Western Carolina University presented its top faculty and staff awards for teaching, research and service for the 2009-10 academic year Friday, April 16, at its annual spring Awards Convocation.
Chancellor John W. Bardo announced Gibbs Knotts, associate professor and head of the political science and public affairs department, as the winner of the Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching and the University Scholar Award. Bardo also presented university awards to faculty including Elizabeth “Libby” G. McRae, associate professor of history, recipient of the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award; and C. Dale Carpenter, professor of special education, recipient of the Paul A. Reid Distinguished Service Award for Faculty.
Staff awards honored Amy McKenzie, administrative support associate for the philosophy and religion department, recipient of the Star Staff Award; Rosemarie “Rosie” Greenwood, administrative support specialist for Facilities Management, recipient of the Judy H. Dowell Outstanding Support Staff Award; and Rich L. Kucharski, general counsel and director of technology transfer, recipient of the Paul A. Reid Distinguished Service Award for Administrative Staff.
The Academic Program of Excellence Award was bestowed on the communication sciences and disorders department.
The Integration of Learning Award was awarded to the Wellness and Leisure Time Program, a collaborative effort led by Bill Papin, a health, physical education and recreation instructor; Robert Crow, an instructional developer with Coulter Faculty Center; and Josh Whitmore, director of outdoor programs and Base Camp Cullowhee.
Additional universitywide faculty awards included the Excellence in Teaching Liberal Studies Award, which honored Sloan Despeaux, associate professor and associate head of the mathematics and computer science department; the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award, which honored Debbie Burke, professor of business law and head of the business administration and law and sport management department; the Jay M. Robinson eTeaching Award, which honored Claire DeCristofaro, associate professor of nursing; and the Last Lecture Award, which was presented to Ted Chiappelli, associate professor of health sciences.
The honors were announced by WCU Chancellor John W. Bardo; Kyle Carter, provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs; and Sam Miller, vice chancellor for student affairs.
AWARDS PRESENTED BY CHANCELLOR JOHN W. BARDO
Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching
and the University Scholar Award
Gibbs Knotts, associate professor and head of the political science and public affairs department, won the Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching.
“Dr. Knotts is a skilled teacher who brings passion and enthusiasm for politics and government into his classroom,” said Bardo. “His excitement for teaching is not only contagious but also inspiring. He motivates students to become engaged individuals who are active participants in their learning.”
Knotts also was honored with the University Scholar Award. His research focuses on political behavior, such as the distance a voter has to travel to polling places on voter participations in elections. “Gibbs is a frequent op-ed contributor to the Asheville Citizen-Times and has worked on issues vital to the local community such as land-use planning and zoning in Western North Carolina,” said Bardo. “His colleague and frequent co-author, Chris Cooper, says Gibbs’ research ‘fits perfectly with Western Carolina’s mission of engagement and frequently involves students.’”
Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award
Elizabeth “Libby” G. McRae, winner of the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award, is an associate professor of history who joined the faculty in 2000.
McRae builds classes around a question that requires students to interact with provocative historical material, confront facts and build their own interpretation, said Bardo. “Libby’s sense of the progression of learning within a class and her mature approach to carefully crafting her class time to promote learning distinguishes her as an educator,” said Bardo.
Star Staff Award
Amy McKenzie, administrative staff associate with the philosophy and religion department, is the 2009-10 winner of the Star Staff Award, which honors a staff member who has helped energize and enhance staff spirit.
McKenzie not only works for the philosophy and religion department but also took on extra duties serving a dean’s office and the biology department. “Her nominator states, ‘The best testimony I can give for Amy is this: in working with three different units over the past year, Amy has been the kind of staff member that each of us wishes we could have full time rather than sharing her with another unit,’” said Bardo.
Judy H. Dowell Outstanding Support Staff Award
Rosemarie “Rosie” Greenwood, administrative support specialist for Facilities Management, was honored with the Judy H. Dowell Outstanding Support Staff Award.
In addition to Greenwood’s work responsibilities, which include some taken on in the absence of a business officer, she makes a special effort to recognize employee birthdays and special occasions, and coordinates appropriate responses when a tragedy or death affects the department’s 188 employees and immediate families. “Her nominator states, ‘She is always courteous to all internal and external contacts and will go the extra mile to perform tasks in a professional and timely manner,’” said Bardo.
Paul A. Reid Distinguished Service Award for Administrative Staff
Rich L. Kucharski, recipient of the Reid staff award, serves as general counsel and director of technology transfer. Since 1985, he has provided legal advice on matters involving or affecting the university, and in 2004 created the Office of Technology Transfer to provide assistance to faculty and staff who want to see their on-campus creations benefit the public.
“The board of trustees, the chancellor, and academic and administrative managers alike all have come to depend on him to advocate for the university and protect its interests,” said Bardo. “Rich is the heart and soul of his office, frequently displaying his keen sense of humor which is so essential to balance the utterly serious nature of the work.”
Paul A. Reid Distinguished Service Award for Faculty
Dale Carpenter, winner of the Reid faculty award, is a professor of special education and has been a WCU faculty member since 1979. Carpenter is called to serve as a teacher education expert by local, state and national organizations, and served as associate dean of the College of Education and Allied Professions from 1998 to 2008 before returning to the faculty.
“His colleague said, ‘Dale Carpenter is a rare individual with a combination of professionalism, service, dedication, wit, positive perspective and leadership skills. His tireless contributions to improve teacher education will continue to affect teacher candidates for years to come, not only in our college but for teacher candidates across the state of North Carolina, the nation and perhaps in different parts of the world,’” said Bardo.
Academic Program of Excellence
In presenting the Academic Program of Excellence Award to the communication sciences and disorders department, Bardo said the department exemplifies WCU’s commitment to collaboration, engaged learning and service to the region. He noted that the department has received dozens of honors, including international recognition, and has attracted $2.57 million to WCU for instructional and research support.
“As an example of being engaged with the region, the department’s annual Cullowhee Conference on Communicative Disorders has provided continuing education for professionals throughout the region for 18 years,” he said. “The department routinely provides approximately 2,700 diagnostic and treatment meetings per year, to the direct benefit of the people in Western North Carolina.”
AWARD PRESENTED BY SAM MILLER
Integration of Learning Award
The Integration of Learning Award recognizes faculty members who work directly with Division of Student Affairs staff members to promote the integration of teaching with division activities. The winning proposal, “Wellness and Leisure Time,” was submitted by Bill Papin, a health, physical education and recreation instructor; Robert Crow, an instructional developer with Coulter Faculty Center; and Josh Whitmore, director of outdoor programs and Base Camp Cullowhee.
“Over the course of a year, about 100 students enrolled in a health-and-wellness-focused course will select a Base Camp Cullowhee adventure – hiking, kayaking, caving, rafting or rock climbing – to live and personally experience the concepts discussed in the course,” said Miller. “After completing the Base Camp activity and associated assessment worksheets, these students will work in small groups to create a video illustrating how their use of leisure time is integrated into their health and wellness values.”
AWARDS PRESENTED BY PROVOST KYLE CARTER
Excellence in Teaching Liberal Studies Award
The winner, Sloan Despeaux, associate professor and associate head of the mathematics and computer science department, was honored for promoting significant student learning while teaching liberal studies courses on a regular basis.
“Her students recognize that mathematics has a purpose beyond the classroom, and many, even those who have historically dreaded math, learn to appreciate it as a thing of beauty, coherence and depth,’” said Carter, quoting one of Despeaux’s colleagues. “Sloan’s commitment to helping her students write about their deepening engagement with math not only strengthens their understanding of the subject but also broadens their conceptualization of math’s relevance to their daily lives.”
Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award
Debbie Burke, professor of business law and head of the business administration and law and sport management department, won the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award, which is designed to encourage and recognize a faculty member engaged in scholarship that focuses on the teaching and learning process.
The SoTL Award Committee was impressed with Burke’s rigorous study showing that work, family and health issues played a role in student learning and academic achievement. “Because of the study, Debbie began including in-class exercises, and her students’ exam scores have since improved,” said Carter.
Jay M. Robinson eTeaching Award
Claire DeCristofaro, associate professor of nursing, was honored with the Jay M. Robinson eTeaching Award for her achievements teaching online courses. DeCristofaro was an inaugural eLearning Faculty Fellow in 2005 and took the lead in designing WCU’s nationally recognized online course assessment tool.
“Claire’s online teaching is highly praised by her students and respected by her colleagues, whom she has generously mentored and taught,” said Carter.
Scholarly Development Assignment Program
Three recipients were chosen for the Scholarly Development Assignment Program.
Paul Heckert, professor of astronomy and physics, will analyze 20 years of data collected on the star ER Vul and collect additional data at Mount Laguna Observatory.
Elizabeth “Libby” G. McRae, associate professor of history, will complete “Feminizing Massive Resistance: White Women and the Politics of Racial Segregation” for Oxford University Press and conduct fieldwork on the relationship between public education, busing and the successes of the New Right.
Ellie Hilty, associate professor of educational leadership and foundations, who will complete two books under contract, one titled “Teachers’ Work: A Profession in Crisis” and the other titled “Thinking about Schools: An Educational Foundations.”
Last Lecture Award
The Last Lecture Award, the only universitywide teaching award based solely on student selection, was presented to Ted Chiappelli, associate professor of health sciences. The award honors Chiappelli for his passion and enthusiasm in teaching, and he will give a public “last lecture” during Homecoming week this fall.
Carter quoted a student who said Chiappelli “not only communicates the information well but stimulates me to want to know more. He is very loyal to WCU and ends his lectures with ‘Have a great Western day.’”
Compiled by Teresa Killian Tate