First Kreider Prize for Teaching Excellence Awarded to Oya Ozkanca
The inaugural recipient of the Kreider Prize for Teaching Excellence has been announced. Dr. Oya Ozkanca, associate professor of political science, was chosen by a committee of members from the Professional Development Committee (PDC) and students. Ozkanca will be recognized in the May 2015 Commencement program and honored at the Opening Convocation in fall 2015.
The Kreider Prize is the first “Best” award Elizabethtown College has given to faculty members for teaching since the early 1990s.The prize was made possible by the generosity of alumnus Dr. Thomas Conner ’72, professor of history at Hillsdale College, who approached E-town with the idea. The award is named in honor of Dr. J. Kenneth Kreider, professor of history emeritus, and Caroll L. Kreider, professor of business emerita, due to their status as mentors and role models to students at the College. Dr. E. Fletcher McClellan, dean of the faculty, said Kreider was honored by the prize, which came out of the blue for him. He said Kreider had no idea he had influenced Conner in such a strong way.
Conner felt powerfully moved by Kreider as a teacher and role model, McClellan said. He was impressed with Kreider’s activism in the classroom and in College and international affairs. McClellan added that Conner felt the existence of such an award was important to honor teaching excellence “This [award] was great because we don’t really have many ways to honor and promote faculty,” McClellan said. The College rewards faculty involvement with tenure and merit pay, but there has not been any sort of best teacher award in several decades. The selection committee said all of the nominators praised Ozkanca for her passionate, energetic approach to teaching and devotion to her students inside and outside the classroom. Ozkanca focuses on critical thinking and inspiring passion in her students to work for causes in which they believe, such as climate change or refugee aid. McClellan expressed approval of Ozkanca’s reception of the Kreider Prize, saying she works dynamically with students in the classroom, is friendly but is able to hold people accountable and has strong student and alumni support.
This [award] was great because we don’t really have many ways to honor and promote faculty.”
“I’m so humbled by it,” Ozkanca said. I love (the students) so much.” She said that doing what she does is not a chore but something she approaches with all her heart and soul. Putting effort into helping her students involves interpersonal communication and negotiation skills, hands on mentoring, and building of a good rapport. She added that she takes pride in her students and in inspiring them to follow their passions.
Teaching, research and mentoring her students is her life, Ozkanca said, noting that she wants to continue helping them make good choices and be happy. Ozkanca said students often contact her after they graduate from E-town, requesting recommendation letters or updating her on their lives. “It’s so rewarding to be able to work with them, to feel like you’ve touched their lives,” Ozkanca said.
Her student connection has less to do with grades and more to do with getting them interested in and aware of international affairs she added. Experiential learning is a big part of her style, Ozkanca explained, saying that working with students individually helps them to do better.
The PDC choose the recipient from the list of faculty members who were nominated by at least three of four constituency groups: alumni, current students, faculty and administrators/staff. This nomination process was intended to distinguish the Kreider Prize selection process from annual merit awards, where faculty members nominate themselves and supply supporting documents. The selection committee wanted the responsibility of nomination to be placed on others so the Kreider Prize is a genuine recognition award.