By Kim Corriher
Ohio University Professor of Political Science Patricia Weitsman is the 2008 recipient of the Outstanding Graduate Faculty Award.
Each spring, a committee of Graduate Student Senate members chooses one faculty member who displays "dedication to graduate teaching practices and innovations, a strong influence on graduate curriculum, a passion for advising and mentoring graduate students, and a desire to improve graduate life and education."
The honor comes with official recognition during the graduate commencement ceremony on June 13 and the role of keynote speaker at the 2009 graduate commencement exercises.
"At Ohio University, we have an environment of hundreds of outstanding educators, and to be recognized in this way is incredible," Weitsman said. "I have never imagined I'd be so honored."
According to Brittany Buxton, chair of the awards committee, panel members felt Weitsman demonstrates a deep commitment to her students that "manifested itself through both her personal as well as professional sacrifice."
"She radiates passion for teaching graduate students," Buxton said.
The committee noted that Weitsman makes herself available throughout the entire year to advise master's students on their theses, even during the summer months while devoting time to her own scholarship and research.
The committee received 41 nominations this year, the most ever. The panel narrowed the field and interviewed four finalists -- DeLysa Burnier (Political Science), Bernhard Debatin (Journalism), David Drabold (Physics and Astronomy) and Weitsman.
Weitsman earned degrees in political science -- a bachelor's from Indiana University and a master's and doctorate from Columbia University -- before joining Ohio University in January 1995.
She is a two-time University Professor (1997-98 and 2000-01) and earned the College of Arts and Sciences' Outstanding Teacher Award in 1997.
Students determine such faculty honors as the University Professor and Outstanding Graduate Faculty awards, Weitsman said, adding, "That makes them both very, very meaningful honors, in my opinion."
However, the two awards are distinctly different, as are the two populations of students with whom Weitsman works.
"Graduate students are the individual upon whom you leave your intellectual imprint and who, in turn, leave their intellectual imprint on the field," Weitsman said. "It requires a lot more distinct mentoring. Whereas with undergraduates, it is more important that you introduce them to the field and develop how they think about and analyze information for themselves. I find both extremely rewarding."