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Ohio State University logo Recognizing Excellence

Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching

The Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching honors faculty members for superior teaching. Recipients are nominated by present and former students and colleagues and are chosen by a committee of alumni, students, and faculty. They receive a cash award of $3000, made possible by contributions from the Alumni Association, friends of Ohio State, and the Office of Academic Affairs. They also receive a $1,200 increase in their base salaries from the Office of Academic Affairs. The recipients will be inducted into the university's Academy of Teaching, which provides leadership for the improvement of teaching at Ohio State.

Recognizing Excellence at Ohio State

Current University Awards winners

Previous University Awards winners

Click on photo or scroll down the page to read winner's bio.

Leslie M. Alexander
Associate Professor, Department of History

Since arriving as an assistant professor at Ohio State in 1999, Leslie Alexander has made her mark on the history department and the university. Her background in African American history, combined with the enthusiasm she conveys to students about the material, help her show the importance of history as it pertains to present-day life.

“She really promotes how relevant history is to everyone, every day, and how current events recreate certain historical trends,” one student said.

She often uses multimedia tools in class discussion to show students that history isn’t always dry, and assigns readings to coincide with the opening of popular films so students can analyze how historically accurate the films are in their portrayals. 

It’s this ability to rally students around coursework as well as her consistent willingness to help that students often cite; several have called her the best professor they’ve had at Ohio State. Alexander has been called a “fantastic pillar of support” because of her guidance as an adviser and unrelenting drive to help her students.

“She has a genuine spirit and exhibits a larger-than-life commitment to her students that is only surpassed by the size of her heart,” another student said.

In an attempt to enhance the study of African American history, Alexander spearheaded the creation of seven new courses in the department for both undergraduate and graduate students, and helped redesign existing courses.

Alexander received her Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1999.

Wendy P. Blakely
Assistant Professor, College of Nursing

Wendy P. Blakely’s students recognize her dedication to their education. Not only is Blakely an expert in the field of pathophysiology, but she is also passionate about conveying material to nursing students.

“She has a vast encyclopedic knowledge, but she also possesses the patience and clarity necessary to help new nursing students learn complex material,” one student said.

Blakely employs numerous means to ensure her students’ success; case studies, group discussions, clinical scenarios and other various avenues all generate participation and involvement.

She is also responsible for the evolution of the course sequence that once relied mostly on lecture and examination. By transforming the classes into learning modules, quizzes and online exercises, students are more easily immersed and engaged in the material. She also created hands-on laboratory experiences for students to get a grasp of research in the field of nursing.

“Dr. Blakely taught some of the most challenging portions of human pathophysiology, but she took great pains to make the material as interesting as possible, and to present the material in ways that would help us commit it to memory,” another student said.

Students mention her regular availability, responsiveness, thorough course preparation and enthusiasm when they discuss Blakely’s effectiveness as a teacher. Her student evaluations exceed university expectations and rank among the highest in the College of Nursing. She has also helped develop discussion questions for the most widely used nursing pathophysiology textbook in the country.

Blakely received her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 2004.

Stephen L. Boyles
Associate Professor, Department of Animal Sciences

Stephen L. Boyles doesn’t like monotonous lectures. Anyone who has been in his “Issues Concerning the Use of Animals by People” class can see the effort he puts into making the class as informative and creative as possible.

“You never know what you are going to get when you walk into Dr. Boyles’ Animal Science 597 class,” a student said. “He uses untraditional methods of teaching to stir up interest and discussion among his students.”

Those methods can be anything from having numerous guest speakers to calling upon students to demonstrate what it’s like for a pig to be trapped inside a pen that is too small. He has even dressed up as Descartes to liven up a discussion on animal rights and welfare history and garbed himself in his animal welfare auditor gear when he explained the auditing process.

His fun approach to the lectures helped convey controversial material in a neutral way. In discussing animal rights and ethics, he would include questions from both sides of the debate to encourage class discussion.

Students mention the time and effort he puts into his teaching, including “jazzed up” Power Point presentations full of video clips and other information, as well as the daily emails he sends to the students about current events that would further enhance discussion.

“Even though many of the topics discussed had charged feelings from both sides, he was able to mediate the tension into productive and sensitive discourse on current issues,” another student said.

Boyles received his Ph.D. from Kansas State University in 1985.

James J. Brudney
Newton D. Baker — Baker & Hostetler Chair in Law
Professor, Moritz College of Law

James J. Brudney is highly regarded among academics, particularly for his scholarship in the area of labor law. But even when students have no vested interest in this specialization, they sign up solely for the teaching methods they’ve experienced in previous classes.

“Regardless of what Professor Brudney was teaching, we would all sign up to take it in a heartbeat,” a former student said. “Coincidentally, many of us now find ourselves extremely interested in labor law.”

Called a “master in Socratic dialogue” by a fellow colleague, students marvel in Brudney’s ability to lead class discussions that captivate his students. He offers hypothetical situations to challenge an individual student’s stance on readings and solicits responses from other students as well. It is not only a way to make sure students have done their assignments, but also demonstrates that the ideas being discussed in class have a heavy impact on the study of law.           

Described as brilliant and passionate, he is also known to be challenging.

“Brudney puts the Arrgh! in Lab-arrgh Law,” one student said. Yet students agree it is the challenge that makes the experience so rewarding.

Not only has he received strong evaluations from students, but he was also voted Best Teacher of the Year in 1996 and named the Newton D. Baker – Baker & Hostetler Chair in Law in 2000. He has also been a visiting professor at Oxford University and Harvard Law School.

Brudney received his J.D. from Yale University in 1979.

Dennis A. Guenther
Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering

Students asked to describe Dennis A. Guenther’s teaching style are consistent in their praise, labeling him as innovative, enthusiastic and charismatic. He is known to keep students interested in the topic at hand — even at 7 a.m.

“His boundless energy, relevant stories and enthusiasm for the topic kept everyone engaged,” a former student said.

Guenther helps students apply the material to important issues facing the world by linking theory to real life. A popular design project allowed students to create a water purification system that would help developing nations, while another created a leg brace to help individuals with spinal disorders.

 “Dr. Guenther doesn’t just teach engineering, he teaches us about ethics, professional responsibility and life,” another student said. “He makes it a point to let everyone know that we all have a duty to give back to the community and the world.”

Guenther is also well regarded in the Department of Mechanical Engineering for his breadth of teaching. He has taught courses in all four branches of mechanical engineering.

Further proof of his outstanding teaching can be found in the numerous awards he has already received, including the Mechanical Engineering Industrial Advisory Board’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2004; the College of Engineering Lumley Research Award in 1983; and the student-chosen Charles E. MacQuigg Award for outstanding teaching in the College of Engineering in 1982.

Guenther received his Ph.D. from Ohio State in 1974.

Bishun D. Pandey
Professor, Department of Mathematics, Marion Campus

Bishun D. Pandey, who teaches calculus at OSU Marion, is recognized as a miracle worker.

“He inspired me to conquer calculus,” a former student said. “He could teach math to a brick — a dumb brick.”

Pandey is recognized for his commitment to teaching. He is known to challenge students to think for themselves and is willing to work in and out of class to make sure they understand the material.

“His reputation among students as a patient, encouraging, caring and gifted teacher is well-known and repeatedly highlighted in their evaluations,” a colleague said. Student evaluations consistently place Pandey in the uppermost levels on the cumulative student evaluation of instruction. Students respect Pandey for his teaching efforts, even when his course load is rigorous.

Pandey’s drive to help students is not limited to the classroom. He regularly serves the Office of Minority Affairs as a mentor for students and teaches at the Delaware Center, where he counsels a diverse group of students.

He also has two dozen refereed journal articles to his credit, mostly on his research in fluid mechanics focusing on shock waves and plasmic flows.

Pandey received his Ph.D. from Banaras Hindu University Institute of Technology in India.

Robert J. Perry
Professor, Department of Physics

When the Department of Physics conducts exit interviews with graduating seniors, Robert Perry is consistently credited as being the professor who has had the most positive impact on their education.

Perry teaches numerous physics sequence courses that meet four times a week and have a reputation of carrying a strenuous workload. Students credit Perry’s teaching style with helping them understand difficult material.

“He comes to class knowing the material inside and out, and he encourages students to think for themselves instead of allowing people to be spoon-fed solutions and example problems,” one student said.

The ample amount of help he offers his students is something else he is known for. It is common to see him walking around the student lounge, volunteering his expertise to help students on homework before it is due.

“Dr. Perry would go the extra mile with us on a regular basis,” another student said. “His approach and understanding was that the real learning happened outside of the classroom.”

A large number of his students acknowledge Perry’s teaching method as preparation for their work in graduate school. He would often talk with curious students about quantum mechanics that exceeded the undergraduate level, giving them a feel for what they would delve into if they pursued further education.

In addition to his teaching, Perry is known for his research on nuclear theory and has produced more than 60 publications in peer-reviewed journals.

He received his Ph.D. from University of Maryland in 1984.

Elizabeth Renker
Associate Professor, Department of English

Student nominators wrote that Elizabeth Renker is tough, demands quality effort, is a notoriously hard grader and that she is one of the best professors they’ve ever encountered.

“Dr. Renker is one of the most challenging instructors I have had. She challenges students to be specific, concrete, clear and organized in every aspect of their work and demonstrates these qualities in her own work,” one student said. “But she is as supportive as she is critical.”

Students describe Renker as passionate, knowledgeable, approachable and enthusiastic, and appreciate her willingness to meet them out of class for extra help. Her teaching excellence has earned her the Rodica C. Botoman Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching and Mentoring, the highest teaching honor in the College of Humanities.

Renker also helps in program development within the department, including the popular course “Poetry/Alternative: A History of English Poetry and Alternative Music,” in which she arranged videoconferences with rock stars Rivers Cuomo of Weezer and Matt Berninger of The National.

“The material was always engaging and enriching,” another student said. “The class discussions and instruction were always superb.”

“Professor Renker encouraged everyone to participate and voice opinions,” added another student. “She drew clear connections between the poetry and the other literature that we studied, while always remaining open to the interpretations of the students.”

Renker received her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University.

Anthony J. Roberto
Assistant Professor, School of Communication

Anthony Roberto’s enthusiasm for teaching is apparent to anyone who enters his classroom. His ability to take complex theories and turn them into relatable life experiences makes him a sought-after professor.

“Dr. Roberto’s students regularly note that his lessons are clear and organized and that he is very knowledgeable regarding the subjects he teaches,” one colleague said. “They see him as a very passionate and enthusiastic teacher.”

In the past three years, Roberto has taught 12 undergraduate and graduate courses and has consistently received high ratings on student evaluations.

Students say his effort at group participation is one of the reasons his classes are so interesting. In a class with more than 400 students, he regularly tosses around a stuffed animal to initiate discussion.

“He tried to get students involved even though it was a very large class, and he gave a lot of examples,” one student said. “I could tell that he put a great deal of effort into his class lectures.”

Roberto’s work on persuasive communication with an emphasis on health communication campaigns has been widely published. He also has written a textbook and published numerous teaching aids, as well as four lessons in Communication Teacher, the only peer-reviewed teaching publication in the field. One of the pieces published was the recipient of the Touchstone Award for Outstanding Teaching Idea.

He received his Ph.D. from Michigan State University in 1995.

Tracy L. Tylka
Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, Marion Campus

Tracy Tylka has been a faculty member at Ohio State Marion only since 2001 and was just recently tenured and promoted to associate professor. Yet her reputation as an educator has already made her one of the most respected professors at Marion’s campus.

“Dr. Tylka is an extremely effective, highly organized and dedicated teacher who creates a learning environment that students find very comfortable,” a colleague said.

As a faculty member, Tylka makes it easier for the Department of Psychology to expand course offerings because of her ability to teach a variety of courses. She is also highly regarded as a productive researcher, authoring or co-authoring 19 publications on her research in body image and eating disorders.

Students who have taken her classes consistently praise Tylka for the open learning environment, clear and concise explanation of material, and her ability to make lectures not only thought-provoking, but fun.

“She encourages students to ask questions and creates an atmosphere of learning where her passion and energy for the field of psychology are contagious,” one student said. “Dr. Tylka is a prolific writer, strong researcher, engaging lecturer and the best mentor I could ever have hoped to encounter in my career.”

Not only does she effectively engage students in the classroom, but she also assists with advising and consultation with graduate students, acting as a dissertation co-director and master’s thesis director. Many students credited Tylka for guiding them into the career path of psychology.

Tylka received her Ph.D. from the University of Akron in 2001.

2008 Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching


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