Southeast-Ohio-Field-Trip-2009-092

John Winnenburg gives Geoffrey Buckley's students an update on restoration work at the Tecumseh Theater in Shawnee.

Photographer: Sherry Debari

Field trip

Students in the course "Appalachia: Land and People" watch acid mine drainage flow from the Essex Mine site. Bernhard Debatin, associate professor in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism is center.

Photographer: Sherry Debari

Field trip in Appalachia

Cheryl Blosser of the New Straitsville Historical Group provides students with background information on Robinson Cave

Photographer: Sherry Debari

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Vision in Action: Transformative teachers

College of Arts and Sciences awards transformative faculty


This special Compass series features the programs and initiatives through which Ohio University students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends put the OHIO vision into practice every day.

Extraordinary teaching occurs each day across Ohio University’s six campuses. But transformative teaching – teaching that deeply impacts the lives of students and the local community – requires an extra measure of passion and dedication.

Executive Vice-President and Provost Pam Benoit recently allocated $100,000 for the colleges across campus to identify and reward transformative faculty. In the College of Arts and Sciences, Dean Benjamin Ogles formed a three person faculty committee that took on the difficult task of reviewing more than 100 nominations to select the top 10 percent of the college’s instructors for the new award.

Approximately 40 winners were selected by a committee of faculty members from the College of Arts and Sciences.

“All of our faculty are dedicated employees who do an excellent job,” said Ogles. “This group goes above and beyond to share their work and disciplines and perspective.”

A small cross-section of these transformative faculty members are highlighted here.

Field-driven geography

Geoffrey Buckley, associate professor of geography, likes to get his students out of the classroom and into the field as often as possible.

“Life doesn't take place in a vacuum,” explained Buckley. “Why should school? If I take students on a field trip to Baltimore or on a tour of southeastern Ohio, they can better connect what they are learning in the classroom with what is happening out there in the real world.”

Buckley teaches the class “Appalachia: Land and People.” The course explores the region OHIO sits in, and includes an all-day field trip through southeast Ohio.

“I'd like to think that the research I do has some benefit to society,” Buckley said. “If I can involve students in my research - collecting data on street trees and urban parks for example - I think they come away with a better sense of how cities function and how land-use decisions are made.”

This academic year, Buckley took 15 students to visit three socioeconomically diverse neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., mapping the location and assessing the health of street trees.

Buckley teaches a variety of courses to all levels of students.

“Asking me to choose my favorite class is like asking me to choose my favorite child,” said Buckley. “I really do like them all - from the large lecture class to the more specialized upper-level offering to the graduate seminar. If I only taught one type of class I think I would burn out pretty fast, but because I am able to teach a variety of courses, it keeps things fresh.”

In his classes, Buckley conveys many academic lessons, but some of the most important lessons never show up on the final.

“I hope they leave class with the knowledge that all of us contribute to the environmental problems our society faces,” he said. “We all burn fossil fuels, consume resources and generate waste - some more than others. Anyone who thinks, ‘I'm just one person, I'm not responsible,’ is kidding themselves. Likewise, we all have a role to play when it comes to finding and implementing environmental solutions.”

Moscow on the Hocking

When Vera Belousova, assistant professor of Russian, joined the faculty in 1999, she took on more than a few classes, and she eventually took on the entire Russian section of Modern Languages.

Belousova’s classes use films, analysis, discussions using Russian websites and frequent group activities. But, according to her former department chair Richard Danner, what sets her apart is her willingness to go above and beyond her professorial duties outside the classroom.

“When students expressed an interest in literary translation, Vera created an experimental extracurricular translation workshop,” said Danner.

She serves as the adviser to the Russian Club, directs weekly Russian conversation hours, and is the director of the Moscow Study Abroad Program.

“Due to Vera Belousova’s quiet enthusiasm, both the students at OU and members of the Athens community have found a special and comfortable niche where they can nurture their passion for Russian,” said Danner.

Battling racism in the classroom and the community

Vincent Jungkunz, assistant professor of political science, has been peppered with awards during his career at Ohio University. His recognitions include the University Professor Award and the Dean’s Outstanding Teacher Award, and he also serves as director of studies for the Honors Tutorial College’s political science program.

Jungkunz has spoken out in his research and in his free time on the issues of racism and sexism. In 2010, he spoke at Walk in Her Shoes, a campus event that raises awareness about violence against women. He also spoke on the same topic at a brown bag discussion at the Women’s Center.

“Students always amaze and inspire each other and myself,” said Jungkunz of his Critical Race Theory course. “Their sincere dedication to understanding race and racism, their honest and deep reflections about their lives, and their enduring enthusiasm for struggling against racial injustice justify hopefulness that there may be better days ahead.”

Recently, Jungkunz was invited by Vice Provost for Diversity, Access and Equity Brian Bridges to participate in the University Diversity Commission. There, he will be working to develop long-term strategies for combating racism at Ohio University alongside Vice President for Student Affairs Kent Smith and others.

“My inspiration is justice. I'm especially committed to an anti-racist justice framework,” said Jungkunz. “My hope is that students leave my classes also committed to challenging racism in their communities.”

Searching stars with students

Markus Boettcher, associate professor of physics and astronomy, gets his students involved in his astrophysics research – in Athens, in Arizona and in gazing into space.

He is renowned for his ability to involve students in his work, and to share his passion for physics and astronomy with them.

Since 2002, Boettcher has led Ohio University’s use of the MDM Observatory in Arizona. He has made 21 separate observing runs there, involving nine graduate students and 13 undergraduate students in his research.

“Astronomy is something that one can best experience by looking through a telescope,” explained Boettcher. “That's why I always include some telescope nights for my students in “Introduction to Astronomy” and "The Solar System", and that is why I always take students along when I go observing at the MDM observatory in Arizona.”

Boettcher is also known for his ability to share credit. In the last five years, he has published 34 paper papers with students as co-authors, including nine with graduate students as lead authors.

He makes extra sessions of lecture classes for students who can’t attend the lectures; he organizes outreach events, and he maintains the outreach website.

“I believe that my students gain a general appreciation for science in my PSc 100 and 100D classes [“Introduction to Astronomy” and “The Solar System”]. I hope that my students leave this class feeling that they have gained a general background in astronomy and solar system science so that, if they hear or read about new astronomy results in the news, they can relate it to something we have discussed in class.”

For these instructors, and for many across all the Ohio University campuses, going above and beyond to share their academic passions with their students is just another day at the office.

“The faculty makes a real difference in students’ lives,” said Ogles. “It’s nice to be able to recognize innovative programs and those who use their research to engage with students.”

Transformative Faculty Award Winners

Mark Barsamian, Mathematics
DeLysa Burnier, Political Science
David Burton, Modern Languages
Mariana Dantas, History
Michele Clouse, History
Laura DiCaprio, Biological Sciences
David Drabold, Physics and Astronomy
Janet Duerr, Biological Sciences
Ann Corinne Freter-Abrams, Sociology and Anthropology
John Gilliom, Political Science
Saw Hla, Physics and Astronomy
Glen Jackson, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Chris Gidycz, Psychology
Markus Boettcher, Physics and Astronomy
Geoffrey Buckley, Geography
Vincent Junkunz, Political Science
Elliot Abrams, Sociology and Anthropology
Robert Klein, Mathematics
Alfred Lent, Philosophy
Kimberly Little, Women’s and Gender Studies
Mark Lucas, Physics and Astronomy
Katarzyna Marciniak, English
Lauren McMills, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Julie Owens, Psychology
Betsy Partyka, Modern Languages
Dorothy Sack, Geography
Miriam Shadis, History
Hogan Sherrow, Sociology and Anthropology
Sue Westendorf, Biological Sciences
Arthur Smith, Physics and Astronomy
Annette Steigerwald, Modern Languages
Alycia Stigall, Geological Sciences
Julie Suhr, Psychology
Soichi Tanda, Biological Sciences
Liang Tao, Linguistics
Susan Tice-Alicke, Psychology
Arthur Trese, Environmental and Plant Biology
Lois Vines, Modern Languages
Morgan Vis-Chiasson, Environmental and Plant Biology
Patricia Weitsman, Political Science
Julie White, Political Science
Valorie Worthy, English
Sarah Wyatt, Environmental and Plant Biology
Linda Zionkowski, English
Vera Belousova, Modern Languages
Steve Hays, Classics and World Religions