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History Professor Michael Behrent Receives Brantz Award for Outstanding Teaching in First Year Seminar

Michael C. Behrent has received the Rennie W. Brantz Award for Outstanding Teaching in First Year Seminar. The Appalachian State University history professor uses Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America” to teach freshmen about politics, activism, democracy and history. Photo by Jane Nicholson

May 7, 2012. The Appalachian State University assistant professor of history received the Rennie W. Brantz Award for Outstanding Teaching in First Year Seminar for 2012.

The award, named for Dr. Rennie Brantz who was director of Freshman Seminar for 14 years, is presented annually by Appalachian’s University College. It recognizes an individual who exhibits commitment, dedication and passion in teaching First Year Seminar and who effectively connects the learning in the classroom to the life of a broader world.

Behrent joined the faculty in the Department of History at Appalachian State University in 2008. He has a Ph.D. in history from New York University and a B.A. from Brown University.

His First Year Seminar honors course, “Tocqueville and Us: Reading ‘Democracy in America,’” uses Alexis de Tocqueville’s book as a springboard for discussions about politics, activism and democracy, as well as history.

“Dr. Behrent was so welcoming and genuinely interested in getting to know each student in the class that I was instantly relaxed and willing to participate in discussion,” wrote freshman Anna E. Howard. “Dr. Behrent encouraged class discussion so that students were always comfortable with speaking their minds and voicing their thoughts and opinions.”

Behrent, who also teaches history courses in European history, French history and modern intellectual history, wrote “This class has allowed me to implement and to enrich the core principle of my philosophy of freshman education: teaching students how to read classic texts in order to help them understand the present.” 

“Those of us who were fortunate enough to have taken his class [and] move forward in our collegiate careers, and in life, will be able to view the world around us through a more focused lens,” wrote freshman Davis B. Coster.