are very excited and proud to hear that Dr. Wehrwein is the recipient of this prestigious teaching award,” said Lee Cox, professor and physiology department chair. “Erica is a model educator, who gives 110 percent and is always pushing the envelope to enhance the learning experience in her courses. Her efforts are truly appreciated by her students as reflected by stellar feedback year after year.”

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020-2021 All-University Awards recipients will be formally recognized at the February 2022 Awards Convocation. 


Banner image: The Capstone Lab in physiology (PSL 475) involves exercises in human integrative physiology. Students perform weekly experiments on various aspects of human body function and complete a group Capstone project of their own design. Weekly assignments include data analysis, statistics, clinical correlates, and relevant physiological principles. Courtesy photo