2016 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.
Hollie Nyseth Brehm profile picture

Hollie Nyseth Brehm

College of Arts and Sciences


In a relatively short time at The Ohio State University, Hollie Nyseth Brehm has become a highly respected and beloved instructor, mentor and researcher. She has received a 4.9 out of 5 rating for each of the courses she has taught and regularly earns glowing feedback from her students. As one notes, she “genuinely cares about students and has an obvious passion for teaching. I would take any course she offered.”

One nominator commends Nyseth Brehm on her teaching style, which “draws on a diverse array of teaching methods, including group work, video clips, images and graphs, short stories about current events, active learning exercises, podcasts and case studies.”

As an avid supporter of undergraduate research, Nyseth Brehm is currently supervising three undergraduate students’ theses. Under her guidance these three students have received $24,000 in grant funding. She is also preparing to advice an undergraduate’s independent study. In recognition of her commitment to her students, Nyseth Brehm was named the Ohio State Alpha Chi Omega Spring 2015 Professor of the Semester and was invited to participate in the Resident Advisor Program.

Nyseth Brehm’s service to students does not end in Columbus. She took an undergraduate to Rwanda on a research trip because the student is planning to study genocide in graduate school, and she is facilitating additional international experiences for her students for the future.

Hollie Nyseth Brehm holds a PhD and MA in sociology from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, and a BS in sociology and political science from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. She has been an assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State since 2014.

Ellen E. Deason profile picture

Ellen E. Deason

Moritz College of Law


Ellen E. Deason’s students describe her as patient and kind, and her teaching style as innovative, effective and artful.  They have even called her office hours transformative; as one student says, “Professor Deason exhibits all of the qualities one looks for in a law school professor: compassion, dedication and an unparalleled enthusiasm to advise, mentor and educate students.”

A colleague of Deason’s notes that “the student response to her teaching has consistently been at the very highest end of the spectrum among elite teaching faculty.” Deason has received the Morgan E. Shipman Outstanding Professor the Year award and has been voted the best professor in the required first-year curriculum. Her commitment to student success is evident in her eagerness to volunteer each year as faculty advisor to both a group of first-year students and a group of students in the Moritz College of Law Master of Laws (LLM) Program.

In the classroom Deason employs a variety of exercises and interactive components to help students understand complex subject matter. She is a nationally recognized scholar and a frequently requested speaker for student-sponsored panel events. Deason also draws upon her background as a former marine biologist, and she created a new course on law and genetics, which is an opportunity that few law schools offer.

Ellen E. Deason holds a JD from the University of Michigan, an MS from the Oregon State University School of Oceanography and a BA in biology from Carleton College. She joined the Mortiz College of Law faculty in 2003.

Michael C. Edwards profile picture

Michael C. Edwards

College of Arts and Sciences


Michael Edwards is a quantitative psychologist whose research and teaching live at the intersection of statistics and social sciences. His mastery of the discipline, however, does not prevent him from understanding the minds of his students, many of whom come to his class without strong backgrounds in mathematics or statistics. In fact, he creates an environment in which students with every skill level can succeed. As one student says, “Despite my fear of all things mathematics, he did a great job helping me parse the terrifying matrix algebra into actual usable factor analysis.”

Edwards is a talented teacher and mentor, and one of the department’s “go-to” people on student matters. As the founding faculty advisor for the Psychology Graduate Student Association, he helps undergraduates prepare for graduate school applications.

As a proponent of the university’s educational mission, Edwards is committed to creating new learning opportunities. Recently he developed an informal advanced seminar for students who want to expand their understanding of statistics in psychology, and he organized a meta-analysis short course. One nominator writes, “Many, many projects that move through the department are positively impacted by Mike’s presence and willingness to help students and colleagues.”

Michael C. Edwards holds a PhD and an MA in quantitative psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a BS in psychology from Ursinus College. He has been an associate professor in Ohio State’s Department of Psychology since 2011.

Karen Eliot profile picture

Karen Eliot

College of Arts and Sciences


Karen Eliot’s vast knowledge of dance history and criticism, alongside her mastery of technique and creative expression, make her an asset to the Department of Dance, to dance as a discipline and to her students. One nominator writes, “She is the ideal role model for students at all levels, especially our graduate students who aspire towards achievement in the physical practice, studio-based teaching and research, as well as scholarly teaching and research.”

Eliot’s approach to teaching combines technology and classical methods, and students describe her as an engaging lecturer, facilitator of discussion and master of verbal and written communication. One student describes her as having “quiet strength,” while another said she “encouraged me to think deeply about my methodological and disciplinary preferences, what I want my work to look like and how to go about it.” It is no surprise then that she is a highly sought-after advisor and mentor—a role she eagerly embraces, spending significant hours of her personal time interacting with students and attending their performances.

Eliot is a vital contributor to the discipline, having written three dance history books in the last 10 years and served as chief architect of the department’s PhD program, which is one of only four dance PhD programs in the United States.

Karen Eliot holds a PhD in literature from the University of Georgia and a BA in English and dance from Cornell University. She danced with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. She has been teaching dance for more than 23 years.

Carmine Alexander Grieco profile picture

Carmine Alexander Grieco

College of Medicine


Carmine Alexander “Alex” Grieco is a proponent of medical student education and an advocate for the medical student body as a whole. He actively pursues opportunities to guide and serve Ohio State’s College of Medicine students, inside the classroom and out.

Grieco advises and mentors students who are pursuing radiology, those who are considering radiology as a profession and those who are pursing another specialty but want to learn more about the role of radiology in medical practice. His students have described him as “an amazing person” who “constantly shifts his busy schedule to help others.” Grieco’s acceptance and compassion allow him to successfully guide students through difficult subject and make him the professor students turn to during times of personal hardship.

As the director of medical student education for the Department of Radiology, Grieco has redesigned the curriculum to include topics of patient safety, imaging appropriateness and utilization, radiological consultation and patient-centered medical imaging. He was selected to serve as Portfolio Coach for the college’s Lead-Serve-Inspire program, is a faculty tutor for medical students with academic difficulties and was selected as a facilitator for Ohio State’s chapter of Healer’s Art.

“Above all,” one nominator writes, “Dr. Grieco’s contributions can be described as guiding students’ achievements of their own goals, allowing them to feel empowered but thoroughly supported in any way necessary for success.”

Carmine Alexander Grieco holds an MD from SUNY at Buffalo and has been with Ohio State since 2011.

Marcia Nahikian-Nelms profile picture

Marcia Nahikian-Nelms

College of Medicine


Marcia Nahikian-Nelms has been described as a collaborator, a mentor and an outstanding educator. As a leader in inter-professional simulation, she is known her ability to create simulations that transcend disciplinary boundaries and enhance the development of clinical skills and collaboration. Nahikian-Nelms has been recognized for her teaching excellence, including the Governor’s Award for Outstanding Teaching in the State of Missouri, the award for Outstanding Dietetic Educator in Missouri and Ohio and the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences’ teaching award. 

In the classroom, students say she leaves them “hanging on to every word,” and the learning activities she creates allow for real-world application. Nahikian-Nelms is inclusive of multiple styles of learning and encourages her students to be active participants. A fellow faculty member says she is “one of the outstanding educators in medical nutrition therapy and dietetics outcomes.” She is also actively involved in the school’s mentoring program. A nominator and mentee wrote, “She is selfless with her time, a great role model, open, caring and offers great advice.”

Marcia Nahikian-Nelms holds a PhD in health education from Southern Illinois University, an MEd in nutrition from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a BS in public health nutrition from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has been with School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences for 12 years.

Michelle Kaiser profile picture

Michelle Kaiser

College of Medicine


Michelle Kaiser has a reputation for excellence in both the teaching and practice of social work. She is highly respected for her expertise on community-based food security strategies. Kaiser is the faculty advisor for Ohio State’s Food Fellows program and has led an interdisciplinary community food mapping team. She has also developed a 90-minute food security simulation in which students from many colleges have participated.

Kaiser’s students and her colleagues praise her inclusive, dynamic teaching style. One student notes, “When discussing sensitive social topics in class, Michelle is thoughtful about creating a judgment-free environment that encourages all students to engage.” In peer reviews, fellow faculty members remark on her level of classroom organization, her capacity to support students in challenging conversations and her exploration of professional values.

Students are so moved and inspired by Kaiser’s classes that they have been known to modify their academic plans to work with her more, and one student even changed majors based on her involvement with Kaiser in an undergraduate honors course. In what could be the highest indicator of a teacher’s success, students report leaving her classroom with the sense that they are different as individuals than when they began.

Michelle Kaiser holds a PhD and MPH from the University of Missouri, a graduate certificate from the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, an MSW from the University of South Carolina and a BA from the University of Iowa. She has been with Ohio State since 2012.

Elizabeth Kolkovich profile picture

Elizabeth Kolkovich

Ohio State Mansfield


Elizabeth Kolkovich is known to set high standards and yield impressive outcomes, even in classes where students have disparate levels of experience with the topic. Her evaluations overflow with words like “helpful,” “passionate” and “rock star.” She has an uncanny ability to reach even the most reticent students; as one notes, “I have struggled with English my whole life…I never realized my skills until taking this class.”

Recognizing students’ varying levels of experience with the arts, Kolkovich works to provide them with opportunities. She identifies performances around Ohio that are relevant to her courses, secures funding to offset ticket costs, helps to arrange transportation and accompanies students to performances. Many students have found these experiences transformative, particularly for those who might have not had access previous access to live theater.

As chair of the Academic Enrichment Committee, she initiated a revision of the application process that students must undergo to receive scholarships and grants, making it easier for students to apply for funding. One nominator writes, “Kolkovich’s greatest pedagogical innovation has been her cultivation of student research in the humanities on our campus. She has helped to make the Mansfield campus’ Undergraduate Research Forum an annual event as part of a day-long celebration of academic achievement.”

Elizabeth Kolkovich holds a PhD, MA and BA in English from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has been an assistant professor of English at Ohio State Mansfield since 2009.

Robert S. Livesey profile picture

Robert S. Livesey

College of Engineering


Robert S. Livesey teaches undergraduate and graduate design studios in the Knowlton School of Architecture, and his design studio courses are the core of the architectural curriculum. His students are among the best prepared, and his undergraduates often go on to prestigious graduate programs. Last year alone, six of his students were admitted to Yale, and others were accepted at Harvard, Rice, UCLA and Ohio State. He is equally committed to transitioning his graduate students from academia to practice.

In the classroom, Livesey is attentive to the individual capabilities of his students. A colleague writes, “Above all, Rob insists that an architectural education is first and foremost a sharpening of intellectual acuity in the service of culture.” According to a former student, “he possesses a rare ability to cut through thickets of intellectual obfuscation with razor-sharp critical insights and memorable wit.”

Among his myriad recognitions, Livesey has received the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Gold Medal Award and is a fellow of the AIA and the American Academy in Rome. He was also named one of the 30 Most Admired Educators for 2015 by DesignIntelligence. His excellence as teacher and in the discipline has made him instrumental in propelling the school to recognition in 2015 as 12th among public programs and in the top 20 percent of all programs.

Robert S. Livesey holds an AB in architecture from Princeton University and a Master of Architecture from Harvard University. He has been at Ohio State since 1983.

Amy Shuman profile picture

Amy Shuman

College of Arts and Sciences


Amy Shuman works across the fields of folklore, literacy studies, refugee studies, narrative studies, disability studies and human rights. She has done transformative work in the field of folklore studies, has been recognized with Ohio State’s Distinguished Scholar Award and is a Guggenheim Fellow.

Shuman’s courses have been described as wildly popular and have long waitlists, thanks to her reputation as an engaging, challenging and generous teacher. Her capacious scholarly interests have also made her a sought-after thesis advisor for students within and outside the Department of English, and several of her students have received prestigious awards. One describes her classes as “intellectually rigorous” and her teaching style as bringing “dense theories to light with grounded examples.” 

Shuman has successfully directed 17 doctoral dissertations, served on 65 dissertation committees and five MFA theses. But she is more than an advisor. She is a true mentor, helping both current and former students organize research projects and launch academic careers. One nominator writes that Shuman helped her navigate the challenges of navigating a PhD program as a mother.

In addition being a teacher, researcher and mentor, Shuman is director of the Center for Folklore Studies, as well as directing the Diversity and Identities Studies Collective and co-coordinating the Human Rights Working Group. 

Amy Shuman holds a PhD and MA in folklore and folklife from the University of Pennsylvania and a BA in anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She has been at Ohio State for 35 years.

Nominations                    Previous Winners