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Folden selected for Distinguished Teaching Award

Janet Kiplinger Ciccone
May 25, 2021

“He is a master of the craft of teaching, cares deeply for the best interest of his students.”

“His unique ability to translate the content of his classes in a meaningful way to a student body that has changed drastically over the course of his time at Ohio State truly is remarkable.”

“He bases his courses on extending (students’) pre-existing knowledge of the content and fosters their engagement with himself, the content and their peers.”

Eugene Folden, associate professor of clinical practice in human development and family science, received the Distinguished Teaching Award from The Ohio State University Alumni Association in April, thanks to praise like this and more from his nominators and students.

Hundreds of faculty members are recommended each year for this honor. Only 10 are chosen; to qualify, they must stand out. Folden does.

Gene Folden, clinical associate professor

Folden said that as a third grader, he wanted to be a comedian or a minister when he grew up. By becoming an ordained Methodist minister, he fulfills the second role. Students say he meets the first by enlivening the course content, relating it to their lives and adding humor to spice up the mix.

In Folden’s Student Evaluation of Instruction surveys, undergraduates recently wrote:

  • “I laughed as I learned.”
  • “Only Dr. Folden can keep me awake at 8:00 in the morning.”
  • “This was the most well-organized and intellectually stimulating class I have taken at OSU to date.”
  • “This professor created the most organized online class I have ever taken. He made it feel like we were more than just online students he has never met, and I appreciated his enthusiasm for teaching.”
  • “(Clinical Associate) Professor Folden cares about his students and wants them to succeed. I will highly recommend this class to others.”

'Dedication to his craft and his students'

Sue Sutherland, professor of kinesiology and an alumna of the college, nominated Folden for the award, saying that his consistently high student evaluation scores reflect his dedication to his craft and his students. Often, students give him a perfect score of 5.0.

“Of particular note are those scores he received during the spring 2020 semester,” Sutherland wrote, “where we all had to quickly pivot our teaching to online modes of instruction. Gene managed this switch perfectly, as illustrated by Student Evaluation scores and student comments for this semester.”

During that time, she said, he put in extra time and effort not only to teach in a way that worked for all, but also to reach out to and be available for each student.

Provost Bruce McPheron surprised Folden with the award by arriving during an April Department of Human Sciences faculty meeting on Zoom. McPheron was accompanied by President and CEO Molly Calhoun of The Ohio State University Alumni Association, Vice Provost Helen Malone and Don Pope-Davis, dean of the college.

“Gene, we’re really proud to honor you, but even more proud of the reason we honor you, which is your commitment to the success of our students,” McPheron said. “It’s at the heart of what we do. We discover new ideas and we disseminate them, and neither one is complete without the other. So thank you for your commitment to making sure that mission is complete.”

“I want to thank you for taking the role of pedagogy in the classroom very seriously and elevating it,” Pope-Davis said. “You stand out for us. On behalf of over 100,000 alumni from the college, we thank you for your contributions.”

Teaching, coaching graduate students, guiding the department’s curriculum

Folden has taught Human Development and Family Science program courses since he began in January 1990. His first three courses at Ohio State’s Marion Campus qualified as General Education Courses, meaning they counted toward any undergraduate degree. He has instructed about 80% of all the program’s undergraduate courses over time.

Within the past several years, he created a course on family theory and redesigned a popular course on adolescence and emerging adulthood. He continues to teach both.

He also won the college award for teaching excellence twice. “I believe teaching is my calling,” Folden said. “I can't imagine doing anything else.”

In addition to teaching, Folden has been associate chair for curriculum. In this role, he supervised and mentored the department’s 13 full-time lecturers, sharing his knowledge and passion for teaching with these important contributors to student development.

Sutherland described Folden’s approach as “a truly collaborative venture between him and graduate students. Gene works hard to create an environment of mutual respect, shared power and shared decision making in the teaching process,” she wrote. “This is the perfect environment for (them) to really learn … reflect and try new pedagogical practices.”

Folden also provided leadership and vision for modifying and updating the department’s curriculum, consulted with faculty about special topics courses and guided the approval process for updating courses. Most recently, he played a pivotal role in developing and approving department courses that fulfill requirements in the New General Education Model, which included his service on the university-level advisory committee.

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