Mruk engages, inspires students and colleagues

In his 35 years of teaching psychology at BGSU Firelands, Dr. Christopher Mruk’s impact on his students and on the academic environment has been profound. In all his activities — whether in the undergraduate or graduate classroom, in outreach, in research and publishing or in counseling — Mruk brings a level of commitment, caring and connection that has made him a role model for others.

In honor of his contributions, Mruk was named a professor of teaching excellence at the April 14 Faculty Excellence Awards. The honor is designated for faculty members who hold the rank of full professor and whose extraordinary achievements as effective teachers in their discipline or in interdisciplinary fields deserve special recognition. Mruk will hold the title for three years and receive an annual stipend of $5,000, which includes $2,000 per year for professional development.

A specialist in clinical psychology, Mruk came to teaching mid-career, after he had established himself working in a variety of settings that included a drug addiction program in Detroit, as a crisis-intervention therapist in one of the nation’s first two National Institute of Mental Health-funded psychiatric services, and directing a college counseling center in Pennsylvania.

“Then, I discovered teaching and came to Firelands to fulfill a dream, namely, giving people a different type of new chance in life,” he said. As a faculty member, he has utilized the perspective and experience he gained to achieve that dream, which is manifested in his many students who have gone on to successful careers in psychology.  

Travis Skelly, a BGSU Firelands alumnus who is now a case manager with Firelands Counseling and Recovery, wrote of Mruk, “His overall quality of instruction at all levels of curriculum, commitment to research, and willingness to work with students on upper-level scholarship are just a few reasons that he deserves this award.” As a student, Skelly was encouraged by Mruk to develop his ideas on self-esteem and multiculturalism, which led to a co-authored paper. “Not only has Dr. Mruk been an academic mentor to me but he also has invested in my personal development by providing several opportunities beyond the classroom, such as training seminars and lectureships. He is a support for me as I work in mental health and continue to pursue academia.”

Another former student, now an associate professor and program director in Graduate Studies in Counseling at Heidelberg College, articulated the lifelong impact Dr. Mruk’s teaching has had on her pursuit of higher education and a career, writing,

“His classes clearly presented not only psychological theory but by the end of the semester, he had managed to instill a love for learning and passion for psychological thought.”

Mruk’s role at Firelands has been a bit unusual in that he is among a small group who are members not only of the undergraduate faculty there but also of BGSU’s Graduate College, involving them in the full range of university teaching. In teaching undergraduates, he is known for nurturing in them the critical thinking skills so important to success in graduate school.

He was responsible for designing, setting up, and supervising a small, free counseling center at the college for a number of years that was staffed by his doctoral interns from the Bowling Green campus psychology department. Along with providing experience for the students, “His recognition of this longstanding need on our campus and efforts to meet this need reflect his commitment to student well-being,” said nominator Dr. Kate Dailey, associate professor and chair of the humanities department.

“Dr. Mruk has routinely put innovative teaching into practice by publishing software lessons on abnormal behavior and teaching one of BGSU's first online courses in 1997,” said Dr. Cynthia Miglietti, associate professor and chair of the applied sciences department. “He has always been one of the first teachers to employ new technologies. Additionally, he keeps up with new developments and clinical practices in the field and obtains at least 23 continuing education credits for psychologists every two years.

“He is known by his peers to be innovative and engaging in the classroom, finding and then sharing with his colleagues new methods for strengthening student participation, confidence, and success,” said Firelands Dean Andrew Kurtz.

“Dr. Mruk is also a vanguard for maintaining and improving the quality of our academic courses and programs, an equally critical role for someone deserving of this recognition. It is not surprising, then,that Chris has twice won the Distinguished Teaching Award at BGSU Firelands and been a finalist on several other occasions. On a campus where teaching is the highest priority for all faculty members, this is an extremely competitive and coveted honor.”

“The talent and expertise he displays in the classroom has corresponded with the status he has achieved as an eminent scholar, allowing him to creatively incorporate his research into his lectures, assignments and research projects,” wrote his nominators from the humanities department. “Dr. Mruk has authored five books, written six book chapters, and published 20 articles in professional journals; all in the areas of self-esteem, positive psychology and Zen and psychotherapy. In the courses he teaches, students have access to an internationally renowned scholar whose sense of humility endears him to those students fortunate enough to cross his path.”

Mruk continues to bring teaching excellence as an educator in the professional field. “His expertise is often sought by employees and agencies including psychologists, nurses, social workers, counselors and case managers to lecture, train and consult. With the heavy teaching load required of BGSU Firelands faculty, and his active research work, this additional commitment to his profession is admirable,” Dailey said.