Bultena named one of 10 Piper Professors

MSU Texas’ Bultena honored with prestigious Texas professor award

In another life, Charles Bultena was an engineer with a career that took him around the world. In 1995, he left that 14-year career to teach at Midwestern State University because of a love for teaching and students that grew out of his years of youth and college ministry.

That decision has been rewarded as Bultena, Associate Professor of Management, was named one of 10 Piper Professors, an honor awarded annually to Texas professors for superior teaching at the college level.

“I was shocked and humbled when I got word of the award, especially when I considered our last two recipients at MSU, Mike Collins and Emily LaBeff,” Bultena said. “They were awesome teachers who loved students and students loved them. The Piper Award is the greatest honor of my career at MSU. I am grateful to my students, our faculty, and to MSU for supporting me and making teaching the top priority.”

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs James Johnston said that MSU Texas prides itself on being a teaching-focused, student-centered institution. “I believe Dr. Bultena is an outstanding representative of that philosophy. He balances the scholarly expectations of an accredited business college with a dedication to his teaching.”

To be considered for Piper Professor honors, each of the six colleges nominate one professor for the award. The Faculty Senate reviews the nominations and votes on the MSU Texas nominee, which is submitted to the Piper Foundation. “To be the MSU nominee is an honor in itself,” Bultena said.

MSU Texas President Suzanne Shipley said, “Dr. Bultena’s energy in the classroom and dedication to his students are exemplary of the prestigious Piper Professor Award. As recipient he joins historic campus leaders like Arthur Beyer, one of only seven MSU faculty to earn this accolade. We are gratified that the Piper Foundation has chosen to recognize Dr. Bultena for his tireless commitment to teaching excellence at MSU Texas.”

Bultena believes his years in engineering have made him a better teacher and they reinforce one of his teaching philosophies. “Better to teach from a raging river than a stagnant pond” is his title for bringing outside real-world experiences into the classroom, whether that is through his own knowledge from his previous work, by staying involved in business and community, or inviting industry leaders to classes to share their own experiences.

As a professor who based his teaching philosophy on face-to-face interaction and giving students reasons to come to class, Bultena said that teaching through the pandemic had been a challenge and brought about some swift changes in his methods. For his organizational behavior class, he would invite guest speakers, give realistic exercises, show video clips and materials, and assign creative projects and student presentations, all mixed with a dose of pop culture.

“What made it so hard is that I got close to my students during live streaming. I felt a great responsibility not to let them down,” Bultena said. “While I’m grateful we had tools to carry on, my mission is to make a difference in students’ lives. For me, that is best done in person.”

It is in person that Bultena can put into effect another of his philosophies. “I Hear and I Forget, I See and I Remember, I Do and I Understand.” With hands-on exercises mixed with students’ own life experiences, the course comes to life and prepares students for when they are out in the world.

Bultena realizes that time is fleeting with students these days. That only increases his desire to connect with them and to do that, he takes a sincere interest in his students. “Value them, support them in the best and worst of times, and help them grow in your classes. Make sure their well-being is the most important course objective. It’s a partnership – we’re sharing this little slice of our lives together that we’ll always remember,” he said.

Bultena is also an MSU Texas alumnus. He earned his Bachelor in Business Administration in 1981 and his MBA in 1989. He earned his Ph.D. in Organization Behavior/Human Resource Management in 1998 from the University of North Texas.

When Bultena was considering his career change in 1995, he talked to Professor Emeritus of Management Chuck Ramser, who has been with MSU Texas since 1969. Bultena considers Ramser his teaching mentor. “He said ‘I’ve been here 25 years, but it feels like 5. It’s been fun!’ Twenty-five years later I can say the same.”

In addition to Collins, who received the award in 2008; LaBeff, who was honored in 1992; and Beyer, 1987; other MSU Texas recipients are Jean Autret, 1961; Joseph Satin, 1967; and Harry Brown, 1981.

About the Piper Professor Award and the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation

The Piper Award is the premier teaching award in Texas Higher Education, honoring 10 Texas professors each year. Begun in 1958, with eight awards, the roster of Piper Professors includes outstanding professors from two and four-year colleges and universities, public and private. The Piper Professor Award recognizes professors for outstanding academic and scholarly achievement and for dedication to the teaching profession. The award includes a certificate of merit, a gold pin, and a $5,000 stipend. The Piper Foundation also funds student loans and scholarships to high school seniors.

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