Honoring Our Best

Kent State University Honors Banquet recognizes faculty, staff and students for their many contributions

Kent State University took a moment to honor the faculty, staff and students whose accomplishments help to lift the university to higher heights.

“The University Honors Banquet celebrates the success and dedication of our faculty, staff, and students,” said President Todd Diacon. “Each has played an integral role in shaping our institution and making our university a better place to work, learn and live. Their efforts continue to inspire and shape our success.”

The banquet was on Wednesday, April 24, in the Kent Student Center Ballroom.

Here are the awards presented and their recipients:

Distinguished Teaching Awards, the university’s most prestigious honor in teaching, are presented annually to three full-time tenure-track faculty members who demonstrate extraordinary teaching in the classroom and devotion to touching the lives of students.

  • Tammy Clewell, Ph.D., professor, English, Kent Campus
  • Jeffrey Osikiewicz, Ph.D., professor, Mathematical Sciences, Tuscarawas Campus
  • Kathryn Wilson, Ph.D., professor, Economics, Kent Campus
  • 2024 Distinguished Teaching Awards Winners
    Clewell, Osikiewicz, Wilson


Outstanding Emerging Leader Award is presented to a first- or second-year student who has shown leadership promise through their campus involvement and contributions to student life:

  • Nate Lennox, sophomore 

Kent State Impact Award is given to a student whose presence has had a far-reaching impact on the university community: 

  • Juliana Buonaiuto, senior

The Mid-American Conference Outstanding Faculty Award for Student Success celebrates the commitment of the MAC to a holistic student experience and the creation of an environment that supports success in school and in life:

  • Kathryn Wilson, Ph.D., professor, Economics

Outstanding Research and Scholarship Award is Kent State’s highest award for research and scholarship and celebrates awardee’s accomplishments throughout a career. Recipients are selected based on the quality of their work and its impact on society: 

  • Lique Coolen, Ph.D., professor, Biology 
  • Babacar Mbaye, Ph.D., professor, English 

New Faculty Outstanding Research and Scholarship Award honors Kent State’s exceptional researchers and scholars within 10 years of becoming an assistant professor: 

  • Taraneh Meshkani, Ph.D., assistant professor, Architecture and Environmental Design
  • He Yin, Ph.D., assistant professor, Geography

Excellence in Graduate/Undergraduate Research Mentoring Awards are intended to honor faculty members who effectively guide and support students through undergraduate or graduate research, scholarship or artistic productions and assist students in attaining and exceeding their goals:

  • Erin Reed, Ph.D., assistant professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Northeast Ohio Medical University (Graduate)
  • Lique Coolen, Ph.D., professor of Biological Sciences and Assistant to the Provost for Special Projects (Undergraduate)
  • Yuko Kurahashi, Ph.D., professor of Theatre (Undergraduate)

The Torchbearer Award, is a new award created to recognize, celebrate and honor Kent State community members who are shaping the university with mentorship, cutting-edge curriculum and new programs or initiatives that center diversity and inclusiveness and aim to increase belonging at Kent State: 

  • Mariam O. Alamu, graduate student, College of Education, Health and Human Services 
  • Julie Vandegrift, senior research specialist, Division of Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement

Faculty Service-Learning Award, which recognizes faculty members who are exemplars at creating high-impact community engagement experiences, such as experiential learning and service-oriented courses, community-based research opportunities, and other similar academic offerings.

  • Eric Kildow, associate professor, Theatre, Trumbull Campus
  • Jennifer Mapes, Ph.D., associate professor, Geography, Kent Campus
  • Cindy Widuck, lecturer, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Kent Campus

Community Engaged Staff Award recognizes the commitment of Kent State staff members who create or support impactful community engagement projects or initiatives:

  • Erin Ahrens, coordinator of Community Engagement, Honors College, Kent Campus
  • Rebecca Gierman, associate director, External Relations, Geauga Campus
  • Mialie Szymanski, administrative assistant to the Dean, Trumbull Campus

Community Engaged Student Award, recognizes undergraduate and graduate students whose involvement in service has had a significant impact on the community:

  • Kylee McCracken, senior, College of Public Health
  • Anaya Spencer, senior, College of Public Health

The 2024 President’s Award of Distinction rewards staff members who have demonstrated outstanding achievements, service, leadership and dedication to Kent State in advancing the university’s strategic priorities and core values:

  • Rebekkah Berryhill, grounds manager
  • Hari Krishna Bisoyi, senior chemist, Advanced Materials and Liquid Crystal Institute
  • Pamela Lafleur, assistant director, Division of Enrollment Management
  • Kelly Thomasson, administrative assistant, Department of Earth Sciences
  • Sonya Williams, executive director for University Outreach and Engagement Office of the Provost
President's 2024 Award of Distinction winners
Berryhill, Bisoyi, Lafleur, Thomasson, and Williams

The 2023 President’s Faculty Excellence Award (for service during the 2022-23 academic year) recognizes exceptional performance by a faculty member that leads to the achievement of national or international recognition: 

  • Sara Bayramzadeh, Ph.D., The Elliot Professor in Healthcare Design, College of Architecture and Environmental Design 
  • Jay Dorfman, Ph.D., professor, Glauser School of Music, College of the Arts
  • David Kaplan, Ph.D., professor, Department of Geography, College of Arts and Sciences 
  • Linda Ohrn-McDaniel, professor, School of Fashion, College of the Arts 
  • Dmitry Ryabogin, Ph.D., professor, Department of Mathematical Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences  
  • D. Blake Stringer, Ph.D., associate professor, College of Aeronautics and Engineering
Winners of the 2023 Presidents Faculty Excellence Awards

In addition, these faculty members were recently informed that they are the recipients of the 2024 President’s Faculty Excellence Awards (for service during the 2023-24 academic year). They will be recognized at next year’s University Honors Banquet to be held in the 2025 Spring Semester.

  • Veronica Dexheimer, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Physics
  • Ebrahim Poustinchi, associate professor, College of Architecture and Environmental Design
  • Deborah Smith, Ph.D., professor, Department of Philosophy
  • Mary Beth Spitznagel, Ph.D., professor, Department of Psychological Sciences
  • Joseph Underwood, Ph.D., associate professor, School of Art
  • Jihyun Vick, Ph.D., professor, School of Fashion.
Winners of the 2024 Presidents Faculty Excellence Awards

Also honored were 37 staff members who had achieved 20 years of service at Kent State, 34 faculty members who had achieved tenure, and 91 faculty members who received a promotion over the past year.


Staff recognized for 20 years of service with President Todd Diacon.
President Todd Diacon, center, with some of the newest members of the 20-Year Club, employees with 20 years of service.
POSTED: Thursday, April 25, 2024 03:18 PM
Updated: Friday, April 26, 2024 10:06 AM
Lisa Abraham