Dr. Keith Beck – Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor

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The NC State University Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor Award is the highest level of University recognition for undergraduate teaching and service that the University awards.  Of the more than 2000 faculty at NC State, only six faculty members are bestowed this high honor each year.  We are so proud that our very own Dr. Keith R. Beck is one of this year’s recipients.

Over a distinguished career that has spanned four decades, Dr. Beck has educated and mentored thousands of students.  No one in our department has a greater repertoire of courses taught than Dr. Beck. Every course he “touches” improves!  It is by design that he developed and teaches the first laboratory instructional experience for freshman and then the capstone class and laboratory experience for seniors in the PCC degree.  In that sense, Dr. Beck is the analytical “book ends” of the degree. He epitomizes the high quality mentoring and teaching that his colleagues strive to emulate.

Dr. Beck is an unusual educator in that he excels in all types of teaching settings: formal classroom settings; hands-on chemistry laboratory settings; and computer laboratory settings in which he teaches freshman methodologies for analyzing and presenting data. Also, he loves working shoulder-to-shoulder with students in a variety of undergraduate research projects, including forensic chemistry, product characterization and environmental science.  And while some students may complain about his tough grading, none complain that they do not know the learning objectives or what is expected of them!

At the core of Dr. Beck’s academic life is a commitment to quality and maintaining a syllabus commensurate with the level of the students. At the freshman level, Dr. Beck quickly establishes a good rapport, earns the respect of the students, and instills in them an understanding of the qualities that make a successful NC State graduate.  During the last semester of the students’ undergraduate career, Dr. Beck teaches our capstone class and laboratory course, PCC 412/414 Textile Chemical Analysis.  This combination course includes theory, formal laboratory instruction and a team research project.  The rigor with which Dr. Beck teaches the course ensures that the PCC program is graduating students with a sufficient level of technical understanding.  If the expected level is not attained by a student, Dr. Beck continues to work with the student until the required level is achieved.

Dr. Beck specifically addresses the issue of ethics in all his classes, and at the beginning of each semester poses ethical dilemmas for class discussion.  High ethical standards are at the core of Dr. Beck’s teaching and mentoring. As a testament to the quality of Dr. Beck’s senior class, one student wrote on a teaching evaluation:

“Weakness = absence policy and grading.  Strength = everything else”.

Another student stated:

Very enthusiastic, which I respect and appreciate.  Willing to stay to teach so you understand the material.”

Dr. Beck’s contributions to teaching transcend the classroom, showing up in ways not traditionally considered when selecting faculty for a teaching award.  In his position as Department Head that spanned more than a decade, Professor Beck had an active role in curriculum development, which included vital input into program and course changes that ensured the health and reputation of TE and PCC curricula.  We owe much to him for serving as a gatekeeper for these nationally accredited programs.

Dr. Beck’s dedication ensures that all his students develop personally and professionally as they progress through their undergraduate education.  He makes life at NC State fun and rewarding and he leads by example.  He is a treasured mentor to his colleagues and students alike. In addition to educational rigor, what more can be expected from a professor than what a recent student stated:

I think Dr. Beck is an amazing professor.  He is amiable and extremely kind.  [He] listens to us and laughs with us which creates a great sense of security in our university.”