Robert Loeb, associate professor of biology and forestry at Penn State DuBois, has been presented with the 2015 Milton S. Eisenhower Award for Distinguished Teaching. The award recognizes excellence in teaching and student support among tenured faculty who have been employed at Penn State, full time, for at least five years, with undergraduate teaching as a major portion of their duties. It is named for Milton S. Eisenhower, brother of former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who served as president of Penn State from 1950 to 1956.
Loeb began teaching at Penn State in 1985 and joined Penn State DuBois in 1999. He teaches introductory biology, ethnobotany and biogeography, including both face-to-face and online sections. His long standing research program focuses on urban forests and undergraduate students are consistently members of his research team. Other awards he has received include recognition as a senior ecologist from the Ecological Society of America, and as a Kenan Fellow of the National Tropical Botanical Gardens. He also was named Educator of the Year at Penn State DuBois in 2013.
Before the National Science Foundation implemented new research requirements for first-year students, Loeb had already reformed his biology classes to include research steps for freshmen. His changes were based on his philosophy that students need to learn by doing.
In his Biology 110: Basic Concepts and Biodiversity class, he wrote a scientific research process series of laboratory exercises to create a true research experience for his students. The exercise was followed with a completed research report. Loeb mirrored this exercise and assigned the same task in his other biology and geology courses. He also developed online labs based on his experiences with simulations and research software.
Loeb learns from his students, as well. He’s developed assessments, and taken the first and last weeks of class for students to provide feedback. He then uses their feedback to shape his classes to better serve future students.
"I strongly believe students must assess their own learning through personal reflection on how well they have achieved the course outcomes," Loeb said. "I embrace the diverse learning process of students, which has led me to develop a substantial variety of learning activities that engage the students in the course content, including team problem solving and writing assignments."
"It’s clear Dr. Loeb isn’t your ordinary science professor," said a former student who was among the people who nominated him for the award. "His passion for teaching is undeniable and his eagerness to learn is contagious. He stays away from the long, grueling lectures common in many science courses, instead leading meaningful and thought-provoking discussions."