ATHENS, Ohio (May 18, 2006) -- This year's University Professor distinction awards have been announced. The 2006-07 University Professors are Assistant Professor of History Benita Blessing, Associate Professor of Human and Consumer Sciences David Holben, Assistant Professor of Hearing, Speech and Language Sciences Chao-Yang Lee, Assistant Professor of English Linda J. Rice and Associate Professor of Marketing Jane Z. Sojka.
Since its establishment in 1970, the University Professor has been an important way for students to acknowledge outstanding faculty members. After professors are nominated, a unique student committee conducts an extensive interviewing process, including sitting in on classes, before selecting the winners. Each University Professor receives $2,000 and may teach two classes on a subject of his or her choosing.
Blessing's current courses include "European Women's and Gender History," and "Cultural History in Modern Germany, Modern France." She also teaches a class titled "Students and Revolution." She was a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation fellow; a visiting dissertator at Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany; and a visiting researcher at the European University Institute, Florence, Italy. She recently finished a manuscript, "An Antifascist Education: School and Society in Soviet-occupied Germany, 1945-1949" and her newest project focuses on the history of children's sleep rituals in 19th century Europe.
Blessing plans to offer two courses, "Vampires in Myth and History," and "Remembering the Sexual Self: A History of Sexuality through Memoirs." The first will include a study of the book "Dracula" by Bram Stoker and other stories and films that have developed and maintained the legend of vampires. The class will explore the reasons behind modern society's fascination with the vampire myth and the issues of race and gender surrounding it as well as the historical accounts from which "Dracula" was based. The second class will use individual memoirs and diaries to examine how sexuality, heterosexual, homosexual and others, has changed over the past two centuries.
Holben has received the Outstanding Dietetics Educator Award from the American Dietetic Association, in 2003 received the Faculty Contribution Award from Student Affairs, and in 2005 received the College of Health and Human Services Outstanding Teaching Award. He is a registered dietician, and specializes in relations to clinical nutrition and community nutrition. His research focuses primarily on food insecurity and hunger and its health outcomes. He has authored or co-authored several papers and abstracts and is the 2007 Fulbright Research Chair in Sustainability.
Next year, Holben plans to teach a course called "Thomas Jefferson: Gardener and Gastronome," which will explore the former president's love of cuisine and cultivation of the earth.
"The past nine years at Ohio have been a fulfillment of my dream, to motivate and challenge students to excel in their field of study," Holben said, "I am especially humbled by receiving this award, as my students teach, motivate, and challenge me daily."
Lee, likewise, said he was humbled by the experience. He joined the faculty in 2003.
"I always tell myself that if I can manage to have a positive impact on just one student, then teaching is all worth it. Being nominated as a University Professor assured me that I might be doing something right," he said.
Lee was awarded a Hunt Fellowship from the Acoustical Society of America for postdoctoral training in Speech Communication at MIT. His research explores the contribution of phonetic and cognitive knowledge to auditory word recognition, particularly in Mandarin Chinese.
He plans to teach two consecutive courses called "Uniquely Human: The Science of Speech Communication." The course will focus on the mechanisms behind speech production and perception and how it is implicated in human cognitive and linguistic capacities, all of which are unique to the human species. The first will focus on anatomy and physiology of speech production and the second on speech perception and language comprehension.
Rice teaches a variety of Integrated Language Arts methods courses and other English education courses. She is also the faculty adviser of OU NCTE, the Ohio University student affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of English. She has worked on projects with the Ohio Department of Education and presentations at state and national conferences.
Rice will teach two courses titled "More than Narnia? The Life and Writing of C.S. Lewis" and "Great Teachers Movies." The recent success of the movie based on Lewis' "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" inspired Rice to create the first course. The second course's focuses on inspirational teacher films such as "Dead Poets Society," "Dangerous Minds," "Music of the Heart," and "Stand and Deliver." The class will analyze the films for effective teaching strategies.
"The best thing about this award is that it comes from the people who matter most – our students," Rice said, "Then to have the change to teach two courses entirely of one's own vision and design – well, that's a professor's dream come true."
Sojka's classes reflect her research interests, beginning with marketing education, and include consumer decision-making and information processing, and sales and sales management. She has published in several marketing and education journals and wrote "Reality Sales: Role Plays for the Real Word," a role-play book used in personal selling and sales management courses.
She plans to teach "Why Did I Buy That? Uncovering Your Vulnerabilities as a Consumer" to educate students in discovering how personal traits impact their behavior and in turn become smarter consumers. Examples of personal traits that would be covered include the correlation between birth order and shopping and differences in consumer habits between children of married and divorced parents.
Sojka said, "I am simultaneously humbled and thrilled to be the recipient of this prestigious award. Students are the true experts in determining good teaching."
Michelle Brown, an assistant professor of sociology and anthropology, was a University Professor in 2005-06 but will be teaching her course next fall. Her research and teaching interests include the sociology of punishment and risk, law and society, media studies, and cultural theory. She was a contributor and co-editor of "Media Representation of September 11" and has published a series of book chapters and has a forthcoming article in American Quarterly.
Her class of choice titled "The Sociology of Risk" will bring together personal and social experiences of risk and the ways in which humans conceptualize risk individually and socially and how those ideas shape the nature of social life. The course will focus on the post-9/11 world popularly defined through an emergent axis of risk.
"It is nice to see a student-driven process that is seriously and energetically invested in the question of what is meaningful about teaching – a process that reminded me of the ongoing necessity of that question for educators," Brown said.
The University Professor program has recognized over 150 professors for their teaching excellence since its establishment.
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