Falcetta named GCC’s 2024 Professor of the Year

Dr. Michael F. Falcetta will be honored as Grove City College’s Professor of the Year at next week’s honors convocation.

Falcetta, a professor of Chemistry, was selected for the award by the College’s chapter of Omicron Delta Kappa, a national leadership honorary that has recognized collegiate scholarship, leadership, and citizenship based on nominations from students.

“Dr. Falcetta’s passion for his field is very evident in his teaching. He does an excellent job of making a difficult subject engaging and approachable to his students. He also takes time to get to know his students and displays genuine care for them and their wellbeing,” one student wrote.

Falcetta joined the faculty in 2003 and has taught general chemistry, physical chemistry, molecular modeling, and other courses over the years. He has also served as an adviser to a number of student organizations, most recently Phi Omega Sigma, the “Possums” men’s housing group.

Whether teaching non-STEM students, engineers, or chemistry majors, he is known for his “ability to explain complicated ideas in a way that makes chemistry both understandable and engaging,” according to one student nomination.

Even those who are not taken with chemistry are taken with Dr. Falcetta. As one senior explained, though some students may say “I hate chemistry,” they quickly add “but I LOVE Dr. Falcetta.”

The feeling is mutual. Falcetta said the students are the reason he has stayed on the job at Grove City College for more than two decades. “We are blessed with great students both in terms of their academic ability and their character,” he said.

Falcetta said he was “surprised and honored” to be named Professor of the Year and downplayed his role in achieving the title. “I feel this largely reflects the investments that so many people have made in my personal and professional life,” he said.

While his favorite part of teaching is the students, Falcetta also indicated that his colleagues are “a tremendous blessing” and valued interdepartmental and interdisciplinary collaborators – and sometimes, teachers, as in the case of Dr. Julie Moeller, whose Hebrew classes Falcetta said he has been auditing for several semesters. “I’m still a novice but have learned a ton and really enjoyed sitting with the students – so to speak,” Falcetta said.

An expert in physical chemistry, Falcetta is an active researcher who publishes regularly with his Grove City College collaborator Dr. Mark Fair in leading journals, including The Journal of Physical Chemistry, and speaks at scientific meetings and conferences.

At Grove City College, he regularly supervises student research, providing students with the opportunity to collaborate on his projects. Falcetta “makes sure his research students truly understand the science behind what they are completing and not just how to carry out processes,” a student research assistant said.

He also makes sure his upper level students in CHEM 342 are well fed on “mini-muffin Mondays.” The class is “required – but not necessarily eagerly awaited” by all biochemistry majors, Falcetta said.

“I thought that the combination of Mondays and a physical chemistry course might be too depressing, so, I started making mini muffins for class each Monday morning,” he said, describing himself as a “hacker” when it comes to baking. “Students seem to like chocolate chip, blueberry, and chocolate and chocolate chip muffins a lot,” he said.

It continues a tradition that Falcetta started when he began teaching over 25 years ago and would make cookies for students on exam days, often with the help of his wife and daughter. A seasonal variation – “baklava bonanza” – is coming up soon.

Originally from Commack, N.Y. on Long Island, Falcetta earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry with a minor in Mathematics from SUNY College at Oswego, N.Y., and a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh. He has also completed graduate work toward a master’s degree in New Testament Studies from Alliance Theological Seminary.

Falcetta lives in Grove City with his wife, Esther. They have a daughter, Tessa.

Grove City College will hold Honors Convocation at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 24 in Harbison Chapel. It will be livestreamed at gcc.edu/liveevents.

Falcetta named GCC’s 2024 Professor of the Year

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