The University of Toledo recently recognized its outstanding advisors, researchers and teachers, and announced the recipients of the Edith Rathbun Award for Outreach and Engagement for the 2022-23 academic year.
“We are proud to have so many dedicated faculty and staff at The University of Toledo who go above and beyond for our students and the University,” said Dr. Risa Dickson, interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “Every year we take the opportunity to recognize some of our outstanding team members based on nominations from our campus community. Congratulations to this year’s truly inspiring recipients.”
Recipients of the Outstanding Teacher Award are:
Dr. Gary Insch, a professor in the Department of Management in the John B. and Lillian E. Neff College of Business and Innovation.
“Dr. Insch shows genuine care for every student he encounters,” one student wrote. “I had Dr. Insch for Introduction to business and he made me feel as if every student in the room actually mattered. Dr. Insch also does not leave any student behind and gives everyone a great opportunity to succeed.”
Another nominator wrote: “In class, Professor Inch stressed the importance of business ethics. He taught this subject with emotion, claiming that we have the power to make the world a better place and we should stay true to our morals. I have never had a teacher or professor show care for students like Professor Inch.”
And one student said: “I believe that he is one of the most amazing professors I have ever had and he has lot of knowledge about businesses and he loves to teach.”
Dr. Hossein Sojoudi, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering in the College of Engineering.
“Dr. Sojoudi has been the best professor I’ve had during my time as a mechanical engineering student,” one student said in his nomination of Sojoudi. “His passion for engineering and his ability to challenge students to think and challenge themselves has been an inspiration.”
Another student nominator wrote: “Dr. Sodjoudi has unique techniques for making complex engineering concepts become simple to the understanding of all his students. He has demonstrated great skill as an instructor as well as a great interest in seeing his students understand and succeed.”
Dr. Raghav Khanna, the Leidich Family Endowed Professor of Power Systems from the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in the College of Engineering.
One nominee wrote: “He makes sure that we are all actually understanding the material he is teaching, and he has a great way of teaching that keeps the students involved during class. I’ve never had a professor in college care so much about the students in and out of the classroom.”
Another student said: “He is one of the most engaging and effective teachers I have had. He is very clear about his expectations and makes it very easy to learn in his class. He will always answer any question to the best of his ability and make a real effort to make sure when a question is asked that the student comprehends the answer that was given.”
One student said this about Khanna in their nomination: “A lot of professors are good at teaching either the mathematical side of a subject or the conceptual side, but Professor Khanna combines both without ever losing sight of the bigger picture of whatever material he is teaching. Furthermore, Professor Khanna always strives to be entertaining and personable, showing a great amount of care for every student in his classes.”
Jessica Knouse, a professor of law in the College of Law.
A student nominator who struggles with mental health issues that impact their in-class performance and abilities shared, “I have never felt so welcome and accepted by a professor. Professor Knouse has worked diligently to create a classroom environment in which no one feels left out or othered.”
Another student wrote that Knouse “cultivated a learning environment that I didn’t think was possible in a virtual classroom. She has helped me come out of my shell as a student.”
A third said: “I really don’t know where I’d be without having the reassurance that it’s OK to come up for air when ‘life’ happens in law school. Professor Knouse is an amazing professor and in my humble opinion is more than worthy of receiving this award.”
James Oberlander, an instructor in the College of Nursing.
One student wrote, “He has made several speeches in class about how he wants his students to do well and that he enjoys helping us.”
Another nominator offered, “For each class, he joins the call with a radiating, positive attitude and a smile on his face. He allots time for us to ask questions and he holds his own review sessions. During lecture, he thoroughly explains the content of his slides, and he relates the material we are learning to our lives through concrete examples and analogies.”
One wrote: “He is more than a professor teaching from a textbook; he is passionate
about what he teaches and has a strong sense of professional identity as a nurse. In class, he also uses ‘acted out’ examples of class material that make more sense than the classic scientific examples. He will construct analogies and mnemonics for course content that help make the material ‘easier to digest.’ ”
Sara Yaklin, a senior lecturer in the Department of English Language and Literature in the College of Arts and Letters.
A student said, “We’re only a month into the semester but I already feel like a better writer. The content and curriculum of her class is amazing, and she is dedicated to ensuring each student understands and is engaged with the class material. She is truly so caring.”
Another student wrote: “The Composition II course I attended was incredibly well thought out. Her lectures were clear and concise, the blackboard page was incredibly detailed and thorough and her expectations of us were straightforward. It was evident that Ms. Yaklin spent considerable time thinking about the structure of her course in a way that would not only engage us as students but challenge us intellectually and stimulate our critical thinking skills. She is not a professor who is purely interested in just ‘showing up.’ ”
One student said this in their nomination: “Ms. Yaklin’s genuine desire to educate students in thoughtful and challenging ways that contribute to their growth as not only students, but individuals was evident from the start. She demonstrated a clear respect for her students, treating them as the capable, burgeoning adults that they are.”
Recipients of the Outstanding Research and Scholarship Award are:
Eric Chaffee, a professor of law in the College of Law. He joined the faculty in 2013.
Chaffee is a nationally recognized expert in the field of compliance and in the field of international and comparative securities law. He has written extensively in both fields, including pieces on corporate social responsibility, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, securities regulation, and tax avoidance. He has been invited to participate in conferences, symposia and workshops both nationally and abroad relating to these fields.
Dr. Matam Vijay-Kumar, a professor in the Department of Physiology-Pharmacology in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences. He joined the faculty in 2018.
Vijay-Kumar is a world-renowned scientist in gut microbiota, nutritional, metabolic and immunological sciences with demonstrated proficiency in multiple pioneering discoveries, running his own laboratory with multiple NIH and other foundation grants, publishing senior-authored papers in top-tier journals and mentoring trainees, many of whom have obtained postdoctoral funding for their work in Dr. Vijay-Kumar’s laboratory.
He has published seminal papers in Science, Cell, Nature Communications, Nature Mucosal Immunology, Cell Metabolism, Gut, Gut Microbes and Gastroenterology, among others. His 2010 publication in Science magazine detailing the role of microbiota in promoting metabolic syndrome has been cited more than 1,432 times as per Web of Science and 2217 as per Google Scholar. Vijay-Kumar has an outstanding track record of 130 publications, of which 59 are from his research done at the University of Toledo, College of Medicine and Life Sciences within a short time span of less than five years.
Recipients of the Edith Rathbun Award for Outreach and Engagement are:
Dr. Joey Kim, an assistant professor in the Department of English Language and Literature in the College of Arts and Letters.
Kim’s selection was, in part, based upon her public-facing research and service since she began at The University of Toledo in 2020. She has published six public humanities articles, presented work at the Lucas County local libraries, and given lectures for the Asian Studies Program and at the Eberly Center for Women. In 2021, she won first place in Toledo’s Arts Commission Merit Award. As a result of this award, she gave local poetry readings and served as a judge in the Ode to the Zip Code Poetry Contest. In 2022, she was the inaugural poet for Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz’s second-term ceremony where she presented an original poem.
She serves on the board of the Circle for Asian American Literary Studies, the only national and international scholarly society dedicated to the study of Asian American literature, culture and arts. She has one book of poems, a scholarly monograph coming out in September 2023, and has published 10 articles in high-impact peer reviewed journals, in addition to creative writing publications and public humanities articles. Her first book of poems, Body Facts, won a contest to be published with a cash award. It also was a finalist for the Ohioana Book Awards, the second oldest, and among the most prestigious, state literary prizes in the nation.
Dr. Heather Sloane Cleary, a professor in the Department Human Services in the College of Health and Human Services.
Sloane Cleary started Fearless Writers, a social justice creative writing program, as she was completing her dissertation research. Fearless Writers began in 2017 as a collaboration between Rogers High School and the Social Work Program at UToledo. It was started as a participatory youth-led research project to better understand the impact of neighborhood segregation. Fearless Writers added a writing retreat for TPS teachers to their annual activities in spring 2021, and a Youth Social Justice Community Day event in tribute to the work of the Black Panthers in Toledo. Fearless Writers is proud to complete seven academic years in 2023.
Over the years, she has collaborated with the LEAD afterschool program, AVID program at Rogers, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion for TPS schools and Rogers and Scott high school HUBs. Sloane Cleary has published numerous articles and presented at conferences with high school and University students involving Fearless Writers.
Recipients of the Outstanding Advisor Award are:
Dr. Wesley Bullock, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Arts and Letters.
Dr. Bullock is in his 35th year at UToledo serving as an academic adviser and mentor for hundreds of psychology students over the years. One of his nominators shared, “Dr. Bullock is not only a role model in how he carries himself professionally, but also interpersonally. He is always available to meet with students and provides advice and help where needed. Dr. Bullock is understanding and empathetic and is a trustworthy source of support.”
Another student added, “Dr. Bullock’s support throughout my time at UToledo and especially this last year have meant so very much to me. He is one of the greatest parts of the psychology program. I feel very blessed to have had the privilege of working and learning from him.”
Dr. Bullock shared in his philosophy of advising statement that his philosophy and scholastic priorities for students is two-fold: to generate excitement in students toward the courses, programs and learning opportunities that UToledo offers; and then challenge students to fully engage and immerse with those courses and opportunities that develop knowledge and skills to become lifelong learners and graduates. He has chaired 35 doctoral dissertations and an even larger number of master’s theses and undergraduate honor theses, all attesting to his commitment and success in advising and mentoring students.
Dale Pelz Jr., the assistant director of student services in the College of Nursing.
His nominator stated: “Dale demonstrates exemplary customer service to prospective and current students, faculty and staff. If Dale is able to answer a question he prefers to do so rather than handing the student off to another individual or department. He is well respected by faculty for his level of responsiveness to issues. He follows through, is attentive to details and demonstrates kindness in his interpersonal actions.”
Another nominator added, “Dale believes that students should be empowered with information about University and college policies, programs and resources to ensure their retention and success at UToledo.”
Dale stated in his philosophy of advising statement that, “Advising is a key component to a student’s success in college. Students put their trust in us to guide them through a program that will impact their future. I take this responsibility seriously by educating, inspiring and empowering students to take control of their future.”