Cincy Magazine’s Outstanding Educators Class of 2014 features exceptional professors who are among the many nominations we received from students and colleagues. These nominations singled out the winners for a variety of traits that ranged from scholarship to spending extra time with students, from innovation in the classroom to research.


Brian Ballou
Miami University  Accountancy

 Michael Brubaker 
University of Cincinnati • Human Services

Lawrence Castro
FORTIS College • Nursing

Kimberly Code
Northern Kentucky University  Education

Jim Friedman 
Miami University • Marketing & Entrepreneurship

Megan Gerhardt
Miami University  Management

Joel Gittens 
Art Institute of Ohio - Cincinnati • Culinary Arts

Michael Griffith
University of Cincinnati  English & Comparative Literature

Mark Hanavan
Art Institute of Ohio - Cincinnati • Art Foundations

Dan Heitger
Miami University  Accountancy

Mark Kohan 
University of Cincinnati  Education

Elizabeth Mason
College of Mt. St. Joseph  English

Melissa Newman 
University of Cincinnati  Management

Anthony Rose
Miami University Middletown • Computer and Information Technology

Marc Rubin
Miami University  Accountancy

Jan Taylor
Miami University  Marketing

Alana Van Gundy
Miami University Hamilton  Criminal Justice

Winner Profiles

Kimberly Code
Northern Kentucky University

“The best thing a professor can do is develop a good relationship with [his or her] students—find out where they are and where they are coming from,” says Kimberly Code, education professor at NKU. Focusing on gifted and elementary education, Code says she tries to teach in a student-centered manner and to be more of a facilitator than a teacher.

When she isn’t in the classroom, Code is the Director of NKU’s Institute for Talent Development and Gifted Studies. With the institute, Code coordinates several programs for elementary and middle-school children in the community. Her October conference, Young Women LEAD, brings 1,000 high school girls to campus and teaches them leadership skills with keynote speakers from top companies in the area. -Taylor Spaw

Lawrence Christopher F. Castro
Fortis College

Lawrence Castro began his teaching career 10 years ago in his home country, the Philippines, but he has been a nurse for nearly 20 years. While he has only been teaching at Fortis College for 18 months, he has already been affecting change in his students and in his school. Castro describes his teaching style as “role-modeling.”

“You must be a role model as a compassionate nurse, an educator and a mentor,” says Castro. “Through role modeling, I can play a part in leading my students to enrich their knowledge skills and attitude.”

While the Outstanding Educator is his most recent award, Castro has also been recognized for his promotion of Academic and Institutional Leadership at Arellano University in Manilla.

For fellow teachers, Castro advises, “To be passionate about what you do, be a driving force to in your profession, you must be an advocate for your school, colleagues and students.”

To this day, Castro follows the same mantra, “teach, then learn and listen.” -TS

Alana Van Gundy
Miami University

Alana Van Gundy focuses on active learning and application with her students. A professor in the criminal justice department at Miami University’s regional campuses, Van Gundy is shaping the minds of future law enforcement and civil advocates.

“I want my students to take material they learn and apply it to their everyday lives” says Van Gundy. She promotes this learning style through her hands-on teaching style and in-class activities.

When asked why she thought she was nominated, she replies, “I keep a very respectful relationship with my students. I try to learn from them as much as I’d hoped they had learned from me.” Once a student becomes Van Gundy’s student, she says, “They are a student for life.” Van Gundy provides a strong professional mentorship to her students, helping them even beyond their academic careers. -TS

Elizabeth Mason
College of Mount St. Joseph

Elizabeth Mason, Ph.D, is an assistant English professor at a liberal arts institution, teaching a wide range of classes from freshman composition to upper level creative 19th and 21st century literature. Mason is successful at what she does and has demonstrated excellence as an educator, receiving the Clifford Award from the College of Mount St. Joseph for significantly impacting student’s lives. She’s aware of the importance of a liberal arts education and works hard to implement ideas in the classroom to keep students engaged.

“In the 21st century, you’re dealing with so many distractions. I like to keep students interested so their cell phones seem less exciting,” Mason says.

Mason understands the importance of strong writing skills, regardless of career path, and works hard so students can enjoy the subject matter as much as she does.

“It is lovely to be able to do this,” she says. -Nicole Hamme

Joel Gittens
Art Institute of Ohio-Cincinnati

Joel Gittens is an inspiring, hardworking individual who has traveled around the world collecting knowledge from different cultures to help him thrive in the kitchen. Gittens was born and raised on a farm in Barbados where he learned to appreciate and enjoy different foods. Now a master chef, Gittens instructs his students on a wide variety of culinary skills and concepts and serves as an active member of the American Culinary Federation.

What makes Gittens different than other educators is his emphasis on building integrity in the classroom on top of receiving a well-rounded education.

“I want my students to know I’m there for them, and there are plenty of tools out there for success. If I don’t have the tools, I’ll find them,” he says. -NH

Michael Brubaker
University of Cincinnati

Michael Brubaker has been an assistant professor of Substance Abuse Counseling for just a few short years at UC, and in that time, he transformed the health and wellness of the community.

As a professor, Dr. Brubaker works with students and the community directly to secure resources in the area to reduce drug usage and educate vulnerable populations. Through a combination of face-to-face and online teaching, Dr. Brubaker also trains his students to become substance abuse counselors themselves.

“I love hearing from students and clients about either their classroom experience or how their time in counseling has impacted their lives,” Brubaker says. “I’m blessed that I’m able to mobilize the community to make a change.” -NH