Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence

Dr. Allen Hertzke, University of Oklahoma

2017 Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in College/University Teaching

The winner of the Medal for Excellence in Teaching at a Research University is Dr. Allen HertzkeDavid Ross Boyd Professor of Political Science at the University of Oklahoma. Now completing his 31st year at OU, Hertzke has gained international recognition as an expert and author on politics and religion.

“His work has influenced policy makers and has been recognized globally by national and international organizations and players, including major foundations, the White House and the Vatican,” said department chair Keith Gaddie. But Hertzke’s greatest gift and his greatest passion is teaching, say students and colleagues.

His teaching principles – inspired by his own teaching mentors and years of trial and error – include intense student engagement, accessibility, rigor, and a profound love for students and learning. Hertzke was instrumental in re-designing, and now teaches, OU’s introductory course in American Federal Government – the only course required of all OU students and one that prepares them to be engaged citizens.

Former student Kyle Harper, now OU’s provost, described Hertzke as “an unforgettable lecturer” who made it clear that students were not learning facts to be able to pass a test. “We were learning about the most important and relevant ideas in the world, and we were training for one of the most important roles in our lives – citizen.”

Among his innovative teaching techniques, Hertzke frequently impersonates such historical figures as Alexander Hamilton, Patrick Henry and Abraham Lincoln. In his “Religion and Constitution” class, students tackle real Supreme Court cases in a moot court, assuming the roles of litigators, writing briefs and making oral arguments.

A central theme of Hertzke’s teaching is helping students “walk in the shoes” of those with differing perspectives through role-playing, interviewing, and community immersion. “I see this kind of learning as vital, given our polarized discourse, ideological tribalization, racial and ethnic divisions, and the need to meet this century’s great crucible: living with our differences in a shrinking world,” Hertzke said.

Despite a busy teaching and research schedule, Hertzke makes it a priority to be accessible to students, hosting informal “office hours” at the university food court and regularly welcoming students into his home. “I simply delight in being around students,” he said. “I always find that students energize me and remind me why I got in this vocation in the first place.”

In addition to presenting the Medal for Excellence awards, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence will honor 100 of Oklahoma’s top public high school seniors as Academic All-Staters at its May 20 banquet. The Academic Awards Banquet is open to the public, with admission priced at $50. The awards ceremony will be televised statewide by OETA, the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority, at 8 p.m. May 27.  For more information, call the Foundation for Excellence office at (405) 236-0006 or visit its website at www.ofe.org.