Students studying outside the library

Wofford professor receives national honor

Dr. Alliston Reid named CASE 2012 South Carolina Professor of Year 

Dr. Alliston Reid, center top, oversees one of his students' works in the psychology laboratory.

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) have named Dr. Alliston K. Reid as the 2012 South Carolina Professor of the Year. He was selected from among nearly 300 top professors across the United States.

Reid is the second Wofford professor to win the annual Carnegie/CASE honor in recent years. Dr. Angela Shiflet, the Larry Hearn McCalla Professor of Computer Science and Mathematics, received the honor in 2009. 

Reid, a 1975 Wofford graduate and a member of Phi Beta Kappa, is the Reeves Family Professor of Psychology and a former chair of the department. He earned his doctorate in experimental psychology with a minor in zoology at Duke University, where he also completed advanced studies in electrical and computer engineering. Before returning to Wofford, he was a professor at Eastern Oregon University and taught classes (in fluent Spanish) for several years at universities in Colombia and Mexico. 

He is the immediate past president of the International Society for the Quantitative Analyses of Behavior. He served the scholarly association as program chair for three years, inviting and introducing all the plenary speakers, including Nobel laureates. He served as special editor of the journal “Behavioural Processes” and as associate editor on the editorial boards of several other journals. 

His published computational research has been adopted by the U.S. Department of Defense for the detection of landmines, and by the police in Paris to track criminals and anticipate their movement patterns. His research on bias in photographic lineups has been evaluated by the South Carolina Supreme Court and resulted in overturning a murder conviction.

Reid also made key contributions to a renovation of the Roger Milliken Science Center at Wofford, drawing on his background in engineering.

“I’m proud to have won this honor,” Reid says, “but I like to think of it first as an affirmation of the quality work that my Wofford faculty colleagues do every day. They certainly are equally deserving.”

Reid says faculty members in higher education always look for the right balance between mentoring students and pursuing some level of original scholarship through grants and research. “That balance varies from institution to institution and even from discipline to discipline,” he says. “So maybe I should talk about what we think makes a good professor here at Wofford. It is a passion and a commitment to reach out to every single student to provide them with opportunities to surpass all their prior expectations. Most graduates leave Wofford with value added beyond credits and grades.

“My Wofford teachers were very important to me,” Reid adds. “For example, my wife and I asked one of my mentors, Dr. John Pilley, to be the godfather of our daughters, even though we lived on different sides of the country at the time. We still enjoy our friendship as well as being co-authors in professional collaboration with a border collie named Chaser.”

Chaser understands more than 1,000 words and became a national celebrity last year with numerous articles and television appearances to her credit. Her story will be told in Pilley’s forthcoming book “The World’s Smartest Dog,” scheduled for publication in the fall of 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

“Dr. Reid’s students are not just talking about research. They are doing it, presenting their work at conferences and publishing articles in international journals,” Dr. David S. Wood, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college, says. “Scores on the National Survey of Student Engagement reflect that good work. So does the individual pride that students take in the products of their results in the laboratory when they present them at national conferences.”

Wood also praises the innovative teaching methods Reid uses to excite his students and popularize his academic discipline all over the campus. In his first-year Behavioral Analysis course, students trained a dozen rats to play one-on-one “rat basketball,” and the participating students organized a televised end-of-the-semester tournament open to the college and community.

“Dr. Reid is a remarkable example of all things excellent and good that our finest alumni and faculty members represent,” Wood says. “I deliberately use ‘excellent’ to denote professional, intellectual and academic accomplishments of the highest order and ‘good’ to indicate the moral commitment of our nominee to a life of service to the campus and neighboring communities.”

CASE and the Carnegie Foundation have been partners in offering the U.S. Professors of the Year awards program since 1981. TIAA-CREF, one of America’s leading financial services organizations and higher education’s premier retirement system, became the principal sponsor for the awards ceremony in 2000. Additional support for the program is received from a number of higher education associations, including Phi Beta Kappa, which sponsors an evening congressional reception.

This year, a state Professor of the Year was recognized in 30 states and the District of Columbia. CASE assembled two preliminary panels of judges to select finalists. The Carnegie Foundation then convened the third and final panel, which selected four national winners. CASE and Carnegie select state winners from top entries resulting from the judging process. Reid was selected from faculty members nominated by colleges and universities throughout the country.

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is an independent policy and research center that supports needed transformations in American education through tighter connections between teaching practice, evidence of student learning, the communication and use of this evidence, and structured opportunities to build knowledge.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., with offices in London, Singapore and Mexico City, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education is a professional association serving educational institutions and the advancement professionals at all levels who work in alumni relations, communications, fundraising, marketing and other areas.