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Oklahoma State University

Blum wins Graduate Faculty Excellence Award

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Denni Blum, associate professor in social foundations, is the 2016 College of Education Graduate Faculty Excellence Award winner.

“Dr. Blum continually invests in and serves our graduate students well,” says College of Education Dean John Romans. “She is regarded as an attentive, responsive and encouraging instructor. We are proud to honor her as the College of Education’s Graduate Faculty Excellence Award winner.”

“I am honored to receive this award,” Blum says. “Having been nominated by students and selected by a committee of faculty, the award means that my style of teaching and mentoring has been effective in responding to the needs and interests of at least some, and hopefully a majority of, students. Receiving this award is affirming and encourages me to build on existing practices.”

Blum joined the Oklahoma State faculty in 2008 and was promoted to associate professor in 2013.Dr. Denni Blum

She has spent 12 years as a professor, but her career began as a high school Spanish teacher.

“I was a K-12 teacher for 13 years. I desired more intellectual stimulation and was always curious whether the institution of the school, which is one of the strongest socializing mechanisms in society, could be structured in such a way to engender a more altruistic, society-serving citizen. I had taught in other Latin American countries and decided to go to graduate school and examine education in Cuba,” Blum says.

She completed a master’s in curriculum and instruction and doctorate in curriculum studies, both with a specialization in anthropology, at the University of Texas-Austin.

Blum has long conducted research in Cuba, spending years building relationships and working to gain access to schools in the country. She is also the author of a book, Cuban Youth and Revolutionary Values: Educating the New Socialist Man.

In 2015, Blum made history when she secured the first grant for an academic exchange initiated by the United States in Cuba.

The Wenner-Gren Foundation, dedicated to
 the advancement of anthropology throughout the world, awarded Blum a $17,000 grant to create a workshop to bring leading anthropologists from Latin America to Havana. It marked the first time Wenner-Gren had funded anything in Cuba. The workshop, held in December 2015, was highly successful, and the foundation provided funds to publish a book of the peer-reviewed presentations that can be widely accessed in Cuba.

“My ultimate goal for me and my students is 
to become critical, reflective practitioners in our personal and professional lives, as contributing, productive members of society,” Blum says. “I attempt to create relevant, real-life opportunities 
to discuss and observe socioeconomic issues that affect our most vulnerable populations, recognizing the difference between equity and equality, and possibilities for improvement.”

One way Blum is making a difference for vulnerable populations is through her service on the education training subcommittee of the Tulsa Child Trafficking Task Force. In the spring of 2016, Blum launched a new effort to fight child sex trafficking by expanding education for schoolteachers and administrators in a new course at OSU-Tulsa. The course prepares educators and raises awareness about the prevalence of the crime. Students in the course are trained to give presentations to students, faculty and administrators in area schools.

“Teaching, for me, is a dialogue that involves 
my being a student as much as the teacher in the process. I love teaching because I love learning from others. I enjoy the creative process in trying to find engaging ways to internalize new and sometimes challenging concepts,” Blum says.

In 2010, she was honored with the college’s International Outreach and Excellence Award. In 2016, she was invited to become a fellow in the School of Entrepreneurship at OSU.