Each year, the University of Kentucky recognizes faculty and graduate teaching assistants for outstanding teaching during its UK Faculty Awards Ceremony. The Outstanding Teaching Awards annually recognizes faculty and graduate teaching assistants who go above and beyond what is expected of them.
For the first time in the 18-year history of the UK Faculty Awards, the College of Social Work (CoSW) is proud to announce that Dr. Diane Loeffler, Director of Undergraduate Studies, is a recipient of a 2020 Outstanding Teaching Award.
“We are extremely proud of, and for, Dr. Loeffler,” said Jay Miller, CoSW dean. “Dr. Loeffler’s commitment to quality instruction and student experience is unparalleled. We are extremely fortunate to have her as part of our CoSW family.”
Loeffler was awarded this prestigious honor in Category 2, which recognizes lecturer and clinical title series faculty for outstanding performance in the classroom, laboratory, or clinical settings.
“Winning this award was very overwhelming – there are so many gifted teachers at UK, and it is truly an honor to be recognized as being among those great educators,” Loeffler said. “I wouldn’t have become the teacher I am without the steadfast encouragement and support from so many UK faculty past and present.”
After graduating from high school in the Twin Cities, Loeffler obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science at the University of Iowa (UI). While there, she said she encountered some of the best educators around, such as Dr. Joel Barkan and Dr. John Nelson, who encouraged her to take flight and to think critically about inequities and social problems.
“It is likely that neither ever knew the impact they made on me and how I approach teaching and working with students,” she said.
After graduating from U of I, Loeffler headed south, where she spent time working with a housing nonprofit in Central Appalachia. Loeffler decided to pursue a career in social work after working for a few nonprofit organizations in the Southeastern United States. The work she was doing was largely around affordable housing and community development.
Realizing she didn’t have the tools and skills needed to be equipped to help create systemic change, Loeffler pursued a Master of Social Work (MSW) – a natural fit for her which provided her with the education needed to become more successful in community development work that was meaningful and impactful.
“The social work profession has deep and meaningful ties to work around social justice and equity, and this was important to me when I was deciding in what area I wanted to pursue graduate studies,” Loeffler said.
Loeffler earned her MSW and Ph.D. at the University of Kentucky, a move that allowed her to stay connected to the communities she had worked in and to the social issues she was passionate about.
Loeffler said she was fortunate to be able to complete her post-doctoral work and become a member of the faculty at UK CoSW.
“I’ve been on faculty in the College since 2007, and in 2019 I was asked to serve as the Director of Undergraduate Studies,” Loeffler said. “It is a challenging and rewarding way to deepen my commitment to undergraduate education and to – hopefully – positively impact the lives of our students.
Contributing to her passion to better others and the world around her, what drives Loeffler is the understanding that the work she does is a privilege. As a professor who has the opportunity to teach elective courses, Loeffler loves getting the chance to interact with students from many different disciplines and professions.
“When a classroom is humming with discussion and dialogue and students are really working together to challenge one another – that drives me to keep doing this work,” Loeffler exclaimed.