Students, faculty feted at Celebration of Excellence

04.20.2012 @ 12:00 AM

Accomplishments across the College of Arts and Sciences in academics, teaching, research and service were honored April 20, when faculty and students gathered for the Celebration of Excellence awards program and reception.

The ceremony recognized undergraduate students whose cumulative grade-point averages put them in the top 10 percent of their respective class, and faculty recipients of various awards at the college, university and system levels. The College’s Student Advisory Board, Ambassadors and Dean’s Scholars also were honored.

This year’s keynote speaker was Emily Schlichting, a senior communication studies and political science major.

The annual celebration is part of the university’s Honors Convocation recognition ceremonies. The College’s event has been renamed to help distinguish it from the university’s April 22 ceremony.

            A complete list of winners follows:

College Distinguished Teaching Award
Michael Dodd
Rose Holz
Christine Kelley
Eric Malina
Thomas Jack Morris
Seanna Oakley
Hazel R. McClymont Distinguished Teaching Fellow Award
William Thomas
Michael Wagner
A&S Outstanding Research and Creative Achievement Award
Thomas Borstelmann
Stephen DiMagno
Christopher Fielding
Richard Wiener
Annis Chaikin Sorensen Distinguished Teaching Award in the Humanities
Priscilla Hayden-Roy
Harold and Esther Edgerton Junior Faculty Award
John Gates
Louise Pound-George Howard Distinguished Career Award
David Forsythe
David Sellmyer
James V. Griesen Exemplary Service to Students Award
Aaron Duncan
University of Nebraska Outstanding Research and Creative Activity (ORCA) Award
Carolyn Pope Edwards
Endowed Professorships
Judy Walker - Aaron Douglas Professorship for Teaching Excellence
David Hage - James Hewett University Professorship of Chemistry
Rick Bevins - Willa Cather Professorship
Srikanth Iyengar - Willa Cather Professorship
Amy Burnett - Paula and D.B. Varner University Professorship


College Distinguished Teaching Award

Michael Dodd, Assistant Professor of Psychology — His nominators have described him an exemplary teacher in and outside the classroom who demonstrates talent with large classes, like “Introduction to Cognitive Processes,” as well as with small sections. He’s a “star in providing high quality and effective instruction to a large number of students,” as evidenced, too, in consistently above-average marks he receives in student evaluations. Dodd — an expert in cognitive psychology research, including eye movements and visual attention — offers courses that are appropriately rigorous, very well organized and have clearly articulated policies and requirements. He is a highly valued faculty member and a contributor to the department’s teaching mission. His skills as a student mentor, his efforts to offer graduate teaching assistants outstanding training opportunities and valuable instruction, and the example he sets as an outstanding professional role model for students also are among his noted strengths.

Rose Holz, Associate Professor of Practice, Women’s and Gender Studies — Holz is a dedicated teacher and mentor who fosters a positive learning environment, consistently performs beyond expectations, and enjoys an outstanding reputation among students. Her commitment to student learning extends beyond the classroom and is demonstrated through her early and consistent involvement with undergraduate students in developing theses, projects within the Undergraduate Creative Activities and Research Experiences (UCARE) program, and community internships, her nominators said. Her primary duties are in instructional activities that include teaching and advising the program’s undergraduate majors and minors in LGBTQ/Sexualities Studies — a program she helped develop. She teaches courses that are crucial to the curriculum, like her interdisciplinary course in feminist theories. She has also been instrumental in integrating science, gender and medicine in the Women’s and Gender Studies curriculum and research agenda by securing internal grants and involving faculty from different UNL colleges.

Christine Kelley, Assistant Professor of Mathematics — Since joining the faculty in fall 2008, Kelley’s teaching experiences have been varied and all successful. They have ranged from “Contemporary Mathematics” — a general education course developed for students in the arts, humanities, education and social sciences who have not had calculus — to “Geometry Matters” — a course offered to elementary education majors. Her teaching effectiveness has helped earn her above-average marks on student evaluations. She implements superb pedagogical ideas to help her students get the most out of her classes. She has made efforts to learn more about challenges facing K-12 teachers and what more university faculty can do to strengthen K-12 mathematical education. She also has a knack for combining leading edge research with teaching at the undergraduate level as well as for K-12 students, which is especially impressive, her nominators said.

Eric Malina, Associate Professor of Practice, Chemistry — Malina, who primarily teaches general chemistry courses, has built a reputation as a challenging, dedicated and approachable instructor who uses a students-first philosophy. He consistently receives overwhelmingly positive feedback on student evaluations, along with being recognized by the UNL Parent Association and Teaching Council for his contributions to students. When asked to describe his teaching style, students emphasized that he works through many problems on the board, is organized, explains concepts well and is engaging. Malina’s nominators describe him as a “cornerstone” in the recent renovation of the General Chemistry lab program. That renovation included a redesign of some of the undergraduate laboratory space that focused on enhancing the student learning experience. Malina also designed and developed new laboratory experiments that capitalize on those changes and strive to put greater emphasis on helping students develop critical-thinking skills.

Thomas Jack Morris, Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences — Regarded as an effective and vigorous spokesman for undergraduate instruction in the School of Biological Sciences, Morris possesses great skill and energy that have helped him make an impact. He is described as an “effective, innovative and enthusiastic instructor” who actively promotes teaching innovations and improvements in the sciences at UNL. He has led the way for reorganization and revitalization of the introductory core biology program. His commitment to the process of teaching extends to the department as a whole. For example, he helped organize a popular mentoring lunch in the department and several young faculty have significantly benefited from the opportunity to discuss pedagogy and the best approaches to teaching a large lecture classroom. His organizational skills, frank honesty, and determination are resulting in a quality educational experience for his students, his nominators said.

Seanna Oakley, Associate Professor of English —Oakley is a “born teacher who really shines in the classroom,” her nominators said. She challenges her students, is skilled in bringing out their strengths and pushing them to succeed. Feedback from students shows she has a knack for posing deep, thoughtful questions and she demonstrates compassion and an ability to listen to students. She’s known for meticulous feedback on written work and her student evaluations consistently rank above departmental norms. She teaches a variety of courses from 100 and 200-level courses in 20th century literature, introduction to poetry, and cross-listed courses with Ethnic Studies on Afro-Caribbean and Asian American Literature, to graduate-level seminars. Her course materials demonstrate the preparation she makes in conceptualizing her classes and she successfully integrates her research into the classes she teaches.

Hazel R. McClymont Distinguished Teaching Fellow Award
The Hazel R. McClymont Distinguished Teaching Fellow Award honors educators who have demonstrated and sustained a record of exemplary teaching. Recipients set a high standard for student performance. They teach in a manner that promotes critical and creative thinking and they empower their students to become active and continuous learners in a global society.

This year’s recipients are:

William Thomas, the John and Catherine Angle Professor in the Humanities, Professor and Chair of the Department of History — Thomas is an extremely popular lecturer who has inspired thousands of undergraduate students. He breathes vitality into the classroom through his organization, clarity, creativity and insightful analysis. Thomas, who is internationally known for his cutting-edge research in interdisciplinary digital scholarship, also brings to the classroom an excitement about research that is infectious. What sets him apart as a teacher is how he “combines the attractive traditional virtues of a ‘backward’-looking historian with the attractive newer virtues of a completely digitally savvy pioneer,” his nominators said. He also has been a driving force in creating new graduate-level courses in digital history and digital humanities that have helped foster UNL’s reputation as an international leader in this field.

Michael Wagner, Assistant Professor of Political Science — Wagner seamlessly weaves together his roles as a teacher and a researcher, which creates an incredible student experience, his nominators said. He has taught courses across the curriculum from introductory American government — a large lecture section — to the department’s graduate research seminar in American politics. He sets high standards and has a knack for delivering meaningful course material that gets students excited about political science as a discipline. But he also demonstrates genuine concern for his students and their success well beyond their years at UNL. Outside the classroom, he has excelled as a dedicated mentor within the Undergraduate Creative Activities and Research Experiences (UCARE) Program.


Arts and Sciences’ Outstanding Research and Creative Achievement Award
This award recognizes the vital role that significant research and creative accomplishments play in the College and in a liberal arts education.

Four recipients were selected for 2012. They are:

Thomas Borstelmann, Elwood N. and Katherine Thompson Professor of Modern World History — Borstelmann has demonstrated leadership in research and creative activities as well as his preeminence in his field. His research focuses on contemporary history, including U.S. foreign relations. His recent work, “The 1970s: A New Global History from Civil Rights to Economic Inequality,” represents the culmination of a nearly 10-year effort to re-conceptualize recent U.S. diplomatic and social history. It offers a significant and exciting advance in the way the recent history of the United States and the world are understood. Over the last decade,  Borstelmann has developed an important, new textbook in American history for high school and college students. His impact on the reputation of the Department of History has been extraordinarily significant and overwhelmingly positive, his nominators said.

Stephen DiMagno, Professor of Chemistry — DiMagno is a leading figure in the fields of physical organic chemistry, fluorine chemistry and the design of fluorinated drugs. In fall 2011, he was selected as one of 21 research teams nationwide to receive an inaugural National Science Foundation Innovation Corps Award, which DiMagno used to help further develop a molecular imaging process that creates radioactive compounds into a system that can be used to diagnose and combat cancer, cardiac disease, as well as other diseases. The discovery is at the heart of work undertaken by Ground Fluor Pharmaceuticals Inc., which DiMagno co-founded recently. A hallmark of DiMagno’s research program is his emphasis on translating basic discoveries and new science into new and innovative technology. Quality, creativity and rigor are words to describe everything he does in his professional activities, his nominators said.

Christopher Fielding, Professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences — Since joining UNL’s faculty in 2002, Fielding has developed a strong, externally funded research program with a prolific record of creative output that ranks him highly among his peers
worldwide. His research in sedimentary geology encompasses both pure and applied aspects of sedimentology and stratigraphy. He has achieved a prolific output of peer-reviewed publications in the international research literature — 135 published research papers — including in top-ranked geology journals. He has a strong record for producing top quality graduate students who have gone on to significant and lucrative careers in industry, consulting and academia. He also has amassed a spectacular record of professional recognition, including through his service as editor-in-chief for the two top specialty journals in his field.

Richard Wiener, Charles Bessey Professor of Psychology — Wiener has established himself as a pre-eminent researcher in his field, specifically on topics like jury decision making on the death penalty and sexual harassment. He continues to extend his research in various directions and consistently attracts funding from competitive federal agencies, primarily the National Science Foundation. He genuinely cares about the professional development of junior colleagues, graduate students, and undergraduate students. He has collaborated extensively with students in submitting research grants and writing papers, which are invaluable experiences to them. Under his stewardship, the University of Nebraska law/psychology program has maintained its status as one of the country’s leading programs of its kind, while continuing to grow and form new connections with the legal, psychological, and public policy communities.


Annis Chaikin Sorensen Distinguished Teaching Award in the Humanities
This award recognizes outstanding teaching in the humanities. It was first conferred in 1981 and commemorates the matriarch of a Nebraska family notable for service in politics, education and business at the state, national and international levels. Annis Sorensen led the movement to put women’s suffrage on the Nebraska ballot.

This year’s recipient, Priscilla Hayden-Roy, professor of modern languages and literatures, has taught courses across all levels of the German curriculum and has established a reputation as an outstanding and innovative teacher, both in and outside the classroom. She challenges her students while offering extensive feedback and coaching to support her students and help them find success. She offers a variety of learning experiences to engage her students. Her classes embody the concept of “high-impact learning” focusing on language proficiency and critical thinking. She is engaged and making an impact within the larger discussion of pedagogy. Also noteworthy is her success in working with the College of Education and Human Sciences to develop a unique Double Majors MA program, which is having a substantial impact on K-16 language educators.

Harold and Esther Edgerton Junior Faculty Award
This award honors outstanding pre-tenured faculty who have demonstrated creative research, extraordinary teaching abilities and academic promise.

This year’s recipient, John Gates, professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences, is part of his department’s water and environment program. He shows an enthusiasm and talent for teaching at all levels at the university, his nominators said. He has rebuilt an environmental geology course to benefit majors and offer non-majors a stronger foundation. He’s now in the process of adding a laboratory component. He also has an active research program in aquifer recharge and water geochemistry in arid and semi-arid regions and has proven himself a very active researcher. His expertise in this area complements UNL’s efforts in the water resource research and that the university has made a priority. He brings his research experience into the classroom to enrich his lectures and discussions,” and it’s one of several reasons he is a popular and inspiring educator.

Louise Pound-George Howard Distinguished Career Award
Since it was established in 1990, the Louise Pound-George Howard Distinguished Career Award has recognized individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to the university during their careers. These contributions have been through teaching, research, public service, administration or through a combination of these factors. The honored individuals also reflect a long-standing commitment to the university.

Two recipients selected this year are:

David Forsythe, Charles J. Mach Distinguished Professor emeritus and emeritus professor of political science — Forsythe joined UNL’s faculty in 1973. He
has more than 100 publications and has been involved in 28 books or monographs as either an author or editor. He is also the general editor of “The Human Rights Encyclopedia”. One of Forysthe’s major contributions to UNL was his help in founding the Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs program, an interdisciplinary program that has brought to campus noted speakers, developed a human rights minor, and attracted external grant funding.  His personal contribution to this program in the form of a large donation to the NU Foundation ensures that the newly named Forsythe Family Program on Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs will continue to offer the UNL community an engaging and dynamic program on human rights into the future. 

David Sellmyer, founding director of the Nebraska Center for Materials and Nanoscience and George Holmes University Professor of physics and astronomy — Sellmyer’s research interests have focused on condensed matter physics and nanoscience. He has (co-)authored and edited more than 530 research articles, chapters and reviews, and eight books. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society, an honorary member of the State Key Magnetism Laboratory, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and won Outstanding Research and Creative Activity awards from the University of Nebraska and Sigma Xi. At UNL he has organized and pushed many collaborative research and education initiatives including a new nanoscience research facility that was completed this spring. It is in large thanks to his nearly 40-year record of dedication, vision, and continuing service that UNL now enjoys national prominence as one of the country’s leaders in materials and nanoscience research.

James V. Griesen Exemplary Service to Students Award
Established in 1986 as the Chancellor’s Exemplary Service to Students Award and renamed in 2006 to the James V. Griesen Exemplary Service to Students Award, it acknowledges extraordinary and sustained performance by individuals serving UNL’s students. 

This year’s recipient is Aaron Duncan, who has directed UNL’s Speech and Debate team since 2005. The team has ranked in the top 10 at the national tournament for six of his seven years as director. In fall 2011, the team earned a distinctive honor: UNL’s first title in the Big Ten Conference with a victory at the Conference Challenge Tournament at Northwestern University. He is a skilled coach, and a talented leader who is passionate about his work and leading his students to victory. His team members often joke about how he is always on campus, which is a testament to his commitment to his students — both those on the team and those in his classes. Duncan earned his Ph.D. from UNL’s Department of Communication Studies in 2010 with a specialization in rhetoric and public culture.

University of Nebraska system-wide awards
Carolyn Pope Edwards, Willa Cather Professor of Psychology and Child, Youth and Family Studies, University of Nebraska Outstanding Research and Creative Activity (ORCA) Award — This award is among the university’s most prestigious honors. Recognized individuals demonstrate a sustained record of excellent accomplishment in research or creative activity that is of national or international significance. Edwards has made significant research and creative contributions to three fields – cultural anthropology, moral development in psychology and early childhood education. She has used her research – much of it done across disciplines – to inform policy, particularly in the early childhood arena, and has written and spoken widely on the topic. Edwards has attracted significant grant funding to UNL, having served as principal or co-principal investigator on more than $15 million worth of grant-funded activities. One of her recent projects is a National Science Foundation-funded grant to study and improve math and science education in early childhood. Edwards also has been appointed as coordinator for the university’s new Buffett Early Childhood Institute, which aims to improve the success of children, particularly those at risk, from birth to age 8.


Endowed Professorships
Judy Walker, Professor and Chair of the Department of Mathematics, Aaron Douglas Professorship for Teaching Excellence — This professorship recognizes full professors who demonstrate sustained and extraordinary levels of teaching excellence and national visibility for instructional activities or practice. It honors University of Nebraska alumnus Douglas (1899-1979), the first African American to earn a degree in art from NU and is considered a pre-eminent artist of the Harlem Renaissance movement.

David Hage, Department of Chemistry, James Hewett University Professorship of Chemistry — This professorship was established in 1998 by a gift from James and Kathryn Hewett. It recognizes a member of the Department of Chemistry who excels in various aspects of teaching and outreach, demonstrates a commitment to the welfare of traditional and nontraditional learners and is a leader in national or international organization in the field of chemistry. After earning his bachelor’s degree from NU and his master’s degree and doctorate from Purdue, Hewett went on to work at DuPont for the majority of his career. He supervised the development of products such as Lycra and Nomex high-temperature fibers.

Rick Bevins, Professor of Psychology, and Srikanth Iyengar, Professor of Mathematics, Willa Cather Professorship — This professorship was established in 2001 to recognize UNL faculty members with the rank of full professor who have established exceptional records of distinguished scholarship or creative activity. It recognizes the University of Nebraska alumna and winner of the 1922 Pulitzer Prize for her novel "One of Ours.”
Cather is widely recognized as one of America's premiere authors. UNL holds a large scholarly archive of Cather's writings, letters and other items; is home to the digital Willa Cather Archive; and many UNL scholars are engaged in ongoing scholarship concerning Cather and her works.

Amy Burnett, Professor of History, Paula and D.B. Varner University Professorship — This professorship recognizes a faculty member who has earned distinction as a teacher-scholar and has demonstrated loyalty to the university through an extended period of distinguished service. The professorship was established in 1986 by the University of Nebraska Foundation’s Executive Committee to honor the Varners upon D.B. Varner's retirement as chairman of the Foundation. He headed the NU system for seven years before becoming its chief fundraiser. He holds the distinction of being both the chancellor and president of the university.

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