By Cassie Lynott
This year's University Professor distinction awards, honoring four outstanding Ohio University faculty members, have been announced. The 2004-2005 University Professors are Assistant Professor of History Patrick Griffin, Assistant Professor of Journalism Diana Knott, Assistant Professor of Sociology Debra Thorne and Associate Professor of Political Science Julie White.
Since its establishment in 1970, the University Professor has established itself as an important way for students to acknowledge outstanding faculty members. The award is unique in that students choose the recipients. After students have nominated exceptional professors, a student committee conducts an extensive interviewing process, including sitting in on classes, before selecting the winners. Each University Professor receives $2,000 and may teach two classes on a subject of his or her choosing.
"For all of the winners of this award, their comments, ideas and beliefs all show their exemplary nature," said William J. Miller, University Professor Selection Committee chairman. "All of the winners refuse to settle for anything but the best lectures and experiences for their students."
Griffin, who was also honored with the Helen Coast Hayes Award from the Honors Tutorial College, wrote "The People with No Name: Ireland's Ulster Scots, America's Scots Irish, and the Creation of a British Atlantic World" (Princeton, 2001) and has published essays in several leading American and British history journals. Having been awarded a fellowship by the American Council of Learned Societies, Griffin is currently working on a new book that explores the American Revolution on the frontier and the mythic origins of American exceptionalism.
Griffin plans to offer a course on the Irish in America, which will explore the experiences of what, he says, "has historically been a vital, colorful, yet marginalized group in the United States." The class will broadly cover the Irish presence in America, including the earliest migration to the Caribbean and the Chesapeake, to the "new" Irish migration in the 20th century.
"I am delighted to be named a University Professor, especially because it is an award conferred by students," Griffin said.
Knott spent 14 years in public relations and publications positions before pursuing a doctorate degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In fall 2001, she began teaching public relations courses for the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. Her research articles have appeared in publications such as Journalism Studies and Newspaper Research Journal.
"I feel a deep responsibility to students and am thrilled and deeply honored to receive this award," Knott said. "I applaud Ohio University for its support of teaching excellence and am grateful to the student selection committee, which spent a great deal of time on the process."
Knott looks forward to teaching a class on fundraising and developing, which will be held during winter and spring quarters of 2005. The course will include work in grant writing and guest lectures by fundraising professionals.
"There are more than one million nonprofit organizations in the United States and I believe this kind of class can give our students an edge in securing jobs with these organizations. It can also help them contribute to their communities as volunteers," Knott said.
Thorne received her doctorate from Washington State and her post-doctoral degree from Harvard University, where she served as the project director on the Consumer Bankruptcy Project. Her research on personal bankruptcy and consumer debt has gained her recognition from such highly accredited news sources as National Public Radio, The Wall Street Journal, People Magazine and The Plain Dealer.
"The power and prestige of this award stems from the fact that it comes from my students," Thorne said. "This suggests that they value and respect what they have learned in my class, and that it has meaning for their lives. As a teacher, what could possibly be more rewarding than that?"
Besides her position in political science, White is a faculty associate in the Women's Studies Program. She teaches courses in political theory, and her area of research is ethics and public policy. She is the author of "Democracy, Justice and the Welfare State" (2001) and is currently working on a book-length project "Toward a Cosmopolitan Sense of Place." She has previously won the University Professor Award and the College of Arts and Science's Outstanding Teacher Award. Her University Professor course, "Ecological Praxis," will bring together literature on environmental ethics and work on environmental policy.
White earned her doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
"I really appreciate the student time that goes into this award and the opportunity it offers to create and teach a course such as this one. My hope is that this classroom will be the space for an inter-disciplinary dialogue with students from diverse academic backgrounds participating," White said.
Cassie Lynott is a student intern with University Communications and Marketing.