Dr. Steve Criniti wins 2020 Professor of the Year Award, becoming 3rd WLU professor to earn honor in 7 years

Dr. Criniti in action in the classroom.

Dr. Steve Criniti, a professor of English at West Liberty University, won the 2020 Professor of the Year award, which was announced at the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission Meeting via Zoom in December 2021.

Being announced as one of the five finalists in January 2021, Criniti was “truly humbled” to have been selected as the winner. When the finalists were announced, Criniti says he spent time Googling each candidate to see who he was up against. “I was just so impressed with the qualifications and accomplishments of the other four finalists, that I honestly didn’t think I had a shot. Therefore, it was both surprising and humbling to learn that the committee selected me.”

Nominated by fellow faculty members, Dr. Sylvia Senften and Dr. Jeremy Larance in the fall of 2020, Criniti says the process of being a finalist was a “whirlwind.” In February 2021, Criniti participated in a Zoom interview with the selection committee who had planned a banquet for April 2021 where the final winner would be announced. “The award is technically a 2020 award. However, due to the surge in COVID, that banquet was pushed back several times (to June, September and November) before finally being canceled out of an abundance of caution,” Criniti explained. He was finally announced the winner nearly a year after his initial nomination.

Criniti has been professing on the Hilltop since the fall of 2008 and has made impacts on the lives of students since his time here. Anna Johnston, senior political science and sociology major, says, “I took a class with Dr. Criniti which I was really nervous about as I’m not an English major, but he made the class so accessible and fun for students from every background and I ended up getting a lot out of it. He also clearly cares about his students and wants to try and make the class worthwhile for everyone. It was one of my favorite classes that I’ve taken at West Lib and I would recommend him as a professor to anyone!”

“For me, it’s all about caring. I simply try to care about my students and their learning,” Criniti stated.

Criniti himself recalls how a student reached out to him via email last semester to thank him for caring about them and the struggles they were having during the fall. The student was a transfer student and had not experienced that level of care and concern at the university they attended previously. “Knowing that we’ve made a difference in the life of a student, that, to me, is the best reward,” Criniti happily shared.

Earning a Bachelor of Arts in English and professional communications from Wheeling Jesuit University, a Master of Arts in English from the University of Dayton and his Ph. D. in English and comparative literature from the University of Cincinnati, Criniti continues to use his education and expertise in the classroom to create a positive learning experience. “To be totally honest, I’ve never thought of what I do in the classroom as “award-winning” by any means; I simply do what I do for the sake of my students,” says Criniti. Later he said, “It is definitely nice to be recognized for the work that we do.”

Criniti has published a “handful” of articles throughout his career but believes the great thing about the Professor of the Year award is how it focuses on rewarding good teaching. “The work I put into my teaching is the work of which I am proudest,” Criniti says.

For more information, please contact Annalise Murphy at [email protected] Also check out WLU’s Director of Media Relations, Maureen Zambito’s press release regarding the award by visiting WLU’s News webpage or click this link.