Kurt Hoffman, assistant professor of psychology at Allegany College of Maryland, is its 2011 recipient of a National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development award.Allegany College of Maryland recently recognized the four faculty nominees for its third National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development Excellence Award. (In photo at right the winner, Kurt Hoffman, is seated. From left, the three other NISOD nominees are: Dr. June Bracken, Thea Hosselrode and Molly Saunders-Bloom. Standing, also from left, are: Dr. Heather Perfetti, ACM vice president of instructional affairs; Gary Durr, former ACM interim president; and Kim Leonard, ACM Board of Trustees chair.)
He and three colleagues were nominated by their peers for the NISOD Excellence Award, which recognizes a core mission for the community college -- teaching excellence.
The other nominees are: Dr. June Bracken, professor of English and reading; Thea Hosselrode, assistant professor of office technologies; and Molly Saunders-Bloom, professor of medical laboratory technology. All were recognized at a recent meeting of faculty and staff.
Hoffman will be among more than 1,200 community college educators honored for outstanding contributions at this year’s 33rd annual NISOD International Conference on Teaching and Leadership Excellence.
Over 700 community colleges around the world, including the majority of urban and technical colleges in the United State and Canada, are members of NISOD. The institute is an outreach and service effort of the Community College Leadership Program at the University of Texas at Austin, where the annual conference is held.
NISOD emphasizes leadership and teaching excellence, dedication to professional development of faculty and continuous improvement of teaching and learning with student success as the ultimate goal.
Hoffman, who has a background in humanistic psychology, is known for close engagement with students and an active role at the college and in the community.
“Teaching is where it’s at for me,” said Hoffman, who finds satisfaction when he sees students gaining self-awareness in his classes. “I call them golden-learning moments. That’s why I love psychology. It’s so useful in everyday life.”
For him, he says, “Education is an inside-outside process for students to learn about themselves. They find they’re able to make a bigger impact in the community and in their families. They make a difference, large and small.”
In addition to teaching a variety of psychology courses and the occasional sociology course, Hoffman chairs the college’s Social and Behavioral Sciences Division.
This major area, which includes criminal justice, cultural geography, history, political science and social work, employs nine tenure-track faculty members and 25 adjunct instructors. Numerous others are teaching courses to Pennsylvania high school students in the Early College program.
He also spearheaded the founding of a letter of recognition in peace and conflict studies. The multidisciplinary curriculum, drawing students from across the college, takes a global perspective as it examines cultures in conflict and explores conflict resolution.
The goal, he says, is “to see the world in a different way and to understand others. Everything is changing. We have to be global citizens.”
Service learning and civic engagement are integral to the program. Nearly two-dozen students recorded almost 100 community hours in 2010 in volunteer activities at social service agencies, non-profit organizations and charities.
In a further reflection of his commitment to social justice and community action, Hoffman founded the Peace Studies Club. The student group encourages participants to find peace within themselves and to nurture peace within the community.
The club uses proceeds from its major fund-raiser, the sale of fair-trade coffee grown worldwide, to support international humanitarian efforts by Heifer International, Doctors Without Borders, Partners in Health and others.
Last spring, members staged Hope for Haiti, a day-long benefit featuring more than a dozen musical acts and other activities that raised relief funds for earthquake victims and for community needs identified by County United Way.
Said one colleague, “Professor Hoffman’s passion for humankind is unparalleled; he is a true educator.”
Another said: “Professor Hoffman’s creative and best practices are foundational to the development and critical thinking skills for his students; he plants the seeds of lifelong community involvement and learning.”
One student summarized the impact of his teaching style by saying, “Kurt Hoffman literally changed by life from one of uselessness to a life of active involvement in worthwhile causes.”
An Ohio native who grew up in Arizona, Hoffman earned an associate degree from Scottsdale Community College, a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Arizona State University and master’s in psychology from Sonoma State University.
He came to ACM from teaching at Napa (Calif.) Valley College after conducting a national job search involving nearly 1½ dozen colleges. He said he was attracted to ACM for a spirit of innovation that gives faculty members permission to explore new ideas. “Education can change people’s lives.”