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Presidential Teaching Fellows in Honors

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Dr. Gaffin with students.

Presidential Teaching Fellows in Honors

The Presidential Teaching Fellows in Honors program honors faculty across campus who have demonstrated that they are great teachers. Modeled after an initiative established by former OU President David L. Boren in 1994, this merit-based incentive program is designed to reward the university's best and brightest professors. Stipends are provided to university professors who excel at teaching and mentoring students, allowing them to teach exclusively in the Honors College. Faculty are selected to teach two Honors courses per semester for a term of one year.

This program increases opportunities for OU's best teachers from all departments and colleges to work with OU's best students in the small-class format of an Honors course. Similarly, the Presidential Teaching Fellows in Honors program increases the opportunities for OU's best students to work with OU's best teachers from all departments and disciplines. Faculty recipients can develop courses that are designed for small classes of OU's most highly motivated students within the interdisciplinary framework that is fundamental to the Honors College curriculum.

With more than 2,500 students who participate in classes of 22 or fewer, the Honors College is one of the most successful and largest honors programs among public universities in the nation. Honors students complete a challenging curriculum, in addition to various specialized programs that enrich their education experience, including the Honors Research Assistant program, informal reading groups, Undergraduate Research Day, and leadership development through student-led initiatives. The Presidential Teaching Fellows in Honors program enhances OU's ability to attract entering freshmen who graduate in the top five percent of their high school class and further strengthens retention efforts designed for these high-achieving students.

Feedback from the Fellows

“As a Presidential Teaching Fellow I found myself drawn much more deeply into the life of students outside the classroom.  While I have hosted informal office hours at the Cate Food Court before, the class support program (and the norms of the Honors College) enabled me to broaden that outreach to include lunches and dinners with students, a presentation to the Honors Students Association, and lots of other chance encounters with honors students, even those I have never had in class. “

“ These experiences confirmed how vital informal interactions are, how rewarding and just plain fun it is to be enmeshed in the lives of our talented and multifaceted students, but also how we as faculty can help students develop richer relationships with each other. “ - Hertzke

“It was challenging and exhilarating all at once. I worked alongside some of OU’s brightest young minds as we wrestled with the primary literature, dug down to first principles, and generated and tested novel hypotheses.” 

“another big lesson and another value that emerged from the Presidential Teaching Fellow Program -  Discoveries are not bound by class time or credit hours. It’s up to you, your perseverance, your willingness to learn, your attention to detail, and your commitment to doing it right. Students are trying new things, making mistakes, refining their approach, and trying to do it right. Likewise, thanks to this fellowship, I am doing the same.” - Gaffin

If you'd like to read a more in depth review of year one of the Presidential Teaching Fellows in Honors program, click HERE.  

Current Presidential Teaching Fellows

Rita Keresztesi, 2022-2023

Professor Rita Keresztesi’s research and teaching focus on African and African diaspora literary and cultural studies. She was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso during the academic year of 2010-2011. She has been a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Alumni Ambassador since 2016:

She is the author of the recent book Literary Black Power in the Caribbean: Fiction, Music and Film (Routledge 2020); and Strangers at Home: American Ethnic Modernism between the World Wars (Nebraska University Press 2005 and 2009), and co-editor (with Ellie Higgins and Dayna Oscherwitz) of the book The Western in the Global South (Routledge 2015). Her recent publications focus on West African cinema and music and Caribbean literature and film.

Aparna Nair, 2022-2023

Prof. Nair's work approaches the body and corporeal experience through both history and anthropology. Her research interests include disability studies/history, colonial medicine, the histories of public health (quarantine and vaccination in particular) with more recent interests in the relationships between disability studies/history and animal studies/history through the figure of the guide/service dog. She is also interested in the ways in which disability and difference are represented in popular culture.

Her forthcoming book, “Fungible Books” (under contract with the University of Illinois’ Disability Histories series) is an examination of the relationship between disability and colonialism in British India from 1850-1950 and explores these relationships through the following historical figures: the “normal” body, the “lusus naturae” or the “monster” in colonial medicine; the amputee; the “infirm” subject in the imperial censuses; the “defective child” and the disabled/sick sepoy.

Prof. Nair teaches courses on disability, history of public health, science and Empire and hope to be able to teach courses in the future on Animals, Science and Society and War, Medicine and the Body. For the History department, she also teaches History of India and History of South Asia.

Prof. Nair serves on the Board of the Disability History Association and managse their twitter feed: @DisabilityHistr.

Jill Hicks-Keeton, 2020-2022

Jill Hicks-Keeton is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at OU. She teaches courses on biblical literature and ancient Judaism and Christianity. She is the author of Arguing with Aseneth: Gentile Access to Israel’s Living God in Jewish Antiquity (Oxford University Press, 2018), which was awarded the 2020 Lautenschlaeger Award for Theological Promise, an international first book award. She co-edited The Museum of the Bible: A Critical Introduction (Lexington Books/Fortress Academic, 2019) and The Ways that Often Parted (SBL Press, 2018) and has written for Religion & Politics, Ancient Jew Review, The Revealer, and The Bible and Interpretation. Hicks-Keeton was a 2018 recipient of the Society of Biblical Literature Regional Scholar Award and has previously served as a Humanities Forum Fellow and a Risser Innovative Teaching Fellow at OU.

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Michael Soreghan, 2020-2022

Michael Soreghan is a James Maxey Associate Professor in Geosciences at the University of Oklahoma. He obtained his M.S. at Indiana University in Geology in 1988 and his PhD in Geoscience at the University of Arizona in 1994. His research centers broadly on using sediments to document climatic change in Earth’s deep past, and also how recent climate and land use change alter modern environments. For the former, he studies the “redbed” deposits of the western U.S. to document Earth’s climatic transition from an Icehouse to a Greenhouse world. For the latter, he studies sediment from East African lakes to document: 1) short term changes in climate; 2) the impact increasing sediment input induced by land-use change has on the nearshore biology and on local fishing villages that rely on artisanal fishery for subsistence. He has authored or co-authored over 50 peer-reviewed papers on these topics.

Dr. Soreghan teaches gen-ed courses that include: Physical Geology, Natural Resources of Africa, The Geology of Oklahoma, Earth System History, and has co-instructed the Journey to Tanzania course for the College of International Studies three times.

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Past Presidential Teaching Fellows

Ellen Greene, 2018-2020

Dr. Ellen Greene

Ellen Greene is a Joseph Paxton Presidential Professor of Classics at the University of Oklahoma. She received her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in 1992. Her research specialization is Greek and Roman lyric poetry, with an emphasis on issues in gender and sexuality.

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Heather Ketchum, 2018-2020

Dr. Heather Ketchum


My laboratory conducts research (both in the field and in the lab), examines both criminal and civil case evidence and trains criminal justice professionals in Medicocriminal Forensic Entomology.  

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Justin Wert, 2017-2019

Dr. Justin Wert 18-19


Justin Wert is the Associates Second Century Presidential Professor & Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Oklahoma. He is also the Director of the Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage.

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David Anderson, 2016-2018

Dr. David Anderson


Professor Anderson studies the poetry and drama of the English Renaissance and the relationship between literature and religion. His first book, titled, “Martyrs and Players in Early Modern England: Tragedy, Religion, and Violence on Stage,” was published by Ashgate Press in 2014. Anderson’s next project will explore the theological implications of the pre-Christian setting of Shakespeare’s Greco-Roman plays.

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Aparna Mitra, 2016-2018

Dr. Mitra


Professor Mitra is director of the Advanced Program in Economics teaching both honors and non-honors sections of Intermediate Microeconomic Theory, Labor Problems, and Economics of Discrimination. Mitra co-taught a Presidential Dream Course on “Economics of Discrimination” in 2009, and in 2013, she received the Patten Award for Outstanding Teaching in the Humanities in the College of Arts and Sciences.


Doug Gaffin, 2015-2017

Dr. Gaffin


Professor Gaffin joined the OU faculty in 1995. Former dean of University College, Gaffin has received the Outstanding Freshman Advocate Award from the National Center for the First-Year Experience, the Regents’ Award for Superior Teaching and the David Ross Boyd Professorship. Gaffin’s research focuses on understanding the special sensory abilities of scorpions and insects.

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Allen Hertzke, 2015-2017

Dr. Hertzke


Professor Hertzke is an internationally-recognized scholar of religion and politics. His most recent publication is Religious Freedom in America: Constitutional Roots and Contemporary Challenges, with the OU Press.  He has taught honors seminars on Religion and Freedom; Challenges of Modern Democracy; Global Religion and Politics; Justice, Liberty, and the Good Society; and Religion and the Constitution.

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Joshua Landis, 2015-2017

Dr. Landis


Professor Landis is the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies. He writes “Syria Comment,” a daily newsletter on Syrian politics that attracts over 100,000 readers a month. He frequently travels to Washington, D.C., to consult with government agencies and speak at think tanks. Most recently he has spoken at the Woodrow Wilson Institute, Brookings Institute, Middle East Institute, and Council on Foreign Relations.

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