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BYU Administrator Receives Patriot Award

Dave Nielsen (Patriot Award)
Dave Nielsen, recipient of the Patriot Award
Photo by Joshua Perkey

BYU College of Humanities Language Assessment Coordinator Dave Nielsen received the Patriot award from the United States Department of Defense on February 4, 2022. The award is presented to employers and supervisors nominated by Service members of the National Guard Reserve for going above and beyond to directly support the employed Service member and their family.
Command Sergeant Major Randy Edwards, who attended as a representative for the Utah Department of Defense and presented the award, says, “As employers it's really hard when you have to send [an employee] to school weekends, or when they are deployed for a year or two, and you have to have somebody to replace them. We're grateful because of the support from Brigham Young University. We [present awards like] this quite often down here because a lot of your students are deployed and you really do take care of our veterans.”
Nielsen was nominated by Technical Sergeant Abraham Engh, a BYU Persian instructor and linguist for the Utah Air National Guard. Nielsen says, “I believe that this is a nomination for our whole department. I know that everybody in our department is behind the success of our instructors.”
Engh credits Nielsen with making him a better teacher—his dream job. He shared an example of how Nielsen’s influence and suggestions help him with every class. “Driving in to class today, I was thinking about some of the teaching strategies that Dave taught me, and I decided to do something completely different [from my lesson plan].” Following Nielsen’s strategies and in a last-minute decision, Engh changed his lessons into more interactive experiences for his students. One class, Persian 330, participated in a debate over historical views they were learning about, and the other class, Persian 101, performed charades and roleplay with new vocabulary words they’d learned that day. “I was amazed at the level of participation and honest fun. Those are both some strategies I learned from Dave.”
Nielsen is quick to give credit back to Engh, and shared the following story regarding Engh’s success as an instructor. Historically, students in Engh’s Persian 101 class would speak in Persian about 50% of the time and English for the rest. Administrators at the Center for Language Studies suggested that Engh increase the amount of time students spoke the foreign language in class. His response was to set a goal for 80% of class time being in Persian only—a lofty increase—and he made the switch immediately, with dramatic results in student performance.
“He was not only willing to listen,” Nielsen says, “but he was willing to follow a suggestion, to be humble enough to show humility that he would be able to improve. We are lucky to have instructors like Abraham who come in prepared to do an excellent job, and who are willing to go through training and take our advice and our suggestions and then become successful.”
As part of the award, Nielsen received a certificate and accompanying lapel pin to display in honor of his much-appreciated support of the Guard Reserve.