2013 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.
Portrait of Juan D. Alfonzo

Juan D. Alfonzo

Associate Professor

Department of Microbiology

Described as an inspiration by both colleagues and students, Juan Alfonzo teaches effectively and enthusiastically, with a passion for microbiology described without irony as “infectious.”

“Dr. Alfonzo is the most exciting professor I have come across in my academic career,” wrote a former student. “His excitement and passion for microbiology and teaching was evident from Day 1. He made the class exciting with constant discussions.”

While teaching practical skills such as grant proposal writing and encouraging oral presentations, Alfonso keeps his classes engaged by integrating amusing anecdotes in his teaching — and he receives constant high praise from students for informative and interesting course work.

“Juan embodies what every great teacher aspires to. He is tireless in his pursuit of excellence for those he instructs, he is constantly seeking new ways to improve his teaching, and he always puts the students’ needs above his own,” a faculty nominator wrote.

Alfonzo also is a dedicated researcher, inviting many graduate students to assist in his research endeavors as a way to share with them his genuine passion and interest in microbiology. To expand the university’s microbiology department, Alfonzo also volunteered to develop a new course in RNA biology.

Creating the perfect environment for an enjoyable discussion about microbiology may be challenging, but Alfonzo’s students assert that he does it every day. His dedication to excellence for himself and his students is evident in the extra effort he offers to help students attain their academic and career goals.

Alfonso earned his doctorate from Indiana University and has been at The Ohio State University since 2002.

Portrait of Jacob Ross Boswell

Jacob Ross Boswell

Assistant Professor

Knowlton School of Architecture

As someone with a hand in every aspect of the landscape program within the Knowlton School of Architecture, Jacob Boswell frequently goes above and beyond in his contributions to the betterment of his students and the university.

Boswell has assisted in curriculum revision as part of the semester conversion as well as program accreditations from 2008 through 2011 — all while curating displays of student work, teaching a full load and contributing to local organizations such as the Columbus Neighborhood Design Center and the Lower Olentangy Urban Arboretum Board.

“In all of his endeavors — teaching, research and community service — Boswell is a model of the Knowlton School’s ethos of technical expertise, cultural awareness and design invention as he creatively addresses the fundamentals of human habitation and the environment,” a nominator wrote.

It’s his work with students that draws some of the loudest praise. Boswell is an effective teacher, thoroughly explaining complex issues and constructively critiquing students’ work. Colleagues note that he has high expectations for himself and that he holds his students to the same standard. Boswell serves as a master thesis committee member, senior thesis advisor and master thesis chair for several students.

“Jake provides Knowlton with a progressive mind that pushes people around him,” one of Boswell’s students commented. “While never the loudest teacher, he leads by example with his personal work, and one-on-one through critique and guidance.”

Boswell earned master’s degrees at Ohio State and has been teaching here since 2005.

Portrait of Rebeka Campos-Astorkiza

Rebeka Campos-Astorkiza

Assistant Professor

Department of Spanish and Portuguese

While students consistently rate Rebeka Campos-Astorizka as one of the finest professors of Spanish linguistics around — describing her as “brilliant in her subject matter,” “engaging and approachable” and “supportive and inspiring” — some of her most glowing reviews come from her peers.

“Professor Campos-Astorkiza has obviously mastered the art of communicating with students in Spanish at a level that is comprehensible yet challenging,” a colleague wrote. Another wrote, “She combines exhaustive attention to detail, careful organization and constant exemplification to keep students motivated and paying attention.”

She teaches all levels of the curriculum, from orientation-level Spanish Pronunciation to graduate-level seminar courses, but her contributions to students’ learning goes beyond the classroom.

Campos-Astorkiza advises both graduate and undergraduate students, has supervised a senior honors thesis and participated in more than a dozen graduate examination committees. Also, she coordinated the Hispanics Linguistics Colloquia, an informal series of lectures and workshops to help professionalize graduate students in the department. She also has developed three new graduate courses that helped consolidate the Hispanic Linguistics program, which is one of the best in the nation.

“She represents everything that we as PhD students aspire to be in our careers, i.e., scholars who are committed to excellence in our profession, who make a difference in our fields and who inspire students to do and be better than us,” a student nominator wrote.

Campos-Astorkiza earned her doctorate at the University of Southern California and has been at Ohio State since 2007.

Portrait of Sarah Rudolph Cole

Sarah Rudolph Cole

John W. Bricker Professor in Law

Moritz College of Law

Sarah Cole has been recognized for her skill as a teacher and for her devotion to her students since early in her career as a law professor — even turning in the rare feat of winning a teaching award as a visiting professor at a different university.

“The Moritz faculty has long prided itself on the quality of teaching it offers our students,” a colleague wrote in nominating her. “Even in this setting with such an institutional regard for excellent teaching, Professor Cole sets herself apart.”

Law students of all levels revere Cole, appreciating her hard work and dedication they see in the courses she teaches. In the upper levels, she is lauded for her integration of practice issues, skills and techniques in the content of her courses. At the same time, Cole has earned praise for balancing challenge and support of first-year students at a time when many may be feeling overwhelmed.

“Beyond just being smart and being an expert in her field, she also is a great teacher…Professor Cole is a gem to encounter at Moritz,” wrote a student nominator.

Cole also takes the time to mentor many students, advise the student editors of the Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution and direct the world-renowned Program on Dispute Resolution (an area in which she is a world-renowned scholar).

“The classes I took with Sarah have helped immensely in my career as a lawyer and now as a professor teaching alternative dispute resolution classes,” a former student and current law professor wrote. “I try my best to emulate her in my own class.”

She earned her JD at the University of Chicago and has been at Ohio State since 1998.

Portrait of Mathew Coleman

Mathew Coleman

Associate Professor

Department of Geography

If there is a common thread among the scores of nomination letters recommending Mathew Coleman, it’s his immense passion for teaching.

“Dr. Coleman’s commitment to students is unparalleled,” a nominator wrote. “He is more than an outstanding professor; he is a genuinely great person who is able to inspire students, encourage them to believe in themselves and challenge them to imagine a better world.”

He teaches and mentors students at every level, going out of his way to help guide them through the university or to help them sort out their own academic passions.

“The intellectual guidance and support that he has bestowed upon me have been unparalleled and invaluable,” a student nominator wrote. “He has challenged me to engage critically with the world around me, pushed me to be a better writer and helped me to be a more confident and articulate scholar.”

Colleagues recognize his work as well. “Coleman is a dedicated academic colleague whose teaching, service and research activities are highly integrated,” a colleague wrote. “He contributes immensely to our department’s programs and is extremely effective as a professional role model for our students, both undergraduate and graduate.”

Several students, in fact, note that Coleman’s courses were specifically recommended by other faculty — even from other departments or colleges.

“Dr. Coleman is the reason I came to OSU to study geography,” a graduate nominator wrote. “He goes out of his way to support any student who may show an interest in a specific research topic, either by guiding the student with some related reading or by connecting them with other professors on campus who may be able to share what they know.”

Portrait of Kay Halasek

Kay Halasek

Associate Professor

Department of English

Kay Halasek has taught English courses at every level at Ohio State, always focused on assisting her students to become better writers, particularly through in-class peer review sessions that her students really enjoy. The numerous awards for which she’s been nominated and which she’s won are only one indication of that dedication to students and of her excellent teaching skills.

“Because of having Professor Halasek, I am now able to look at my essays, even the ones I write today, and see some of the errors I am making based on her recommendations in previous essays two years ago,” a student wrote.

“It’s clear she engages with her students’ work,” another student nominator wrote. “Her attention to detail and level of commitment to her students is extraordinary — something that is extremely refreshing in a professor.”

Her students aren’t the only ones who take note of her exceptional work; her colleagues do as well. A peer nominator described Halasek’s dedication to all courses that she teaches, and described her as “... essential to the department, someone who adds a spark to unglamorous areas of the curriculum.”

Halasek’s teaching has been noticed outside of the Ohio State community as well. She garnered recognition from the State of Ohio and from the Ohio Board of Regents for her dedication to writing and writing theory. In addition, she also has taken on the demanding task of chair of Faculty Council during 2011-12.

Halasek earned her doctorate at the University of Texas at Austin.

Portrait of David L. Hoffmann

David L. Hoffmann


Department of History

David Hoffmann has built one of the nation’s leading graduate programs in Russian, East European and Eurasian history, recruiting some of the best graduate students to study at Ohio State, and has made equally important contributions to History’s undergraduate program.

And all the while, his passion for seeing his students learn has been evident in every class he teaches; he even earned numerous “perfect” scores on Student Evaluation of Instruction forms — even in classes as large as 50 or more.

“Despite his impressive intellect and scholarly eminence, Dr. Hoffmann is able to connect with all of his students,” a student nominator wrote. “He is able to guide, correct and encourage students to arrive at historical insights all on their own.”

Another nominator explained further: “He had a ton of stories, jokes and videos to give us a better understanding of what was truly going on at the time. His obvious enthusiasm and love of the subject was contagious.”

Hoffmann spends a great deal of his time advising and mentoring students, aiding in their success. “In addition to his excellence in his role as one of my advisors, Professor Hoffmann goes above and beyond, making connections with other scholars on my behalf and meeting with me to discuss challenges with my research whenever I require it,” a graduate student wrote. “He is unfailingly kind and positive in his conduct with students.”

His work, and his passion for it, already has earned him a Distinguished Teaching Award from Phi Theta Alpha national honorary society. He has been teaching at Ohio State since 1994 after earning his doctorate from Columbia University.

Portrait of Erin McGraw

Erin McGraw


Department of English

It’s important to note that Erin McGraw is an established, well-regarded creative writer with five novels and numerous short stories, essays and review articles to her credit — which is reason enough for students to flock to her creative-writing classroom.

But even if she didn’t bring those professional chops, her students say she’d still be among the most respected teachers in the department.

“Erin doesn’t hem and haw, mince words or sit back and let her students run the class,” a nominator wrote. “Rather, her sharp wit, incisive commentary and proclivity to challenge students on their statements makes her an engaged, active member of class discussions. She provides copious written feedback that is always shrewd, witty, frank and encouraging.”

Nominators also described McGraw as a kind and generous person whose willingness — perhaps eagerness — to get to know them on a personal level earns her their highest respect. She also puts in extra time every year to coordinate Ohio State’s Short Fiction Prize.

“I appreciate Erin’s class because her assignments are always worth the work, and class time itself is always instructive, never a waste of time,” a graduate student nominator wrote. “My classmates and I regularly speak about how much we desire to impress Erin with the quality of our work…Erin is demanding, brilliant and gets more out of her students than any other professor in the business.”

McGraw earned her MFA at Indiana University and has been teaching at Ohio State since 2002.

Portrait of Anthony J. Rucci

Anthony J. Rucci

Professor – Clinical

Department of Management and Human Resources

Tony Rucci’s love both of business and helping students is apparent, clearly evidenced by his work in and out of the classroom in Fisher College of Business. He serves as an inspiration and role model for those who are enthusiastic about business by interacting with students of every level.

“Tony continues to have a profound impact upon students from freshman through senior executives,” a peer nominator wrote. “In all of these interactions, Tony not only does an outstanding job but also creates a lasting impact.”

Rucci creates a unique classroom experience for all of his students, incorporating guest speakers, team-based assignments and projects that benefit the Columbus community and a leadership effectiveness survey.

Outside the classroom, Rucci spends much of his time assisting students and helping them get involved in all that Fisher has to offer. He also takes an interest in a variety of student activities to allow still further engagement.

“Tony has been the most active member of Fisher faculty in teaching and being academic advisor to multiple clients within Fisher’s Executive Education programs over the last three years,” one of Rucci’s peers wrote. “During this period alone, he has been part of the design, development, delivery and teaching of more than 60 executive programs with more than 2,500 participants.”

Rucci earned his doctorate at Bowling Green State University and has served as dean of the business school at the University of Illinois-Chicago. He came to Ohio State in 2006.

Portrait of Douglass Schumacher

Douglass Schumacher

Associate Professor

Department of Physics

It’s not just any professor who can conduct a class students describe as “fun, entertaining and lively.” But it’s another story altogether when students give the professor a standing ovation on the final day of classes, as Douglass Schumacher’s students have done for him on more than one occasion.

“Professor Schumacher is an extraordinary teacher in every sense of the word,” a student nominator wrote. “He is able to simplify extremely complicated and abstract concepts into easily understandable terms while maintaining the mathematical rigor behind complex derivations.”

He teaches at every level of the physics curriculum, works well with other faulty members in courses that are taught by a large number of instructors and is regarded for his ability to develop new material for existing courses as well as design courses from scratch. He also carves out extra time in his schedule to help students prepare for the GRE if they request it.

“As a research advisor, Dr. Schumacher has redefined my understanding of “hard work,” a nominator wrote. “His brain is relentless. He is perpetually attempting to understand physics and develop new ways to teach it — and does both with uncanny speed. I would not be as good a physicist without him.”

Schumacher also does extra work outside the classroom to help Ohio State and reach out to the community by providing lab tours to the OSC High School program as well as other individual student projects.

Schumacher earned his doctorate from the University of Michigan and has been at Ohio State since 1996.

Nominations                    Previous Winners