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Award-winning excellence: Barbara EchoHawk

By Cory Phare

June 28, 2017

Earth and Atmospheric Sciences faculty member Barbara EchoHawk received the Faculty Senate Teaching Excellence award from MSU Denver President Stephen Jordan at the 2017 Faculty and Staff Appreciation Barbecue.
Earth and Atmospheric Sciences faculty member Barbara EchoHawk received the Faculty Senate Teaching Excellence award from MSU Denver President Stephen Jordan at the 2017 Faculty and Staff Appreciation Barbecue.

The Distinguished Service and Faculty Senate Teaching Excellence award winners were announced by MSU Denver President Stephen Jordan at the recent Faculty and Staff Appreciation Barbecue.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been profiling the award recipients and what goes into the making of these remarkable Roadrunner success stories.

Here’s our conversation with Barbara EchoHawk, assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences.

What is your background?
I grew up in a tiny town in Michigan, where I was an outdoor kid who loved hunting for fossils and rocks. By the time I was 8, I had a rock collection labelled by my best guesses, based on a beat-up paperback copy of the “Golden Guide to Rocks and Minerals” and supplemented by visits to professors at Michigan State University, who kindly humored a little girl with rocks in her head.

…Eventually [after my doctorate in geology at CU Boulder and research/consulting in Colorado and Wyoming], I took a part-time consulting job with a civil engineering firm that became a full-time job doing the geological resource and hazard assessments for many of the FasTracks lines in metro Denver. Then, I saw an opening to teach at MSU Denver, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Where do you draw inspiration?
I am the daughter of a statistician/educational researcher/professor and a writer/artist/teacher, so I was lucky to have both logical/mathematical and creative/verbal influences all along. My dad taught me to see things with my brain, my mom taught me to see them with my spirit, and they both encouraged my love of nature and the outdoors. I try to pass the value of that combination on to my students. When I need energy or perspective, I go hike in the wild, where I feel most alive.

What’s one day on campus you’ll never forget?
I’m not going to forget any of them! The “special” in my days comes from everyday interactions with my students and colleagues.

What does it mean to you to win the Faculty Senate Teaching Excellence Award?
Winning the award was exciting! I always have that little “am I doing this right?” nugget of insecurity hiding in the back corner of my brain, so it felt reaffirming to be recognized as a good teacher.

It’s nighttime, and you’re reflecting on a successful day. What are you thinking about?
I’m more likely to be driving myself crazy over something I might have done better. But, if an absolutely stupendous day comes along, it might involve a field trip with students out “on the rocks,” seeing the real-world expression of concepts we learned in class. I would be thinking about exactly what we saw and said and did that helped students make the leap from classroom learning to actually owning that knowledge based on their own experiences. Those are moments I want to capture in my own memory to help me create and improve on effective deep-learning experiences for my students.

What does it mean to you to be a Roadrunner?
It’s our students who make being a Roadrunner special. Here’s how I would describe a typical MSU Denver student: hardworking, talented, involved, self-reliant, willing to grow, able to overcome hurdles, serious about getting a degree and a job, and compassionate toward fellow students. MSU Denver students, you are the best.

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