By Breanne Smith
Ryan Smith smiles as he talks about the creative teaching approaches of Nikhil Sathe, his mentor and thesis adviser. "He's always helping students to understand things. He knows how to present things in a way that still challenges us, but helps us to grasp the concepts," he says.
Sathe advised and assisted as Smith prepared an ultimately successful application for an Austrian Ministry of Education Teaching Assistantship he'll serve next year. And he headed the study abroad program Smith attended in Salzburg, Austria.
"In our traveling, he always had a lot of neat projects," Smith says. "He created a scavenger hunt where we would go through the city and talk to random strangers to find certain signs. He makes learning fun. He's very creative and enthusiastic and excited about teaching."
Smith apparently isn't the only one to think this, as Sathe was among four Ohio University faculty members to receive Distinguished Service Awards during Thursday's annual Office of Nationally Competitive Awards (ONCA) celebration and appreciation lunch. This year alone, he was listed as a recommender or mentor to eight student award applicants.
"It's a great honor to work with students and see them discover what they can achieve," Sathe says. "A lot of my students wonder what they can do with a modern language degree."
But the graduates he continues to stay in touch with are a testament to the fact that the options are plentiful. Many have gone on to graduate programs in German, political science and business, while others have pursued teaching careers.
Of Smith, an English major and German minor who will graduate from the Honors Tutorial College next month, Sathe says, "He has really pushed himself."
Other faculty recognized Thursday with Distinguished Service Awards for their commitment to helping the applicants and 69 winners of nationally competitive awards -- a new mark for the university that eclipsed last year's record of 50 -- were Haley Duschinski of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Lauren McMills of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Julie White of Political Science. Sociology and Anthropology was singled out as the outstanding department for assisting students in their pursuit of top awards.
Mary Anne Flournoy, who retired after 18 years as associate director of the Center for International Studies, has spent the past three years working part time as the ONCA faculty fellow.
"I had been the Fulbright adviser for campus," Flournoy explains. "The then-dean of HTC and I encouraged students to apply for the Rhodes and Marshall, trying to identify students and get them interested."
Those efforts were ramped up in 1999 when the university created ONCA and named Ann Brown as its director.
"Ann brought it all together," says Flournoy, who is now stepping away from her fellow position to pursue philanthropic interests. "I got involved because I love to see high-achieving students pushed to the limit and their potential. These awards are a great way of doing that."
Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl noted how ONCA has elevated students' aspirations. In 1999-2000, just 18 Ohio University students applied for nationally competitive awards. This year, the number who did so with assistance from ONCA totaled 104.
"Our success in this endeavor proves an institution can achieve both access and excellence," Krendl told Thursday's gathering of more than 230 award applicants, faculty mentors and others guests.
Brown says the number of awards students earned this year represents "a remarkable accomplishment."
But she's quick add, "What is equally important, and to me equally as satisfying, however, is the transformational power of these experiences for the students. ... They have discovered important and deep things about themselves and their place in the world. That is something that will benefit them for the rest of their lives."
View a complete list of student honorees.
Mary Alice Casey contributed to this story.