LAWRENCE — A linguistics professor who built enrollment in one of her classes from 15 to 200 is the 2011 recipient of the Budig Teaching Professorship in Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Kansas.
Joan Sereno, who has taught in the Department of Linguistics since 1999, was surprised with the award during the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences new faculty reception Sept. 9. Sereno will hold the title of Budig Teaching Professor for one year and will receive a $5,000 research supplement.
Sereno consistently obtains the highest student course evaluations in her department, which prides itself on excellent teaching. She teaches courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels, including the popular introductory course Language and the Mind (LING 110).
Enrollment in that course has increased tenfold in 10 years. The department also credits its recent growth in undergraduate majors in large part to Sereno and her popular course.
Knowing that the Language and the Mind course may be a student’s only exposure to linguistics, Sereno appeals to students’ existing knowledge about language and relates linguistic theories to that knowledge. One such example is “Rock Chalk Jayhawk,” which does not rhyme for many, but rhymes for most Kansans. She uses the KU chant to illustrate linguistic issues such as dialectal differences within the same language and the social significance that such dialectal difference may entail.
Sereno has served as the director of undergraduate studies in linguistics since 2006. Since she arrived at KU nine years ago, the total of graduate and undergraduate advisory committees she has served on has reached a total of 80. She received a William T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence in 2006.
The teaching professorship was established by a gift from former Chancellor Gene Budig and his wife, Gretchen. It is given annually to a department faculty member who has demonstrated a commitment to excellence in teaching.
Gene Budig was KU’s chancellor from 1981 to 1994. He received the Fred Ellsworth Medallion in 1994 and the Distinguished Service Citation in 1997. He is a KU Endowment trustee. Gretchen Budig received the Fred Ellsworth Medallion in 2010.
Since 1981, the Budigs have provided more than $1 million to support areas across KU’s campuses. Their gifts also have established two teaching professorships in social welfare; the Budig Teaching Professorship in Special Education; the Budig Teaching Professorship of Writing; the Budig Teaching Professorship in Education; and the Budig Distinguished Librarian Program.
The funds are managed by KU Endowment, the official fundraising and fund-management foundation for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.
The Department of Linguistics is part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Kansas. The College offers dozens of diverse majors in natural sciences and mathematics, social and behavioral sciences, humanities, international and interdisciplinary studies and the arts. More than 60 percent of KU students are enrolled in a major in the College, making it the largest academic unit on campus.