Molly Kelly's students tout her dedication to helping them succeed.
Molly Kelly's students tout her dedication to helping them succeed.

Mid-American Conference honors outstanding faculty

Molly Kelly honored for service to students

By James M. Loy

There are times when a teacher can make all the difference. In between all the tests and homework, great teachers can leave a lasting influence by supporting, inspiring, and challenging students when it matters most.

For Molly Kelly, a Miami University assistant clinical professor of educational psychology, students have always come first.

Her efforts as an exceptional teacher, and her wholehearted dedication to the student experience, have led to her becoming Miami University’s institutional winner for the inaugural 2019-20 Mid-American Conference (MAC) Outstanding Faculty for Student Success Award.

Distinct from other faculty awards that focus primarily on academic research, the MAC Student Success Award acknowledges those who nurture a holistic college experience. So it’s about more than just grades and research projects. It’s about more than just preparing students for careers after graduation.

It’s also about helping students thrive and persevere throughout all aspects of their college lives, inside the classroom and out, both academically and emotionally, and it was the students themselves who played a key role in Kelly’s recognition.

“Dr. Kelly demonstrated passion and inclusivity from the moment we met,” says Miami student Christina Flinger. “She is a professor who cares not only about a student’s academic performance but also their happiness. Dr. Kelly demonstrates daily she is eager to help me strive for the highest levels of success. She is passionate about her job and this is evident by the personal approach she has with students like me.”

As an educational psychology instructor, as well as the chief departmental adviser, Kelly often begins building relationships with students before many even reside on campus. Through a host of recruitment and orientation events, her guidance and compassion have become pivotal for those seeking to find their footing and to feel welcome.

“When arriving at Miami I was quite nervous,” said Madison Moore, an inclusive special education major. “The workload and experience were definitely more than expected. Little did I know how much Dr. Kelly would be a huge resource during my transition. Dr. Kelly has continuously gone over and beyond for students like myself.”

Kelly has also been commended for her commitment to life-long learning and her ability to help students set and achieve goals, as well as her willingness to proactively address social issues across campus.

Her teaching not only advances inclusion and access for those with disabilities, she also recently led a department-wide accessibility project to create inclusive office spaces.

To raise awareness around disability studies and various accessibility issues, she also organized and spearheaded numerous campus workshops and lecture series events, and all without ever compromising the time or attention she gives to students.

“When I learned about this award, I immediately thought of Dr. Kelly because she consistently prioritizes student success and inclusion in ways that have enriched student experiences,” said Amity Noltemeyer, Miami educational psychology professor and department chair. “She persistently focuses on what is best for students, even if that is not the easiest or quickest path forward.”

Kelly is among the 12 faculty members from various universities nominated for the MAC Student Success Award. The 2019-20 overall award winner will be announced on Friday, October 23.

However, for Kelly, simply being Miami’s institutional winner is already a tremendous honor, one that will inspire her to continually be the best teacher she can be.

“Receiving this award reminds me that I have the responsibility, and the honor, to listen, advise, teach and be a role model for students,” Kelly says. “They inspire me to keep learning and trying to improve, just as they do. And, they remind me of the crucial importance of listening, of kindness and compassion and of remembering we are all souls on a journey and no one has all the answers. We need to bind together to find our way.”