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UC Blue Ash Professors Earn National Recognition for Accelerated Learning Program


Ruth Benander and Brenda Refaei are among an elite group of professors nationally to receive recognition in the 2017 Diana Hacker/TYCA (Two-Year College Association) Awards for Outstanding Programs in English. The awards are presented annually to honor professors and their colleges for exemplary programs that enhance students’ language learning, helping them to achieve their college, career and personal goals.

Benander and Refaei are accomplished English professors at the University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College who were recognized with an honorable mention award in the category of Enhancing Developmental Education. UC Blue Ash is one of only five colleges nationally to be honored as part of this year’s Diana Hacker/TYCA awards.

The professors designed a reading and writing course that has helped students in developmental courses work at an accelerated pace to progress to college-level composition and skip a second developmental course. This program was implemented in spring 2015 and continues today. It not only enhances learning and self-esteem, it saves time and money for students who don’t have to take an additional course. Since 2015, approximately 25% of students who began in the lowest level of basic writing have moved directly to college-level English. This semester, Professors Refaei and Benander anticipate an even higher percentage of students who may be able to accelerate to college-level English.

“It is an honor to have our program design recognized by our national association, and it is exciting to see our students taking control of their learning and being successful,” says Benander. She has taught at UC Blue Ash for more than 20 years and has been recognized with distinguished teaching awards by the college and the University of Cincinnati.

Students complete the modules for the course online, developing an e-portfolio that showcases the progress of their work. They choose topics that interest them, and they conduct research on the web and through library databases. These are all skills that they will need as they progress to college-level English.

“Our motivation to revise our basic writing course design and assessment was the result of our desire to honor our students through fair assessment that was based on their own evidence of their writing skills,” says Refaei when explaining the importance of personal choice and use of the e-portfolio. She has also received University-wide honors for her work and was recently selected for this year’s Distinguished Teaching Award at UC Blue Ash.

Diana Hacker was a beloved author and dedicated teacher at Prince George’s Community College in Maryland. She is honored, in collaboration with the TYCA, through these annual awards. You can learn more about the winners of the 2017 awards at

About Olive Wright

Olive Wright is the Communications Intern with the Communications Department at UC Blue Ash College for the 2017-18 academic year. Look forward to seeing Olive's contributions to UCBANOW and all year long.