Kent State Biology Professor Recognized With Distinguished Teaching Award

Some professors excel by giving students the most up-to-date information. Some excel by genuinely caring about students’ success. Some excel by keeping classes interesting. Some excel at all three.Colleen Novak, an associate professor in Kent State University's Department of Biological Sciences, is one of three professors to receive a 2016 Distinguished Teaching Award for her outstanding work in the classroom and dedication to working with students.

Colleen Novak, Ph.D., an associate professor in Department of Biological Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences, is one of three professors to receive a 2016 Distinguished Teaching Award for her outstanding work in the classroom and dedication to working with students.

“It’s nice to know that I made enough of a difference to students to be nominated at all,” Novak says. “I know there are so many really strong instructors in our department alone. Among that pool, it was nice to even be nominated.”

The Distinguished Teaching Award is sponsored by the Kent State University Alumni Association and is the highest teaching award a tenure-track professor can receive. All tenured and tenure-track professors are eligible and only three are presented with the award each year.

Novak has been teaching at Kent State for seven years and has taught endocrinology and obesity courses, as well as sections of other courses pertaining to hormones and behavior. 

Novak was nominated by graduate students Dexter Zirkle, who studies in the biomedical sciences field, and Eric Dyne, who studies neuroscience. Zirkle took an endocrinology course with Novak and was impressed with her dedication to her students and her positive attitude in the classroom.

“Dr. Novak comes to class with an excitement and passion for the subjects she teaches,” Zirkle says. “Bringing this much energy to the class each session invites the student to feel some of that excitement for the subject, even if it isn't their particular major. This positivity sets the tone for the semester and really establishes a welcome forum for learning.”

Dyne worked with Novak for his individual investigation lab courses and says Novak is one of the best professors he has ever had.

“She took me from being an undergraduate who had no idea as to what I wanted to do with a biology degree to being absolutely sure what I wanted to do with my degree,” Dyne says. “I am currently working on my Ph.D. in neuroscience, and I attribute this decision largely to my experience working with Dr. Novak.”

Dyne says Novak is an especially strong professor because of her commitment to students. He says she often helps her students by connecting them with other professionals.

“She spends time getting to know your projects and will learn as much as she possibly can about what you are planning on studying,” Dyne says. “She will give you enough guidance to get you going in the right direction but have enough individuality to make it personal. When I was working on a technique that she was not familiar with, she took the time to help me arrange meetings with someone who was an expert in the technique.”

Novak says she likes to tailor her teaching style to the course she is teaching. She says she prefers to provide more information than is necessary as a study tool for students. One of the courses she teaches, on obesity, is a bit less traditional and features more open discussion.

“She makes the effort to learn the names of the students and know their work,” Dyne says. “She uses humor in lectures to keep attention and presents up-to-date information.”

Novak and the other two Distinguished Teaching Award recipients were honored at the University Teaching Council’s Celebrating College Teaching conference luncheon and awards ceremony on Oct. 21, 2016.

Learn more about Novak here.


POSTED: Thursday, February 9, 2017 - 12:35pm
UPDATED: Friday, February 10, 2017 - 11:11am
Ellie Enselein