Michael J. Boehm was born and grew up in Ohio, earning a B.S. degree in biology from Heidelberg College and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in plant pathology from The Ohio State University. After graduation, he took a postdoctoral position with the USDA ARS in Corvallis, OR, to work on biocontrol research. His dedication to teaching was already so great, however, that he volunteered to teach the Introductory Plant Pathology course at Oregon State University (as a sabbatical replacement). Because of his profound interest in undergraduate teaching, reinforced by his positive experiences at Oregon State University, he took a position as an assistant professor at Monmouth College in Illinois, where he taught several biology and microbiology courses. Because of his reputation as a dedicated, innovative, and caring teacher, he was recruited back to Ohio State University in 1996 as an assistant professor in plant pathology.
Since his arrival at Ohio State University, Boehm has had responsibility for two turfgrass disease and pest management courses, taken primarily by undergraduates. Because of the great job he did with these courses, and the outstandingly positive feedback from the students, the department quickly gave him responsibility for its “flagship” introductory course, Plant Pathology 401, which he taught from 1997 to 2006. This is the key course for all future study in plant pathology and the only exposure many students ever have to the discipline, so the department takes the course very seriously. As expected, Boehm showed that he was the perfect person to teach this course. Boehm has a reputation as a demanding but caring instructor. His overall student-evaluation scores are consistently high, considerably above the university and college averages. Student responses reflect these high scores. Example comments include “...one of the most challenging, informative and overall helpful professors I have ever had...;” “...got the impression that Boehm would stand on his head if it would help a student understand a fact or process...;” and “...you are motivational as well as educational. I can look at you as a role model....” In 2005, Boehm put his time as a bio-threat agent testing specialist with the U.S. Navy to use and assumed responsibility for teaching a newly developed course for liberal arts majors called “Bioterrorism: An overview.”
Boehm is well-known on campus for his use of problem-based or real-world practicums in his courses, especially his Integrated Turfgrass Health Management course. Students are required to work with golf course superintendents or professional sports turfgrass managers to determine their specific problems, ask probing questions, and then develop a comprehensive integrated turfgrass health management plan to meet their needs. In its current form, students are divided into small working groups and assigned to work with a particular golf course. The students spend time throughout the quarter working with the course’s superintendent, listening to concerns, making onsite visits, taking and analyzing soil and tissue samples, and reviewing the superintendent’s records. Throughout these experiences, Boehm infuses informational sessions—discussions, lectures, invited guest speakers, and field trips—that provide additional information the students have requested or believe they need to successfully complete the project. The final outcome of the student’s efforts is the development of an integrated turfgrass health management plan for the golf course, presented to the superintendent and the leadership of the golf course. Besides solidifying their understanding of integrated turfgrass health management, the project provides ample opportunities for the students to hone their formal presentation, computer, people management, and interpersonal communication skills. This problem-based approach forces students to think out of the box and focus their attention on key concepts and issues, making the students better prepared to integrate theory and application. Recently, Boehm introduced a new “twist” to the pest management course—he developed a new course called “Integrated Turfgrass Health and Pest Management—New York Style.” He received a grant from a newly constructed golf course on Long Island (Sebonack Golf Club) to cover the costs associated with a special study tour to Long Island and New York City to study integrated turfgrass health management practices in this environmentally sensitive region of the United States. This year’s class is headed to St. Louis.
In addition to his teaching, Boehm has also been very active in curriculum development and mentoring. Most recently, he was instrumental in overseeing the development of two new credit-bearing graduate courses in mentored teaching: Plant Pathology 901 (mentored teaching in plant pathology) and Plant Pathology 902 (mentored extension/outreach teaching in plant pathology). The courses are designed to pair students—either one-on-one or in small groups—with a mentor (faculty or extension educator) to gain experiences focused on direct interactions with students or extension clientele and on the scholarly aspects of teaching. Since joining the faculty at Ohio State University, Boehm has also been actively engaged in advising students. To date, he has advised four postdocs, five visiting scientists, 10 graduate students, and 40 undergraduate students and has served on the advisory committees of an additional 21 graduate students. Boehm has been recognized numerous times at the department, college, and university levels for his dedication to teaching and learning.
Boehm has been recognized numerous times for his teaching accomplishments. Of special importance is the receipt in 2000 of the Ohio State Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching, the only person in plant pathology to be so recognized. He also received the Outstanding Professor Award four times from students in another department and the Pomerene and Gamma Sigma Delta Teaching Awards from the college. Boehm is an active member of APS, where he currently serves as the junior councilor-at-large and on various committees and strategic planning boards. Boehm was appointed as chair of Ohio State University’s Department of Plant Pathology in July 2007.