PEMBROKE — Dr. Kevin Freeman has a profound impact on his students — both in and out of the classroom.
He connects with his students. He is a mentor and is responsible for preparing countless students for a political life beyond UNC Pembroke. Fellow colleague Emily Neff-Sharum describes Freeman’s classroom experience as transformative.
“I can’t tell you how many students walk through this department and seem lost at the beginning of the semester, but once they come out of Dr. Freeman’s class they hit the ground running. They become leaders on campus, fully taking advantage of what UNCP has to offer.
“It takes someone special to be transformative and that’s what makes Kevin a great professor.”
Freeman, an associate professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, is the recipient of the 2019 UNC Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching. He was presented with a commemorative bronze medallion and a $12,500 cash prize at spring commencement. Freeman will give the keynote address at winter commencement in December.
Established by the Board in 1993 to highlight the importance of teaching, the award recognizes the extraordinary contributions of faculty members system wide.
“It’s nice to be selected,” he said. “I am very appreciative of being recognized by the awards committee. I am pleased that they saw things they liked in my portfolio. I am honored to represent UNCP as our representative for the award this year.
“At a school like UNC Pembroke, where teaching is so important, I think it’s an even greater honor.”
Freeman’s lectures are filled with spirited debate mixed with humor. He uses levity as a teaching tool.
“I try to keep a fairly relaxed, comfortable classroom environment that makes the students feel welcome and not afraid to ask questions,” he said. “I try to get students to laugh. I tell a lot of bad dad jokes. I tell a lot of jokes that are related to the material. There are no sacred cows in my class.”
Freeman has remained active on campus since joining the faculty in 2004. He has taught study abroad courses in Berlin, Germany, and Tokyo, Japan. He serves as the faculty athletics representative and has previous experience as a faculty associate for men’s soccer and baseball programs. For the past 10 years, he served as the public address announcer for UNCP football home games.
An advisor to UNCP’s Model United Nations team since 2009, Freeman has helped build the team into a recognized leader in regional competition. Model UN is developing student leaders. The last four SGA presidents at UNCP all have Model UN experience.
When asked what he loves the most about UNCP, Freeman didn’t hesitate.
And like many of his students, Freeman, is a first-generation college student. His father served in the U.S. Air Force, so his family frequently moved from state to state. Freeman was born in Wichita, Kan., attended elementary school in Germany, then it was on to Colorado, Nevada, California, Georgia and North Carolina. He graduated high school in the Philippines.
It’s no surprise that his specialty is international relations. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics with minors in German and European studies from Vanderbilt, and earned his master’s degree in international relations from Baylor. He holds a doctorate in political science from Alabama.
Freeman is married to Carole Graham, an assistant professor and pre-law advisor in UNCP’s Department of Political Science and Public Administration. They have a son, Carter.
Dr. Neff-Sharum, department chair, labeled Freeman a “model professor.”
“He is a role model for not just our department, but is a shining example of what it means to put students first. We have a special mission at this university to help fully develop students for all aspects of life. Some students come through the front door and need a challenge. Others may come in and not have the confidence or the social skills to thrive. Dr. Freeman is able to give student efficacy in their life — the belief that they have the power to act and their actions will have impact.”