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Monday, August 03, 2015

Dr. Lee Frazer - Alice Admire Outstanding Teaching Award

Dr. Lee Frazer
Dr. Lee Frazer

“In my philosophy statement, I echo the educational thinker, Stephen Brookfield, who said, ‘we teach to change the world,’ and I really believe that.”

For Dr. Lee Frazer, Assistant Professor of Adventure Education and winner of the Alice Admire Outstanding Teaching Award, changing the world is not a pipe dream. He pursues that goal by helping his students become their best selves and gain the skills they need to contribute to society, then expecting them to go out and make the world a better place.

“We in Adventure Education set out to expose our students to the best practices in our field, and equip them with the knowledge and skills to become innovative outdoor and adventure educators,” he explains. “We want them to make ethical decisions, accurately assess their clients’ learning needs, measure and evaluate outcomes, and always reflect critically on their practice and the organizations with which they work.” He also wants his students to understand how their field “can empower youth and adults of all backgrounds, enhance social-emotional health, and strengthen our connections to the natural world – for the sake of ourselves and the planet.”

In fact, a crucial aspect of how Dr. Frazer teaches is where he teaches. For him, the outdoors is a medium for learning and personal growth. It’s a place that can sustain and challenge, uplift and focus. “We know this anecdotally, and can prove it empirically through research,” he notes.

The Fort Lewis College Adventure Education program relies heavily on outdoor experiences to teach, and Dr. Frazer has been a part of the program from the very beginning. Through his efforts and those of his colleagues, Adventure Education has grown into a popular major at FLC.

Though he’s recognized today as one of Fort Lewis College’s finest teachers, this career outcome was never a sure thing. Dr. Frazer’s many interests led him to explore different disciplines and careers growing up.

He studied history, geography, and recreation administration in college, and spent over 10 years working for Outward Bound – one of the world’s oldest and most innovative outdoor education organizations – first as an instructor, and later as a staff trainer and Director of Montana Programs. He also taught social and environmental studies in the public school system for a few years before deciding to return to school at the University of Wisconsin to earn his masters and doctorate.

“I went into my Ph.D. program open to possibilities post degree, but after about a year or so I thought, ‘I think I want to try my hand at college teaching,’ which some of my Texas A&M and Wisconsin mentors had been encouraging me to consider.”

According to Dr. Frazer, graduate school, especially at the doctoral level, has a tendency to socialize future college professors into thinking they have to “preach content” above everything else, which can lead to a one-way conversation where a professor simply lectures. Dr. Frazer’s take on teaching is different as he works to engage his students’ natural curiosity and motivators, while keeping an eye on what the latest research says about effective teaching.

“How we teach,” he says, “is as important as what we teach.”

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