The Western Carolina University Board of Trustees approved the appointments of two current WCU faculty members to distinguished professorships during its quarterly meeting Friday, March 11.
The trustees approved Lisa Bloom, a professor in WCU’s School of Teaching and Learning, as the Jay M. Robinson Distinguished Professor in Educational Technologies, and Todd Collins, associate professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Affairs, as the inaugural David and Lois Steed Distinguished Professor in Public Policy.
“Lisa and Todd are outstanding faculty who are well-deserving of this recognition of their excellence in their disciplines,” said WCU Provost Alison Morrison-Shetlar. “They are both true teachers, scholars and mentors to students, faculty and staff at WCU and the community that they serve.”
Established in 1997, the Robinson Professorship is designed to attract or retain experts from the educational or corporate sectors who are using electronic technologies to enhance the teaching and learning process. It is named in honor of Jay Robinson, the late former chairman of the State Board of Education and brother of the late H.F. “Cotton” Robinson, who served as WCU chancellor from 1974 to 1984. The professorship is endowed at more than $500,000 with a combination of contributions from the late former president of the UNC system, C.D. Spangler Jr., and matching state funds.
Bloom, who earned her doctorate in special education at West Virginia University, has been a member of the WCU faculty since 1989. She is coordinator of the special education program and previously served as a department head for five years. The honors she has received over the years include the WCU Graduate School Creative Research Award, the Chancellor’s Engaged Teaching Award, and the College of Education and Allied Professions’ Taft B. Botner Award for Superior Teaching.
Bloom said her new position will allow the university to prepare educators to incorporate new technologies in learning at all levels – preschool through high school and beyond. “WCU has always been a leader in preparing and supporting P-16 education, and I am looking forward to continuing and building on that tradition,” she said.
The Steed Professorship is designed to attract an individual with a record of public service and proven capability in teaching and research who can guide the Department of Political Science and Public Affairs’ efforts to enhance the quality of life in the region by forming effective partnerships to elevate the policy dialogue and increasing the expertise of government and nonprofit professionals.
The professorship, endowed at $1 million, was created through a combination of a $250,000 gift by David and Lois Steed of Mooresville, $250,000 from the C.D. Spangler Foundation and $500,000 in matching state funds. David Steed received his bachelor’s degree in marketing at WCU in 1973 and went on to a 37-year career with home improvement retailer Lowe’s. He and his wife made their gift to the university in honor and memory of their mothers, Erlene Steed and Gladys Bennett.
Collins earned his doctorate in political science at the University of Georgia and his law degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A member of WCU’s faculty since 2007, he currently serves as director of the university’s Public Policy Institute. He has twice been honored for his work in combining teaching and service-learning, and in 2011-12 he served as WCU’s Hunter Scholar, a designation that recognizes the exceptional scholarship of faculty members while supporting their research.
Collins expressed appreciation to the Steeds for providing funding for the endowment and said he is honored to be the first person to hold the professorship. “Our region is one of great beauty, wonderful people and a rich culture,” he said. “However, it is a place that also faces some difficult challenges. Through the Steed Distinguished Professorship, we will be able to expand our engagement activities with local governments and nonprofits in our area. In supporting our outreach mission, we will also be able to provide more experiences for our students to work on real-world problems in Western North Carolina.”
By Randall Holcombe