When we build relationships, the path to improving lives becomes clear
When I was a doctoral student, I used to worm my way into a packed undergraduate course for which I hadn’t signed up. Economics was not my area of study, but the wizened professor delivering the lectures made me want to sit and drink in every word.
What makes a college great, we all know, is less about programs, curriculum and pedagogy and more about the people behind those ideas. Research shows that building a relationship with just one great professor can define students’ college experience and propel them onto new and innovative paths.
The College of Education and Human Ecology (EHE) dares to build those relationships. In the 2018 U.S. News and World Report national rankings, our graduate education program placed ninth among public institutions and 18th overall. Behind those numbers, however, are a lot of human connections that impact our world.
Elizabeth McNally (’10 PhD), pictured at left, is one in a vast network of people demonstrating the impact of our college. As principal of Highland Elementary in Columbus’ Hilltop neighborhood, she and her team work with passion and purpose to bring equality in education to students hindered by the precipitous effects of poverty. McNally credits faculty members Alan Hirvela, David Bloome, Laurie Katz and Leslie Moore as guiding influences. Now she also teaches second-language acquisition courses to practicing teachers, extending the college’s sphere of impact.
At Haugland Learning Center in Dublin, Ohio, a dog-eared copy of Applied Behavior Analysis is marked with sticky notes for handy reference. It was written by Faculty Emeriti John Cooper, Bill Heward and Tim Heron, who pioneered the use of behavior analysis as the framework for our Special Education program. As a doctoral student, school Director Morten Haugland (’00 MS, PhD) worked with Cooper in the Weinland Park neighborhood on his precision teaching project. The advisor held such sway with Haugland that they still meet for lunch monthly.
At South Dakota State University, Assistant Professor Amber Letcher (’08 MA, ’12 PhD) studies how peer and romantic relationships influence risky sexual behavior among youth in rural areas. The roots of her research are firmly planted in her work with Professor Natasha Slesnick, whom she still contacts regularly. Slesnick invites past and present students to Thanksgiving dinner.
“I guess I feel protective of them, wanting them to succeed,” Slesnick said.
I’m proud to say she’s not alone.
We applaud the course that so many of our alumni have taken. As we chart new paths to create more change, we will keep our focus trained on the vibrant network — that human element — that makes innovation and progress worthwhile.
You can help broaden the impact of your college by donating to train early childhood educators, extend research and more. See giving opportunities at give.osu.edu/ehefund.