2012 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.
Bradley Clymer

Bradley Clymer

Associate Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

College of Engineering

In a world where university students cannot always recall the names of some of their former professors, Bradley Clymer’s name is long remembered; his students in Electrical and Computer Engineering perennially rank him among their favorites.

Assuredly, that status is a result of his dedication to those students themselves since he returned to campus in 1987 after earning his doctorate from Stanford University. “Brad is a stalwart voice of the student experience,” wrote a colleague. “He is always pointing to the impact of our decisions on the students, and it is clear to me that his care for students is consistent in and out of the classroom.”

One of the many ways Clymer assures students’ understanding of complex materials is his use of Carmen, in which he posts his notes presented during class alongside a recorded video of the entire lecture. “Professor Clymer began videotaping his lectures long before distance learning came into vogue,” another colleague wrote.

According to a student nominator, “He is simply the best because he cares about his students.” Another nominator wrote, “I have never had a teacher that was so genuinely interested both in the material and in guaranteeing that the students understood the subject matter.”

Clymer’s attention to each individual student affects former Buckeyes far beyond their class time with him. “When I mention I attended Ohio State, one of the more common responses is, ‘So you were just a number in a giant machine?’” noted a former student. “But my experience was much different, thanks, in part, to Bradley Clymer. At the graduation ceremony, amidst the largest graduating class ever, Brad came to me individually and shook my hand. It’s professors like him that make a university great and define what it means to be an Ohio State Buckeye."

Portrait of David Herman

David Herman

Arts and Humanities Distinguished Professor, Department of English

College of Arts and Sciences

Anyone who’s ever wondered what it would be like to take an English class devoted solely to animal stories, graphic novels or author James Joyce should be on the lookout for a course offering from David Herman. The diversity of subject matter he offers and the way he teaches have made an indelible impression on his students.

Herman earned his doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania, has been at The Ohio State University since 2004, and he is recognized by his students for the creativity of his teaching methods and the breadth of his knowledge. One former student wrote, “he is so brilliant but never makes us feel confused or ignorant. Instead, he communicates concepts in such a way that we walk out of the room confident in our developing skill set and new approach to literature.”

Among the many courses he teaches, Herman specializes in Narrative Theory, and his students and colleagues, as well as the Narrative Theory community, recognize his brilliance. “Simply put, Professor Herman is a rock star in the world of Narrative Theory,” wrote a nominator.

According to another student, “Those of us who have had David jokingly refer to him as a robot — not because he is stiff, but because we cannot fathom how he manages to accomplish the amount of work he does. David produces amazing amounts of scholarship, although we can’t figure out how because of the time he devotes to teaching. He has made such an impact in the field of Narrative Theory that his name inevitably comes up in our readings.”

Added a nominator, “I know Dr. Herman receives a lot of accolades for his work and publications, but his teaching, among all other things, deserves the utmost recognition.”

Portrait of Hasan Kwame Jeffries

Hasan Kwame Jeffries

Associate Professor, Department of History

College of Arts and Sciences

Hasan Kwame Jeffries teaches introductory survey courses in US History, upper-level survey courses in African American History and a number of specialized, self-designed undergraduate and graduate courses that cover Civil Rights and Black Power movements and African American Protest. For such a heavy load of classes, Jeffries has excelled at every level of classroom instruction, and he motivates his students to do the same.

According to a colleague, “Jeffries’ success in the classroom is attributed in part to his teaching philosophy. He believes deeply that effective teaching is a collaborative effort between the instructor and the student.”

Jeffries holds himself accountable to this philosophy by showing genuine enthusiasm for and expertise in his subject matter, as well as encouraging and respecting the opinions of his students. “He also acts on the belief that student participation is critical to success by calling on any student at any time, no matter the size of the class.

“In fact, he has become renowned for cold-calling on students,” a nominator wrote. Though Jeffries’ approach to teaching might intimidate students at first, most enjoy the motivation. “It was a great change of pace from the typical history class,” a student wrote. “The style made me want to complete the readings so I could participate in class discussions.”

Jeffries’ influential teaching even extends into the community, where he teaches seminars funded by federal Teaching American History Grants and, as one student wrote, his words “inspired the children to develop an interest in the books we were reading.”

Jeffries has been at Ohio State since 2003 after earning both his master’s degree and doctorate at Duke University.

Portrait of Mark A. Kleffner

Mark A. Kleffner

Professor, School of Earth Sciences

College of Arts and Sciences

Ohio State Lima

As the only Earth Sciences professor at Ohio State Lima, Mark Kleffner has plenty on his plate, evidenced by the always-maxed-out enrollment numbers for his 100-level classes. And he earned his nickname of “Dinosaur Man” of Lima from bringing beginning paleontology to the children of the community — and both of those are solid examples of Kleffner’s distinguished teaching.

Kleffner’s effectiveness in teaching science draws much praise from his students. “I hated science through school,” wrote one student. “I never believed I would do well in a science course, let alone walk away with a personal interest in the subject, until I had a class with Dr. Kleffner.”

And not only do students crave entry into his classes, they stay there once they get in. “It is rare for a student to drop his courses because he is generating and holding their interest,” wrote one nominator. “He is organized and addresses content with clarity, offering ample time for discussion. Perhaps most insightful is the attention he gives to each student during class.”

Many of Kleffner’s students are current or future science teachers, and Kleffner is adept at teaching them. “Whether they are undergrads seeking their first licensure or returning teachers seeking advanced education, Mark sends them back to the classroom with the skills and materials necessary to make science come alive,” a nominator wrote.

A teacher dedicated to science, Kleffner also is a citizen dedicated to his community. “One of the most important roles we have as a regional campus is to imbibe the resources of a major university in such a way that we make a difference to the surrounding community,” wrote another nominator. “Dr. Kleffner has done this to the delight and enlightenment of all community members.”

Kleffner earned both his master’s and doctorate at Ohio State and has been teaching at the university since 1990.

Portrait of Robin Rice

Robin Rice

Associate Professor, School of Music

College of Arts and Sciences

Robin Rice’s success as a studio professor of Voice Performance is tangible. He has seen his students perform with more than 70 opera companies and symphony orchestras as well as in countless international vocal competitions, summer festivals and young artist festivals. His students have been seen on the stages of the Houston Grand Opera, the Los Angeles Opera and, most notably, The Metropolitan Opera in New York. “There are only two or three dozen faculty members in the country who can make that claim,” wrote a colleague.

Rice’s primary teaching responsibilities are one-on-one instruction with students, most at the graduate level. In a typical year, he advises dissertations, completes doctoral candidacy examinations and master’s theses and serves on numerous other graduate committees.

He runs two studio classes a week, serves as an international recruiter of voice students, auditions graduate voice applicants and sits on numerous committees for the department. Most notably, “He is our most sought-after voice professor, and his studio sets the bar for all others,” a nominator wrote.

It is not unheard of, in fact, for students from far and wide to decide to attend Ohio State simply to study with him.

Another student described how Rice changed her life. “I had been studying under another teacher and realized it was not a good match. I was ready to throw in the towel and look for another major when I was convinced to take a lesson with Dr. Rice. After the first five minutes, I was sold. Dr. Rice single-handedly brought back my love for music. Ohio State is truly blessed to have a man such as Dr. Rice at this institution.”

Rice earned his master’s degree and doctorate from the University of Cincinnati.

Portrait of Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan

Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan

Associate Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Science

College of Education and Human Ecology

Awards are nothing new to Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, already a decorated and well-respected member of the Ohio State community before this most recent accolade. Her colleagues agree: “The department does not consider Dr. Schoppe-Sullivan an effective teacher but rather an exceptional teacher,” a nominator wrote.

Part of what makes Schoppe-Sullivan stand out is the level of hands-on research experience students obtain as they study with her.  According to a nominator, “What really makes Sarah an outstanding teacher is how she has incorporated students of all ranks into her program of research.” Ten of her peer-reviewed papers have had student co-authors, and many of her undergraduates have garnered distinguished research awards.

“Dr. Schoppe-Sullivan is an outstanding research mentor,” wrote one of her students. “She helped me secure more than $12,000 in funding for my research and has been instrumental in my decision to pursue graduate education in Human Development and Family Science at Ohio State. Her deep passion for conducting research has ignited a love of research in me.”

She’s also been intricately involved in developing her department’s curriculum. Since she began at Ohio State in 2003, Schoppe-Sullivan has designed two new graduate seminar courses, revised the curricula of three existing graduate courses and participated in reviewing the entire undergraduate curriculum as a member of the department’s Undergraduate Studies Committee.

Schoppe-Sullivan earned master’s and doctorate degrees at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Portrait of Ric Simmons

Ric Simmons

Professor, Moritz College of Law


It’s telling that one of the most common complaints Ric Simmons receives from his students’ feedback is that they wish he taught more classes. “Clone him. Hire the clone to teach more classes. One of the best, most engaging professors I have ever had,” one student wrote in what is a fairly typical review.

Nominators wrote that not many professors work as hard as Simmons does to perfect their teaching craft; he commonly will videotape himself teaching and then solicit unfiltered feedback from his colleagues.

According to a colleague, Simmons’ acclaimed teaching methods are used in law schools around the country. He not only teaches future lawyers but also practicing lawyers and judges throughout the US, including those who attend classes at the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning.

His co-authored textbook, Learning Evidence, is “one of the most widely-used evidence texts,” a nominator wrote. “A number of evidence professors across the country claim to have won Professor of the Year awards because they adopted Simmons’ text and teaching methods.”

Clearly, Simmons has influenced students of all levels, in all places, through his dedication to his two equally important professions — lawyer and teacher.

“Professor Ric Simmons is deeply committed to the success of his students, and he teaches them both doctrinal legal knowledge and valuable lawyering skills,” wrote a colleague. “He has altered the teaching of Evidence Law in the US through his innovative textbook, and he has touched the lives of hundreds of students through his engaging, passionate teaching style.”

Simmons joined the Moritz Law faculty in 2003. He is a graduate of Columbia Law School, where he was a Stone Scholar and a senior editor of the Columbia Law Review.

Paul Sivilotti

Paul Sivilotti

Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering

College of Engineering

Making courses in Computer Science and Engineering into exciting challenges for students seems like a challenge in itself. Yet that is exactly the way many of Paul Sivilotti’s students describe his creative teaching style.

Sivilotti begins his classes with puzzle problems to prepare students for real-life problem-solving challenges. “Throughout his lectures, he uses innovative diagrams, visualizations, group projects and colorful PowerPoint slides to demystify complicated technical excursions,” a nominator wrote.

Sivilotti even helped develop an optional course, CSE 421, which serves to fill a gap between a lower-level C++ language-based course and an upper-level Java language-based course. “Good news travels fast, so there is little wonder that nearly all our majors choose to take this optional course,” wrote a colleague.

Nominators also agree that, “Paul’s popularity with students is only partially due to the course content he has developed for CSE 421.”  Wrote another: “Professor Sivilotti is consistently among the top two teachers in CSE as rated by students. He has been singled out many times for his high availability and responsiveness to their questions as well as his outstanding classroom presentation and content.”

Sivilotti, who earned his master’s degree and doctorate from the California Institute of Technology, works with students conducting research at all levels (and at all hours) and can often be found helping a student sort out a complex topic during his office hours.

“Professor Sivilotti also makes himself available on Gmail-chat to answer quick questions a student may have when working on a lab without having to wait until class or office hours,” wrote a nominator. “I think the most important reason why Professor Sivilotti deserves this award is because he seems truly happy to be helping students inside and outside the classroom.”

Portrait of Deborah K. Steward

Deborah K. Steward

Associate Professor, College of Nursing


Deborah Steward’s humor and wit have drawn students into her lectures since she began teaching at Ohio State in 1999; her innovative uses of case studies, Carmen discussion panels, student presentations and even interactive nursing simulations have helped mold students into professional, self-assured nurses.

Student nominators wrote phrases such as “exemplifies what the Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching is about,” “epitome of a college professor” and “our students’ greatest advocate” to describe her.

And her colleagues respect her as well. Wrote one: “Deborah Steward continues to motivate other faculty members to identify new ways to challenge and engage students, adapt to the ever-changing medical community and strive for excellence.”

Steward’s primary teaching focus is on pediatric nursing, and she oversees the clinical rotations of students at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She also is the specialty program director for the Neonatal Nurse Program at the master’s level—a program she herself helped develop. That program is now the largest on-campus program of its type in the United States.

Yet Steward’s greatest achievements at the College of Nursing reach well outside the classroom. “She goes far beyond the role of  ‘teacher’ and extends into the role of mentor, friend, mother and, as we like to call her, ‘life coach,’” wrote a student. Her best advice, according to one student, is “‘Love what you do and do what you love.’ It reminds us to truly look at what we want to do, not what others think we should do. When you love what you do and do what you love, like Dr. Steward, you can’t help but be happy.”

Nominations                    Previous Winners