When asked to describe part-time faculty member Robert Eckman, the word students use the most is “passionate.” This year, Eckman has been honored with an Outstanding Teaching Award because of the passion he demonstrates for his craft.
“Being recognized by the university is very humbling,” Eckman says. “There are many teachers who deserve the same recognition and credit that I received, and to be recognized in that way is not something I take lightly.”
Eckman is the longest-standing adjunct in Kent State University’s School of Digital Sciences. He teaches two verticals for the digital science program while also working as a chief information security officer for MCPc during the day.
“I really enjoy working with the students,” Eckman says. “It kind of keeps me fresh, keeps me young in that space. I think, in any industry, you’re either growing or you’re going. You’ve got to remain teachable, so good teachers are good students.”
Nisa Alvarez, senior digital sciences major, values the insight that Eckman brings into the classroom from his professional experiences.
“Eckman incorporates his real-life experiences into his lectures so that his students know how they can expect the concepts to be used within their future careers,” Alvarez says. “He told stories from work that related to the topic, and it made it easier to understand.”
Students who have taken Eckman’s classes say the combination of his passion and vast knowledge of the topic is inspiring. Kent State alumna Brynn Runion says taking Eckman’s class helped her validate her career path. Runion now works as a network analyst for L Brands.
“Being in Bob's class made me realize what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Runion says. “Before taking the cybersecurity course, I had no idea if I even wanted to work in the technology field. Now I have no doubt, and I am currently applying for [admission to master’s degree] programs in cybersecurity and information security.”
Alvarez points out that Eckman’s dedication also shows in the care he takes with each student’s education.
“Professor Eckman genuinely cares about if his students gain knowledge from his courses,” Alvarez says. “Eckman leaves his students with knowledge as well as real-world information and concepts.”
Eckman says that receiving student-nominated awards is humbling and reminds him of what it means to be an educator.
“It’s not just about imparting knowledge and sending students along their way,” Eckman says. “Really, it’s about elevating someone’s life and giving them an experience that allows them new opportunities to better themselves and those around them. If I achieve nothing else professionally, I can take great pride in having the opportunity to make a difference.”
The Outstanding Teaching Award recognizes full- or part-time nontenure-track faculty members for achievements in teaching. The award is sponsored by the University Teaching Council and is presented to three finalists annually.
The 2016 recipients were honored formally at the University Teaching Council’s Celebrating College Teaching conference at the President’s Luncheon on Oct. 21.
This article first appeared in the March 13, 3017, issue of e-Inside, the weekly faculty and staff newsletter at Kent State University.