back to news Feb. 18, 2020

2019 Ratner Distinguished Teaching Award Winners

Five Arts and Humanities faculty members in the College of Arts and Sciences have been chosen to receive a 2019 Ronald and Deborah Ratner Distinguished Teaching Award:

  • Theodora Dragostinova, Associate Professor, History
  • Robin Judd, Associate Professor, History
  • Namiko Kunimoto, Associate Professor, History of Art
  • Shari Savage, Associate Professor, Arts Administration, Education and Policy
  • Christa Teston, Associate Professor, English

The Ratner Awards recognize faculty who demonstrate creative teaching and extraordinary records of engaging, motivating and inspiring students. Each Ratner Award winners receives a $10,000 cash prize, as well as a $10,000 teaching account to fund future projects.

In 2014, Ronald and Deborah Ratner gave $1 million to establish the Ronald and Deborah Ratner Distinguished Teaching Awards. Ronald Ratner, of RMS Investment Group, is also the former director and executive vice president of development for Forest City Realty Trust, Inc. From 2007 to 2015, he was appointed by former Gov. Ted Strickland to serve on Ohio State’s Board of Trustees. Deborah B. Ratner founded ArtWorks, a Cleveland-based arts apprenticeship program, and Reel Women Direct, an award for women film directors.


Theodora Dragostinova, Associate Professor, History

Theodora DragostinovaTheodora Dragostinova’s research interests lie at the intersection of migration studies and European and global history. Migration has become a defining issue of the 21st century, and she strives to provide her students with the intellectual tools that will allow them to explore knowledge-based, compassionate solutions to this societal challenge.

Dragostinova’s migration-focused curriculum includes classes such as “People on the Move: Migration in Modern Europe,” and “Europe Since 1950,” and she plans to propose a 2000-level course, “Refugees and Immigrants: Global Mobility and Migration.” She has been involved with the Global Arts + Humanities Discovery Theme since 2015, and she pursues active and immersive student experiences by incorporating digital platforms, arts engagement and experiential learning into her teaching.

Dragostinova will use funds from the Ratner Distinguished Teaching Award to enhance her classes in three areas: the development of teaching collaborations that brings other classes together around shared readings, assignments or class visitors; the organization of class visits, film screenings and dance performance visits; and the development of an upcoming field trip to Cincinnati to examine the Eastern European immigrant experience in Ohio.


Robin Judd, Associate Professor, History

Robin JuddRobin Judd is a specialist in Jewish and East European history with research interests in human conflict, peace and diplomacy; power, culture and the state; and race and ethnicity; and religion in history. She teaches classes from “History of the Holocaust” to “American Jewish Cultures and Identities” to “Migration, Mobility and Refugee Politics, 1993-Present.”

Judd’s pedagogical approach promotes critical thinking and historical analysis by having students interpret various historical documents and media, and her coursework typically emphasizes class discussion and debate, student research and community engagement.

Judd will use funds from the Ratner Distinguished Teaching Award to redesign her courses on American Jewish history, integrating a digital platform for students to collect, organize and present research on the Jewish community in Columbus. Her plans include student access to software like Hypercities and ArcGIS to gather archival documents, as well as field trips to historic Jewish sites around the city, such as historic Jewish cemeteries and the Jewish Historical Society.


Namiko Kunimoto, Associate Professor, History of Art

Namiko KunimotoNamiko Kunimoto is a specialist in modern and contemporary Japanese art with research interests in gender, race, urbanization, photography, visual culture, performance art, transnationalism and nation formation.

She teaches classes on contemporary East Asian art, such as “From Modernism to Manga: Modern and Contemporary Art in Japan” and “East-West Photography.” Her teaching philosophy is to create environments of mutual trust and respect that encourage student engagement and challenge students to articulate their thoughts and ideas in written and visual formats, as well as through debate and discussion with their peers.

Kunimoto plans to use the Ratner Distinguished Teaching Award to establish a curatorial curriculum at Ohio State. She will form an upper-division class in curatorial studies that will center on trips to spaces such as local museums and the Cleveland Museum of Art; include visiting lectures and network opportunities with successful curators; and a final project for which students jointly curate an exhibit at Ohio State.  


Shari Savage, Associate Professor, Arts Administration, Education and Policy

Shari SavageShari Savage specializes in preparing future art educators and connecting students to the power of art, the importance of critical thinking and the need for creativity. A common thread that guides her teaching vision is an enthusiasm for the arts as a human connector.

She teaches classes such as the general education course “Criticizing Television,” the graduate course “Arts-based Research Methods,” and the course catered toward incoming graduate teaching associates, “College Teaching.” Savages strives to make her content continually relevant, find new and engaging activities and create supportive and challenging opportunities for her students to grow.

Savage plans to use the Ratner Distinguished Teaching Award to redesign a study abroad trip to Ireland she piloted in 2015 with Christine Ballengee Morris, professor of AAEP and comparative studies. The course examines material cultures, specifically how Ireland’s Office of Public Works engages Irish citizens and tourists with the arts, educational and cultural activities, and World Heritage sites.


Christa Teston, Associate Professor, English

Christa TestonChrista Teston teaches rhetoric, composition and literacy, and her specialties lie in professional and business writing and medical rhetoric. She has taught courses such as “Business Writing,” “Rhetoric and Community Service,” “History and Theory of Writing” and “Graduate Seminar in Research Methods.”

Teston subscribes to four elements of teaching that support her vision to encourage experiential, problem-based and socially conscious learning:

  • Committing to low-stakes, exploratory writing projects that respond to events of social consequence.
  • Collaborating with community partners when facilitating learning
  • Providing students opportunities to navigate questions by examining connections between writing and rhetorical theory in actual communities of practice
  • Modeling an ethic of generosity in and out of the classroom.

Teston plans to use the Ratner Distinguished Teaching Award to design a user experience mobile lab that would enable students to learn how their written texts are received by readers. She would use funds to outfit one mobile usability kit that could be transported around campus where students could test the reception of the texts they compose.

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