2009 Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching

Honored for their superior teaching, faculty members are nominated by present and former students and colleagues and selected by a committee of alumni, students and faculty.
Image of Janice M. Aski

Janice M. Aski

Associate Professor, Department of French and Italian


A word that many people use when talking about Janice Aski, director of the Italian language program, is “passionate.” “The passion and excitement that Professor Aski radiates as she enters the classroom is incomparable to any other professor or instructor I have experienced in my four years at Ohio State,” a student said. “I can honestly say that she opened my mind to new disciplines, ideas and theories in her field.”

Not only is Aski a respected and dynamic teacher, but she is caring and responsive to her students both in and out of the classroom. Students write of her compassion as they encountered personal difficulties and her willingness to go above and beyond her responsibilities to ensure their success in her courses. Her commitment to student learning was recognized in 2004 when she was named Colleges of the Arts and Sciences Outstanding Teacher.

Aski has been shaping the landscape of Italian studies at The Ohio State University since 2000, working to transform the Italian major into a nationally known program and creating an entirely new course on Romance languages that helped launch the new Romance linguistics major.

“Janice has been a mover and a shaker in the department, especially in the area of curriculum,” a colleague said. “And she is considered to be one of our very best teachers, whether at the beginning level where she has taught Italian language or in advanced-level graduate courses.”

Aski received her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s in linguistics at the University of Manchester, United Kingdom.

Image of John F. Beacom

John F. Beacom

Associate Professor, Departments of Physics and Astronomy


You know you’ve got a good teacher on your hands when you get student reviews such as this one: “I’m glad I can now explain scientifically what will happen to Spongebob when Gorilla lands on him after falling from the Empire State Building.”

In other words, John Beacom possesses the rare ability to make physics both fun and educational to students of all majors. Another student put it a bit more succinctly: “Professor Beacom was everything you want in a professor: A perfect balance of knowledge, fun and desire to help his students.”

Since 2004, Beacom has been using humor and creativity to teach complicated principles to both large-lecture, introductory undergraduate classes and specialized graduate seminars in particle physics. He was awarded the Arts and Sciences Student Council’s Outstanding Teaching Award in 2008.

“Professor Beacom has demonstrated the unusual ability to teach his own, rather specialized, field of research to a wide audience, while at the same time demonstrating excellent teaching at the undergraduate level,” one colleague noted.

In addition to his teaching, Beacom has distinguished himself through extensive publications—almost 60 publications in peer-reviewed journals—and an NSF CAREER award. “What is even more impressive is how often other researchers cite Professor Beacom’s work: An average of 40 times per paper,” another colleague said.

Beacom received his bachelor’s at the University of Kansas and his master’s and doctorate from the University of Wisconsin.

Image of Jill Clutter

Jill Clutter

Associate Professor of Clinical, School of Allied Medical Professions


Jill Clutter was instrumental in developing the College of Medicine’s health and wellness major and the courses within that major (of which she teaches four). And she did all that while simultaneously completing her doctorate in education and moving into a regular clinical faculty position after years of being in a staff position.

Now in her first year of her regular faculty appointment, she has drawn wide praise for her creative teaching techniques that engage her students and not only bring the outside world into the classroom, but also take her classroom into the outside world.

“She has this amazing ability to turn her class into a home and her students into a family,” one student said. “She sent us out into the community and the projects we did not only helped us learn but also helped the community. She makes her students want to make her proud. She taught us to find ourselves, to have opinions, to mature and to believe in ourselves and others.”

Clutter has not published textbooks or course materials, but has been responsible for development of multiple class materials used by the students in her courses. “Many of these innovative methods will lend themselves to publication,” a colleague noted. “She has been instrumental in the organization of the entire curriculum and works with PAES and the College of Public Health to integrate some of their courses into our curriculum to assure the breadth of understanding for our students.”

Clutter received her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate from Ohio State.

Image of Brian Edmiston

Brian Edmiston

Associate Professor, School of Teaching and Learning


Given his professional interest in drama as an educational tool, it should come as no surprise that Brian Edmiston’s impact on those he teaches is nothing short of dramatic. Since 1997, Edmiston has worked to shape elementary school teachers, both in the university setting and in elementary schools around central Ohio and internationally.

Students of every age—from six years old to seasoned classroom teachers—praise him for his knowledge and his equally profound interpersonal skill. “Dr. Edmiston is one of a kind,” said an elementary school teacher in whose classroom Edmiston had worked. “His way of teaching and positive influence have helped me to change my views of teaching and learning both in the school walls and out.”

And it’s not just Edmiston’s students who express this level of appreciation for his expertise. He is a frequent speaker and presenter at international conferences and was instrumental in securing the recent partnership between the Royal Shakespeare Company and Ohio State that will bring the plays of Shakespeare to new life in central Ohio. He is the author of two widely read and referenced books.

“Dr. Edmiston has a unique and hands-on way of instructing,” noted one of his graduate students. “He also seems to care very much about his students and has the most compassion for his profession that I have seen among all the instructors I have had at Ohio State.”

Edmiston received his bachelor’s from the University of Bristol in England, master’s from the University of Newcastle in England, and doctorate from Ohio State.

Image of Ahmet Kahraman

Ahmet Kahraman

Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering


Ahmet Kahraman is a committed, well-organized teacher and communicator who uses both his sense of humor and vast non-academic industrial experience to get and keep students’ attention in subjects that tend to be technical and difficult to grasp.

“Dr. Kahraman always took great care to explain exactly what he was teaching, why he was teaching it and how it fit in with everything else,” one of his students said. “And even though he was covering a class considered by many to be boring and one that was earlier in the morning than most students care to be awake, he always came in with a smile on his face—and the cheerful mood was not an act. That enthusiasm is invaluable to his students.”

The learning atmosphere of his classroom, however, only enhances what is a strong ability to teach. “Dr. Kahraman has an uncanny ability to inspire his students to take a serious interest in the subject and push them to want to learn more,” another student said. “His superior knowledge of the material is quickly evidenced in his lessons, and he uses his own personal experience in industry to show how to use both intuition and academic methods to solve problems.”

Among many notable achievements, Kahraman was honored in 2006 as a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He has published 46 journal papers and 22 refereed conference proceedings.

Kahraman received his bachelor’s and master’s from the Middle East Technical University in Turkey and his doctorate from Ohio State.

Image of Deborah J Merritt

Deborah J. Merritt

John Deaver Drinko- Baker & Hostetler Chair in Law

Professor, Moritz College of Law

Deborah Merritt makes more and better use of her 24-hour days than many of us can manage to do with our weeks. She was the first permanent director of the John Glenn Institute (2000-05); she was chair of the Moritz College of Law’s Long Range Planning Committee; and she serves on the Ohio State Bar Association’s Task Force on Legal Education—all while earning rave reviews from colleagues and students alike as one of the best teachers the college has on its roster.

“Professor Merritt is unique because while she is one of the brightest legal minds at Moritz, she is also one of the most caring and personable,” wrote one student nominator. “She puts her heart into her work and wants to see all of us succeed.” Perhaps an even higher bit of praise comes from a former student who said, “I enjoyed her class even though I do not enjoy the subject.”

Making complex subjects comprehensible and coherent is something Merritt has been doing since joining Moritz Law in 1995 as the John Deaver Drinko-Baker & Hostetler Chair in Law. She has coauthored a textbook that students praise for its accessibility and clarity, and she incorporates new technologies into her teaching, such as interactive “clickers” and a classroom wiki.

“Professor Merritt advances teaching through multiple avenues: By her engaging, caring, passionate presence in the classroom; by her building program opportunities that create new learning experiences for students; by her rigorous scholarship,” a colleague noted. “We are all the better for it.”

Merritt received her bachelor’s from Harvard University and law degree from Columbia University Law School.

Image of Randy J. Nelson

Randy J. Nelson

Professor, Departments of Psychology and Neuroscience


Randy Nelson’s sense of humor is legendary among students and colleagues alike. They use words like “deadpan,” “corny” and “cheesy” to describe the jokes he peppers throughout his lectures—jokes that also help make his material more engaging and accessible.

In fact, his personable teaching style and dedicated mentoring have inspired many students, undergrad and grad alike, to pursue advanced studies and careers in highly distinguished research labs and universities around the world.

“There is no teacher in my life who has ever had such a profound impact on my life,” one student said. “I found my calling in his classroom and got to start pursuing it in his laboratory. Randy Nelson is one of the most gifted educators at Ohio State.”

Since arriving at Ohio State in 2000, Nelson’s many accomplishments, both in and out of the classroom, defy easy categorization. Among them are his four current federal research grants, his hundreds of publications—including what is considered the standard textbook on behavioral neuroscience—and his service on numerous university committees.

And yet Nelson is first and foremost a teacher. He teaches, on average, five psychology courses per year, in addition to voluntarily giving several lectures each year in courses sponsored by other departments. He mentors undergraduate students in his lab, providing unparalleled opportunities for them to engage in hands-on research and often secure awards for their scientific experience.

Nelson received his bachelor’s, master’s and two doctorates—one in psychology and one in endocrinology—from the University of California, Berkeley.

Image of Janet S. Parrott

Janet S. Parrott

Assistant Professor, Department of Theatre


It’s safe to say that without Janet Parrott, there would be no video production program in the Department of Theatre.

It’s also safe to say that as a one-woman show, she has to wear a variety of hats, often at the same time. Parrott serves as the faculty advisor for the student group Reel Buckeye Productions, teaches both undergraduate and graduate lab classes, and often connects students with internship opportunities at commercial venues. She also has reshaped the curriculum to align with university and departmental goals.

“Parrott has created a strong academic study of the field of video for early career scholars to explore that capitalizes on their inherent interests and challenges them to see the potential impact of their work well beyond their current frame of reference,” one colleague wrote.

It’s a challenge her students seem to relish, judging from the popularity of her courses and the praise they offer for her teaching. “Janet is a superb teacher; she is running a video production program all on her own and she is a mentor to countless video production students, including myself,” said one of her undergrad students.

Another of her students offered this example to support how Parrott uses humor and hands-on application to teach both theoretical and practical skills: “One project she had us do to learn Avid, an editing program, was to re-edit the movie Psycho into a one-minute trailer. The results were hysterical.”

Image of Randolph Roth

Randolph Roth

Associate Professor, Department of History


It is impossible to separate Randolph Roth, the man, from Randolph Roth, the educator. But such singularity brings about comments like this from a student nominator: “Professor Roth is a great teacher, but further than that, he is a great person that deserves acknowledgement for his teaching style and his ability to inspire.”

Always available, always affable and always engaging his students, Roth wears the hats of mentor, advisor, research facilitator (his undergraduate students’ work has been included in his published works), judge at the Denman Undergraduate Research Forum and recruiter, always volunteering to teach sample classes to prospective honors students and their parents.

Roth also is co-founder and co-editor of the Historical Violence Database, which gathers data on homicides, suicides, accidents, sexual assaults, arsons, etc., from medieval times through the present in North America and Europe. His students’ work on the Chicago and Cleveland portions of the database will be recognized and posted later this year.

In all his student evaluations, Roth has received scores well above the mean, including perfect scores in seven courses taught during the past five years. “Professor Roth is passionately committed to student education and advancement, and he sacrificially gives time and effort to promote the best interests of students,” a nominator wrote.

Roth is considered a pioneer as well, when in the 1990s he helped launch Retrieving the American Past, the department’s custom-published textbook in U.S. history that has become the bestselling book of its kind in the United States.

Roth received his doctorate from Yale University.

Image of David H. Steigerwald

David H. Steigerwald

Associate Professor, Department of History

Ohio State Marion

David Steigerwald is an apple that has not fallen far from the tree. An Ohio State graduate (1982), he says often that the quality of teaching he received while a student was a key factor in his decision to return as a professor.

And given the kind of feedback he gets from his students and colleagues, he’s making the same kind of impact on the next generation of scholars and teachers. “It was evident from the first time I met Professor Steigerwald that his ultimate objective was to make history relevant and interesting to the students in his class,” one student said.

Steigerwald is also a nationally recognized expert in the fields of 1960s American history and American consumer society. He has published two books and secured a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education for the K-12 program “History in the Heartland” for Ohio public school teachers.

Not only is he interested in teaching students of all ages about history, but he is also interested in making sure those students gain the writing skills to make them deft communicators. “Good writing is important to David, for he believes that clear prose reflects clear thinking, and students find his courses to be quite demanding,” a colleague wrote. “Yet student evaluations emphasize that David is not only demanding but caring, compassionate and inspiring.”

Steigerwald received his bachelor’s from Ohio State and his master’s and doctorate from the University of Rochester.

Nominations                    Previous Winners