Terri Davis honored with David J. Beck Teaching Excellence Award

Dr. Terri Davis, associate professor and department chair of political science, has been awarded the David J. Beck Teaching Excellence Award. Annually, the David J. Beck Teaching Excellence Award, established though a gift from LU distinguished alumnus David J. Beck, rewards one faculty member who excels as a teacher or otherwise brings significant honor to Lamar University through innovative instructional pedagogy. The award carries with it a check of $25,000.

On Tuesday, March 29, Davis was presented with the award by Lamar University President Jaime Taylor who interrupted one of her classes to announce the bestowment.

“The David J. Beck Teaching Excellence Award is the largest award to recognize teaching excellence in higher education and we’re very sure that this is the largest award nationally to recognize teaching in higher education,” said Lamar University President Jaime Taylor. “Dr. Terri Davis is only the third member in the history of Lamar University to be recognized for this award and she will forever retain the title.”

Davis was nominated for the award by several of her students, her teaching excellence was reviewed by the award committee and she was selected because of her dedication to her students and her innovative teaching.

"The legacy the award holds for me and my department goes back many decades to Mr. Beck's mentor and Department of Political Science chair, Professor Irving O. Dawson. The first financial gift Mr. Beck gave to Lamar University was not in his own name, but in that of Professor Dawson –– an act that speaks volumes about Mr. Beck's respect for the enormous impact a teacher can make on one's life," Davis said. "As a teacher in the department in which Mr. Beck once studied and as a former chair of the department once led by his mentor, the award has very deep and profound meaning to me. I was totally surprised by the award presentation and am still in a bit of shock, but I did want to take the time to say 'thank you' for recognizing my dedication to Lamar University students. It means the world to me."

Davis specializes in American Constitutional Law, Judicial Politics, and Administrative Law. She received a Ph.D. in Government from the University of Texas at Austin, an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies and a B. S. in Political Science from the University of Texas at Tyler. She currently serves Lamar as a pre-law academic advisor and has previously served as president of the faculty senate, chair of the Arts and Sciences Council, and interim director of the honors program. 

Lamar University President Jaime Taylor standing with Dr. Terri Davis and Dr. Brenda Nichols

She joined Lamar University in 1996 as an instructor of political science and became assistant professor of political science after earning her Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in 1997. She later became associate professor of political science in 2012 and her primary teaching responsibilities include courses on American constitutional law, constitutional law for criminal justice, administrative law, judicial process, American government, pre-law professional development and legal studies.

Throughout her time at Lamar University, Davis’ personal teaching philosophy has remained the same: “My personal teaching philosophy deeply embraces the university’s mission to achieve broad-based community engagement and contribute to the socioeconomic wellbeing of the Gulf Coast region. It embodies mission-driven commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion; student- centered learning; career development for students; and research and creativity,” she said.

Davis personally advises, mentors and offers one-on-one instruction to all majors and minors in political science and pre-law students throughout their undergraduate studies. She also has been instrumental in helping her students earn prestigious scholarships, awards and internships. In accordance with her responsibilities as department scholarship chair, she carefully reviews MyScholarship data of all incoming and current students in the political science program –– at least one scholarship per year is offered to an outstanding incoming freshman and incoming pre-law scholarship students often receive a junior spot on the prestigious and nationally recognized LU Moot Court team, which Davis created and now assist in supervising with the team’s coach Craig Tahaney.

Garrett Brawley, a former student of Davis’, had this to say about the political science professor, “Dr. Davis’ teaching and mentoring went well beyond the classroom. She was instrumental in helping me obtain a semester-long paid internship with the Texas legislature. She did not simply organize events and advise her students, but she actively pushed them toward achieving their highest potential. This unapologetic goal of pushing students towards their potential is also the keystone of her teaching style.”

Davis has received numerous awards including Distinguished Faculty Lecturer, University Merit Award, Excellence in Teaching Award, Academic Advisor of the Year, Student Organization Advisor of the Year, and the Liberty Bell Award by the Jefferson County Bar Association. She has received national recognition for teaching excellence from the American Political Science Association, Pi Sigma Alpha, Who’s Who Among American Teachers, and Golden Key National Honor Society. In 2002-2003, she was a national semifinalist for Outstanding First-Year Advocate sponsored by the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience.

Her publications have appeared in numerous venues including “Studies in Media and Communication,” “Open Journal of Political Science,” “Comparative Sociology,” “Urban Studies Research,” “Sage OPEN,” “Social Issues in America,” “Law and Politics Book Review,” “History of European Ideas,” “American Political Scientists: A Dictionary” and the “Educational Resources Information Center.” Her most recent research on Texas history and government resulted in the publication of “The Texas Constitution: The People, History and Government of the Lone Star State,” co-authored with Dr. James Nelson (Lamar Literary Press, 2017).

Davis’ research has been presented at a number of national and regional conferences including those of the American Political Science Association, the Northeastern Political Science Association, the Southwestern Social Science Association, the Louisiana Political Science Association and the Conference for the Study of European Ideas. She has served as an invited guest keynote speaker for a number of organizations including Humanities Texas, the State Bar of Texas, the Press Club of Southeast Texas, the American Business Women’s Association, Lamar Leadership Conference, Texas Academy for Leadership in the Humanities, Daughters of the American Revolution and Pioneering Women.