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Rita Lester (G-E '91 and '97) Named Nebraska Professor of the Year

November 15, 2012

Rita Lester, professor of religion at Nebraska Wesleyan University (NWU), has been named the 2012 Nebraska Professor of the Year. Lester was honored Thursday, November 15, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. She was selected from nearly 300 top professors in the country.

[RitaLester2] “I am incredibly encouraged to win this honor as a person who teaches a really small major,” said Lester, who has taught at NWU since 1998. “It really puts the spotlight on small majors and how important they are to a student’s experience.”

While her academic department is small, her reach is wide. Lester teaches several general education classes on world religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, women in religion, and religious diversity in the U.S. She also teaches a Liberal Arts Seminar, required by all first-year students. She also advises religion majors.

Beyond the classroom, Lester is the faculty president, serves on the Board of Governors, and chairs the Philosophy and Religion Department at NWU. In 2011, she was awarded the University’s Prouty Teaching Award, which honors a faculty member for excellence in teaching. In 2010, Lester was one of only 12 professors in the nation to be selected to attend a seminar in Jordan titled, “Teaching About Islam and Middle Eastern Culture.”

Lester is the fourth NWU professor to win the Nebraska Professor of the Year honor since 2001. She holds two degrees from Garrett-Evangelical, a Masters of Theological Studies (1991) and a Doctor of Philosophy (1997). Lester was one of the 150 authors who contributed to the Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America (Indian University Press, 2006), which was edited by Rosemary Skinner Keller and Rosemary Radford Reuther, both former faculty of Garrett-Evangeical. Lester's most recent publication is a chapter on tradition in Voices of Feminist Theology (Equinox Press), which was published this fall.

This news release was written by Sara Olson, Director of Public Relations at NWU, with additional information in the fifth paragraph provided by Shane Nichols, Manager of Communications, at Garrett-Evangelical.