CCAD celebrates faculty excellence

teacher showing student

Columbus College of Art & Design faculty are committed to delivering a rigorous curriculum that challenges students to think critically and creatively as they grow as artists, designers, and thinkers. Each year, CCAD recognizes its outstanding faculty, as well as promotions in rank and upcoming retirements, with its Teaching Excellence Awards.

The 2021 Teaching Excellence Awards winners not only have active artistic practices of their own, but they have also encouraged and supported their students’ development as creatives and as individuals. They have distinguished themselves for their holistic approach to working with students, serving as mentors, supporters, and positive forces for students’ growth and change.

The Teaching Excellence Awards were created in 2007, and in 2019, were expanded to include a winner among adjunct faculty. The winners in each category, full-time and adjunct, are nominated by their peers on the CCAD faculty, as well as by current students and alumni, and are then selected by academic leadership in recognition of their excellence in teaching in the areas of discipline knowledge, instructional effectiveness, and student focus. This year’s winners were announced at an online celebration Friday, April 16, 2021.

“In a year in which we saw all of our faculty rise to the challenge of teaching during a pandemic, this year’s Teaching Excellence Award winners distinguished themselves by the hard work, their positive and meaningful relationships with students, and by their commitment to delivering a quality education.,” says Provost Julie Taggart.

The Teaching Excellence Awards were paused in 2020 as CCAD faculty and staff adjusted to changes necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, they returned in full force, with 70 people nominated for award recognition.

“Thank you to all of our faculty for all of the hard work that you’ve done this year,” says Taggart.

teacher working with student

This year’s Teaching Excellence Award winners are Professor Julie Abijanac, who teaches in the Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts programs, and Adjunct Faculty Claire Wiedman (Master of Fine Arts, 2015), who teaches Photography and Art History. Read what their nominators had to say about them below:

julie abijanac portrait

Julie Abijanac (winner, full-time faculty award)

“Last semester Julie was my instructor for a graduate project seminar, and while she wasn't my mentor—the class wasn't really set up that way—I still received the same amount of direct but encouraging feedback. Julie often saw things in my work that either I didn't consider well enough or didn't consider or see at all. She always pointed out what is good about the images and things to reconsider.” 

“When I first met Julie over a year and a half ago, I was admittedly intimidated. But as I look back, I am incredibly happy that our paths have crossed. She has been an incredible force in my artistic growth. For that I thank her wholeheartedly. I am thrilled that she has agreed to be on my thesis committee. And I look forward to her guidance and collaboration in the coming year.”

“Julie has been an inspiration to myself and my artwork since my first critique in 2020. Being a first year MFA student during the pandemic has hard its struggles and hurdles. Julie has shown her dedication to her teaching career relentlessly through these times. Julie has provided me with critical and insightful support through the past year. Julie has gone well above and beyond any of my expectations as a professor. She has continued to show compassion, moral and artistic support, and a caliber of personable integrity that has far exceeded my ideals for a professor! She has gone out of her way to check in with me as her student while struggling with advancing my work. She has made herself available to better me as a student and an artist. She has encouraged me to push myself, she has consoled me when upset, and she has become someone I strive to be like. I know she supports me no matter what; she’s become my ‘fairy art mother’ with awesome pom poms cheering me on through the program! 

“My very first experience at CCAD was with Julie in my graduate seminar and graduate project class over a year ago in 2019. From the very first meeting I learned a great deal from Julie. She helped me to narrow down my project topic very quickly and also provided articles and other documents to help and research and develop my project. She was (and is) an excellent listener and helped me through my anxieties, nervousness, and insecurities to help me push my project along. Her feedback was honest, thorough and clear. I always knew what areas of my project needed more thought or work to develop the ideas more fully. I may not have always been happy with where the project stood but I was always excited to meet with her to discuss its development and felt incredibly motivated to make necessary changes in direction after we met. Julie was also incredibly helpful in helping me write my artist statement. Again, she gave very clear and concise directions about how to create this. 

claire wiedman portrait

Claire Wiedman (winner, adjunct faculty award)

“Claire is always incredibly encouraging and inspiring. She is consistently pushing students to learn new things and hone their skills as well as grow communication skills. She continues her artistic practice … to show her true and unending passion for photography and art and to also be able to fully participate with the students during projects and critiques. … It's so important to see that you are being taught by someone who is also continually learning themselves and remaining relevant in the art world and their professional practice! She has impacted numerous students with her kind and caring spirit and general inclusiveness.”

Claire has always been far more than merely a professor to me. Claire has been a phenomenal faculty member, supporter, pusher, and friend. I will forever appreciate her nurturing and impactful method of teaching.”



The 2021 Teaching Excellence Awards nominees are:

  • Julie Abijanac, Fine Arts
  • David Bennett, Advertising & Graphic Design
  • Brice Bunner, Advertising & Graphic Design
  • David Burghy*, Advertising & Graphic Design
  • Mark Burleigh, Advertising & Graphic Design
  • John Cairns, Illustration
  • Craig Campbell, Comics & Narrative Practice
  • Maria Carluccio, Illustration
  • Elizabeth Douglas, Liberal Arts - Science & Social Science
  • Dr. Sonya Fix, Liberal Arts - ESL
  • Emi Gennis, Comics & Narrative Practice
  • Thom Glick, Illustration
  • Joel Gundlach* (2016), Interior Architecture & Design
  • Amanda Ho^, Illustration
  • Eric Homan, CORE Studies
  • Joshua Hostetler, Interior Architecture & Design
  • Bethany James^
  • Elizabeth Keegan, Animation, Game Art & Design
  • Michael Kellner^ CORE Studies  
  • Emma Kindall CORE Studies 
  • Joseph Kovach, Illustration
  • Jeannine Kraft, History of Art & Visual Culture
  • Julian Lee, Illustration
  • Elaine Grogran Luttrull, Master of Fine Arts
  • James Lutz* , Advertising & Graphic Design
  • Kelly Malec-Kosak, Master of Fine Arts
  • Laurenn McCubbin, Illustration, Comics & Narrative Practice
  • Darren Miller^, Photography
  • Matthew Mitchem, Liberal Arts - Writing, Literature & Philosophy
  • Matthew Mohr, Advertising & Graphic Design
  • Nicole Monahan, Master of Fine Arts
  • Komikka Patton^, Master of Fine Arts
  • Aaron Petten, History of Art & Visual Culture
  • Lydia Prakel^
  • Tim Rietenbach, Master of Fine Arts
  • Jennifer Schlueter, Master of Fine Arts
  • Uko Smith, Illustration
  • Duncan Snyder, Photography
  • Charmaine Sutton, Interior Architecture & Design    
  • Greg Thune, Industrial Design
  • Ben Towle, Illustration
  • Jeff Wietrzykowski, Interior Architecture & Design
  • Claire Wiedman, Photography
  • Brian Williams, Illustration

* Denotes a prior winner. Burghy received the award in 2010, Gundlach in 2016, and Lutz in 2013.
^ Nominee not yet eligible, must teach six semesters


In addition to the awards, the event also included the formal announcement of several faculty members who were promoted to the rank of Associate Professor:


Also at the awards ceremony, CCAD faculty and staff celebrated the retirements of Industrial Design and Interior Architecture & Design Professor Joel Gundlach (who has been awarded Professor Emeritus status) and Associate Professor of Animation Gavrilo Gnatovich.