Story by Bailey Bohannan, Staff writer
Daniel Wann said he is humbled to have won the Distinguished Professor Award at Murray State this year.
Wann has been recognized many times for his research on sports fan psychology, met with sports stars including Michael Phelps, been asked for advice by Cal Ripken Jr. and has been featured in a New York Times article about his research, but Wann said teaching as a professor has been the most rewarding part of his career.
“Whenever you’re a professor, there’s like three components, there’s the teaching, the research, and the service,” Wann said. “If you said I could only do teaching or research, I would give the research up in a heartbeat and just teach. I love it.”
Wann said this award means a great deal to him because he knows there are a lot of outstanding professors at Murray State, and he said he truly did not know why he is the one to receive it this year rather than another great professor at Murray State.
“If I was teaching at some crap college where most people were terrible, it wouldn’t have as much meaning,” Wann said. “But to receive this award at a place like Murray State that does emphasize not just good instruction, but really over the top, outstanding instruction. There are a lot of good teachers here, it makes it a lot more special.”
Wann said he has been teaching at Murray State for 25 years and over time, he doesn’t think he has changed his teaching style that much, but he does think he has learned his craft better and better each year and learned what does and doesn’t resonate with students in his class.
“I think that I am mostly the teacher that I was 25 years ago, but there’s a slow evolution process where you kind of learn what works and what doesn’t and you learn to evolve with the flow,” Wann said.
He said he knows he challenges his students with his courses, but he tries his best to get his students involved in the lectures and entertain them. Over the years, Wann said as he fine-tuned his teaching, he learned his most successful way of teaching a class of students was to entertain them.
“The first day of class I walk in and I say ‘I might be a lot of things, boring will not be one of them,’” Wann said.
Autumn Moffitt, freshman from Milton, Georgia, took one of Wann’s entry-level psychology classes in Fall 2015 and she said she will admit that it was a challenging class, but it was never boring to attend. The first call Moffitt had with Wann was one of the scariest she had ever had.
“Dr. Wann is one of those teachers that is a freshman’s worst nightmare – the first day I walked in and I was genuinely scared, not only for that class but now my whole college career,” Moffitt said.
She said he did this the first day to let all his students know how challenging the course was going to be, but she said he also promised to make it fun.
“Every lesson he taught was interesting. He would tell stories that would make it make sense or funny college stories or ones with his cat,” Moffitt said. “I’ve never had a professor that hooked students like that. I mean, we would all be captivated by his lectures and what he was telling us, it was never boring.”
Wann said this award means so much to him because it is an award for his teaching and not for his research.
He said it is validation for the way he has been teaching the past two-and-a-half decades and it motivates him to keep refining his teaching.
“From the bottom of my heart, thank you, I am very humbled,” Wann said. “I love what I do and I think I have the best job that there is, and I love my students and to have them appreciate what I’ve done, I mean, I just can’t tell you how nice that is.”