May 02, 2011

Three Named Diekhoff Award Winners for Graduate Teaching, Mentoring

The Diekhoff Award recognizes outstanding contributions to the education of graduate students through advising and classroom teaching. It was established in 1978 in honor of John S. Diekhoff, who served as a professor, department chair and vice provost, among other roles, during his time at the university from 1956 to 1970.

The annual award honors full-time faculty members who excel in the teaching of graduate students, or who epitomize what it means to mentor graduate students: to connect them with experts in their discipline, engage them academically in a forthright and collegial manner, and actively promote their professional development.

The 2011 Diekhoff Award winners are T. Kenny Fountain, Jeffrey R. Capadona and LaShanda Korley.

Outstanding Teaching Winner

T. Kenny Fountain
T. Kenny Fountain

Few English professors keep a plastic, life-size human skeleton in their office, but for T. Kenny Fountain it makes sense.

Fountain teaches courses primarily in scientific and medical communication, with a focus on visual representation. Usually this involves an investigation of how scientific images—from x-rays, data charts and textbook illustrations to PBS specials—are used to make claims about both the human body and the physical world.

“The humanities have much to learn about and offer science, and vice versa,” Fountain said.

He said his research interests may seem an odd fit for an English department, but they are part of the department’s focus in Writing History and Theory.

Fountain was humbled yet pleased by the recognition of his teaching efforts in courses such as Rhetoric of Science and Medicine, Visual Rhetoric, Language and Gender, and Theories of Rhetoric.

Fountain joined the faculty three years ago after earning his PhD from the University of Minnesota and teaching for several years at Bilkent University in Turkey and Yeshiva University in New York City.

Outstanding Mentoring Winners

Jeffrey Capadona
Jeffrey Capadona

It wasn’t long ago that Jeffrey R. Capadona, 32, was a graduate student himself, so he understands the daunting decisions about life and careers graduate students face. Now, as an assistant professor, it’s his turn to guide the futures of students.

“I’m young and still have a good sense of how graduate students are thinking and feeling. I try to incorporate that in my interactions with them,” Capadona said. 

The chemist and materials scientist, who joined the faculty in the Case School of Engineering last August, runs a research group that designs new materials for electrodes used to interact with the central nervous system to restore physical functions to individuals paralyzed by accident or disease.

At this point in Capadona’s early career, the Diekhoff honor tells him that he is doing something right. “It would have been an honor just to be nominated,” he said. “This award tells me I’m on the right track.”

His mentoring skills follow the example and philosophy of Andrés Garcia, his PhD advisor and mentor at Georgia Tech. 

“He believed if you focus on preparing your students for successful independent careers, then all the papers and grants would follow,” Capadona said.


LaShanda Korley
LaShanda Korley

Mentoring is not just about teaching but also about bonding as a group, said LaShanda Korley, Nord Distinguished Assistant Professor in the Case School of Engineering.

To promote this bonding, Korley and her graduate students participate in activities such as international potlucks and a forthcoming trip to Hocking Hills State Park.

Her commitment to bringing the group together, among other qualities, earned Korley the 2011 John S. Diekhoff Award for Graduate Mentoring.

In addition to the six graduate students, she also helps several undergrads and high school students explore the wonders of nature that captivated her own interest during her undergraduate years at Georgia Institute of Technology and Clark Atlanta University and later in doctoral studies at MIT. Her mentoring role model has been Paula Hammond, who guided Korley through her doctoral work.

Korley, a chemical engineer and polymer scientist who uses natural materials like spider webs as inspiration to develop new polymers and technology, said graduate school coincides with many major life decisions. This can be stressful for students, she knows, so she looks to each person individually to help him or her fulfill goals. Listening to what the students say is key to making that connection, she said.

“What happens in that moment can make a difference in their lives,” Korley said.

Posted by: Emily Mayock, May 2, 2011 08:40 AM | News Topics:

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