Professor Recognized for Geographic Teaching Excellence

David Rutherford named national council's teacher of the year

David Rutherford, associate professor of public policy leadership, has been named this year’s Distinguished Teaching in Higher Education by the National Council for Geographic Education. Rutherford, who joined the Ole Miss faculty in 2007, strives to give students geospatial perspectives to understand political and societal shifts around the world. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – The National Council for Geographic Education has honored David Rutherford, associate professor of public policy leadership at the University of Mississippi, with its Distinguished Teaching in Higher Education award.

Since 2007, Rutherford has taught public policy leadership courses that equip students with knowledge about the contemporary world and the major processes involved in its political and societal shifts. The council presented the award at its annual conference, which took place Oct. 27-29 in South Carolina.

“It’s certainly an honor to be recognized,” Rutherford said. “However, awards are not something I have pursued. Instead, I have focused on teaching about the contemporary world and how it is changing.”

Rutherford said his philosophy of teaching is to engage students while providing them with necessary knowledge.

David Rutherford

“My experience is that fairly short and regular assignments throughout the semester are more effective than two or three high-stakes assignments,” he said. “UM students are motivated. I have focused on doing a good job teaching.”

Sophia Welch, a senior public policy leadership major from Stockton, California, praised Rutherford as “an exceptional professor.”

“What I found most memorable and beneficial about my experience with Dr. Rutherford is his genuine enthusiasm for the subjects he teaches,” Welch said. “His dedication to creating a positive and enriching learning environment is evident.

“He not only imparts knowledge but also encourages critical thinking and a deeper understanding of the complexities of the world, which has been incredibly valuable.”

Rutherford joined the Ole Miss faculty in spring 2007 as a visiting assistant professor in the Croft Institute for International Studies. He became an assistant professor in the Department of Public Policy Leadership that fall and was promoted to associate professor in 2013.

Ellen Foster, professor of teacher education in the UM School of Education, nominated Rutherford for the honor. The two have been colleagues since graduate school at Texas State University at San Marcos.

“Since his arrival at UM, David has created courses for the department highlighting the geospatial perspective that is crucial for emerging leaders to possess: PPL 380 World Regions: Geography and Policy, PPL 381 Global Environmental Issues, and PPL 382 Geography of Religions and Belief Systems,” Foster said. “As the executive director of the Mississippi Geographic Alliance from 2006 to 2023, David shared his passion for ‘the world and everything in it’ with teachers and K-12 students across the state.”

Besides his teaching duties, Rutherford maintains a website with resources and modules for helping students understand global processes of change that affect the characteristics of places.