Boss wins 2017 Distinguished Teaching Award

Alan Boss

Alan Boss, an assistant professor in the University of Washington Bothell School of Business, is the recipient of the University’s 2017 Distinguished Teaching Award.

Boss has “consistently proven himself as an outstanding and successful teacher, mentor and colleague,” said Chancellor Wolf Yeigh. Boss “consistently performed at the highest level and fully represents the values that faculty and students at the University of Washington Bothell have for teaching and learning.”

The award selection committee received letters from undergraduate students and fellow faculty members who said Boss represents the best of UW Bothell teaching. The committee praised Boss for his commitment to community engagement and his ability to help students learn analytical and organizational skills to affect change in their world.

“I always have been impressed with Alan’s professional yet approachable demeanor, his command of the leadership and management literature, his understanding of the craft of teaching, and his obvious commitment to student learning,” said Paul Collins, associate professor in the School of Business.

Boss says he feels honored. “I am grateful for my mentors, my colleagues in the School of Business, and for the fantastic students I have been fortunate to teach,” Boss said.

Boss is known for giving students a choice of a traditional midterm and research paper or doing a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) project. With a BHAG, a student achieves a goal and writes a term paper on the subject incorporating at least 10 principles that resonate from class.

“It’s something that is measurable, that is life-changing, that you have always wanted to do, and that can be completed within the quarter,” Boss says. 

So far, more than 900 students Boss has taught at UW Bothell have chosen the BHAG. Some examples include mentoring minority high school students, increasing reading speed, developing an exercise routine, quitting a bad habit, and starting a business. 

“I treat my students like professionals. I treat them like adult learners, and I do anything I can to help them be successful,” Boss says. “Almost everyone appreciates it. Some don’t. And that’s okay.”

Boss received a doctorate in organizational behavior from the University of Maryland. His research interests focus on leadership, leadership failure, entrepreneurial resilience and organizational change. His research has appeared in numerous psychology and management journals.

Since joining the UW Bothell faculty in 2009, Boss has taught courses in leadership and decision making, social responsibility, managerial effectiveness, organizational behavior and managing teams.

The UW Bothell Distinguished Teaching Award, created in 1995, is presented each year to a faculty member who has demonstrated sustained excellence in teaching, exemplifying what it means to fulfill the academic mission of the University of Washington Bothell.

The award will be presented to Boss at the June 8 awards of excellence ceremony in Seattle. The award carries a $5,000 honorarium.

Criteria for the Distinguished Teaching Award include mastery of the subject matter, enthusiasm and innovation in teaching, and ability to inspire independent and original thinking. The award selection committee is chaired by a previous recipient and includes at least three faculty members, a current student and alumni representatives.