By Chris Shaw and Jennifer LaRue
Two faculty members have been recognized this year with Regional Campus Outstanding Professor Awards: Viet Dung Nguyen, associate professor of mathematics on the Zanesville campus and Patrick Munhall, associate professor of psychology on the Lancaster campus.
The awards recognize demonstrated excellence in teaching, scholarship and service, and awardees are nominated and selected by their colleagues. The honoree retains the title for two years and receives a stipend each of those years.
This year's winners have proven their merit not only to the selection committee, but to their students. Each has been recognized by their students with high marks for teaching and student interaction.
Viet Dung Nguyen: a "brilliant instructor"
Viet Dung Nguyen is a scholar with doctorate degrees from Poland and Vietnam and undergraduate and master's degrees from Russia. He not only brings a wealth of scholarly work with more than 40 publications in prestigious national and international journals in the field of mathematics, he also has taught in six countries.
His education and research in theory of rings and modules, a topic that is quite abstract to even the most scholarly, is impressive in its own right. Couple that with outstanding student evaluations from undergraduate students, who often think of math as a class to avoid, and it is clear why Nguyen was chosen for the award.
Nguyen's philosophy of teaching is based on a deep understanding of fundamental mathematical ideas and strong technical skills critical to the application of the concepts. To achieve this goal, Nguyen believes that knowledge is foundational on the instructor's part to make curriculum decisions and plan lectures, to assess students' work and to appreciate the creative suggestions of talented students.
"What makes teaching challenging is the fact that the job is not simply to present the facts one knows so well in front of an audience," Nguyen said, "but to build bridges of communication so that these facts can be delivered successfully."
His ability to link mathematical concepts to other course material and real life is one reason for Nguyen's high student evaluations. From developmental to higher level math, students in his classes regularly include comments on his teaching.
"This man is an absolute brilliant instructor and an asset to OU," a student in math 102 stated on Nguyen's evaluation. "I hate math, but he made it easy for me."
Another student, in an upper level course wrote, "I have learned so much from him. He motivated me and kept me interested."
The comments reflect another of Ngyuen's priorities in teaching.
"I think it is particularly important for the instructor to be sensitive towards students' background and needs," he said, "and know how to encourage and to challenge students appropriately."
Patrick Munhall: a passion for student interaction
"Teaching and interacting with students on research projects is my first passion," Patick Munhall stated in his letter of application to Ohio University-Lancaster.
During the ensuing five years, he has demonstrated this commitment in several ways.
To increase student interaction in class, Munhall and colleagues received an Ohio University 1804 Grant to fund handheld feedback remotes for use as student responders in psychology 101 classes. His teaching excellence has been duly noted by students. In 2007 he was presented with the Phi Theta Kappa Professor of the Year Award, selected by students and members of Phi Theta Kappa
Because Munhall's concern for students extends beyond the classroom, he teamed with Candice Thomas-Maddox and Leigh Atkinson to lead the First Year Experience at the Pickerington Center. The program assists students in their transition to college with a series of curricular and co-curricular sessions throughout their first year.
The list of reasons Munhall deserves this award is a long one, according to Ken Heineman, professor of history, who nominated Munhall.
"His excellence in teaching and in scholarship, his collaboration with colleagues at other universities, his record of publishing, securing grants for developing new technology for classroom instruction…and then consider his service on committees," Heineman said as he reeled off the reasons. Heineman was sure to add that "his logic and good humor" were also included in the list of Munhall's noteworthy characteristics.
Munhall has presented at many national and international conferences and his research has been published in numerous psychology and social psychology journals. He has served on the Provost Search Committee and continues to serve on the Quarters to Semesters Transition Team, Faculty Senate and on numerous committees on the Lancaster campus. An Ohio University alumnus thrice over, he received his doctorate in experimental psychology in 2002.