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Faculty members are a blessing ? this one, literally

Sept. 12, 2007
By Anita Martin

Assistant Professor of History Benita Blessing leans over to inspect the eighth draft of Katie Flynn's Fulbright application, which is due in October. Flynn, who majors in both history and French, has been working on her Fulbright application for more than six months. She finds the process a bit grueling perhaps, but invigorating.

Flynn works in the Office of Education Abroad, where sheBenita Blessing frequently advises students to apply for international scholarships such as the Fulbright. "One day I thought, why don't I apply?" she says. "I was sent to Dr. Blessing, who took me under her wing and really jump-started my life."

Blessing notes that she and Flynn share many interests, such as World War II oral history and fluency in French. They started talking about how French women helped resistance efforts against the Third Reich, and suddenly Flynn had found her Fulbright project. She hopes to go to France next year on a Fulbright research grant to interview women who survived World War II and find out more about their role in the resistance.

Their conversations also led to a collaborative archiving project this summer. Blessing and Flynn are working with local sculpture artist David Hostetler, Ohio University professor emeritus of art and alumnus, to preserve his art, antique collections and wealth of old family letters and photos -- much of which reflects correspondence from both world wars. Flynn, who works in exchange for pieces of Hostetler's art, calls the experience "life-changing." 

"It's so great for me as a future historian to learn how to handle historic documents and how to archive materials. I'm actually doing history while I study," Flynn says.

The Office of Nationally Competitive Awards knows Blessing well. Director Ann Brown may be sending a student to Blessing, or Blessing may be sending two to Brown. 

Blessing has an eye for scouting academic talent and a knack for nudging students into scholarship, grant and internship competitions. "If I see students who have exceptional abilities, I always check in with them to see what their plans are," Blessing says. "It's amazing that students are often not aware of their abilities. They don't realize they're competitive."

Blessing was one of five faculty members to receive a Distinguished Service Award from the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards last year. Others were Karen Eichstadt (Chemistry and Biochemistry), Annette Steigerwald (Modern Languages), Soichi Tanda (Biological Sciences) and Christopher Thompson (Linguistics). Last year's Outstanding Department Award went to the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

"Students applying for these awards would not be nearly so successful without our outstanding faculty who advise, mentor, nurture and sustain them at every step of their education," Brown says, noting that faculty members are the best resource when it comes to recruiting award candidates. 

She encourages all faculty and staff to suggest that promising students contact her.

"Mentoring is one of most rewarding things I do as a faculty member," Blessing says. "One of the things that makes it easier at Ohio University is that Ann (Brown) and Beth (Clodfelter) are so good at working with us. They're incredibly motivated people, which helps motivate faculty to spend those extra hours in the week mentoring."

Ann Brown, director of the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards, can be reached at 593-2725 and browna@ohio.edu. Beth Clodfelter, Ohio University's director of U.S. Fulbright Programs, can be reached at 593-2302 and clodfele@ohio.edu.

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Published: Jul 20, 2006 3:50:00 PM
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