Four faculty honored at 2019 University Professor award ceremony

Four faculty members received the University Professor (UP) award during the 49th annual award ceremony on Thursday, April 11. The University Professor award recognizes outstanding teaching at Ohio University. Since its founding in 1970, the UP program has recognized over 250 professors for their teaching excellence.

Each honored faculty receives a monetary stipend and the opportunity to teach a course of their choosing as a means of enriching the undergraduate curriculum.

“I cannot think of another thing that embodies the best of what work the teaching professors do here in their very special contributions to our students’ learning as what our peerless OHIO University Professor award program does,” said Tim Vickers, director of the Center for Teaching & Learning.

Each fall semester, a pool of recipients is chosen from nominations collected from the OHIO student body. A selection committee comprised of 10–14 undergraduate students then holds intensive interviews with eight faculty finalists and observes each of them in class.

“I have consistently seen comments that stand out in the ballots every year that the undergraduate students submit in their nominations—adjectives like ‘inspirational,’ ‘knowledgeable,’ ‘challenging,’ ‘amazing,’ ‘caring’ and ‘passionate,’” said Vickers. “It is invariably passion—the love of the subject, of teaching, and caring for their students—that really distinguishes these nominees and winners. They all have an amazing ability to bring out the best of those who work with them.”

Speakers at this year’s private awards ceremony included Ohio University President Duane Nellis and Elizabeth Sayrs, dean of University College and senior vice provost for undergraduate education & student success.

The 2019–2020 University Professor recipients are:

Cory E. Cronin, Social and Public Health

Cronin’s proposed course, “Contemporary Readings on the U.S. Health Care System,” will examine the current status of health and health care delivery in the United States through the writings of authors and reporters who have developed an expertise in the field. Students will be able to frame health care issues as current events that affect the lives of people every day, but that also exist within a broader societal and historical context.

“It's a privilege to be able to spend my days talking about a field I'm passionate about, and I'm honored and gratified that my students find such value in the discussions we have together,” said Cronin, assistant professor in the College of Health Sciences and Professions. “My hope is that offering this class will allow me to have similar conversations with students from across the University.”

Timothy Cyders, Mechanical Engineering

Cyders’s proposed course is titled “How to Ace Failure.” Students in this course will identify a personal, professional, or academic area in which they would like to improve, and actively integrate the lessons learned each week into that goal. They also will review an organization/company’s failure and how that organization responded and how it contributed to future success.

“I am deeply humbled and honored that I would be selected for this award,” said Cyders, associate professor in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology. “I am thankful to work at an institution that has such a focus on the value and importance of teaching. I was really impressed with the way the students administered the award process, especially in their interview; it was great to see a room full of students of all walks acting as professionals, and to get to communicate to them directly that we, as faculty, really care about them and their welfare.

Jana B. Houser, Geography

Houser’s proposed course, “Extreme Weather Events,” will cover diverse topics and case analyses of extreme and severe high-impact weather events that occur in the continental U.S. Students also will learn about new types of events, moving from learning basic scientific principles to examining historic case studies.

“I am deeply touched and honored that my students hold me to the high regard of being worthy of this award,” said Houser, assistant professor of meteorology in the Department of Geography. “It is the students who truly make a difference in my teaching ability, who challenge me, and who motivate me to become better. I look forward to teaching the University Professor class on severe and hazardous weather, and particularly to opening the eyes of students to the amazing, awe-inspiring power of the atmosphere and its complexities."

Morgan L. Vis, Environmental and Plant Biology

Vis’s proposed course is titled “Algae in Society,” and will cover four main aspects of how algae affect our lives: 1) getting to know algae, 2) roles algae play in their environment, 3) harmful algal blooms and their economic costs, and 4) industrial uses of algae as a crop.

“It is such an honor even to be nominated for this award and I am thrilled to be recognized,” said Vis, professor in the College of Arts and Sciences. “I really like teaching courses at all levels, but I particularly enjoy teaching ‘Plants and People’ in the fall with the learning communities of new students.”

To read about past winners, visit the Center for Teaching & Learning’s teaching awards web page. The awards ceremony was made possible by the Center for Teaching & Learning in the Office of Instructional Innovation, with generous support from University College.

The Office of Instructional Innovation (OII) serves as a catalyst to spark bold experimentation and sustainable discovery of innovative instructional models that fulfill the University’s promise of a transformative educational experience. OII provides a variety of services to faculty, staff, and students in support of academic units and online programs, as well as to advance initiatives to further the institution’s mission. Visit for more information.


Photographer: Wyatt ZelleJana Houser and Morgan Vis pose with their University Professor awards.

President Nellis addresses attendees at the 2019 University Professor award ceremony.

Photographer: Wyatt ZellePresident Nellis addresses attendees at the 2019 University Professor award ceremony.

April 12, 2019
Emily Baxstrom