UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Daniel Cahoy, professor and dean’s faculty fellow in business law in the Smeal College of Business; and Jo Ann Jankoski, associate professor of human development and family studies at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus; are the recipients of the 2021 Milton S. Eisenhower Award for Distinguished Teaching.
The award recognizes excellence in teaching and student support among tenured faculty who have been employed full time for at least five years with undergraduate teaching as a major portion of their duties. Milton S. Eisenhower, brother of former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, served as president of Penn State from 1950 to 1956.
Cahoy said it’s his job to connect with the full range of business students, regardless of their major, to help them become better professionals and citizens. To accomplish this, he says, he focuses on critical thinking, equity and diversity, engagement and real-world experiences.
To engage students, Cahoy creates and employs new ways of encouraging student participation. The lecture format alone won’t accomplish this, he said. He wants his students to play a role in what they are learning.
For example, his classrooms often feature mock business negotiations, real-world applications of research databases and the landscaping innovation white spaces. During a study abroad class in Florence, Italy, Cahoy and his students frequently traveled outside the classroom to tour places such as Da Vinci’s birthplace, the cradle of invention.
“The experiences have been life changing,” he said. “I believe that only by one-on-one engagement can one truly appreciate whether one’s teaching is actually effective.”
Because business law is so ingrained in real-world scenarios, Cahoy said he uses those scenarios as teaching tools. It’s an ever-evolving field, too, he said. That’s why he stays up to date on new material as business law decisions play out in real time.
Cahoy said learning is a two-way street. His research is heavily influenced by content he creates for class, and vice versa. His students make him a better researcher, and his research makes him a better educator.
Students praised Cahoy’s ability to bring difficult concepts to life and real-world lessons in the classroom.
“Dr. Cahoy is able to take complex material and make it quite intriguing, even if it means physically running around the room and jumping up and down to grasp the class’ attention,” a former student said. “What I loved about his teaching style was his ability to apply real-world examples to every topic that we discussed, whether it was a court case or a story from his own personal experience. It is clear that Dr. Cahoy puts a great deal of effort into his teaching in order to make his courses challenging, yet enjoyable.”
Jo Ann Jankoski
As an educator, Jankoski said she’s self-reflective and teaches her students to also learn from themselves. Her job, she said, is not to simply fill students' heads with facts but rather “to inspire, encourage, challenge, and bring real-world experiences into the classroom while moving the learning experience beyond the walls” of the classroom.
She said she and her students are partners in the learning process and can both learn from personal experiences.
She also encourages her students to use their knowledge to better others as well as themselves. Her students frequently work with nonprofit community groups on projects that enhance their learning and better their community. For one project, the Point-in-Time Count, students help identify the local homeless population. Students also work with the local Human Trafficking Taskforce to educate the community about modern-day slavery and with at-risk youth with histories of abuse.
“I develop my classes with a focus on teaching my students those skills necessary to be successful within the human service profession, to always participate in the process of self-discovery and to enhance their interpersonal relationships with the aim of improving themselves and society,” Jankoski said.
Seeing that their careers can help make them part of the solution to many societal problems, Jankoski said, inspires them to dedicated students and lifelong learners. She said many of her students will touch and be touched by people such as those who are homeless, abused, suicidal or near the end of their life.
Jankoski is often a co-researcher with her students. For one study, students conducted interviews to determine the social conditions of Fayette County. Students also hear case studies from professionals in the field to learn real-world lessons about issues such as mental illness.
Jankoski said she’s always learning from her students, too. She said she serves them the way that many will serve their clients and always invites their feedback.
“I am accountable to my students as they will be accountable to their clients, Jankoski said. “I constantly assess my teaching and my students’ performances and make changes accordingly.”
Students also praised Jankoski for her strengths as an educator and for igniting their passion to do great things in their chosen field.
“You can’t teach heart in a classroom,” a former student said. “People are not just a statistic on a graph to Dr. Jo. Her empathy goes a long way. She taught me that if we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change. She does so much for so many. She lives her life around others. She is an amazing mentor and shares her strength and power with her students.”