Pamela M. Kiser, Watts-Thompson Professor in the Department of Human Service Studies, was formally awarded the Distinguished University Professorship at a special investiture ceremony on Oct. 4. The board of trustees conferred the professorship on Kiser last spring, and the special ceremony was an opportunity to celebrate Kiser's contributions to teaching, scholarship and service to the Elon University community.
In a tribute to Kiser, Cynthia Fair, associate professor of human service studies, said Kiser has had a profound impact on Elon and is a stabilizing force at the university.
“She has brought courage and integrity to all facets of her work and has influenced the national and international dialogue regarding academic service-learning and internships,” Fair said.
Elon President Leo M. Lambert said Kiser exemplifies what is best about Elon and praised her untiring commitment to excellence.
“You are a creative teacher, a caring mentor, a thoughtful and incisive scholar, a wise leader and a community member bringing into being our shared vision for Elon,” Lambert said to Kiser.
In response, Kiser said she is grateful for the opportunities she has had at Elon.
“Over the 30 years that I have been in higher education, the trends of academe and of Elon, more specifically, have become increasingly consonant with my own,” Kiser said. “Through the increasing value placed on engaged and experiential learning, service-learning and civic engagement, the trajectory of higher education and of Elon University have intersected with my own professional identity, ideals, interests and goals.”
The Distinguished University Professorship was created by trustees in 2001, and a committee composed of faculty members solicits nominations and recommendations for the award. The three other Distinguished University Professors are Maude Sharpe Powell Professor of Philosophy emeritus John Sullivan (2002), J. Earl Danieley Professor of Sociology Tom Henricks (2003) and Maude Sharpe Powell Professor of English Russell Gill (2006).
In her remarks, Kiser noted that she is the first woman to be named a Distinguished University Professor. “There seems to be broad agreement that it is time to recognize the contributions of Elon’s women to what this institution has become,” Kiser said.
A member of Elon’s faculty since 1981, Kiser has served the Elon community in numerous roles, including department chair, faculty scholar in the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, Kernodle Center Service-Learning Faculty Development Fellow, as a member of the Academic Council, as a member of the university’s Phi Beta Kappa committee and as interim dean of Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences. An engaging and innovative presence in the classroom, she received Elon’s Daniels-Danieley Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2007.
Kiser consistently contributes scholarly work to her field, publishing articles and making presentations in peer-reviewed competitive settings nationally and internationally. Her research focuses on experiential learning, internships and service-learning. In 2000, she published a textbook, “Getting the Most from your Human Services Internship: Learning from Experiences,” which is currently in its third edition and is used at more than 100 institutions of higher learning worldwide.
Kiser played an important role in the founding of Elon’s service-learning efforts in the early 1990s. She led the initiative to create a standard definition of service-learning at Elon, developed a service-learning faculty handbook, raised funds to support faculty scholars and course development, and guided the creation of the Social Entrepreneurship Scholars program. In 2009, Kiser received the Robert L. Sigmon Service-Learning Award from North Carolina Campus Compact for her dedication to the practice of service-learning in higher education.
An active member of the local community, Kiser works closely with nonprofit organizations dedicated to human services, including the Alamance County Family Abuse Services and Crossroads Sexual Assault Response and Resources Center.
Kiser graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Wake Forest University and earned a master of social work degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She later completed postgraduate coursework at UNC-Greensboro.