Birkeland and McKeown Receive USD's Highest Honor

Image Sandy McKeown and Kathryn Birkeland Sandy McKeown and Kathryn Birkeland, recipients of the 2016 Belbas-Larson Awards for Excellence in Teaching.

VERMILLION, S.D. -- The University of South Dakota named Kathryn Birkeland and Sandy McKeown winners of the 2016 Belbas-Larson Awards for Excellence in Teaching, the highest honor USD bestows on its educators.

McKeown, J.D., an associate professor in the department of political science/criminal justice studies in the College of Arts & Sciences, was honored in the tenured category. Birkeland, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the division of economics and decision sciences in the Beacom School of Business, was honored in the tenure-track category.

A faculty committee chooses the recipients based on a review of portfolios submitted in support of the nominations by students and colleagues. Belbas-Larson awardees will be recognized at the May 7 commencement ceremony where each will receive a framed certificate, a commemorative medal and a $5,000 tribute.

The Belbas-Larson Awards were established by a 1956 graduate of USD, Dean Belbas of Edina, Minnesota, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and his friends, Harold W. and Kathryn Larson of Bemidji, Minnesota, and Scottsdale, Arizona.


USD's College of Arts & Sciences offers students a top-notch undergraduate liberal arts education in the humanities, social sciences and sciences as well as graduate programs that have earned USD distinction as a research university by the Carnegie Foundation. The college's more than 22,000 alumni include famous journalists, Hollywood screenwriters, novelists, a Nobel Prize winner, South Dakota governors, attorneys, physicians, justices of the state Supreme Court, distinguished university faculty and international humanitarians.


USD's Beacom School of Business was established in 1927 and has been accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) since 1949. The leading business school in the region, Beacom’s programs are consistently ranked among the top business schools in the nation by Princeton Review, U.S. News & World Report and others for its high-quality learning experience, student success, affordability, and high-caliber of faculty and students. Whether a student chooses face-to-face or online courses, Beacom’s programs emphasize real-world experience through professional organizations, quality internships and capstone projects.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 205 undergraduate and 73 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 17:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 17 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Michael Ewald
USD News