Students in James Lissemore’s Monday morning molecular biology class had quite the surprise on April 2 when Linda Eisenmann, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Beth Martin, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences appeared at their classroom door.
They were present to hear that Lissemore, an associate professor in the Department of Biology, was the recipient of the Lucrezia Culicchia Award for Teaching Excellence. It is the highest award for teaching in the College of Arts and Sciences.
A committee comprised of three students three faculty members who have received the award and the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences choose the recipient. It is a tradition that the award is presented to the recipient in the presence of one of their classes.
Lissemore has been a professor in the biology department for 13 years. He currently teaches courses in genetics, molecular methods and biotechnology. Upon his hiring, Lissemore and former John Carroll University professor Robert Bohinski created a concentration in molecular biology.
Lissemore recently created a new class for biology and chemistry majors titled “The Biological Consequences of Poverty.” He began this class after discovering that students at JCU were interested in learning about poverty. He said, “I wouldn’t be involved if I didn’t know that students were already involved.”
The class focuses on health concerns of poverty in both the United States and on the global level. The class studies diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, obesity and diabetes. Students also contribute work to the Celebration of Scholarship. Lissemore said that the class “is part of education for the real world.”
In 2004, Lissemore began to meet with a group of faculty members who were interested in starting a new poverty and solidarity initiative on campus. After a year of conversation, the Poverty and Solidarity program was born at JCU.
Since then Lissemore has been the program director. He joins other JCU administrators and faculty members in a faculty learning community. The community meets four times a semester and works to become educated about domestic and global poverty and the concept of solidarity.
After this year’s sessions end, educators will be encouraged to create a new class dealing with poverty in their own curriculum or incorporate poverty into a preexisting course. Lissemore believes that this faculty learning community will create “more opportunity for students to learn about poverty.”
Lissemore mentioned that in the future there is potential for a poverty and solidarity interdisciplinary concentration to be created at JCU. He said, “poverty is a complex problem that students in every discipline should learn.”
In addition to his work with the Poverty and Solidarity program, Lissemore coordinates the summer internship program at the Cleveland Clinic and is the chair of the Biology Department Tenure Committee.
Paul Lauritzen, professor in the Department of Religious Studies, nominated Lissemore for the teaching award.
Lissemore said, “The best part has been the very nice congratulations I have received.” He said that he has received many kind comments from students, faculty and alumni.
Eisenmann said, “This award is presented to faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences who have made a distinct difference in the teaching climate of the College.”
The award was first funded by the Sears-Roebuck Foundation and is currently made possible by alumnus Anthony N. Culicchia, class of 1964. The award is in honor of Culicchia’s mother, a former teacher. Lissemore is the 18th faculty member to receive this distinguished award. Last year’s winner was Mark Waner.