Kent State Distinguished Teaching Award Recipient Values Mentoring Students

Many professors have certain influences that inspire them to teach. For David Kaplan, Ph.D., professor in Kent State University's Department of Geography, that inspiration comes from his father.


“My father was a university professor in psychology, and I remember well the dedication he brought to his job and to his students,” Dr. Kaplan says.


Dr. Kaplan is one of three educators honored with the Distinguished Teaching Award, the highest teaching award a tenured or tenure-track professor can receive. The award is sponsored by the Kent State University Alumni Association.


Dr. Kaplan was surprised during one of his classes with notification that he won the award.


“I was super shocked,” Dr. Kaplan says. “It was a really great surprise. It means a lot to me to win this award because I care a lot about teaching and I care a lot about the students and I care a lot about advising students in a variety of different ways.”


Reflecting on his father’s inspiration, Dr. Kaplan aims to bring this same dedication to his courses and students.


“It is important for me to convey my love of geography,” Dr. Kaplan says. “It is important to me that my students succeed. It is the reason I became a professor, and I hope to continue for many years to come.”


Mentoring students and helping them with their projects is one of Dr. Kaplan’s favorite aspects of teaching.


According to an alumnus of the Kent State geography program, Dr. Kaplan “willingly offers his valuable knowledge and precious time to ensure that his students succeed.”


“I try to teach for the long term,” Dr. Kaplan says. “I teach the classes that provide the best and most education for each student, even if this requires more work for the student and myself, and even when not initially popular.”


Dr. Kaplan notes that he aims to challenge his students through his classes and help them see the relevancy of course content.


“I push students beyond the rote memorization of each term to see the linkages and understand the higher value of what they are learning,” Dr. Kaplan says. “I make changes all of the time to keep material fresh.”


According to a student nomination, “In his teaching, Dr. Kaplan holds his students to a high level of scholarship with the aim of true student learning.”


Dr. Kaplan has taught 18 separate courses at Kent State at the undergraduate and graduate levels. He also helped create the Environmental Studies major at the university in August 2017.


“In my visits to other universities, I noted that many of them had a thriving Environmental Studies program whereas Kent State had nothing of the kind,” Dr. Kaplan says. “In the one year it has been available, we have attracted about 90 new students who are excited at what the major can offer them.”


According to a student nomination, “His hard work and dedication to make the major possible has the greatest, most positive impact on the university because it opens the doors to inspiring environmentalists in an up-and-coming field.”


Dr. Kaplan was honored at an award ceremony luncheon on Oct. 19 with the other Distinguished Teaching Award and the Outstanding Teaching Award recipients.


For more information about the Geography program, visit


For more information about the Environmental Studies major, visit


POSTED: Monday, November 5, 2018 07:43 AM
Updated: Friday, December 9, 2022 05:33 AM
Erica Fowler