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Wheaton named Teaching Excellence Award recipient

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Kristan Wheaton with Provost David Dausey

Games, crowdfunding, social media campaigns, blogging, entrepreneurship … perhaps no faculty member is as adept at blending his own personal interests with the academic needs of his students than Kris Wheaton.

Out of that unique merger comes an unparalleled educational experience, the merits of which students have extolled many times over.

It is with this in mind that the Mercyhurst University Office of Academic Affairs has declared Kristan J. Wheaton, J.D., associate professor of intelligence studies, as the 2017 recipient of the coveted Teaching Excellence Award. Provost David Dausey, accompanied by a half dozen intel faculty, surprised Wheaton with the announcement during his Tuesday morning class in the Center for Academic Engagement. 

In his Mercyhurst classroom, Wheaton successfully uses games to teach intelligence concepts. Several are of his own design, including Spymaster, a card game that teaches the basics of managing diverse collection resources; and a tabletop game, The Mind’s Lie, that helps students identify cognitive biases.

Wheaton’s gaming skills have put Mercyhurst University on the pages of USA Today, featured him as a subject-matter expert in notable academic publications, and served as the impetus behind Mercyhurst being ranked among the nation’s “10 best colleges for game-based learning” by bestcollegesonline.com.

In the past, Wheaton has successfully used crowdfunding to finance construction of his games. From there, he crafted his own crowdfunding strategy, Quickstarter, to help other entrepreneurs accomplish similar results, particularly on the world’s largest crowdfunding platform, Kickstarter, which recently named Wheaton an “expert” in crowdfunding strategy.

Through Quickstarter, Wheaton employs Mercyhurst students and students from other area universities to develop social media/crowdfunding campaigns that have led to the launch of numerous ideas, products, and even a restaurant, Like My Thai, in downtown Erie. While Wheaton is proud of his success rate (22 successful Quickstarter campaigns out of 24 in three years), he’s most enthused by what the collaboration means for his students. Besides the skills learned and shared, besides the opportunity to make an entrepreneur’s dream a reality, there’s a certain confidence that comes with completing successful real-world projects and, practically speaking, it is great for the resume.

Wheaton is well known for sharing insightful stories about his experiences in the intelligence community as a former Foreign Area Officer with the US Army specializing in national security. He chooses relevant and helpful course content, and uses simulations to address ethical concerns of professionals. More importantly, he challenges students to think differently and come up with innovative ideas.

Always willing to share his ideas with students, faculty, entrepreneurs and others in the intelligence community, Wheaton is author of the popular blog, Sources & Methods (sourcesandmethods.blogspot.com).

In acknowledgement of the award, Wheaton said, “This is a tremendous honor and a complete surprise.  There are many extraordinary teachers at Mercyhurst and to be considered to be among the best of them is both amazing and humbling.”