2 UB professors named SUNY Online Teaching Ambassadors for 2021

By MELVIN BANKHEAD III

Release Date: February 5, 2021

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Portrait of Dianna Cichocki.
Portrait of Jessica Kruger.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — University at Buffalo faculty members Dianna Cichocki and Jessica Kruger have been selected as SUNY Online Teaching Ambassadors for 2021.

The designation, according to UB’s Educational Design Collaborative, which nominated the pair, recognizes “enthusiastic and effective online teaching faculty from SUNY institutions who are positive and strong advocates for online teaching in the SUNY community.”

“It is a pleasure for us to be able to join SUNY in recognizing Jessica and Dianna as the 2021 SUNY Online Teaching Ambassadors,” Cheryl Oyer and Steve Sturman, co-chairs of the UB Educational Design Collaborative, said in a joint statement.

“As part of the UB and SUNY instructional communities, the enthusiasm and effectiveness of these two professors is a testament to UB’s commitment to online education. The criteria (include) the recognition of faculty who are positive and strong advocates for online teaching in our SUNY community. They undeniably meet (these) criteria in their innovative pedagogy!”

Cichocki and Kruger will be recognized during a ceremony to be held in conjunction with the SUNY Online Summit, which will take place virtually Feb. 22-26.

Cichocki, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Management Science and Systems in the School of Management, says she’s honored to have been named a SUNY Online Teaching Ambassador.

“The prominence of online education has increased exponentially in the past year, and educators have been catapulted into the online space,” she says. “Effective online teaching is an art that develops over time and is not accomplished alone. I am blessed to work alongside an amazing team of educators who encourage one another to continually improve and ensure the best possible experience for our students.”

Cichocki earned an MS from Oswego State University, and a bachelor’s degree from St. John Fisher College. She is known for her contributions in the research areas of statistics and computing, business analytics and data science, and data modeling.

Kruger, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Community Health and Health Behavior, School of Public Health and Health Professions, also is “very excited” about the designation and looks forward “to promoting online learning at UB.”

Her research focuses on behaviors in eating and addiction, decision-making and behaviors that impact public health, and the science of teaching public health-related information. A health educator, she works with a diverse array of community-based organizations in Buffalo.

She earned a PhD from the University of Toledo, and an MS from the University of Michigan-Flint.

The SUNY Online Teaching Ambassador designation is particularly important now, proponents say, as colleges and universities across the nation have been forced to adapt to hybrid, in-person/online models of education or completely online learning in order to reduce density on campus and protect their students, instructors and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, despite having to make extensive shifts, online instructors remain dedicated to the success of their students.

Kruger notes that an important component of her online teaching successes is finding ways to support students. She says she does that by “creating connections,” adding that “an online community is key to supporting students, especially during this challenging time.”

She promotes student engagement by “utilizing a bichronous online learning model, mixing synchronous and asynchronous” learning into her courses.

“As we all reflect and continually improve, I encourage everyone to consider the balance between course quality and course engagement,” Cichocki adds.

“While quality content is a critical component of an effective online course, establishing a welcoming atmosphere that encourages and motivates students is equally as important and should not be overlooked. The most successful online courses are those that engage students and create a sense of community.”

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