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Inaugural Kreider Prize winner speaks on personal teaching philosophy Oct. 15

Oct 7th, 2015 | By | Category: Lead Article, News, Uncategorized

From E-town NOW

The Kreider Prize for Teaching Excellence, named in honor of Dr. J. Kenneth Kreider, professor of history emeritus, and Carroll L. Kreider, professor of business emerita, recognizes professors at Elizabethtown College who go beyond the status quo to help educate students.  Dr. Oya Dursun-Ozkanca does just that … and then some.

The associate professor of political science and director of the International Studies Minor Program doesn’t just impart knowledge during scheduled classes nor does she strictly follow textbook materials. Instead, she aims to be available to her students whenever they need her – literally — and she treats her classroom as an interactive environment where, she said, they can speak their minds without fear of retribution.

Dursun-Ozkanca, who was “honored and humbled” to be the first to earn the Prize, will discuss her holistic teaching philosophy at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15, during “The Boyer Model Revisited: The Teaching, Research and Service Nexus.” The talk, which looks at how research, teaching and service continuously reinforce one another and can result in promoting active learning, takes place in the Susquehanna Room of Myer Hall. A dessert reception precedes the lecture at 7 p.m.

“I dedicate my whole life to my students,” Dursun-Ozkanca said during a recent phone interview. “I try to tell the students to study international affairs and international events, to have curiosity to the outside world. I guess I do it with such enthusiasm that it is contagious.”

Next week’s talk centers on the balance a professor needs between teaching, research and service, all of which faculty members are required to fulfill. “If you find a topic you are very passionate about, you can combine them all – teach, write, inspire students.”

Dursun-Ozkanca said she set a goal to be a good teacher when she was an undergraduate. She experienced firsthand lack of support and didn’t want students to experience that, moving forward. Though she was third in her class, she had some professors who were reluctant to give her letters of recommendation for grad school, she said.

“I made a promise to be supportive of future students,” she said. “And I’m delivering that promise I made to myself. I do it not because it’s a job; it’s my whole life.”

The professor said she loves a hands-on approach and attempts to expose her students to a variety of viewpoints. “We have the liveliest discussions in my classroom,” she said. “I run ideas by my students; my students run ideas by me.” She employs experiential learning by taking students to simulation exercises so they can practice what they learn in class through roleplaying exercises. “They learn what it means to be policymakers,” she said.

Her mentoring continues even after graduation. Students, she said, continue to correspond with the professor. “I get emails from former students on my thoughts on world events,” she said. “Years after they graduate, they come back and have conversations about international affairs.”

Before coming to Elizabethtown, Dursun-Ozkanca taught in Poland, Turkey, Ukraine and other areas in the United States. She was selected for this Prize by her peers and students; she was recognized in the May 2015 Commencement program and honored at the Opening Convocation this past fall.

When Dr. Thomas Conner, a 1972 graduate of E-town and now a professor of history at Hillsdale College, approached the College with the idea of naming a prize after two professors who had inspired him as mentors and role models, Dursun-Ozkanca was exactly the type of professor he wanted to recognize.

While at E-town, he was impressed with Kreider’s activism in the classroom and in international affairs, and felt the existence of such an award was important to honor teaching excellence.

Kreider said he was “amazed and humbled” that a former student wanted to sponsor and name an education award after him and his wife. The idea that “a fellow who had been here back in the ’70s and would remember us back at Elizabethtown,” was moving for the former professor, who said he can still visualize Conner as a student at Elizabethtown. “This really came out of the blue. … You never know, as a teacher, what sticks and what doesn’t.”

Though Ken and Carroll retired before Dursun-Ozkanca joined the college, Kreider said he has met her and has heard really great things about her. “I look forward to hearing her lecture.”

Cost of the lecture is free. For more information, contact Peggy Stauffer at 717-361-1416 or staufferp@etown.edu.

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