Two professors to be honored with Distinguished Teaching Awards

Contact: Deanne Puca

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University will honor two individuals with its highest award recognizing faculty members for their work with students.

Drs. Matthew Mingus and Leah Omilion-Hodges will be honored as recipients of this year's Distinguished Teaching Awards during WMU's Academic Convocation at 11 a.m. Friday, Sept. 20, on the second floor of the Bernhard Center. The annual event includes a State of the University address by WMU President Edward Montgomery. In addition to the Distinguished Teaching Awards, the event will feature presentations of other campuswide awards honoring this year's Emerging Scholar and Distinguished Faculty Scholar as well as winners of the Distinguished Service and Make a Difference awards.

Photo of Dr. Matthew Mingus.

Dr. Matthew Mingus

As Distinguished Teaching Award recipients, Mingus and Omilion-Hodges join 31 other faculty members who have been honored since the start of the award program in 2006. A similar program, the WMU Alumni Association Teacher Excellence Award, was conducted between 1966 and 2001 and honored 131 faculty members.


Mingus, professor of public administration and director of the graduate programs, holds doctoral and master’s degrees in public administration from the University of Colorado and University of Victoria, respectively, and a bachelor’s degree in public affairs and speech communications from the University of Denver.

His research, taking him to China, Iraq and Canada, has increasingly focused on comparative federalism and other models of decentralized administration. In 2005-06, he was the inaugural Fulbright research chair at the University of Ottawa's Centre on Governance, in 2009-10 he served as a senior governance specialist for the U.S. Department of State in Iraq, and in 2013-14 he was a visiting professor at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China.

His dedication to teaching his graduate students has been monumental during his close to 20 years with WMU.

"He tailored his classes to the learning styles of his students and used creative methods to ensure that the lessons stick," wrote a former student. "This, in my opinion, makes him exceptional and truly distinguished."

He has taught most of the core graduate curriculum in public administration, from the foundations and history of the discipline, to organization theory, to qualitative and quantitative research methods.

"I appreciate the breadth of the material he has offered, his facility with multiple delivery platforms, his willingness to move across related disciplines, the practical experience in the fields that informs his teaching, and his efforts to bring international perspectives to Western," added a colleague.

Photo of Dr. Leah Omilion-Hodges.

Dr. Leah Omilion-Hodges


Omilion-Hodges is an associate professor of communication and holds a doctoral degree from Wayne State University. Her research focuses on leadership and health communication within the larger context of organizational communication such as workgroups and the sharing of resources.

Drawing from her experience as a professional communicator within the healthcare industry, she also conducts research on understanding of tensions, hierarchical concerns and communication barriers surrounding end of life.

Her work has been featured in venues such as Communication Yearbook, the Leadership Quarterly, the Journal of Leadership Education, Health Communication and Computers in Human Behavior, among others. She has also contributed numerous articles to encyclopedias and edited books, and is the recipient of several top paper awards.

Omilion-Hodges has also been recognized with a Faculty Achievement Award for Outstanding Teaching and is a University Distinguished Teaching nominee. Her teaching has also been recognized with a visiting professor distinction from the University of Passau.

She also has earned several internally-sponsored grants, including an Interdisciplinary Research Initiative Award, Instructional Development Travel Grant, Faculty Research Arts and Creative Actives Award, and a Research Development Award. She is the recipient of the Outstanding Research Award from Wayne State University and was designated as both a Thomas C. Rumble and King Chavez Parks Future Faculty Fellow.

A former student wrote that Omilion-Hodges works above and beyond to help students succeed.

"We often jokingly warn incoming students that if they visit her office, they will leave with supplemental readings, and it's the truth! Each time I visit (her) office, I leave with a textbook, peer-reviewed article or example of a past student assignment on the content I am struggling with," the student nominator wrote.

"One of her hallmarks as a professor is how quickly students become comfortable sharing their perspectives and participating in high-level critical thinking during classroom discussion," another student added. She "shows great attention to planning her course schedule, activities and projects in order to be challenging, though provoking and clearly designed for student success."

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.

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