Retiring faculty leave behind a legacy for new faculty to continue
As students and alumni know well, Otterbein faculty members do more than lecture behind a podium. Faculty devote their lives to guiding their students through mentorship, research, networking, and other support that often extends beyond graduation. The work of Otterbein’s faculty members leaves a timeless impression on students and often shapes the direction of their careers and lives.
At the end of the 2021 academic year, seven highly respected and long-serving faculty members retired. Between them, they committed a combined 201 years of service crafting Otterbein students to go into the world and make a difference.
These retirees are passing the light of learning onto newer faculty members, ensuring the Otterbein experience they helped to build will continue for generations to come.
Also retiring but not profiled is Professor Lou Rose, who joined the faculty of the Department of History and Political Science in 1991. Rose continues to serve as the executive director of the Sigmund Freud Archives, a role he has held since 2015.
Send these retiring professors a message about how they impacted your time at Otterbein. Post on social media using #OtterbeinTowers.
Each week during Otterbein’s TuesdayTakeover, students talk about who their favorite professor is and why. Check it out every Tuesday on the university Instagram.
Associate Provost, Graduate School, Professor, Department of Nursing
Among the group of retirees, the longest-serving faculty member is Barbara Schaffner. She began her career at Otterbein in 1985 and, for the past 36 years, has worked in the Department of Nursing and The Graduate School, helping countless students leave Otterbein ready to serve others.
As a pediatric nurse and nurse practitioner, Schaffner’s favorite courses were the clinical related courses that taught child health at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Additionally, Schaffner has advised and advocated for young faculty through the years. She has the following words of wisdom for new faculty:
“My advice would be to maximize your reach as faculty through the department into campus-wide activities, so you understand and participate in the full campus experience. Use all the expert educators on campus for ideas, mentoring, and to provide you with constructive feedback on teaching and working with students.”
Senior Instructor, Leadership Studies Program
John Kengla has been instrumental in deepening Otterbein’s involvement with Columbus City Schools (CCS) over the years.
“In 1989, along with members of Otterbein’s Education Department, I established the Linmoor-Otterbein Scholars Program, which engaged students attending Columbus City Schools’ Linmoor Middle School in summer programs emphasizing learning and attending college,” he said.
He also established the Ubuntu Mentoring Program (2006-2016), which brought CCS students to campus for mentoring sessions and dinner with college students. “By centering our program on group mentoring, the Ubuntu Mentoring Program was able, over the 10-year period, to serve students attending six CCS middle schools and two CCS high schools.”
When reflecting on the footprint he left at Otterbein, Kengla wants to be remembered for his teaching of First Year Seminar, Senior Year Experience, and Integrative Studies courses, along with helping Columbus City Schools students learn about future opportunities and college.
Professor, Department of Religion and Philosophy
Glenna Jackson wants her legacy to encompass inclusivity and scholarship. “Otterbein and I have been a great match. It has strengthened me, and I hope I did the same.”
Her favorite memory is seeing her students make connections — especially during her time in Africa watching her students’ minds at work through educational trips.
Her advice for new faculty is: “The most important thing is to be excited and passionate about teaching and your particular discipline. There is a ripple effect from enthusiasm from a leader onto whomever is being led, particularly in a classroom. Excitement is contagious.”
Senior Instructor, Department of Communication
During her Otterbein career, Denise Shively has been deeply committed to experiential learning. She has taken students on trips to serve across Ohio, the United States, and even Africa to expand their education while enriching the lives of others.
“Some of my favorite times have been with First Year Seminar students in New Orleans when we worked on painting houses following Hurricane Katrina; working with colleague John Kengla and Senior Year Experience students serving breakfast at So Others Might Eat in Washington, D.C.; and helping build a classroom block at a school in Nkhoma Village in Malawi with Integrative Studies students and Glenna Jackson.”
She has left a tremendous mark on campus and outside of the classroom, she has impacted the entire Otterbein community with her caring spirit. “I would love for students, colleagues and alumni to remember how I care deeply about them as individuals and Otterbein as an institution.”
Senior Instructor, Coordinator of Writing Services and Supplemental Instruction, Academic Support Center
Regina Kengla has played an invaluable role providing extra-curricular academic support to students to help them succeed in their classes and teaching Integrative Studies courses and courses related to her work in the Academic Support Center.
“I love teaching Integrative Studies, Argumentative Writing — all the courses I’ve taught. Groups in my Integrative Studies class designed service-learning projects, and it was exciting to see them bond, create their projects, and develop their understanding of and commitment to the public good,” Kengla said.
She sees the Otterbein community come together when her past students connect with current students. “I have so many good memories of my students, and several have come back to meet with my current students, like Valentina Dixon ’13, who has worked tirelessly to tell of her father’s wrongful incarceration; Bertha Jaramillo-Alfaro ’19, currently a paralegal focusing on immigration, constitutional, family, and civil rights; and Tony Bishop ’15, whose work in politics led to him becoming the executive director of the Ohio Black Caucus.”
Professor, Department of English
Terry Hermsen taught poetry, com-position, and literature at Otterbein, and was named Ohio’s co-Poet of the Year for 2009 for his book, The River’s Daughter.
He often incorporated his passion for sustainability into his work on- and off-campus, and hopes his legacy at Otterbein will reflect that.
“I hope that I will be remembered for my efforts to encourage genuine climate change action on our campus and in our region.”
Hermsen’s words of wisdom for new faculty are: “Dream big … and seek connections with faculty in other departments. My favorite part of teaching at Otterbein was the willingness of colleagues — and students! — in other departments to collaborate on interdisciplinary projects.”
New Faces, Same Commitment
As beloved faculty members retire, new members are making their mark. In their relatively short time on campus, these professors have made a big impact.
Aida Odobasic, assistant professor in the Department of Business, Accounting, and Economics, was named the 2021 New Teacher of the Year at Otterbein. She describes her teaching philosophy as being centered on creating an atmosphere in which students feel empowered, engaged, and ready to take ownership of deep and meaningful learning.
“I enjoy Otterbein’s close-knit community where I was able to feel at home relatively quickly after I joined in 2018. Also, I enjoy working on projects, events, and in committees with colleagues across different departments and disciplines,” she said.
Odobasic loves to teach Principles of Microeconomics and challenges her students to develop critical thinking by asking thought-provoking economics questions.
“It is exciting since it is typically the first time students are exposed to the field of economics and some find it fascinating and decide to take more economics classes. I love those moments.”
In only two years, Alexander Rocklin, assistant professor in the Department of Religion and Philosophy, has developed a new major for students, opening more opportunities within his department.
“At Otterbein, I have had the opportunity to create an exciting new interdisciplinary major, philosophy and religion. In our major, we ask big questions and develop skills in conversing across differences of worldview and life experience — giving students a deeper understanding of the views of peoples around the world and helping them develop their own answers along the way.”
Madelyn Nelson ’23 is a public relations major from Coshocton, OH. She is involved with the Student Alumni Board, Host and Tour Program, and Sigma Alpha Tau. She is an intern in Otterbein’s Office of Marketing and Communications.