Presidential Award for Faculty Excellence: Encouraging Excellence by Example

Recipient Dr. Tony Leisner shares his advice on engaging students early and often.

Tony LeisnerWalden University honored two faculty members with its 2011 Presidential Award for Faculty Excellence, including Dr. Tony Leisner, of the School of Public Policy and Administration, for his advocacy of high standards and student-centered teaching.

“Dr. Leisner has an outstanding reputation among both his colleagues and his students,” explained Walden University Board of Directors member Dr. Anita McDonald, during the January awards ceremony. “As an educator, he is an advocate for student-centeredness and for supporting new Walden students. In particular, Dr. Leisner’s commitment to first-year students has helped strengthen Walden’s community of learners and contributed to greater student retention.”

“I see my role as not only providing students with the foundation skills they will need to succeed, but also as the instructor who sets the expectations for their work at Walden,” Leisner says. “I look forward to each new class and all the incredible experiences and diverse backgrounds the students bring to it.”

Engaging Students Through Interactive Classes

Leisner believes that it’s important to put a face and a voice to his name. When his wife, Patti, a student at Walden University, asked him about a particular instructor, a light bulb went on. “I realized I needed to introduce myself and not just send a list of things I have done or a biography,” he explains. So he created a video to introduce himself, which he uploads for his students to view.

The video also helps students learn his natural inflections, which are also present in his writing, and encourages them to share a piece of themselves. “People began posting pictures of themselves and their family in the class cafe,” he says.

The exercise is part of Leisner’s greater efforts to connect students and create dialogue. “By encouraging everyone to engage with each other and have healthy debates, we can draw the best out of each student,” he says.

Another effective tool Leisner uses is simply to remind students that education takes place every day, not just when the degree is awarded, a principle he applies in his own life. “The responsibility of a true educator is to keep learning, and our student body is a great resource for our own learning.”

Leisner has worked in the corporate and nonprofit sectors for three decades. He pursues research on the topics of poverty, developing country governance, and social justice and equity.

About the Award

The award is bestowed upon Walden faculty members who have made outstanding contributions to the university. It recognizes their leadership and commitment to providing the highest-quality student experience as well as to upholding Walden’s mission of promoting positive social change.

Read more about the Presidential Award for Faculty Excellence and past recipients.