Dr. Loleen Berdahl,
Dr. Loleen Berdahl, winner of the prestigious 3M National Teaching Fellowship (credit: David Stobbe)

USask professor receives prestigious 3M National Teaching Fellowship

University of Saskatchewan (USask) Professor Dr. Loleen Berdahl (PhD) has received the 3M National Teaching Fellowship—the most prestigious national teaching award in Canada. She is also the first woman from USask to receive the award.

Berdahl, executive director of the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School (JSGS) of Public Policy and professor in the USask College of Arts and Science political studies department, leverages her decade of experience in a public policy think tank before transitioning to academia to intentionally design learning experiences that reflect the needs she once identified in her own academic journey. Her innovative approach has transformed educational experiences and prepared students for successful careers across various fields.

“A big part of the 3M award is about educational leadership and that's where I've been trying to make a particular contribution: by getting people to think about the fact that we need to update our programs and reimagine our programs and make sure that they're working for students,” noted Berdahl. “They are why these programs exist." 

Berdahl has been honoured for her efforts: the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) and 3M Canada recognized Berdahl and nine others for their exceptional contributions to teaching and learning in Canadian post-secondary education. It is the highest teaching honour a professor can receive in Canada. 

This is not the first noteworthy recognition Berdahl has received. In addition to being the recipient of three USask teaching awards, including the Distinguished Teacher Award (formerly titled Master Teacher Award), she was awarded the Canadian Political Science Association Prize for Teaching Excellence, the American Political Science Association Policy Excellence in Mentoring Award, and most recently, the Lieutenant Governor’s Post-Secondary Teaching Award for Outstanding Teaching. 

“Dr. Berdahl exemplifies USask’s bold ambition to set the standard for learning. Her forward-looking commitment to teaching and learning directly and positively impact the lives of undergraduate and graduate students,” said Professor Airini (PhD), USask’s provost and vice-president academic. “She models curiosity, passion and creativity that inspire learners to get engaged and to become leaders the world needs.”  

One of her former students wrote in a nomination letter that Berdahl is unlike any professor she’s had because of her commitment to teaching excellence, educational innovation, and educational leadership. 

“She encourages active participation by all students, ensuring inclusion of diverse voices in classroom discussions. She starts each class session with a description of learning outcomes for the day and ends each session by dedicating two minutes to student reflection. I left each session with a clear understanding of what I had learned and what I needed to review,” wrote Kirsten Samson. 

In Berdahl’s roles as department head of Political Studies and current executive director at JSGS, one of her priorities has been curriculum development and renewal. Her colleague and nominator, Dr. Colleen Bell (PhD), associate professor and graduate program chair in Political Studies, said Berdahl has transformed university education from the bottom up. 

“Her approach begins from a place of empathy that meets students where they are ‘at’ to help them discover where they want to go,” Bell wrote. “From this simple but powerful idea, Loleen has built a pedagogical enterprise, supporting educators to foster student empowerment, skill development, and respect for diversity.” 

Through her popular Academia Made Easier newsletter/blog and University Affairs' Skills Agenda column, Berdahl reaches over 4,500 subscribers across 95 countries. Berdahl reaches across the academic career spectrum, while identifying the unique challenges faced by women, LGBTQ2+, BIPOC, junior, and precariously employed educators.  

Berdahl has also recently co-authored a book, For the Public Good: Reimagining Arts Graduate Education in Canada, which provides a vision for social science and humanities graduate education to prioritize equity, diversity, inclusion, and decolonization. 

Berdahl is the 11th USask professor to receive this award since its inception in 1986. 

“I am so honored to be to be joining the ranks because I know their commitment to teaching and learning and educational leadership is exceptional. To be in that cohort is thrilling.” 

Berdahl joins previous USask winners: Dr. Vince Bruni-Bossio (PhD), Interim Associate Provost: Strategic Priorities, USask, and Associate Professor, Management and Marketing, Edwards School of Business in 2022; Dr. Jay Wilson (EdD), professor of curriculum studies in 2017; Dr. Fred Phillips (PhD), professor of accounting in 2011; Dr. Baljit Singh (MVSc, PhD), professor of veterinary biomedical sciences in 2009; Dr. Ernie Walker (PhD), professor of archaeology in 2007; Dr. John Thompson (PhD), professor of sociology in 2005; Dr. Rick Schwier (EdD), professor of curriculum studies in 2005; Dr. Len Gusthart (PhD), professor of kinesiology in 2002; Dr. Mel Hosain (PhD), professor of civil engineering in 1994; and Dr. Ron Marken (PhD), professor of English in 1987. In addition, Dr. Colin Laroque (PhD), professor of soil science, joined the Fellowship in 2013 and joined USask in 2014. 

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