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

Kathryn Birkeland photoBirkeland was honored in the tenure-track category. An assistant professor in the Division of Economics and Decision Sciences in the Beacom School of Business, she teaches macroeconomics, money and banking, and more. She has also been the faculty coordinator of the business school’s renowned Master of Professional Accountancy program since January 2015. Birkeland holds a Ph.D. and master’s degree in economics from Arizona State University, as well as bachelor’s degree in economics from USD (2001). In addition to her work with students, Birkeland conducts research in macroeconomic labor dynamics, the economics of higher education and the scholarship of teaching.

Sandy McKeown photoMcKeown, an associate professor in the Department of Political Science/Criminal Justice Studies in the College of Arts & Sciences, was honored in the tenured category. She directs USD’s criminal justice program and, as an associate professor, teaches courses such as juvenile justice, criminal prosecution and defense, and more. Licensed to practice law by the South Dakota State Bar Association, McKeown integrates personal research regarding courtroom practices into both her education methods and continued scholarship. The USD alumnae graduated in 1999 with a political science bachelor’s degree and received her J.D. from the USD School of Law in 2002.

A faculty committee chooses Belbas-Larson recipients based on a review of portfolios submitted in support of the nominations by students and colleagues. Birkeland and McKeown were recognized at USD’s spring commencement ceremony, where each received 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.