University News

National Security and Political Science Professor Receives 2018 Bucknall Excellence in Teaching Award

Dr. Matthew Schmidt, an expert on U.S. military issues, Russia, and U.S. foreign policy in North Korea, is the fourth recipient of the prestigious honor that recognizes a gifted University of New Haven educator for excellence in and out of the classroom.

December 10, 2018

Photo of Matthew Schmidt, Ph.D., with his wife and children and William Bucknall, Kristin Loranger, and Elise Bucknall.
Matthew Schmidt, Ph.D., (far right) with his wife and children and William Bucknall (second from left), Kristin Loranger (center), and Elise Bucknall (second from right).

In his classes, Matthew Schmidt, Ph.D., a University of New Haven associate professor of political science and national security, uses a wide range of teaching tools, including simulation exercises that he developed during his time teaching military officers.

He connects with students by acknowledging their apprehensions and by sharing his own vulnerabilities from his educational journey, while also challenging them to think critically. "I see myself as a guide in the Platonic tradition, where education means drawing out from the student an inherent, but not yet trusted, capacity to learn," Schmidt said.

Dr. Schmidt’s approach has led to new programs and courses at the University, including a new bachelor’s degree program in international development and diplomacy.

"It’s a validation of a life’s work up to this point. That my peers and my students thought I was worthy of this means so much."Matthew Schmidt, Ph.D.

His innovative methods also led to him being named the 2018 recipient of the University’s William L. Bucknall Excellence in Teaching Award. The award, which provides an honorarium of $15,000 and an additional $10,000 to support the recipient’s new teaching initiatives, rewards a faculty member for developing innovative curriculum and for exemplary instruction in and out of the classroom.

"It’s overwhelming," said Schmidt, the author of four books who earned his Ph.D. in government from Georgetown University.

David Berghel ’19 M.S. described Dr. Schmidt an extraordinary person and professor.

"He is one of the most caring and compassionate educators around," he said. "Dr. Schmidt meets with me and other graduate and undergraduate students all day, every day. There is probably no one else at the University who shares as much of his personal time with his students."

Photo of William L. Bucknall Jr. ’63, ’65, ’08 Hon.
William L. Bucknall Jr. ’63, ’65, ’08 Hon., Chair of the University’s Board of Governors

The award, which was established by longtime University supporter William L. Bucknall Jr. ’63, ’65, ’08 Hon., chair of the University’s Board of Governors, and his daughters, Elise Bucknall and Kristin Loranger.

"What resonates most is Dr. Schmidt’s commitment to establishing a sense of unity and an atmosphere of teamwork in the classroom that helps students feel supported," Bucknall said. "His students, I understand, often credit him for helping them to become more confident learners and more deeply engaged in their studies."

Aemin Becker ’18, who completed a double major in political science and national security studies, took two of Schmidt’s classes at the University.

Now pursuing a master’s degree at Sciences Po in Paris, France, Becker fondly remembers Dr. Schmidt’s energy and concern for his students. As part of one of the classes, Becker was one of several students who traveled to Washington, D.C., to visit a number of government agencies and think tanks.

"That experience was the epitome of hands-on learning, and Dr. Schmidt complemented each visit to an agency with anecdotes of his field experiences," said Becker. "That experience was easily one of the highlights of my undergraduate career."