SRU’s parks and conservation professor recognized for excellence in teaching


Shawn Davis has been awarded the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching

The Slippery Rock University President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching will be presented to Shawn Davis, 5 p.m., April 5, at the Smith Student Center Ballroom as part of SRU’s Celebration of Achievement Awards ceremony.

March 21, 2022

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — Shawn Davis is a Leave No Trace Master Educator. This doesn't mean he hasn't left much of an impact on his students. In fact, it's quite the opposite. A Slippery Rock University assistant professor of parks, conservation and recreational therapy, Davis achieved certifications such as Leave No Trace, which promotes responsible recreation in the natural world, and in doing so, has passed along his field experience and knowledge to his students.

That's just one of the reasons why Davis has been recognized by SRU with the 2021-22 President's Award for Excellence in Teaching, which honors faculty for their commitment to teaching beyond contractual obligations, engaging and innovative teaching practices, and scholarly growth.



Last year, Davis became certified by Leave No Trace as a master educator after completing a five-day, field-based training in North Carolina, where he learned skills and ethics surrounding a national movement that encourages people to enjoy the outdoor responsibly. This credential allowed Davis to certify students from his Outdoor Leadership class, which he completed by having them go camping for a weekend near SRU. Outdoor Leadership is a class for students to learn how to lead hiking, camping and backpacking trips.

"This was great training, it was a lot of fun and a great time to just be with the students in a camp setting," Davis said. "We did a lot of hiking and chatted around the campfire. By leveraging some of my training, I pass that on to the students, and these experiences and certifications add value to their degrees."

Davis obtained other certifications, grants and resources that he has passed along to his students as well, including those to become "wilderness first-responders" and another through Project Water Education Today, which provided books for students in his Environmental Education course to complete certification related to becoming Project WET Educators.

"I practice what some would call nontraditional teaching methods that are very experiential where I'm outside and in the field with my students." Davis said. "I'm a big proponent of experiential education, such as students learning how to identify mammal tracks. You could give a lecture on that and show pictures, or, when the snows on the ground, you could take a class outside into the field and look at the tracks and measure them and go over identification in the field."

Each year, students, peers, staff and alumni are invited to submit nominations for the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Nominations are reviewed by a committee organized through the Provost's Office that selects a winner from among finalists of each of SRU's four colleges.

"I was just blown away; it's such a huge honor," Davis said. "It's just very validating to know that not only are those methods reaching the students, but that it's also recognized from all levels of the University as pedagogy that's effective."

Davis will be presented the award, 5 p.m., April 5, at the Smith Student Center Ballroom, when SRU's hosts its annual Celebration of Achievement Awards ceremony.

More information about parks and conservation classes and programs at SRU is available on the department's webpage.

MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zackal | 724.738.4854 |