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Teaching award goes to artist, activist and art historian

April 16th, 2018

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College faculty member Rachel Epp Buller believes in active art and activist art, and as a teacher works with students to help them appreciate both.

Epp Buller, associate professor of visual art and design, received the Ralph P. Schrag Distinguished Teaching Award, given at commencement to recognize outstanding contributions to teaching.

Robert Milliman, vice president for academic affairs, presented Epp Buller with the award at Bethel’s 2017 commencement on May 21.

Epp Buller has a B.A. from Bethel (with a triple major, in art, history and German) and went on to earn her M.A. and Ph.D. in art history from the University of Kansas.

While completing her graduate degrees, Epp Buller secured three different fellowships, including serving as a graduate fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Her Ph.D. dissertation was on the work on three women artists, who were also political activists, in Weimar (post-World War I) Germany.

Epp Buller is known at Bethel for her successful grant-writing. She received a Fulbright Fellowship in 2011 or further study on one of the artists, Alice Lex, which she conducted mostly in Berlin.

More recently, her proposal for a Mary McMullan Grant from the National Art Education Foundation was accepted, enabling her to put together – and in particular, to secure guest artists for – a new class that she taught for the first time this spring, Activism, Art and Design.

Epp Buller is currently in a low-residency MFA program in creative practice through the Transart Institute of Plymouth, England.

Epp Buller works most frequently herself in printmaking and book art, and regularly teaches courses in both, in addition to painting, drawing, art history, introduction to design and advanced studio, as well as serving as a Liberal Education Adviser for the freshman course First-Year Seminar.

In the Schrag Award citation, Milliman said, “Rachel is a teacher who models creativity, collaboration, discipline, integrity and service. She is … effective … both when working with students individually and in a classroom setting.”

In one course evaluation, a student asked what teaching element or course content was most helpful said, “Rachel’s constructive criticism and positive reinforcement. ” Another added, “She critiques our work without degrading or insulting it.”

Epp Buller “has particular skill at actively engaging students in meaningful, thought-provoking discussion and experiential learning,” Milliman said. “[One] student commented that ‘Rachel does a great job of making the art interesting and relevant to our lives.’

“Most insightful is the comment from a student … who [said of their class], ‘I loved it and it makes me want to take another art course even though I’m not an art major or minor.’

“One final testimonial on Rachel’s teaching comes from her own self-assessment,” Milliman concluded, “in which she states, ‘I daily look forward to the challenge of teaching students, hoping always to encourage them toward their best work, and I am grateful to be able to share with our students an active life of the mind through a combination of teaching, research and creative work.’”

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2016'17 analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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Bethel College prepares students for meaningful lives of work and service through faith formation, the liberal arts, and practical experience in career pathways.