Kelly Wilson, associate professor of psychology, is the recipient of The University of Mississippi’s 2010 Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teacher Award.
“This is it,” said Wilson of the honor. “There aren’t any awards the university offers that I care more about. None. Teaching is a job I’m honored to have, and to be recognized as a good one, well, it’s a big deal in my world. I was surprised, but pleased to the point of tears. Being useful in this way, it means a lot.”
Raised in a working class family, Wilson was the first generation in his family to graduate from college. After earning his bachelor’s degree at Gonzaga University, Wilson went on to receive his doctoral degree from the University of Nevada at Reno. Both institutions provided numerous teachers who showed that they cared, he said.
“My history is a history of outstanding teachers, people who saw things in me that I couldn’t see in myself,” Wilson said. “It’s now my job to see things in my students that they can’t see, and it’s my way of saying ‘thank you’ to the people who did that for me.”
Lauren Sanifer, a junior liberal arts major from Greenville, said that Wilson’s commitment to students and their education is “incredibly obvious.”
“Dr. Wilson is a teacher that cares,” Sanifer said. “He makes the most of his opportunity to mold young minds and push them toward a greater good.”
Dean of Liberal Arts Glenn Hopkins agreed, describing Wilson’s ability to involve and engage students as both “rare and extraordinary.”
“Dr. Wilson’s passion for teaching and learning is clear to students and colleagues alike, and we are most fortunate to have him on our faculty,” Hopkins said.
Wilson, who joined the UM faculty in 2000, is director of the university’s Center for Contextual Psychology. The primary provider of OneLife Education & Training, he is co-author of “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: An Experiential Approach to Behavior Change” (Guilford Press, 1999), which has been translated into Korean, German, Spanish and Dutch. His work also includes investigating acceptance, mindfulness and values-oriented strategies in treating a variety of life’s problems and in the basic behavioral science that underlies therapeutic change.
“In psychology, I found something intellectually stimulating,” he said. “It was also something where I could make a human difference. I wanted to make a difference in other people, and that mattered to me a lot.”
Each year since 1966, the university has recognized excellence in teaching by presenting the Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teacher Award. Based on nominations from both students and faculty, the award includes a personal plaque and a check from the chancellor. Recipients’ names are also engraved on a plaque listing previous winners, which is displayed in the J. D. Williams Library.