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Eric Boyer, assistant professor of Social Science and Education at Colby-Sawyer College

Eric Boyer: Teacher of Excellence, Philosopher of Zombies

Eric Boyer, assistant professor of Social Science and Education at Colby-Sawyer College, is well known in this small academic community as an excellent teacher. His dedication to students is clear in both the classroom and the campus at large, whether it be for co-developing new academic programs or helping to organize an exhilarating, and terrifying, game of Humans vs. Zombies.

Professor Boyer's achievements were recognized in June by the New Hampshire College & University Council (NHCUC) with the Outstanding Teaching in Postsecondary Education Award.

The NHCUC participates in an annual competitive award process, known as the New Hampshire Excellence in Higher Education Awards, with nominees from all the member colleges across the state. Thomas R. Horgan, president and CEO of NHCUC, told Boyer his selection was “a direct reflection of your professional accomplishments and excellence in inspiring students to learn in the classroom. On behalf of each of the NHCUC member institutions, I want to express to you our delight in having you represent High Education Teaching Excellence in New Hampshire.”

Professor Boyer began teaching at Colby-Sawyer in 2008 and holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Minnesota, where he also served as a lecturer. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Philosophy from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and was an adjunct lecturer in the Department of Political Science at Saint Thomas University. He now teaches classes related to history, government and political studies.

This is not the first time Professor Boyer has been recognized for his performance in the classroom. In 2011, he received the college's highest academic honor, the Jack Jensen Award for Excellence in Teaching. As a recipient of that award, Boyer was also the 2011 commencement speaker. His address, “The Unexamined Life – An Examination,” encouraged the graduating class to explore Socratic philosophy as well as the habits of zombies. Boyer has been associated with zombies at Colby-Sawyer ever since he served as faculty advisor for the first week-long tag game of Humans vs. Zombies, as well as teaching a Pathway course centered around “rise, fall and rise” of the zombie, which Boyer sees as the negative reflection of American self-identity.

“The examined life is one of open doors, but there is always the temptation to wait for a new door to open, to stay secluded in a world of pure thought that is not subjected to the often wild fluctuations of the real world,” Professor Boyer told the graduates. “The zombie does not struggle with the tension between thought and action. It opens doors by running into them over and over again. Remember that at some point you must actually walk through one of the doors you are opening, and that adaptation is a necessary survival skill.” Needless to say, the audience was delighted with this unique approach to a graduation ritual.

“[Eric] uses a multi-strategy approach to teaching, replete with popular culture examples and simulations to locate students' learning in their lives,” says Deborah Taylor, academic vice president and dean of faculty. “The use of the familiar to bridge the gap to deep learning is a remarkable skill – and a daily gift for our students.” She enthusiastically nominated Boyer for the NHCUC award, citing him not only for his engaging approach to teaching, but also for his overall service to the college as an advisor and co-developer of the Pre-Law curriculum and Legal Studies Minor.

“Professor Boyer is knowledgeable, articulate, funny, innovative and enthusiastic in the classroom, and his students benefit from his infectious enthusiasm,” the council stated in its award announcement. “He has also distinguished himself as an advisor to his students as an active member of the Colby-Sawyer College community.”

Professor Boyer recognizes the difficulty of helping students understand political science. “While many students (and citizens) avoid politics as something unimportant and distant, others approach the political realm with an overly easy assurance that they already know all the answers. My goal as an educator is to challenge both of these attitudes.” Along with tackling these challenges, Boyer is also an active scholar with publications and presentations of conference papers and peer-reviewed articles, such as “John Dewey and Growth as End-In-Itself” in Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal.

Professor Boyer continues to serve the college in and outside of the classroom, whether through delving into the world of political theorist Edmund Burke and economist Karl Marx, or revisiting the zombie apocalypse to inspire a graduating class.

-J. M. Clark '11