Dr. Shirley O’Brien is the latest faculty member to earn Eastern Kentucky University’s highest honor for teaching excellence.
O’Brien, a professor in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, has received the 2016-18 EKU Foundation Professorship. The annual honor recognizes those who demonstrate outstanding abilities in the three primary roles of a faculty member: teaching, service and research. The professorship provides a salary supplement for two years.
Since first joining the EKU faculty in 1983 – she left in 1988 and returned in 1991 – O’Brien has won numerous awards. They include including Kentucky Outstanding Occupational Therapist of the Year, a Distinguished Service Award from the Kentucky Occupational Therapy Association, a Service Award from the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) and the Lindy Boggs Award for Political Activity from the AOTA. She also was named a Fellow of AOTA, highlighting her mentorship of students and colleagues. (Only 4 percent of AOTA members are awarded.) In 2015, she was named to the American Occupational Therapy Foundation’s Leaders and Legacy Society.
A prolific researcher, writer and presenter, O’Brien has been active in professional organizations at the state and national level, holding several leadership positions. She has also been active in community affairs and on numerous departmental, college and University committees.
In a statement, the Foundation Professor Selection Committee said it “was impressed with Dr. O’Brien’s strong commitment to ... her teaching responsibilities amidst her many service contributions to the University.” It also cited “her dedication to reaching across to other disciplines in her research and scholarship and to related professionals in the health care field. Intent on sharing her knowledge and the benefit of her experience, she has also authored several important pieces in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning about how to teach best practices to today’s students in the field of occupational therapy.”
O’Brien earned her bachelor’s degree from Temple University, her master’s degree from Rush University and her doctoral degree from the University of Kentucky.
All full-time tenured faculty members are eligible for the award. The selection is made by a committee composed of faculty, and the process provides for a high degree of peer review.
Fifty-nine professors have been honored for teaching excellence by the EKU Foundation since the awards were first given in 1988.