Southern Faculty Shine at Celebration of Excellence

Celebration of Excellence, faculty awards

Southern faculty are known for striving to make a difference in the lives of their students, as well as for their contributions to their respective disciplines and to the community in general. Each year, the university’s Celebration of Excellence ceremony presents an opportunity to recognize the special achievements of a few faculty and reflect on what is possible in higher education.

At this year’s ceremony, held on April 25, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ellen Durnin called the event “a public affirmation of the fact that, as a university, we hold faculty research, teaching, service, innovation, and student advising in high regard.”

The Joan Finn Junior Faculty Research Fellowships aim to provide junior faculty members with a significant amount of reassigned time at an early stage in their careers at Southern for these purposes. Two fellowships are awarded each year. This year’s recipients were Amy Smoyer, assistant professor of social work, for her project, “Prison at the Margins: Understanding the Intersecting Vulnerabilities of Incarcerated Lives,” and James Kearns, assistant professor of chemistry, for his project, “The development of methods to quantify arsenic contamination in rice and other common food sources by chemical digestion and measurement with an atomic absorption spectrophotometer.”

The Mid-Level Faculty Research Fellowship aims to provide mid-level faculty members with a significant amount of reassigned time at this crucial stage in their careers at Southern for these purposes. This year’s recipient is Jonathan Weinbaum, associate professor of biology, for his project entitled “Assessment of a New Late Triassic Fossil Bonebed in Arizona.”

The Technological Teacher of the Year Award recognizes the importance of the effective use of technology in the classroom and the faculty who embrace it. Leon Yacher, professor of geography, was named the 2016 Technological Teacher of the Year. Yacher designed and developed the university’s first course in Geographic Information Systems (GIS)and he has made innovative use of pedagogical tools such as Blackboard, clickers, and TOPHAT.

Named in honor of the late Robert E. Jirsa, former Faculty Senate President and P & T Committee Chairman, the Robert E. Jirsa Service Award is given annually to a full-time faculty member who has made extraordinary contributions and demonstrated outstanding leadership in his or her service to the university. This year’s recipient is David Pettigrew, professor of philosophy. Pettigrew came to Southern in 1987, and over the years, he has been deeply involved in the life of the university, having served and chaired most Philosophy Department committees, as well as School of Arts & Sciences and university-wide committees, among them Faculty Senate, the Faculty Academic Strategic Planning Committee, and the University Promotion and Tenure Committee. In addition to his committee work, he coordinated PROJECT CONNSTRUCT to reform Mathematics and Science in Southern’s teacher education program while collaborating with the New Haven Public Schools; initiated the Annual Interdisciplinary Faculty Research Conference, the University-wide lecture series, and the university film festival series, “Cinema du Monde”; and served as chair of the Forum on Islam, as co-coordinator of selected Holocaust Remembrance activities, and as co-chair of Southern’s Big Read, among other activities.

Carol Stewart, assistant professor of management, was selected as the recipient of the 2016 Outstanding Academic Advisor Award. Stewart has advised students in the LEP program as well as the former AUR in the Business Administration and Management concentrations, as well as advising transfer students. In addition to EAB training, her advising is informed through her work with the Undergraduate Curriculum Forum (UCF).

The Board of Regents Adjunct Faculty Teaching Awards are given to recognize part-time faculty who have distinguished themselves as outstanding teachers with a track record of increasing student learning and promoting instructional improvements for their programs or departments. Michael Pascucilla, currently an adjunct professor in SCSU’s Department of Public Health, is the Southern nominee for this year’s award.  An adjunct professor in Southern’s Department of Public Health since 2013, he teaches four to five 3-credit classes in public health each year, serves as a mentor to students, and regularly hosts student internships in Public Health and Environmental Health.

The Board of Regents Teaching Awards are given to recognize faculty who have distinguished themselves as outstanding teachers for at least five years and have a minimum of two years’ track record of promoting instructional improvements for their programs/departments. The BOR-approved SCSU campus winner for this award is Jess Gregory, assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies. Gregory came to Southern in 2010 and has been recognized several times for her excellence as a teacher and mentor, having received the J. Philip Smith Outstanding Teaching Award for 2014-2015; and been nominated four times for the SCSU Outstanding Academic Advisor Award. She teaches courses in education law and leadership, and has numerous publications, presentations, awards and grants.

The Board of Regents Research Awards are given to recognize faculty from the four state universities who are doing exceptional research/creative work. The BOR-approved SCSU campus winner for this award is Christine Unson, associate professor of public health. Unson teaches Biostatistics, Research Methods, and Special Projects at the graduate level, and Health Promotions and Research Methods at the undergraduate level. She has also served as director of the Office of Research Integrity since 2013. Her research interests include aging and work-life extension, participation in clinical trials, caregiver burden, and predictors of student success, and she has many publications and presentations, and has received a number of awards and grants for her work.

The Faculty Scholar Award recognizes scholarly and creative work of exceptional merit by a full-time member of the SCSU faculty.  This year’s recipient is Armen Marsoobian, chairman and professor of philosophy, for his book Fragments of a Lost Homeland: Remembering Armenia. In the book, Marsoobian uses his family’s story in the late Ottoman period to construct the history of the Armenian minority in central Anatolia. In writing this book, he employed a vast array of primary source material, and the selection committee was impressed by the depth of his scholarship and the sheer quantity of archival and investigative work it required. In addition, the committee appreciated the precision of Marsoobian’s writing, the richness of the narrative, and his ability to weave micro or personal history together with broader political developments. Marsoobian serves as chair and professor of philosophy, and since 1993 has been editor-in-chief of Metaphilosophy (an international journal of philosophy).

The J. Philip Smith Award for Outstanding Teaching is presented to one full-time faculty and one part-time faculty member for exemplary teaching. Thomas O’Malley, instructor of communication, has been selected as the recipient of the part-time faculty award. He teaches Interviewing Skills, Communicating Online, Fundamentals of Professional Presentation Skills and Intellectual and Creative Inquiry. He began teaching at Southern in 1996.

Helen Marx, associate professor of elementary education, has been selected as the recipient of the full-time faculty award. Marx joined the faculty in 2011 and currently teaches Integrated Curriculum, Social Studies in the Elementary Classroom, and the Capstone Student Teaching Seminar, which also entails student teacher supervision. She is also the coordinator of the Elementary and Early Childhood Program.