The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

GV awards 2023 educator of the year to professor of public administration

Courtesy / GVSU

Neal Buckwalter, Ph.D., is the recipient of the 2023 Outstanding Educator Award for his “passion for connecting students with opportunities to create brighter futures” at Grand Valley State University. Buckwalter is an Associate Professor of Public Administration and the Director of the Masters of Public Administration at GVSU.

Raymond J. Higbea, Ph.D., Associate Professor and School of Public, Nonprofit, Health, Hospitality and Tourism Management Director said Buckwalter’s approach to education comes naturally to him as a second-generation college professor. Higbea said Buckwalter’s connection with students makes him an excellent educator.

“(Buckwalter has) been a great source of inspiration, he has this award as one of (student’s) favorites, largely because he doesn’t talk to them, but he talks with them,” Higbea said. “He’s very good at facilitating conversations and in-class discussions. He is always helping students work through situations.”

Buckwalter came to GVSU after completing his Ph.D. at Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs in 2012. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree and a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

Buckwalter is also the faculty advisor for the GVSU International City/County Management Association Graduate Student Chapter, an award-winning student-run organization that connects participants to professional opportunities in local government. Buckwalter’s commitment to public administration serves the students he works with effectively, assisting in connecting students to internship opportunities, local representatives and relevant movements in the field. 

“The other thing that’s been really amazing about (Buckwalter) is I think he knows just about every local government administrator within about 100 miles of Grand Rapids,” Higbea said. “He’s very well connected, which then leads to some very good professional references and some good cases he can give out, good contacts for our students. And they, meaning these local leaders, respect him just as much as our students do.”

Higbea said Buckwalter “was very instrumental” in a recent project they had worked on together, commending his research and writing. He said Buckwalter is more than deserving of the recognition he is receiving from the university.

“He is certainly very deserving of this award. (If I was given) the chance to vote for him, I would have voted for him, and I’m certainly very proud of him,” Higbea said.

In the official campus announcement of recognition, a previous student said Buckwalter “creates an inclusive and welcoming learning atmosphere where every voice is valued.”

“(Buckwalter) gives great feedback and advice, whether that be on assignments or on professional development. He provides opportunities for students to connect with each other and with the community,” the student said in the announcement.

The School of Community Leadership and Development at GVSU promises to prepare students for an active role in local, regional and global communities and “ensure they obtain professional careers in their interest areas such as government, nonprofit and health care organizations.” Naming Buckwalter as the 2023 Educator of the Year not only recognizes his talent within the university but also represents further university-wide success within the program of which he operates. 

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