Aug. 24, 2005
By Erin Roberts
Assistant Professor Beth Novak, who teaches in the School of Telecommunications at Ohio University, was named IT Educator of the Year by the Information Technology Alliance of Appalachian Ohio (ITAAO) during its annual meeting July 27, 2005.
The award was one of five presented as part of the third annual Technology Industry Gurus of the Appalachian Region (TIGAR) Awards. "I think it's more a testament to the students," Novak said of the award. "It's easy to be seen as an outstanding educator when you have great students."
Great students aside, Novak has earned her stripes. Since joining the faculty in 2003, she has been instrumental in the establishment of the Games Research and Immersive Design (GRID) Lab and has helped to spearhead the creation of School's new major, Digital Media Production: Special Effects, Gaming and Animation.
According to ITAAO president Gary Little, these are the types of activities that catapulted Novak over the competition for the selection committee, which was comprised of representatives from ITAAO's small business development centers and Innovation Center Director Linda Clark.
"The materials that Beth presented, her background, the courses she has developed and programs she has been involved in, including the GRID Lab, evidently stood out to the selection committee," he said. "They were impressed."
Founded in 2001, ITAAO is a private, not-for-profit corporation that serves 22 Appalachian counties in Ohio. Little said the TIGAR Awards are important in that they bolster the advancement of information technology in the region.
"It is very important to identify and give credit to educators in our region that are advancing information technology, as it is important to the 21st century economy that we are hoping to build," he said. "We (at ITAAO) feel that information technology is the business sector that has the greatest chance of growth for our region, and we want to see educators and students going through information technology training and degree programs so that the workforce will be available for that economy."
Novak agrees that information technology will play a huge role in molding the future and feels that educators must change the way they teach to keep up with the trend.
"I think education, especially primary education, is going to need to change to become interactive," she said. "We've been doing the same thing for years and years, and it's time for a different system. People who understand this technology are going to be the people who shape that change in the next couple of years. Others are going to realize that digital games are not just for entertainment."
Novak's teaching focuses on the production aspects of computer animation, game design and special effects. According to John Bowditch, GRID Lab associate director, student and colleague, Novak's style is anything but mainstream.
"Beth is unique in the fact that she doesn't want to teach things that are traditional," he said. "She wants to push the envelope as far as technology and creativity go. I really think that's a rarity. She makes things like non-uniform rational b-splines interesting and fun." For those of you wondering, a non-uniform rational b-spline is a unit or method of building a three-dimensional model in animation. And, thanks to the new major, the number of people who understand that phrase is about to increase.
"We've had quite a bit of interest in the new major, especially from transfer students from other majors," Novak confides. "This is the first year for freshmen to come into this major, and they will help us to shape what this major can become. That's what telecommunications is all about: assisting kids with their future, not just their present."
Novak earned a master's degree in fine arts at Ohio State University. She has taught interface design and digital imaging courses in the School of Visual Communication at Ohio University and at Ohio State University. She has also worked for America Online, the Ohio Learning Network and The Detroit Free Press, where she was the multimedia specialist.
She lives in Logan with her husband, Charlie, an airline pilot.
For more information on ITAAO, a regional member of Ohio's IT Alliance, please visit its Web site at www.itaao.org.
Erin Roberts is the external relations coordinator for the College of Communication.