Every year, along with writing thank you notes to professors, the Augustana Student Association (ASA) asks fellow students to nominate their favorite AU faculty member for the ASA Faculty of the Year Award — given for excellence in teaching and distinguished service to the students of Augustana University.
This year, ASA’s Curriculum Committee revamped the award to add more excitement by honoring three faculty members as Faculty of the Year.
🏆 Dr. Beth Boyens ‘90
Dr. Beth (Saxvik) Boyens ‘90, assistant professor of English and director of the First-Year Seminar Program, is one of the Faculty of the Year Award recipients. She was surprised during class by members of ASA, the Department of English & Journalism and her daughters, Anna (Boyens) Sudbeck ‘21 and Emma Boyens ‘26.
“I don’t really have the words. I'm just so honored and touched and humbled by the award,” Boyens said. “Next to parenting, teaching is my greatest joy. So, to be recognized by the students with whom I interact on a daily basis is really cool. I wish I had something profound to say about it. It's just very meaningful. I'm not sure that I deserve it.”
“Dr. Boyens truly is one of a kind,” one nominator wrote. “As a first-year student, having Dr. Boyens as one of the first faces I saw at Augie really set me up for success.”
“Dr. Boyens brings such a wonderful energy to the classroom every day!” another nominator wrote. “She goes above and beyond to provide feedback and time to help make her students not only better writers, but better people.”
Boyens, who graduated from Augustana with majors in English and secondary education, returned to Augustana in 2000 as an adjunct instructor of English — teaching alongside professors who helped shape her as a student, such as Drs. Sandra Looney and Murray Haar, professors emeriti of English and religion, respectively.
Boyens said she knew from a young age she wanted to be an English teacher.
“I always loved school; I always played school,” said Boyens. “At home, I loved making worksheets, and I was the weird kid who cried at the end of the school year because I didn't want it to be over. I always loved reading and writing, and I think I was in seventh grade when it hit me, ‘Oh, there's a job where I can read and write and talk about books.’”
Reading, writing and talking about books at her alma mater means Boyens can enjoy her favorite annual Augustana traditions — Viking Days and Convocation.
“I love everything that it represents,” Boyens said of Convocation. “I love the rhythm of the academic year, the excitement, a clean slate and that you get to try again. As a faculty member, I learn things that I can do differently, and I'm anxious to try those things. I love new students on campus. I love the energy of students being here.
“I have awesome colleagues, and the students here are bright and curious. They're kind. They're engaged and engaging.”
🏆 Dr. Sally Mallowa
Dr. Sally Mallowa, assistant professor of biology, was also named Faculty of the Year. Mallowa, a Kenya native, is the first faculty member of color to receive the award.
“It is not lost on me, as a former international student, how many barriers and glass ceilings are being shattered for me to be conferred with such an award,” Mallowa said. “I would never in a million years have put my name and such an award in the same sentence. I am appreciative, deeply grateful and truly honored.”
Mallowa was surprised with the award while teaching a class by members of ASA, the biology department, as well as her husband and children. Afterward, she said she was “so excited” to call her parents and siblings to share the news.
“Dr. Mallowa lights up a room with her energy,” one of Mallowa’s nominators wrote. “She brings simplicity to complex topics and takes time to individually help students who are struggling.”
“Truly an icon,” another student wrote. “Every place she is feels like home.”
While she was in graduate school, Mallowa said she constantly second guessed herself. Her husband had moved to South Dakota to begin school, so she finished up her studies alone with two small children.
“It actually worked out in the end,” Mallowa said. “As a global citizen, an African and a type B (personality), the lens through which I approach time, life and work is slightly different. It says something about our students that they would confer such an award on me. It is such a big affirmation for the academic village that has raised me. Asanteni (Thanks).”
Mallowa began to feel called toward teaching in her final years of graduate school and came to Augustana in 2015.
“I began to realize that maybe my strengths were more geared toward teaching and extension than hardcore research — critically important as it is, I did not wish for it as a day job,” Mallowa said. “Finding my place and a way to interest students and sharing my passion while still caring about the students as humans has been such an enriching journey.”
🏆 Tanya Miller
Tanya Miller, assistant professor of sign language interpreting, is the third recipient of the Faculty of the Year Award. A group of students that included ASA representatives and some of Miller’s current and former students surprised her with the award during class.
“This award validates that students recognize I care about them learning American Sign Language (ASL),” Miller said. “It is a fun language to teach, and I believe they enjoy being in my class and learning ASL.”
“Tanya is a fantastic professor,” one of Miller’s nominators wrote. “She is encouraging, supportive and passionate about her work. I love that she challenges me and believes in my abilities. She always has a smile, and I’m so grateful to be in her class!”
“One of the happiest and (most) caring professors I know,” another nominator wrote. “She always creates a welcoming environment.”
Miller grew up in northern California and moved to Sioux Falls after graduating from the National Technical Institute of the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. She worked in the business sector for more than 10 years before pursuing a master’s degree in sign language education. Miller found her way to Augustana in 2012 as an adjunct instructor. In Fall 2020, she joined the education department as a full-time assistant professor.
Miller teaches courses such as American Sign Language I and II, English to American Sign Language I, Foundations in American Deaf Culture and the topics course Beneath the Surface: Deaf Perspective.
“My favorite part of Augustana is really the people,” Miller said. “I enjoy interacting with not only students, but my colleagues within the ASL/interpreting department. My team is awesome — supportive, resourceful and a pleasure to work with.”
To view the list of past ASA Faculty of the Year Award recipients, visit augie.edu/FacultyAwards.