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UMW Professor Dr. Laura Straus to Receive Distinguished Faculty Award at Night of Stars Event

April 5, 2024

The University of Montana Western will honor Education Professor Dr. Laura Straus with the William C. Bagley Distinguished Education Faculty Award at the 11th Annual Night of Stars on April 20, 2024. As the inaugural recipient of this award, Dr. Straus is celebrated for her outstanding service, leadership, teaching, mentorship, and scholarship.

Laura Straus

The award, named after Dr. William Chandler Bagley, esteemed education theorist and Vice President and Director of Training at Montana State Normal School (now UMW) in the early 1900s, recognizes Straus’s commitment to experiential learning, echoing Bagley’s principles from the early 20th Century. Bagley’s work at UMW, especially related to the development of modern student teaching practices, had a lasting impact on education across the country. 

Born into a lineage of educators, teaching was inherent in Straus’s upbringing. Influenced by her parents—her mother, who personified the nobility of the profession of teaching, and her father, a World War II veteran and metallurgist with a passion for imaginative storytelling—Straus’s childhood was a nurturing environment for her thirst for knowledge. Despite initially pursuing science at the University of Chicago with aspirations of a medical career, she found her true calling in teaching after completing an accelerated certification program in elementary education at the University of Minnesota—Minneapolis.

Her journey as an educator took her through various roles, including teaching middle school, where she made a profound impact on students who challenged her to adapt her teaching methods and taught her invaluable lessons in persistence, creativity, empathy, and humor. 

She joined the faculty at the University of Montana Western in 2007, drawn by its unique block scheduling and the opportunity for intense engagement with students. In 2011, Dr. Straus completed her PhD in literacy education from Claremont Graduate University.

For nearly two decades, Dr. Straus has been a pillar of the Education Division, serving in various leadership roles while remaining dedicated to her passion for literacy education. Embracing the ethos of Horace Mann, she views education as the cornerstone of democracy and sees teaching as a societal calling. As she prepares for her next chapter, Dr. Straus hopes to be remembered as a passionate and caring educator who left a positive impact on her students and the world.

In her final class at Montana Western, Dr. Straus reflects on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words, “Nothing great is ever accomplished without enthusiasm.” With this spirit, she leaves a legacy of enthusiastic dedication to her students and the pursuit of making the world a better place through education.

In addition to the presentation of the William C. Bagley Distinguished Education Faculty Award, the Night of Stars ceremony will include the induction of five Montana Western alumni into the Education Hall of Fame in recognition of their phenomenal dedication to education and will also honor current education students as Outstanding Teacher Candidates. This year’s inductees are Percy Craddock, Cindy Farmer, Mark Clark, Patricia Haynes Gibson, and Jackie Sproul Taylor. The Outstanding Teacher Candidates are Alexis Cannon, Kailynn Field, Jordan Sweeney, Pralie Duffin, Riley Henderson, John Gamble, Ruby Stenberg, Leona Colvin, Loran Murphy, Bailey Schuchard, and Garret Yeager.

The evening will begin with the induction ceremony at 6:00 p.m. in the Beier Auditorium, followed by a post-ceremony reception with drinks and hors d’oeuvres at 8:00 p.m. in the Lewis and Clark Room, located in Mathews Hall.

Admission to the Night of Stars induction ceremony is complimentary. Tickets for the reception can be purchased by contacting Kelly Allen at 406-683-7306 or online by visiting For additional information, please contact UMW Alumni Coordinator, Jolene Robbins: 406-683-7303 or [email protected].