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Distinguished professor award given to professors of music and biology

Two Miami University professors will be awarded the title of university distinguished professor, an honor that recognizes excellence in teaching and scholarship. 

The university selects up to two professors every other school year to receive the title. At its Feb. 19 meeting, the Board of Trustees granted the title to professor of musicology Tammy Kernodle — the first person of color to receive this title at Miami — and professor of biology David Berg. Kernodle and Berg’s new titles of university distinguished professor will go into effect on July 1.

To qualify for the title, nominees must hold the title of professor, have been a faculty member for at least eight years, demonstrate excellent teaching and be a recognized scholar in their field.

Nominations for the award begin each fall, when faculty can write nomination letters for their colleagues. The Awards and Recognition Committee reviews the nominations and makes recommendations for finalists, and the president and provost make the final selection.

After becoming a finalist, professors must submit several materials, including a personal statement and letters of recommendation.

Kernodle said when she found out she was a finalist for the title, she was in “utter shock.”

“I would have never thought that I had a chance just simply because people in the sciences or people in the humanities, their work tends to be, in some ways, privileged over individuals in the arts,” she said.

As a professor of musicology, Kernodle teaches about viewing music through a historical lens.

“[I try] to get students to understand that music does not exist in a vacuum,” Kernodle said. “It’s a reflection of the environment, it’s a reflection of the experience of an artist, so I try to engage students on a deeper level, even if they don’t have musical experience.”

Kernodle started at Miami as a visiting professor in 1997 after receiving her doctorate in music history from Ohio State University. 

“Hopefully the door has opened for other Black scholars' work to be considered,” she said. “When I arrived in 1997, the first time I went to Roudebush … there was a wall with all the distinguished professors’ pictures up there … and they were all white males.”

To Kernodle, the award is special because it means her work has been recognized by her colleagues.

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“It’s somewhat surreal just simply because you work and you work, and you’re not sure how your work is judged by your peers,” she said.

Berg also shares a similar sentiment toward the title.

“[It’s] extremely gratifying,” Berg said. “To be recognized by one's colleagues for the work one has done is quite an honor.”

Berg has a doctorate in zoology from Ohio State University and started teaching at Miami in 1993. He mainly teaches biology to graduate and undergraduate students at the Hamilton campus.

“The student body on the Hamilton campus, which is a bit more diverse than the Oxford campus, has people with lots of different backgrounds,” he said. “Providing that same opportunity that the students on the Oxford campus have is something I’ve sort of committed my life to.”

For Berg, providing opportunities to students extends beyond the classroom. He also brings students to his research lab in Oxford to study biogeography, which involves spatial analysis of organisms and genetic variation across regions.

Berg enjoys working at the Hamilton campus because he thinks it offers him a unique teaching experience.

“I’ve had a really interesting set of opportunities because I’ve been able to teach on a campus that’s open to anyone,” he said, “but yet, I’ve also been able to be a part of a large research department.”