group photo of 2024 Academic Mentor Award winners

Group of eight AU faculty/staff members honored with Academic Mentor Award

Published on Feb. 15, 2024
Ashland University

ASHLAND, Ohio – Eight Ashland University faculty and staff members were honored during the 2024 Academic Mentor Awards ceremony held recently at the John C. Myers Convocation Center. The annual program recognizes AU mentors who significantly affect a student’s life beyond the classroom by serving as a role model, trusted advisor and guide.

This year’s Mentor Awards were presented to Kristina Cunningham, assistant director of academic advising; Kristen Herrick, professional academic advisor; Timothy Hinkel, assistant professor of accounting; Craig Hovey, professor of religion; Daniel Nolt, clinical assistant professor of nursing; René Paddags, associate professor of political science; Kimberly Stanislo, adjunct instructor in nursing; and Robert Wyllie, assistant professor of political science.

Cunningham has been a staff member at AU for 13 years, including the last eight with the academic support/student success team. She was nominated by senior Cole Shreve, an education major who is now student teaching. He credits Cunningham for holding him accountable and “getting me back on track and giving me both the courage and determination to change the course I was heading down.” He added, “Kristina is someone who deserves all the praise for her work and … is a wonderful mother, advisor, friend and coworker.”

Herrick, also a member of the academic support/student success team, is a 2016 graduate of AU and has been employed by her alma mater since 2018. She serves more than 100 advisees per semester and also teaches sections of the Freshman Success Seminar among other duties. Jacob Hoffman, a digital media production major, nominated Herrick for her empathy and encouragement, writing “(Kristen) made me feel cared for and gave me hope” and adding “it was her kindness, checking in on me … and just being a good person that helped me to continue my academics in the face of great adversity.”

Hinkel has been an assistant professor at AU since 2019, teaching classes in financial accounting, managerial accounting and corporate accounting and also publishing papers and presenting at research conferences. He was nominated by two students, LeighAnn Cutlip and Konnor Ray. Cutlip thanked him for immediately recognizing her interest in tax work and for being a “constant force (and) overall guiding light in my academics.” Similarly, Ray praised Hinkel for being “fond of finding out the career path that his students want to take” and for “encouraging students to challenge themselves and to not be afraid to fail.”

Hovey, whose areas of specialty include Christian theology and ethics, political theology and philosophical theology, is the interim director of the Ashland Center for Nonviolence after having served as its executive director from 2014-21. Emma Heim, a political science major, nominated him for challenging her to “tackle deep theological concepts” and “critically think about the Bible.” She added that “Hovey has been so influential in my life and I know that I could never thank him enough.”

Nolt, a specialist in emergency department nursing, critical care and trauma, was nominated by Emily Todd. She said that he is a patient, encouraging and engaging professor. Nolt’s teaching “was one of the most beneficial learning experiences in (her) academic career,” and Todd also appreciated him always going “out of his way to make sure that his students were learning through the clinical experience, instead of just walking us through the motions.”

Paddags has been an AU faculty member since 2010, teaching courses in international relations, comparative politics and regional studies. He researches the formation of modern politics, especially French and German political thought. Carolina Amparo nominated Paddags for his mentorship, which included “motivating (her) to lead in student organizations, helping (her) find scholarships for a D.C. internship and introducing (her) to study abroad opportunities.” She also noted his “immense kindness, insight and patience.”

Stanislo was nominated by graduate student Charlotte Patterson, who was thankful not only for the knowledge she gained but for her mentor’s understanding during a challenging time. Patterson said “the wealth of knowledge that (Dr. Stanislo) shared has been phenomenal in shaping my professional growth and development into the school nurse role.” When an unexpected health condition hit Patterson, Stanislo’s empathy and flexibility allowed her to get through a difficult semester and she’ll “never forget her genuine compassion and working with me to be successful.”

Wyllie has directed the political economy program at AU while serving as an assistant professor since 2020. His research interests include early modern political thought, politics and the affects and Søren Kierkegaard and Christian political thought. He was nominated by both Anne Casey and Caleb Shriver. Casey complimented Wyllie for being “a source of encouragement throughout college, but also an example of the kind of person I want to be.” He motivated her to “give time to the questions I am interested in, read what others think and seek out dialogue with my peers and professors.” Shriver found inspiration from Wyllie’s mentorship “to enjoy my academic endeavors” while learning to be a critical thinker. “He showed me that it is always better to reflect before giving a response,” Shriver said.

The award-winning mentors were each presented with an engraved silver plate. Nominations were submitted by students via one-page essays and selections were made by the members of the Academic Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees. The AU Academic Mentor Award was first established in 1986.

Ashland University is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University ( values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.