A portrait of Penn State Behrend faculty members Melanie Hetzel-Riggin, Eric Robbins and Courtney Nagle

Behrend faculty recognized for teaching and outreach

Three Behrend faculty members have received University-wide awards for their work at the college and in the Erie community.

Three Penn State Behrend faculty members have been recognized with University-wide teaching and outreach awards. They were honored at Penn State’s Faculty and Staff Awards ceremony on April 14.

“Our strength as a college of Penn State begins with the expertise of our faculty,” Chancellor Ralph Ford said. “Their commitment to teaching and advising, and to continuing research in their individual fields of study, is at the heart of everything we do here.”


Melanie Hetzel-Riggin, professor of psychology, received the 2022 Faculty Outreach Award, which honors faculty who have positively and substantially affected individuals, organizations or communities through problem solving or development that extends from their scholarship.

Hetzel-Riggin received the award for her extensive outreach efforts in Erie County, including a leadership role with the Erie Coalition for a Trauma Informed Community. She led the development of a trauma resource guide for community members, developed and maintained a comprehensive webpage for trauma-related resources and coordinated the coalition’s blog.

A community-based education and bystander-intervention program she developed for Safe Journey, a domestic violence agency, led to the training of more than 500 community members and a $750,000 grant from the Office of Violence Against Women.

Hetzel-Riggin also works with the Domestic Violence Action Alliance, the Rural Erie County Domestic Violence Task Force, the Suicide Prevention Task Force and the UPMC Women’s Recovery Center.

“Melanie has shown her commitment to this community, and she continues to elevate domestic violence reduction initiatives in our community from her continued involvement, training, grant writing, evaluation, research and collaborations,” a nominator wrote.


Courtney Nagle, associate professor of mathematics education, is the recipient of a 2022 Milton S. Eisenhower Award for Distinguished Teaching. The award recognizes excellence in teaching and student support among tenured faculty who dedicate a major portion of their duties to undergraduate teaching.

Nagle was nominated in part for her commitment to a “risk-free” classroom, where students feel safe and valued and teachers are open to questions. She fosters that open environment with clear learning objectives, daily formative feedback and handwritten responses to student messages. She also maintains a daily learning log, where she requires students to complete a math problem that is closely linked to that day’s learning objective. The exercise provides immediate feedback about how well students understood the concepts that were taught in class that day.

“Equity and inclusion are the cornerstones of Nagle’s teaching philosophy and transcend across the various courses she teaches,” a nominator wrote. “She believes that all students are capable of learning, provided they are willing to invest time into practice and reflection.”


Eric Robbins, associate director of corporate outreach and research in the Black School of Business, was selected for a George W. Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching. The award recognizes faculty members who devote substantial effort to and have developed a record of excellence in undergraduate teaching.

Robbins, an assistant teaching professor of finance, uses simulations on stock market trading, Securities and Exchange Commission filings and retirement planning to familiarize his students with the tools and resources that will be available to them in finance. This year, his students are doing a case study with a financial planning firm in Pittsburgh.

Robbins teaches both residential and distance-learning courses. He works individually with students who want to explore finance concepts that are not directly covered in class.

“Robbins cares about his work and his students,” a nominator wrote. “It is a rare week that I do not receive emails about career opportunities and finance-related opportunities specifically meant to help students learn outside the classroom and prepare for the real world.”


A full list of the 2022 University award winners is available on the Behrend website.