Meet 10 Ohio State professors honored for their passion for teaching through the Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching. Whether they're teaching the history of the Holocaust or primate behaviors, each professor has an inspirational story and a passion for making a difference in each student's life.
With a bachelor’s, master’s and PhD all in mechanical engineering from MIT, Avraham Benatar had a number of job offers from national labs and universities. He chose Ohio State because he had the opportunities both to specialize in his field and teach – something that he couldn’t find at most institutions.
“I can always learn from my graduate students, learn from the research that goes on outside Ohio State in the community and incorporate that into my teaching as well. I learn best by teaching others.”
For Teresa Burns, her mentors helped light her teaching fire. During her veterinary training, she watched the excitement of the senior-year students as they worked alongside their mentors. That’s when she knew she wanted to do what those mentors did for her and others.
“[The students] are amazing. I get my daily dose of humility from the students! They’re so smart; they’re so engaged… I really don’t think it gets any better than that.”
Originally from Manchester, a major city in Northern England, Chris Highley came to America to get his master’s degree from Stanford. One way that Highley stays connected to his roots in England is through a study abroad trip he organizes with students, where they travel to London and Stratford and study the England of Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth. For him, teaching is an “ongoing fascination,” and he never stops learning himself.
“If I ever stop learning while I’m teaching my students, it won’t be worth it anymore. So, I try to introduce a lot of variety into my classes. I find that really energizes me, and when I’m energized, it energizes and excites the students.”
Knowing that she wanted to be a professor was a gradual realization for Julie Hupp. She knew she loved children, but what she found throughout the course of her education was that she loved studying children. Now, she’s teaching courses in language development and child development in general. And through a service-learning grant, she developed a course in which her students visit a local elementary school and tutor kindergarteners and first-graders.
"This grant has given me the opportunity … to provide some materials for my students to take with them [while] providing service to the community and helping these children.”
Larry Inks spent about 15 years in the talent management and development industry before coming back to Ohio State, where he received his master’s and PhD, to teach at Fisher. Before becoming a professor, Inks served as vice president for talent management at Cardinal Health and says, "Helping people grow and develop has always been something that’s important to me.”
“I think it’s all about demonstrating passion and a belief in what you’re teaching -- genuinely caring about the student learning something, helping them understand why they should care about it and why it’s helpful for them.”
Scott Jones will forever be a Buckeye. After receiving his bachelor’s from Ohio State, Jones moved to Chicago and then Minneapolis, where he earned his master’s degree and then PhD. And as his career started to unfold, he knew his heart would always be in Columbus.
“When the opportunity came to come back to Ohio State and to join the faculty, paying back and also paying forward is a rich blessing of this moment for me. I hope to be for our students now what the professors that were here when I was a student were for me.”
Robin Judd didn’t always know she wanted to be a teacher. What she did know was that she was interested and curious; she wanted to learn new things and she wanted to share what she learned. The rest came naturally for her.
“I try to create warm communities of students. It’s really important to me that I know my students’ names and even when I have 150 students in the class, I want them to know that I want to know who they are.”
It’s safe to say that Scott McGraw spends his days monkeying around. His principle focus is primates, and he travels to Africa every year, where he collects information and uses that to infuse into his courses. And in the classroom, he keeps things high energy and enthusiastic.
“I thought the best way to show how [primates’] limbs have been shaped, how they’ve adapted was to jump up and act like a monkey. And it seems to work.”
Stephanie Moulton says if you want to be a teacher, you always have to be willing to learn. In her case, she learns from her students, who always keep her on her toes, asking her challenging questions and letting her know it’s OK not to have all the answers. She says her role at the university is a calling to serve.
“I think students appreciate curiosity and passion. [I leverage] those things we don’t know as teachable opportunities for myself and for the students.”
Karl Whittington loves medieval art and architecture. So when he followed his passion for the subject, he found that he also had a passion for sharing the information that he knows. After being a teaching assistant at Berkeley in graduate school, he found that teaching a class “opened up a whole new perspective on the work that I do and my research.” Whittington mixed his passion for teaching and art to build a career for himself.
“I feel like I get the comment from students all the time, ‘You’re so passionate about medieval art. How did you find that?’ and I tell them, ‘I found that first. I found that through this really strange, winding path.’ It was the love of the stuff that I studied that came first."