Penn State faculty who teach online have received University awards

Penn State faculty members who teach or lead online degree programs for Penn State World Campus have been recognized by the University with awards for their work this academic year.

At Penn State, professors and other faculty who teach online for Penn State World Campus also teach classes at the University Park campus or other campuses across Pennsylvania. 

Four faculty members who are currently teaching online were among the recipients University-wide. Two administrators were also honored.

Here are the faculty members who are affiliated with Penn State World Campus who have received awards for the 2021–22 academic year.

Faculty who teach online

Two faculty members are recipients of the 2022 George W. Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching. This award is named after Penn State’s seventh president and honors excellence in teaching at the undergraduate level. 

Two faculty members are the recipients of the Alumni-Student Award for Excellence in Teaching and have been named 2022 Penn State Teaching Fellows. It honors distinguished teaching and provides encouragement and incentive for excellence in teaching. Recipients are expected to share their talents and expertise with others throughout the University system during the year following the award presentation.

Heather McCune Bruhn: Passionate for art history

Heather McCune Bruhn is an assistant teaching professor in the Penn State College of Arts and Architecture and a recipient of the 2022 George W. Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching.

a headshot of Heather McCune Bruhn

Many of McCune Bruhn’s students are Penn State World Campus students, and among the art courses she has taught is ART H 107N: Rocks, Minerals, and the History of Art. This course can count toward the natural science or arts requirements for the general education credits of the bachelor’s degree programs offered online.

Nominators said McCune Bruhn developed the department’s first online courses several years ago, which greatly expanded art history to distance learners. They said she followed that up by finding ways to stay engaged with these students. 

Students praised McCune Bruhn’s commitment to their education and her passion for art history. They fed off her enthusiasm and ability to relate art history to everyday images. 

“She is passionate about the material she teaches, and that makes it much more engaging for the students. Seeing her get excited about the lecture makes me excited to learn about the topic we are covering,” a former student said.

“She encourages conversation and makes the most out of class time. Professor McCune Bruhn teaches us with a goal to better understand art history, rather than to just prepare us for a test. All around she’s a wonderful professor, and I would recommend her course to anyone.” 

Eric Robbins: Creating opportunities for students

Eric Robbins is an assistantA headshot of Eric Robbins teaching professor of finance on the faculty at Penn State Behrend and is a recipient of the 2022 George W. Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Robbins has taught courses on investments and retirement planning that are part of the Bachelor of Science in Finance, which is offered online by Penn State Behrend through Penn State World Campus. 

Robbins said he’s passionate about teaching investment-related concepts. He encourages students to be curious learners in an atmosphere he creates that promotes experiential learning.  

Nominators said Robbins is dedicated to creating opportunities for students to use their skills outside the classroom. He’s the faculty leader for the Business Analytics Team and started a program called Finance Day that brings together professionals from all sorts of financial jobs to meet with students and give them a chance to network.

Students praised Robbins for always applying what they learned to real-life scenarios. They said he is always seeking to alert them to opportunities for personal growth. 

“Robbins cares about his work and about his students because of the effort he makes to communicate with them,” a former student said. “It is a rare week that I do not receive emails about career opportunities and finance-related opportunities specifically meant to help students learn outside the classroom and prepare for the real world.” 

Another recipient of the Atherton Award, Lauren Kramer, will teach online for the first time this summer. Kramer is an associate teaching professor of kinesiology in the College of Health and Human Development.

Fred Fonseca: An educator who teaches about emerging technologies

a headshot of Fred Fonseca

Fred Fonseca, associate professor in the College of Information Sciences and Technology, is a recipient of the Alumni-Student Award for Excellence in Teaching and was named a 2022 Penn State Teaching Fellow.

Fonseca teaches two courses online each semester: IST 240: Introduction to Computer Languages and IST 242: Intermediate and Object-Oriented Application Development.

Those courses can be taken by students in the undergraduate IT programs offered online: the Associate in Science in Information Sciences and Technology, the Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity Analytics and Operations, and the Bachelor of Science in Information Sciences and Technology.

Fonseca uses programming problems to teach his students what they don’t know. When they try to solve the problem, he said, they’ll soon realize they need to learn something. As an educator of emerging technologies, students said, Fonseca is always focused on the implications of developing these emerging technologies. He wants his students to consider the impact on the users and society at large.

One student said Fonseca’s teaching makes him think differently about how algorithms and social media have transformed the definition of friendship.

“Dr. Fonseca helped me believe that our algorithmic world doesn’t have to stay the way it is,” the former student said. “He ensures that students not only pigeonhole themselves to the technical aspects of technology, but to create a broader, more interconnected understanding of technology’s place in our world today.”

Marinda Harrell-Levy: Committed to improving urban schools

A headshot of Marinda Harrell-Levy

Marinda Harrell-Levy, an associate professor of human development and family studies, is a recipient of the Alumni-Student Award for Excellence in Teaching and has been named a 2022 Penn State Teaching Fellow.

Harrell-Levy is on the faculty at Penn State Brandywine and teaches HDFS 254N: Reading Our Lives: Understanding Diversity and Human Development online. HDFS 254N is open to students in any bachelor’s degree program and can count toward general education credits.

Harrell-Levy aims to promote the transfer from education in students’ courses and classes to practice.

Students said Harrell-Levy’s commitment to improving urban schools makes her an educator who is immersed in her area of expertise, and it demonstrates how education can improve quality of life.

“Dr. Harrell-Levy is one of those rare individuals who practices what she preaches,” a former student said. “We watched as she conducted a thorough research project that showed us how trauma may look in real life. She then went into Chester County (Pennsylvania) schools to educate the teachers on trauma. Her work is leading to big changes in inner-city schools while having an impact on her students.”

Penn State faculty in administrative positions for online programs

Two faculty members were recognized for their leadership in administrative positions overseeing master’s degrees that are offered online through Penn State World Campus.

Chris Calkins: Founding director of the online MHA

Chris Calkins

Chris Calkins, the founding director of the online Master of Health Administration, has received an award that honors a faculty member for leadership that benefits graduate students.

Calkins is the recipient of the Graduate School Alumni Society Graduate Program Chair Leadership Award. Calkins is a teaching professor and the executive director of the MHA program that is offered through the Penn State College of Health and Human Development. 

A former student said Calkins’ mentorship is also invaluable. The young mother and working professional was finishing her degree and wondering what the next steps for her career might be. 

“He connected me with his own personal contacts, women who had great career success in health care to listen to me and provide advice that was relatable for me,” she said. “He creates loyalty in his students such that when he calls upon you to help, you do not feel burdened. You want to help.” 

Brian Cameron: Supporting adult learners at Penn State Smeal College of Business

A headshot of Brian Cameron

Brian Cameron was named the recipient of the 2022 Shirley Hendrick Award from the Penn State Commission for Adult Learners. Cameron is the associate dean of the Smeal College’s Office of Professional Graduate Programs and Executive Education.

Nominators said Cameron relies on creativity, energy, passion, and talent to build programs that extend opportunities, tools, and experiences for adult learners.  

In his role, Cameron spearheaded the design and implementation of an extensive portfolio of online professional master’s degree programs. Recent additions include the Master’s in Marketing Analytics and Insights, the Master’s in Strategic Management and Executive Leadership, the Master’s in Taxation, and the Master’s in Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Nominators said Cameron made sure these programs were suited for online learners and working professionals by making them innovative and flexible for a broad range of learning styles. He worked with colleges and campuses across Penn State to create new elements that engaged and appealed to adult learners.  

“Those of us working and learning with him have had the chance to see his intensity and focus on deep understanding and empathy for adult learners,” a nominator said. “He has worked to provide flexible options for adult learners in all parts of their career. He has been especially creative in fostering learning opportunities through the past few trying years.” 

In his role at the Smeal College, he is also responsible for the management of the Penn State Online MBA and the Master of Supply Chain Management.

More than 175 degree programs offered online

Penn State World Campus students can learn from the renowned Penn State faculty members who teach online.

Learn more about the degree programs that are offered online through Penn State World Campus and taught by Penn State faculty.