2011 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 Nicholas B. Breyfogle

Nicholas B. Breyfogle

Associate Professor, Department of History


According to many of Nicholas Breyfogle’s students, it would be “utterly impossible” to describe any of the professor’s classes as boring.

That’s because Breyfogle brings an uncanny enthusiasm to both the undergraduate and graduate history classes he teaches. “I will never forget the morning that he made the experience of the Russian Revolution come alive,” said a former student. “He led the lecture hall in a mass chant of ‘power to the people.’”

But more than adding excitement to the history classes Breyfogle teaches, he also has enthusiastic dedication to the undergraduate and graduate students he advises. An advisor to many PhD candidates, Breyfogle has also counseled more than 35 MA students and overseen innumerable undergraduate theses.

“The Russian/Eastern European history graduate program is one of the leaders in North America, and it is in no small part a result of Breyfogle’s efforts,” praised a colleague.

Breyfogle carries that teaching load along with  myriad other responsibilities. He created the online magazine, Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective, and serves as the department’s semester conversion coordinator — a role in which he spearheaded vast changes to the department’s undergraduate major and minor.

Finally, Breyfogle has been a tireless advocate for a comprehensive Environmental History program—something that did not exist only two years ago. According to one colleague, “The work of Breyfogle and others have pushed Ohio State out in front of our peer schools in the scope and coherence of our course offerings in this area.”

Breyfogle received his master’s degree and doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania.

Image of Lilia Fernández

Lilia Fernández

Assistant Professor, Department of History


When Lilia Fernández arrived at The Ohio State University, she brought more than just her renowned enthusiasm for the classroom.

“She is one of the best because she introduces an interdisciplinary approach to learning,” said a nominator. “Her use of multimedia is diverse and she introduces unique assignments that allow students to explore history in different ways.”

Fernández is consistently praised for her devoted approach to the teaching of history, especially in her specific area of interest, Latino studies. As one nominator wrote, “Class discussions focused on the complexities of the history of immigration and citizenship. Professor Fernández created group projects that spanned the arts, sports, education and politics so that students can gain a rich understanding of the influence of Latinos in history of the U.S.”

What’s more, according to her colleagues in the history department, Fernández has played a crucial role in diversifying the history curriculum by adding to the body of courses that focus on ethnic history in the United States.

Fernández helped popularize several Latino-focused upper-level classes. Even more, she was instrumental in developing two new courses, US Latino History and Natives and Newcomers: Immigration and Migration in US History.

Finally, Fernández helped develop the curriculum for the Latino Studies minor — a minor that does not even fall within the Department of History. In her dedication to both teaching and promoting historical ethnic studies, Fernández has excelled in only a short time at Ohio State. As one nominator put it, “Remarkably, as an untenured professor, Fernández has been an actively engaged citizen of the university in her short time here.”

She earned a master’s degree from the University of Illinois and a master’s and doctorate from the University of California, San Diego. She joined Ohio State’s faculty in 2006.

Image of Darcy Haag Granello

Darcy Haag Granello

Professor, School of Physical Activity and Educational Services


The coursework of Ohio State’s master’s graduate program in counselor education has been designated as having “doctoral level expectations.” Darcy Granello, coordinator of the program, simply replies that, despite the lofty expectations placed on her graduates, she “hasn’t lost a student yet.”  

That’s because, as both her colleagues and students assert, Granello is the premier educator in the School of PAES.

Much of Granello’s success comes from inside the classroom. Students praise the passion she brings to her classes and her ability to challenge them to achieve their full potential as counselors.

“Her ability to develop students into professionals is a true gift,” said a nominator.

Granello also promotes the success of her students through work outside the classroom. She is the coordinator of the Instructional Enhancement Initiative, which works with University Center for the Advancement of Teaching, to prepare seminars for faculty on requested teaching topics. And as coordinator of the Counselor Education program, Granello has been instrumental in the program’s success — the US News and World Report currently ranks it sixth in the nation.

Granello’s success as an educator and counselor is summed up by the praise of one of her students: “If I help one-tenth of the people she has helped in her life, I will consider myself successful.”

Granello earned a master’s degree in political science and in mental health counseling from Stetson University and her doctorate from Ohio University. She has been at Ohio State since 1996.

Image of Jennifer Higginbotham

Jennifer Higginbotham

Assistant Professor, Department of English


Jennifer Higginbotham, of the Department of English, is the educational embodiment of the word “dedication.” In fact, she consistently demonstrates her commitment not only to what she teaches, but also to the diverse student population she influences.

Higginbotham teaches a wide variety of courses in the department, from undergraduate classes on Shakespeare and Women to a graduate seminar on Feminist Poetics. Much of Higginbotham’s work and teaching centers on women’s studies in literature, yet she also excels in her instruction of general courses such as Writing for English Majors.

In all of her courses, she is praised as a teacher with “enthusiasm and passion” in the classroom, as well as one who “is also serious about making time for students and working closely with them to solve individual problems.”

“Professor Higginbotham’s pedagogy is obviously very flexible and well suited to the demands of whatever she is teaching,” asserted a nominator. It is no wonder, then, that Higginbotham was granted the 2010 English Undergraduate Professor of the Year award.

This dedicated, flexible approach to education is also apparent in Higginbotham’s attention to students with disabilities. In 2010 she was awarded the Access Award from the Office of Disability Students.

According to one nominator’s testimony, “Jennifer unconsciously accommodates to the needs of her students. The very idea is deeply instilled in Jennifer, and it really impresses me.”

Higginbotham earned her doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania and has been at Ohio State since 1997.

Portrait of Joseph Holomuzki

Joseph R. Holomuzki

Professor, Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology

Ohio State Mansfield

Wandering through wetlands, dissecting a cow’s heart and coding DNA: These ideas may sound unusual for an undergraduate-level science course, but they are exactly the type of innovative learning strategies that Joseph Holomuzki employs in his Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology classes.

A member of the Ohio State Mansfield community for seven years, Holomuzki’s enthusiastic approach to teaching science has garnered him the praise of both colleagues and, more importantly, a diverse population of students.

Holomuzki teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses, such as Anatomy and Medical Education and Wetland Ecology for Teachers. Thus he comes in contact with a diverse range of students, from undergraduate nursing and health sciences students to aspiring teachers to returning educators seeking to improve their knowledge base.

“Joe has repeatedly connected with students in all of these subgroups, winning their admiration and respect,” wrote a colleague in support of his nomination.

Regardless of his students’ rank, Holomuzki consistently pushes them to learn at a level far above basic concepts. He also employs outlandish teaching methods, such as having students act out the process of protein synthesis by taking roles as DNA codons. In his wetland ecology course, Holomuzki even invited a “beaver” to give a lecture on beaver dams.

A testament to the admiration of those around him, Holomuzki has twice won the student-determined Ohio State Mansfield Outstanding Teacher of the Year award.
He earned his master’s degree from Kent State University and his doctorate from Arizona State University in 1986.

Image of Melissa K. Jungers

Melissa K. Jungers

Associate Professor, Department of Psychology

Ohio State Newark

If there’s one thing everyone agrees on when it comes to Melissa Jungers, it’s that she loves what she does. And because she loves it, she makes others love it, too.

As an associate professor of psychology on Ohio State’s Newark campus, Jungers carries a substantial teaching load — garnering the 2010 Teaching Excellence Award in recognition of her efforts — and serves in advising roles with numerous undergraduate students. She also publishes regularly in scholarly journals and contributes as a member of many committees across campus, which earned her the Faculty Service Award in 2008.

However, it’s in her role as instructor that Jungers, who earned her doctorate from Ohio State in 2003, most shines — as evidenced by a comment from a former student. “She loves to teach what she teaches,” the student writes. Many of Jungers’ nominators make special note of how Jungers’ teaching style and enthusiasm for her subject helped them learn difficult concepts.

“I took an upper-level course with Dr. Jungers during my last quarter as an undergrad and, although the book and subject matter were extremely challenging to me, she was able to explain the concepts, emphasize the important material and incorporate group assignments that made cognitive science not only understandable but exciting to learn about as well.”

Image of Christine (Cricket) Keating

Christine (Cricket) Keating

Assistant Professor, Department of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies


Christine Keating may not practice what she preaches, but she certainly does practice what she teaches.

According to both students and colleagues, Keating’s classrooms are alive with the ideals of democracy and collective learning — two principles that are central tenets of the curriculum she teaches. During her six years at Ohio State, Keating has become somewhat famous for her contagious zeal and her dedication to student learning.

Or, as one student wrote, “I would rank Dr. Keating as one of the best professors I’ve had at the university because of her patience, enthusiasm, knowledge, intelligence, commitment to helping her students grow intellectually, her willingness to consider a variety of student perspectives, her general encouragement of students and her openness and flexibility.”

There’s probably not a lot to add to such a characterization, except perhaps to point out that in addition to her substantial teaching load, Keating has served as supervisor for the department’s TA training program and has personally mentored a number of master’s degree and doctoral students. She has held positions on committees such as the MA to PhD Program Subcommittee, the Graduate Committee and the Undergraduate Studies Committee. She also has authored a number of scholarly articles and has a book forthcoming from Pennsylvania State University Press.

“Through her tireless commitment to innovative teaching and creative learning,” wrote one of Keating’s PhD advisees, “Dr. Keating represents the pinnacle of excellence in university professorship.”

Keating earned her doctorate from the University of Washington and has been at Ohio State since 2005.

Image of Scott Levi

Scott Levi

Associate Professor, Department of History


When students speak highly of a professor whose class deals with “rather boring” material, you know they’re talking about a teacher with rare gifts.

Of course, to Scott Levi, the material — the history of Islamic Central Asia — is anything but boring, and he works hard to bring it alive for his students. For the past three years, Levi has taught undergraduate and graduate courses ranging from large-lecture format to small-seminar classes, and he has received consistently excellent reviews on his teaching.

“Dr. Levi is an active and engaging instructor,” wrote one former student. “He flawlessly weaves the endless names, dates and places of history into a tale which enthralls his students and constantly encourages them to ask questions outside of the box."

Part of his engaging nature, students and faculty agree, comes from his deft use of humor and personal anecdotes to make the material more accessible. In his role as advisor to undergraduates and supervisor of graduate students, he brings his personable warmth and dedication to their academic success.

All of these achievements, coupled with a scholarly zeal that has resulted in many peer-reviewed journal articles and other publications, earn him high marks from colleagues. “Scott Levi’s performance these past three years clearly establishes him as a truly exceptional teacher both in and out of the classroom,” wrote one. “A valuable resource for the Department of History and the larger OSU community.”

Levi earned his master’s (1994) and PhD (in 2000) from the University of Wisconsin, and has been at Ohio State since 2008.

Image of Allison Macerollo

Allison Macerollo

Assistant Professor, Family Medicine


Patient-centered. Student-focused. A fount of knowledge. An innovator. Allison Macerollo has proven herself to be all of these and more, including caring, compassionate and savvy in getting her students to learn something from every patient case during rounds.

Macerollo’s conversations put students on a peer level rather than a pupil level, an effective means to teach the values and principles of primary care — communication, physician development and patient-centered care — through her Clinical Assessment and Problem Solving (CAPS) course.

“She is a dynamic and energetic teacher who always involves her students and challenges them to think more broadly and deeply than they would otherwise,” wrote one student nominator. “She also works very hard to create comfortable and safe surroundings for her students so they feel prepared and excited to try new techniques or improve skills they don’t have much confidence in.”

Macerollo helped develop the CAPS curriculum to enhance teaching of specific skills and created cultural competency video vignettes for a distance-learning format.  Every year she provides hands-on experience to second-, third- and fourth-year students in her clinic.  In addition, she’s the faculty advisor to the Family Medicine Interest Group, students interested in primary care as a career. The membership has been rising since her input began. Macerollo also is on three task forces charged with redesigning the College of Medicine’s 2012-13 curriculum and is a co-investigator of a $1.3 million, five-year grant project.

“The state of our country’s health care often leaves future doctors worried that they won’t be able to make much of a difference,” a student nominator wrote. “But seeing Dr. Macerollo’s optimism toward her career is always motivating.”

Image of Edward E. Valentine Jr.

Edward E. Valentine Jr.

Associate Professor, Department of Art

Ohio State Lima

It is not a stretch to say that Edward Valentine brought a tremendous palette of color and creativity to Ohio State Lima. When he first arrived in 1997, there was no Department of Art; art classes were taught by Art Education instructors. His one-man mission to turn that around on a campus where there is no art major speaks of his desire and dedication to give his students a unique experience.

Students of all artistic abilities — or lack thereof — take his drawing and painting courses, but all say they leave better and more knowledgeable by the end of each course. Valentine has his students put their first work next to their last of the same composition (still life) to compare their progress.

“I never thought I’d walk away from the course having gained as much as I did,” wrote one student nominator. “Everyone had this same experience, even the students who had previously taken a drawing class. They saw the improvement, and it was quite a shock.”

Valentine, whose own work has been showcased all over the world, splits his time between the Columbus campus — working with graduate students and their thesis work — and Lima.

“Professor Valentine is masterful in his encouragement of students to perform well beyond their self-perceived limits,” wrote a faculty nominator. “I believe this is why he is such a highly regarded teacher and mentor.”

Valentine earned his bachelor’s at the Columbus College of Art and Design and his master’s degree at Ohio State.

Joel D. Wainwright

Joel D. Wainwright

Assistant Professor, Department of Geography


Joel Wainwright is a master storyteller— a quality that has led many of his students to call him the best professor they’ve ever had. For one student in Wainwright’s Geography 450 class, “Making of the Modern World,” hearing Wainwright lecture was akin to verbally experiencing a best-selling novel.

“He hooks you with a great introduction and then builds an argument while offering compelling personal stories,” the student wrote. “Everything crescendos to a thrilling climax while a cathartic conclusion allows you to catch your breath and mentally prepare for the next class.”

Wainwright’s geography lessons come to life because he intertwines what he learned from his field research — such as indigenous people’s rights in Belize — with global current events. He creates an engaging lesson that taps into his personal experiences as well as other perspectives and then allows students to come up with their own conclusions.

Wainwright’s teaching is enhanced by his scholarship, which includes a critically acclaimed textbook.  His writings are often aimed at advocating in the public interest. “This helps to reinforce that his work in teaching and research bring an important global perspective to students; an outlook critical to their success and preparation,” wrote a faculty nominator.

As an evaluator wrote about Wainwright’s teaching prowess: “In short, he’s a pro.”

Wainwright earned his doctorate from the University of Minnesota and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of British Columbia. He joined Ohio State in 2006.

Nominations                    Previous Winners