Published Nov. 14, 2013
Springfield, Ohio - Known for the applied nature of his teaching and his uncompromising commitment to student success, John Ritter, professor of geology and department chair, is now known on a national scale, having just been named the 2013 Ohio Professor of the Year.
Sponsored by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the U.S. Professor of the Year program is the only national program to recognize excellence in undergraduate education. Since the program’s founding in 1981, Wittenberg has led the state among four-year institutions in the number of professors receiving the coveted distinction. Ritter’s award brings the official count to seven and again shines the spotlight on Wittenberg’s superb teaching inside the classroom and outside of it.
“I am in a profession where students can learn science by doing science, getting their hands dirty working on real problems,” Ritter said. “Teaching goes way beyond the classroom in my field. ‘Hands-on experience’ is literal in geology, and I thrive at creating opportunities for students to examine real problems, collect data with the tools that geologists and environmental scientists use, and propose solutions that can be acted upon.”
Nominated by faculty colleagues and university administrators, Ritter, who said he is “both honored and humbled by the recognition,” specializes in geomorphology and environmental geology. He has also played a leadership role in the region, serving on local boards and committees, including the Clark County Soil and Water Conservation District, and using the area’s environmental resources to engage his students in collaborative research. From examining alternatives for Springfield’s combined sewer overflow problem to studying local drainage patterns and helping restore Springfield’s own Buck Creek, Ritter is ensuring that his students are able to take the content from his courses and apply it in practical, yet meaningful ways.
“I have a real sense of fulfillment when I consider the collaboration I have enjoyed with members of the Springfield and Clark County community, and I hope my students do, too,” Ritter said. “Though our impact on the science is modest, our lasting impact on the community can be significant.”
Ritter’s influence on students is just as lasting as evidenced by the lifelong friendships he has made with them as result of the active, engaged learning experience Wittenberg provides.
“Wittenberg is small enough and our students are so genuine that meaningful relationships develop between faculty and students, which last much longer than the student's time at Wittenberg,” Ritter said. “These relationships are probably my favorite part of teaching here.”
Wittenberg’s geology program was recently highlighted in a Dayton Daily News article, which noted that “the need for geologists is growing across the nation. The industry was expected to add 7,100 jobs between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That 21 percent growth is faster than the average field.” The program was also recognized by peers in the American Geological Society for its emphasis on applied teaching.
A nationally ranked university for the liberal arts and sciences affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Wittenberg University has repeatedly been ranked throughout the years by the Princeton Review for the quality of its teaching and faculty, including 11th in the nation for “Best Classroom Experience” and 15th in the category “Professors Get High Marks” in the 2011 edition of Princeton’s annual Best Colleges guide. Most recently, Wittenberg earned the No. 4 spot in the category of “Most Accessible Professors.”
Additionally, The Chronicle of Higher Education named Wittenberg one of the nation’s top producers of Fulbright Scholars among bachelor degree-granting institutions in 2010. The university has also been recognized nationally for excellence in service and athletics.
— Written by: Karen Gerboth