Skip to main content

University College Outstanding Teacher Nominees

The Outstanding Teacher Award is a university-level award which recognizes excellence in teaching at NC State University.

University College looks to nominate members of the teaching community who display a range of knowledge, motivation, encouragement, effective mentorship, and creativity at all levels.  Nominees also demonstrate effective preparation of course materials and appropriate support while challenging students to push beyond their limits in order to develop lasting skills. This year, University College considered five spectacular candidates as nominee for the Outstanding Teacher Award:

  • Kimberly Cole of the Exploratory Studies program
  • Gina Riccobono of the Exploratory Studies program
  • Peggy Domingue of the Department of Health and Exercise Studies
  • Tommy Holden of the Department of Health and Exercise Studies
  • Tom Koch of the Department of Music

Kimberly Cole, an NC State alumna, taught first-year students within the Exploratory Studies program for nearly ten years. While her experience in the classroom is extensive, her peers find what truly makes Cole an admirable educator is her desire for improvement and innovation to the Exploratory Studies curriculum and classroom experience. Her students appreciate her ability to draw meaningful and lasting connections.

“It is rare to find teachers who have a desire to create meaningful bonds with their students that will last long after the semester has ended,” stated Toinette Powers, a sophomore in International Studies. Additionally, Cole has contributed to the Wolfpack community by developing courses to support military veterans and service members, as well as courses intended to provide guidance and support to unmatriculated engineering students. Cole strives to both challenge and supports her students and, notes she, is constantly growing and developing as an instructor. “Teaching should be a dynamic process where both the instructor and the student learn from one another,” said Cole, and she strives to ensure she is mindful of her students by “understanding who they are and where they are coming from [which] helps to make sure the classroom is a safe and inclusive learning environment.


Gina Riccobono is a lecturer and advisor for the Exploratory Studies program. She displays an immense passion for her work and students. Her ability to connect with students and create deeply engaging course material truly make her a stellar member of the University College faculty. As a course lecturer, she finds it of the utmost importance to meet her students where they are, both academically and culturally. Riccobono often uses pop cultural references to liven up a seemingly bland, yet important, lesson in order to draw students in and make the material more engaging. She notes, “popular culture in the classroom allows students to find something familiar in an unfamiliar topic.” Riccobono’s approach is greatly appreciated by students like Kaylianna Ritz, “Gina made coming to class seem like less of a chore and more of an opportunity,” said Ritz, who also appreciated Riccobono’s preparation and presentation of her course materials, noting it was obvious she had “put a lot of thought into the process of how she was going to present the crucial information and what was the most effective, not just the most efficient.”


Peggy Domingue has been an outstanding member of the Wolfpack faculty, teaching health and fitness courses since 1992. She specializes in cross training, aerobics, and dance. Domingue has also been a pioneer and advocate of distance education course within the Health and Exercise Studies department, providing mentorship and assistance to several of her colleagues as they worked to develop a large catalog of online HES courses. Domingue is described as enthusiastic about the subject matter and her students. Many students, such Cayla Cooke, a senior in Mechanical Engineering, find Dominque’s approach fun and lighthearted, but without compromise to attention or detail. Cooke also appreciated Domingue’s “attitude of constructive criticism and upbeat music which provide such a positive atmosphere for personal growth and really encourages students like me to understand that exercise does not have to be a chore.” Furthermore, Domingue is passionate about being a lifelong learner, and constantly seeks new and innovative approaches to fitness and dance. “If there is a dance style, I strive to learn it, so I can teach it. If there is a new fitness craze I am driven to try it so I can see if it can be adapted to the university’s curriculum.” Domingue’s drive, dedication, encouragement, and support are all qualities her students and colleagues alike agree truly make her a remarkable member of the Wolfpack faculty.


Dr. Tommy Holden, an NC State alumnus and professor in Health and Exercise Studies, has been a vital member of the HES faculty He serves in a number of roles including former department head, coordinator of the Outdoor Leadership minor, and instructor of a range of HES courses. Dr. Holden is an advocate of experiential education, which he explains encourages students to “learn by doing, with a purpose,” and enables them “to take an active voice in the education process as opposed to traditional learning where the student has a passive voice.” Many of Dr. Holden’s students share similar stories of the appreciation and passion for the outdoors he helped to instill in them. Alumna, Elizabeth Henderson recounts her time in Dr. Holden’s mountaineering course, “the lesson that has lasted with me and been the most useful to me as an adult is that showing weakness is not a fault.” She also credits Dr. Holden with teaching her “that I am not alone in experiencing obstacles. We all are going to falter, but working through that inevitable moment of doubt is the only way to grow as a person.” Additionally, Dr. Holden’s work extends to outdoor recreational activities such as canoeing, backpacking, kayaking, and rock climbing for which he assists students with an Outdoor Leadership Minor.


Dr. Tom Koch’s passion, content knowledge, and service have impacted, not only the Department of Music but, the entire Wolfpack community. He teaches courses ranging from music theory to ear training, and music history. Dr. Koch has also served in a number of roles including interim and associate director for the Music department. His aim is to encourage students to become “discovers of knowledge rather than receptacles of facts.”  Dr. Koch encourages this self-discovery by both sharing his passion for music as well as being accessible to his students. Students such as Materials Science & Engineering alum, Eli Mills, finds the energy which Dr. Koch brings to each of his classes unparalleled. “He is passionate about each subject he teaches, and he engages the class to keep everyone participating.” Mills further notes, “[Dr. Koch] even keeps a piano close by so he can play live musical examples, demonstrating that education and performance skills are not mutually exclusive.” Students such as Communications major, Helena Boldizar, find Dr. Koch’s lessons have an impact beyond the classroom as well. “I will serve as music director for my on-campus a cappella group. This is something I would not feel comfortable doing if I had not learned so much in music theory,” said Boldizar, who notes the lessons she learned in Dr. Koch’s classes are ones she will always cherish. Dr. Koch’s role as a leader within his department and University College has also garnered him much appreciation from his colleagues and students alike.

Each of this year’s University College Outstanding Teacher Award nominees embodies the qualities which provide University College students and the entire NC State community with incredible learning experiences through their creativity, diversity, and willingness to maximize student success. The university-level Outstanding Teaching Award winners will be announced in Spring 2019 and recognized at the 2018-2019 University Teaching Awards Ceremony.

For more information and details on the award, please visit the Outstanding Teaching Award website.