Hayley Russell Wins Edgar M. Carlson AwardThe College's highest honor for teaching excellence was announced at Commencement 2024.
Posted on May 28th, 2024 by

Dr. Hayley Russell, HES, accepts the Edgar M. Carlson Award on Commencement Day 2024.

On Commencement Day 2024, Dr. Hayley Russell was named this year’s winner of the Edgar M. Carlson Award for Distinguished Teaching, the College’s signature honor for teaching achievements. The 2023 winner, Communications Studies Associate Professor Martin Lang ’95, presented the award at the end of the ceremony.

Although rainy weather shortened Saturday’s Commencement, forcing Professor Lang to abridge his introduction, his remarks appear below in full. He touched on the many ways Russell, an Associate Professor and the Department Chair for Health and Exercise Science (HES), has made an enduring impact on her students since her arrival to Gustavus in 2016. In accepting the award, Russell said, “I’m so incredibly honored to win this award and so incredibly proud of the Class of 2024.”


It is with utter joy that I introduce you to this year’s winner of the Edgar M. Carlson Award for Distinguished Teaching. This award recognizes excellence and innovation in teaching and advising and is generally considered to be the highest honor bestowed to a faculty member on our campus.  

This year’s winner has earned a reputation for setting high standards for their students, whether working with them in the classroom or collaborating with them on research projects published and presented at national venues. Students describe this prof’s classes as places where they know they’ll work hard, but not, as one student described it, “fluffy” work.  As another said of her course experience, “I always felt like I was getting something out of it.”

This professor establishes high expectations and engages students not only in doing the work but in thinking about the work they do. Through a practice of performance, reflection, and improvement, students in their courses acquire disciplinary content and skills but alsobecome empowered to step back, gauge their own growth and development, and chart a trajectory to achieve their own meaningful goals—which may not necessarily align with the learning outcomes of the class they’re enrolled in!

The evidence clearly shows that this professor’s high expectations are accompanied by high levels of support. “She has so much on her plate,” wrote one nominator, “but she never turns down a meeting, even if it is just to talk and serve as a mentor to me.” Another student suggested this professor seems to follow the mantra, “Tell me what help you need, and I will help you to get it.”

Students and peers describe this professor’s classrooms as “exciting,” “community-oriented,” and “responsive to students’ needs.” These classes also reflect their high levels of regard for the unique perspectives, motivations, and abilities of each individual. One former student notes that they experienced a “foundational trust that students [will] take their work and themselves seriously, and that trust [is] reciprocated in the classroom and beyond.”

It is to everyone’s benefit that this professor does not hold their teaching and advising gifts in reserve but shares them with the campus broadly, whether offering first-term seminar courses or helping to prepare another generation of academic leaders and mentors within our student body.

I will say that I always know if I have one of this professor’s advisees or research collaborators in my own classes, as they inevitably leak praise about her in some form or other. Sometimes, as happened to me just this year, this comes as a gentle critique when my own teaching comes up a little short of the high standards she has set. Not surprisingly, it seems even previous award winners have a lot to learn from this year’s new inductee.

Perhaps this student nominator sums it up most succinctly: “Hayley Russell is the greatest professor I have had at Gustavus.”

Dr. Hayley Russell has been a member of the Gustavus faculty since 2016. She holds a bachelor of arts from St. Francis Xavier University, a master’s in sport and exercise psychology from Wilfrid Laurier University, and a doctorate in kinesiology from the University of Minnesota. She is now also the winner of the 2024 Edgar M. Carlson Award for Distinguished Teaching.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Luc Hatlestad


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