Mansfield Native Wins Ashland University Teaching Award

Ashland University’s Joan Berry Kalamas, professional instructor in business management in the Dauch College of Business and Economics, is the recipient of AU’s 2018 Taylor Excellence in Teaching Award. AU Provost Dr. Eun-Woo Chang presented the award at AU’s Academic Honors Convocation on Sunday, April 22, in the Jack and Deb Miller Chapel.

The award, first presented in 1997, was endowed by former Jeromesville residents the late Edward and Louaine Taylor as a way of supporting high quality teaching at Ashland University.

Chang praised the selection of Kalamas as the 2018 Taylor Teaching Award recipient, noting that she is highly deserving of this recognition. “I am pleased to see Professor Kalamas earn this well-deserved recognition for her teaching excellence. She clearly exhibits passion and love for teaching,” said Chang.

Following the award presentation, Kalamas spoke about her philosophy surrounding the teaching of students in an address titled “It Depends.” She began by expressing how honored she felt to be receiving this award, and thanked both the Taylor Teaching Award committee for selecting her and the Taylor family for supporting teaching.

Kalamas told the audience that serving in the business world for almost 30 years has strongly influenced her teaching philosophy. “I have learned that things do not always appear as they first seem or as they are shared, and that there is a need to ask questions to determine and consider the relevant variables and critically think before responding to a given situation. Questions need to often be responded to with an answer of, “It depends” she said.

“I feel it is critical to provide students with knowledge and skills where they will not just accept a situation at ‘face value’ but instead ask questions, probe for relevant information and challenge their own assumptions,” she added.

Kalamas explained how she recently asked students in her Human Resource Management class to act as if they were an HR manager and gave them a scenario where an employee has come to them with a sexual harassment complaint.

“The students need to plan how they will respond to the complaint, what steps they would take when they become aware of the sexual harassment allegation, what documents they would search for, create questions that they would ask that employee to understand the allegation more thoroughly, create questions they would ask the individual who was alleged to have committed the sexual harassment and create questions that they would ask any witnesses who might have seen or overheard the incident or incidents,” she said. “Students realize on face value that although the claimant’s story may appear very credible and that there may have been sexual harassment, they may also realize that more information could be needed before determining whether it truly was sexual harassment and then how to deal with the situation. They have by that time discovered that an ‘it depends’ answer would be most appropriate until further information is obtained.”

Kalamas said the “it depends” answer also applies when students are trying to determine many other things. This may include how to pay employees for carrying a pager, eating lunch or changing into required or protective clothing and equipment. “It depends may be used in other circumstances including when an employee is being investigated, during the hiring or firing or disciplinary processes, creating incentives or bonuses, offering promotions and dealing with union and safety issues.


“Preparing my students to be equipped with the confidence they will need to successfully secure a position after they graduate and to be able to perform well in that position is key,” she said.

Kalamas said students learn specific skills useful in the stages of team development, including things like how to determine which leadership styles would be more effective, depending on the situation and the employee’s readiness; create strategic plans; make decisions; resolve conflict; deal with different employee personalities; create job descriptions; determine which interview questions would be most effective and legal; create exit interviews to help determine why employees chose to leave an organization; construct a dress code; and set up controls to monitor all the initiatives and programs they have created.

“I believe that sharing my own ‘real life’ business examples helps the students to see how the knowledge, skills and abilities they are learning can be and have been applied,” she said. “I have also learned from my business experience that my students are very much like the adult learners I have trained. Using the principles of Andragogy, the study of adult learning, we discuss the reason ‘why’ we are learning the concepts, skills and theories that we are. I foster classroom discussions between and among students, encourage debate and challenge of ideas and assumptions, focus on current ‘real-world’ business issues, and create assignments that students complete that are exactly the types of tasks they would perform if they served in a management or human resources management role in an organization, which I believe many will.”

Kalamas explained that one of the ways she gets to know her students individually is by attending AU sporting, music and other events where she can see and support her students.

“This allows me to see them in different settings and roles and to share with them how proud I am of them and the effort and dedication they put forth in those endeavors,” she said “Since I have six of the 11 members of the AU women’s basketball team in my classes, I drove out to South Dakota to watch them play in the Division II National Championship game to show my support, even though I had to drive through a blizzard on the way back, which was character building but worth it.”

Kalamas said she believes that part of teaching is serving as a role model to demonstrate professionalism, integrity, enthusiasm, passion and a love for what you do and she noted that she loves HR, teaching and her students.

“By developing creative learning activities and using a variety of teaching techniques, my objective is to engage the students, pique their curiosity, reinforce the concepts and theories we have discussed and encourage all of my students to become life-long learners. I love it when my students become interested in pursuing a career in business or human resource management,” she said. “And students and I are both very excited when they return from job interviews and share that the recruiter they met with was very pleased to find someone who has so many applicable skills and when students contact me after they have graduated to tell me they are performing the exact duties in their job that we prepared for in class.”


Kalamas said she believes it is important to create a classroom environment where students can genuinely be themselves, ask questions so that class discussions are relevant and helpful to them, feel confident enough to answer questions that are posed and to state their opinions, even if they have a different view point.

“Recognizing student contributions to class discussions, rewarding students for assignments that are well done or for high test scores, and reinforcing growth and new insights or understandings encourage and motivate my students,” she said.

Kalamas ended the address with a comment that summarizes her teaching philosophy.

“My overall goal is to have laid a strong foundation and provide my students with the interpersonal and technical skills, knowledge and competencies they will need to be successful in their lives and in their given careers,” she said. “When my students demonstrate their knowledge and skills and that they understand that things do not always appear as they first seem without further investigation, they have made a key accomplishment. In fact, I love it when they answer my questions to them with an ‘it depends’ answer and go on to explain what additional information they need to be able to answer the questions effectively. That makes me so proud of them.”

Kalamas, a native of Mansfield and a senior professional in human resources, spent 25 years serving as a senior human resources professional in the childcare, telecommunications, long term care, educational and non-profit arenas. She received her bachelor's degree from Ashland University in education and her master's degree from The Ohio State University in professional development and adult education. She is the founder and owner of her own HR consulting company and is the current director for the Ohio SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) State Council.

Kalamas noted she has been a part of Ashland University for almost as long as she can remember. “My 92-year-old mom, who is in the audience today, started as a student here at Ashland College when my brother and I were young so when she had to attend chapel as a student, she brought us along to this very building,” she said. “She graduated from AC and when it was time for me to select a college I came here to Ashland University, College then, and my brother did too, and I graduated 40 years ago, in 1978, which seems hard to believe. I was fortunate to be named our Valedictorian that year and had a wonderful four years here at AU. I have always felt like Ashland University was ‘home’ and was delighted to start teaching in the MBA and undergraduate areas at AU part time almost 20 years ago and then full time almost 10 years ago.”

The Taylor Teaching Award Committee, whose purpose is to select the award recipient, reviews submitted materials of faculty members who are nominated by students, faculty or department chairs. The committee, comprised of former Taylor Award winners, also observed classroom sessions of those who were nominated.

All full-time faculty with a minimum of three years of teaching experience at AU are eligible for the award. Recipients of the award cannot repeat for three years and no faculty member may win the award more than twice. The recipients receive a medal to be worn with academic regalia and a stipend.

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