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Western Nevada College Professor Emily Howarth earns regents state teaching award

Anne Hansen
For the Nevada Appeal
Career and Technical Education Professor Emily Howarth, standing, works with student David Guntner at Western Nevada College.
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Photo Source | Cathleen Allison/Nevada Photo So

It would be an understatement to say Western Nevada College Professor Emily Howarth is energetic and engaging in preparing students for today’s technology-based economy. A tenured professor of Computer Information Technology, as well as a mother and an Air Force veteran, Howarth brings a passion for technology to her work. Her creative teaching techniques have been successful in preparing students for jobs in the growing field of Applied Industrial Technology.

The statewide Nevada System of Higher Education’s Board of Regents noticed, too. After being nominated by her peers at WNC, Howarth has been chosen for the statewide 2015 NSHE Regents Teaching Award.

Several years ago, as Nevada’s economy began to falter, Howarth sought to find ways WNC could offer students new options for local, technical career paths. She was convinced the college could take the lead by reinventing the education and training of technicians so graduates leave with a broad foundation of knowledge, bolstered by extensive skills practice.

She developed classes that support regional manufacturing companies in their distribution and logistics operations, including AC/DC Electrical, Pneumatics, Electrical Controls and Wiring. Through grant funding and equipment donations, Howarth has built a lab of hands-on equipment in which students can safely practice their skills and develop the expertise in demand by employers.

“Because of my professor, I have learned the basics of a new field, and am currently working as an intern,” said student Paula Swanberg. “I could not have done it without all her hard work. I did not believe much in myself when I first started back to school, but with the example of my teacher and the training and skills she offered me, I feel like, for the first time in years, my life has meaning. When things are hard and it seems like I can’t go another step, I hear her say, ‘there is no try, there is only do or don’t do.’”

Howarth has developed robust and rigorous coursework that’s available online, via live webcast, and through archived lectures, for student convenience and accessibility. Multimedia resources, including a variety of study guides and learning aids, are part of each course, and she encourages students to ask her “what else?”

“The current and projected growth of manufacturing and related industries in Nevada brings to the forefront the need for a higher skilled and educated workforce,” Howarth said.

To ensure students can access labs around their jobs and family responsibilities, AIT labs offer flexible schedules.

In the area of Computer Information Technology, Howarth has adapted and realigned her instructional materials continually to meet preparation objectives for versions that have changed continually, from Windows 95 through Server 2012.

“We are building upon a first class knowledge and training facility for manufacturing and the industrial trades while offering excellence in academic studies here at Western, and we are committed to the success of individual students and to our community as a whole,” she said.

“She is always conscious of the balance between technical training and general education goals, and incorporates problem solving and critical thinking as the major themes throughout her teaching, and believes these are vital skills for creating a competent and educated workforce for Nevada,” said Colleague Dr. Winnie Kortemeier. “We are pleased that the Board of Regents has recognized Professor Howarth for her outstanding instructional effort and devotion to her craft.”

Dr. Robert Wynegar, vice president for Academic and Student Affairs, said, “Nevada’s community colleges are staffed with talented and caring instructors; to have a faculty member be recognized in this way speaks volumes about the emphasis that Emily and her peers place on providing a quality educational experience.”

“I’m so pleased to bring recognition and attention to Western Nevada College,” Howarth said. “It’s my privilege to work with so many distinguished and accomplished professionals as we support students in reaching their goals.”