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Bell Rings True at SHU

Religious Studies Professor Earns the Respect of His Peers and Students as the 2012 Rice Award Winner

By Austin Harper ’13—Student Writer

Dr. Ian Bell is more to his students than a professor. He is a confidant, a role model, a leader, a mentor and a friend.

As the 2012 winner of the Sister Eileen Rice Award for Outstanding Teaching, the chair of the Humanities Division and associate professor of Religious Studies was recognized for his exceptional teaching methods and his incomparable commitment to his students.

All those above-mentioned attributes make him one of the most beloved faculty members at SHU.

The Sister Eileen Rice Award is presented to the professor who receives the most votes from students. Recommendations from faculty members are also taken into consideration, and then a committee, which includes the prior award recipients, decides who is most deserving of the award. In the three previous years, winners of the award were Joe Raab, Jeffrey Lindstrom and Nick Kaplan.

Bell’s initial plan was to become a mechanical engineer, not a college professor. The Wisconsin native began his studies at Michigan Tech University, but during his first year he started to reconsider that choice.

“My atheist friends questioned how I could be a Christian,” Bell said. “I started struggling with the doctrines of the incarnation and Trinity. I began focusing on faith rather than calculus, which resulted in academic problems.”

He transferred to the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minn., where he received a degree in youth ministry. He spent a year-and-a-half teaching in a parish in Minnesota as a youth minister but chose to continue his scholarly career. At the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minn., he received his master’s degree. He later received his PhD in Religious Studies with an emphasis in systematic theology from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis.

In 2003, began his teaching career at Marquette as a graduate student. In 2007, he was hired at SHU, where he is in his sixth year. Bell also heads the annual Chiodini/Fontana Lecture Series on Ethics at Siena Heights, and has influenced curriculum development in religious studies and has continued to produce scholarly publications.

Bell and his wife of 16 years, Melissa, and their 8-year-old son, Aidan, reside in Adrian. “He is an even bigger Star Wars nerd than I am,” Bell said of his son.

According to one of his students, Bell “radiates his passion for theology to each student he teaches. … His ‘tough but fair’ reputation has earned him the respect of everyone he teaches.”

Bell said he was surprised at winning the Rice Award. He assumed his reputation for being so demanding would inhibit any chance he had of ever receiving the award.

When asked why he believed he won this year, Bell, laughing, said, “I guess it is because all the really good teachers already won it.”

However, SHU Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Dr. Mark Schersten was not surprised Bell had been nominated.

“Ian certainly is demanding, but our business is educating students, and he takes it seriously, almost more than anyone I have ever known,” Schersten said.

Schersten was Bell’s division chair and supervisor before he became dean. He said he was particularly impressed with Bell’s detailed lecture notes and the amount of work he put into helping his students improve their writing skills.

Bell accepts multiple rough drafts of papers from students so as to help them obtain the best grade possible. Until the due date, students are encouraged to rewrite their papers as often as they like.

“I remember seeing Ian in his office on some Friday afternoons when he did not have class,” Schersten said. “I would ask him why he was there and he would tell me ‘I am grading papers.’”

“His sheer dedication to students has made him rightly deserving of the honor.”

As the Rice Award recipient, Bell had the additional honor of making a keynote speech at the Sept. 6. Fall Academic Convocation.

Here is a Roundup of Some of the Other Awards from Last Spring’s Honors Convocation:

Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award:
Seniors Mariann Weiss of Monroe, Mich., and Brianna Chrenko of Northville, Mich., earned the Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award. The Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award is the highest honor given to undergraduate students at SHU. Weiss graduated summa cum laude in May from SHU’s business administration program with an overall grade point average of 3.86. Chrenko graduated in May summa cum laude from SHU’s special education program with an overall grade point average of 3.91.

Thomas A. Emmett Award: (Outstanding Junior Scholar-Athlete)—Hannah Ulrich, Christopher Schurr

Team Academic Award—Women’s Golf

Division Outstanding Student Awards

Division of Business and Management—Darrell Gudenau, Mariann Weiss

Division of Computing, Mathematics, and the Sciences—Marcella Ehmann, Amanda Mitchell

Division of Humanities—Michelle Blackerby, Jeff Conolly

Division of Nursing—Pre-Licensure: Christopher Rising; RN-BSN: Cincerie King

Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences—Linda Pancone, Amy Wicker

Division of Visual and Performing Arts and Education—Ashliegh Allen, Brianna Chrenko

Graduate College Outstanding Student Awards—Education: Jessica Bailey-Sword; Leadership: Roseanne Mark; Counseling: Terricka Lewis

St. Catherine of Alexandria Medal—Brandon Bowers

Staff Excellence Award—Cheri Betz, Liesel Riggs ’06

Jack Bologna Award for Innovative Teaching—Liliana Toader

Fred Smith Champion Award—Sister Pat Schnapp

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