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Faculty, staff honored for achievements; Morrison-Shetlar recognized for exemplary service

Alvin Malesky, recipient of the 2019 Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award

The achievements of Western Carolina University’s faculty and staff in the areas of teaching, scholarship and service were recognized Friday (April 26) during the 2018-19 Faculty and Staff Excellence Awards program held in the Grandroom of A.K. Hinds University Center.

The event was presided over by Alison Morrison-Shetlar, WCU’s interim chancellor, and Carol Burton, the university’s acting provost. Speakers included Damon Sink, chair of the Faculty Senate, and Natalie Broom, chair of the Staff Senate.

From left, Alison Morrison-Shetlar and Carol Burton

The awards presentations included a surprise special commendation recognizing the exemplary service of Morrison-Shetlar, who moved into the role of acting chancellor when late Chancellor David O. Belcher went on medical leave Jan. 1, 2018, and then later transitioned into the interim chancellor position upon his passing in June 2018. Morrison-Shetlar will be returning to her regular position of provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs when the university’s new chancellor, Kelli R. Brown, assumes her duties July 1.

Carol Burton, WCU’s acting provost since Jan. 1, 2018, presented a plaque to Morrison-Shetlar, who received a standing ovation from the audience in the Grandroom.

“One year and four months ago, Chancellor David Belcher sadly began medical leave to battle an illness that would soon take his life,” Burton said. “At a time when the university was reeling from that announcement, Dr. Alison Morrison-Shetlar stepped forward to fill those large shoes while a national search could be completed to identify WCU’s next chancellor. Little did we know that a short period of serving as acting chancellor would turn into an 18-month stint as interim chancellor.

“During the past 16 months – and in the months leading up to David’s leave – Alison provided a steady hand on the wheel and kept the university moving forward,” Burton said. “At a time when it would have been easy to push pause on WCU’s momentum, she leaned in and helped ensure that our forward trajectory never slowed.”

Among the faculty members recognized for superior teaching during the event were Alvin Malesky, professor and head of the Department of Psychology, who received the highest teaching honor bestowed by the university, the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award; and John Whitmire, associate professor of philosophy, who is WCU’s 2019 winner of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching. Whitmire will receive his award during the university’s undergraduate commencement that begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 11.

Staff members honored for their high-quality work are Chelsea Reavis, parking enforcement operations supervisor, Star Staff Award; Brian Chamberlin, business and technology applications analyst in the Division of Information Technology, Bright Idea Staff Award; Wesley Bintz, research operations manager in the College of Arts and Sciences, Judy H. Dowell Outstanding Support Staff Award; and Sam Miller, vice chancellor for student affairs, Paul A. Reid Distinguished Service Award for Administrative Staff.

Teaching, scholarship and service honors presented to faculty members included Brian Railsback, professor of English, Paul A. Reid Distinguished Service Award for Faculty; Brian Byrd, associate professor of environmental health, University Scholar Award; Kim Hall, assistant professor of environmental health, Excellence in Teaching Liberal Studies Award; Erin Adams, associate professor of interior design, and Geoff Goehle, associate professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, recipients of the Innovative Scholarship Award; and Mary Adams, associate professor of English, Excellence in Community Engagement Award.

Other honors went to Joe Bill Mathews, biology instructor, Student-Nominated Faculty of the Year Award; and University Marketing, Support Program of Excellence Award. A new award for this year, the Irene W. Welch Customer Service and Process Improvement Award, recognizes departmental excellence in customer service and process improvement. Named in honor of Irene W. Welch, who retired from WCU’s budget office, the inaugural honor was won by WCU’s Center for Career and Professional Development.

Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award

The committee tasked with choosing the recipient of this year’s Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award was impressed with Alvin Malesky’s “commitment to continuous improvement and his success in the classroom with both graduate and undergraduate students,” Morrison-Shetlar said in presenting the honor.

“In addition, the committee noted his ability to help students meaningfully engage with the needs of Western North Carolina,” she said. “Alvin, congratulations for being chosen for this award and for the outstanding contributions to the teaching and learning enterprise which this award represents.”

Star Staff Award

From left, Alison Morrison-Shetlar, Chelsea Reavis, Carol Burton

Parking is “one of the most contentious topics on our campus,” but an individual would never know that when interacting with Chelsea Reavis, winner of the Star Staff Award, Morrison-Shetlar said.

“She always has a smile on her face. She is always polite and professional while going above and beyond to make sure that everything you need is handled whether it requires her to be on campus early or late, all without losing her sunny disposition,” Morrison-Shetlar said. “Chelsea, you are proof that having pride and joy in our work makes not only your day more enjoyable, but that of everyone around you.”

Bright Idea Staff Award

From left, Alison Morrison-Shetlar, Brian Chamberlin and Carol Burton

Morrison-Shetlar said Brian Chamberlin, recipient of the Bright Idea Staff Award, came up with an idea regarding a process that had previously been a multiday, several-hundred-hour project for the Advancement office. A staff member in that office has described how Chamberlin “had the foresight and skill to reduce a huge matching process to an extremely detailed data file, which allowed us to prepare endowment reports in a fraction of the time,” she said.

The Advancement staff member said that, with the involvement of the Print Shop and Controller’s Office, “Brian’s idea brought our endowment reports to life for our donors in a very meaningful way,” Morrison-Shetlar said.

Judy H. Dowell Outstanding Support Staff Award

Wes Bintz

Wes Bintz, winner of the Judy H. Dowell Outstanding Support Staff Award, embodies the ideals of that honor, Morrison-Shetlar said.

“Here is what his colleagues had to say,” she said. “‘Every day, Wes goes above and beyond his actual duties. He has reorganized the entire chemistry stockroom, modernizing the inventory and improving everything from the computer system to the physical shelving. Each day, he makes our department run more smoothly.’

"Thank you, Wes, for your commitment and support of the college (of Arts and Sciences) and of Western Carolina University.”

Paul A. Reid Distinguished Service Award for Administrative Staff

Sam Miller

Sam Miller “is the consummate university citizen,” Morrison-Shetlar said in presenting the Paul A. Reid Distinguished Service Award for Administrative Staff.

“Here is what his colleagues had to say about him,” she said. “‘For the past 12 years, Sam has been a devoted and exceptional advocate for students, leading with a passion and commitment to his field that borders on a calling. He is a strategic thinker; routinely, when we are puzzling over an issue, Sam astounds me when he articulates not just the next step in the solution, but the next 10 steps down the line. He is WCU’s secret weapon.’”

Paul A. Reid Distinguished Service Award for Faculty

Brian Railsback (second from left)

Brian Railsback, recipient of the Paul A. Reid Distinguished Service Award for Faculty, has an international reputation as a scholar and maintains a long list of accomplishments at WCU that includes the founding of the Honors College, initiation and implementation of the university’s presence at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research and the initiation of the Spring Literary Festival, Morrison-Shetlar said.

“He most recently served as chair of the 51st Faculty Senate and established the Faculty Senate Student Support Fund, raising over $10,000,” she said.

University Scholar Award

Scholarship conducted by Brian Byrd on the human health

Brian Byrd

effects of the mosquito-transmitted La Crosse encephalitis “is impactful and highly collaborative with faculty and professional colleagues,” Morrison-Shetlar said in presenting the University Scholar Award.

“His laboratory and field research supports numerous students who are trained and mentored in research and publication, many of whom have been co-authors on his 28 journal articles, book chapters and technical reports,” she said. In addition, Byrd’s research over the past 11 years is highly transferable to other fields of epidemiology and his scholarship has been funded through research grants from agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and the National Science Foundation.

Excellence in Teaching Liberal Studies Award

From left, Alison Morrison-Shetlar, Kim Hall and Carol Burton

Carol Burton presented the Excellence in Teaching Liberal Studies Award to Kim Hall. The award selection committee “was incredibly impressed by Kim’s dedication to the Liberal Studies Program and by her joyful enthusiasm for teaching,” Burton said.

Committee members reported that they found Hall to be a dynamic and student-centered instructor with a “thoughtful and successful approach to general education and overall student well-being,” Burton said.

Innovative Scholarship Award

Burton said it is a rare situation to have two recipients of the same Faculty and Staff Excellence Award, but that Erin Adams and Geoff Goehle are each “more than worthy” of receiving the Innovative Scholarship Award.

Adams’ tiny house project that she has been developing over the past several years aligns well with WCU’s vision, mission and core values in that it began as a teaching tool, it is applicable to the region, and it is environmentally conscious, Burton said.

Erin Adams

“This innovative project expands the form of scholarship and is rooted in a classroom experience. The fact that (Adams’) scholarship emanates from the classroom is an outstanding example of the student-centered focus of our faculty at Western Carolina University,” she said.

Goehle’s cross-disciplinary use of virtual reality and augmented reality enhances student learning that goes well beyond his own classroom and the classrooms of his colleagues, Burton said.

Goehle used the results of a study to improve student learning, which is “the essence of the scholarship of teaching and learning,” and increasing use of the campus virtual reality lab is “creating an immeasurable ripple effect and extraordinary reach and impact,” she said.

Excellence in Community Engagement Award

From left, Alison Morrison-Shetlar, Mary Adams and Carol Burton

Mary Adams, recipient of the Excellence in Community Engagement Award, “has found ways to align professional expertise and personal passion with student learning and existing opportunities (for service) within her community,” Burton said.

“For example, she has written over $200,000 in grants to empower Jackson County’s residents to rescue and rehabilitate their pets and control pet homelessness and overpopulation, served in leadership roles for (WCU’s) Spring Literary Festival and within the Jackson County Humane Society, and has engaged thousands of students over her career in community engaged learning.”

Student-Nominated Faculty of the Year Award

From left, Alison Morrison-Shetlar, Joe Bill Mathews and Carol Burton

During the upcoming fall semester, the recipient of the Student-Nominated Faculty of the Year Award, Joe Bill Mathews, will deliver a “last lecture” during an event hosted by the WCU Student Government Association.

“Dr. Mathews has genuine care about each of his students, affirmed by the time he takes outside of the classroom to counsel and encourage everyone who has the opportunity to get to know him,” Burton said as she presented the award. “One student said, ‘He pushes his students to reach their potential and doesn’t hesitate to challenge them.’ Another student said, ‘He is deserving of this award because he never fails to make his students feel like they can do anything if they put their mind and time to it. He encourages us to do our best and always believes in us when we don’t believe in ourselves.’”

Program of Excellence Award

The staff of University Marketing with Alison Morrison-Shetlar and Carol Burton

Morrison-Shetlar presented the Program of Excellence Award to University Marketing, “which supports an array of activities and programs around campus with quality and solution-oriented client services.

The award selection committee noted two initiatives in particular that influenced their decision – the successful launch event of the “Lead the Way” campaign in March of 2018 in partnership with Advancement, and the design, development and writing for the David O. Belcher memorial website and production of a memorial video distributed at the time of his passing, Morrison-Shetlar said.

The University Marketing staff plans to use the $10,000 that comes along with the award to support a nine-month post-graduation internship for a WCU graduate to gain experience in marketing, she said.

Irene W. Welch Customer Service and Process Improvement Award

The staff of the Center for Career and Professional Development with Alison Morrison-Shetlar and Carol Burton

Morrison-Shetlar said the Center for Career and Professional Development, winner of the first Irene W. Welch Customer Service and Process Improvement Award, was chosen to receive that honor because of its Hire Advantage Supervisor Training Program, which connects supervisors of student workers on campus to additional resources and information regarding how to manage students for optimum student professional development.

The office’s staff plans to use the $10,000 that comes with the award to fund professional development among the staff members, Morrison-Shetlar said.


Scholarly Development Assignment Program

The program assists faculty members in improving their competence as scholars by providing a period of leave to pursue scholarly work. Recipients and their projects:

Risto Atanasov, professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, will collaborate with researchers at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, on the four-color theorem and graph coloring.

Kathleen Brennan, associate professor in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology, will research mental health within the university student population, students’ participation in treatment, and how that influences their academic success.

Al Kopak, associate professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, will expand partnerships with regional sheriff’s offices to create a regional behavioral health profile and complete publications from that scholarly work.

Matt Liddle, professor in the School of Art and Design, will work on a collaborative project titled “Movable Walls: Paper as Structure and Content in Artists’ Books.”

Alvin Malesky, professor in the Department of Psychology, will complete manuscript publications, editorials and a final book proposal on academic integrity in higher education.

Carrie Rogers, associate professor in the School of Teaching and Learning, will complete data analysis and write a manuscript on early-career teacher leadership.

Vicki Szabo, associate professor in the Department of History, will complete a book under contract titled “An Environmental History of Medieval Wildlife: From the Fish of the Sea to Every Flying Thing.”

Laura Wright, professor in the Department of English, will write a monograph, “The Afterlives of Pippi Longstocking,” and pursue collaborative efforts toward a National Science Foundation grant.

College of Arts and Sciences

Board of Governors-College of Arts and Sciences Teaching Award – Robert Ferguson, assistant professor in the Department of History.

College of Business

Board of Governors Creative and Innovative Teaching Award – Richard “Todd” Creasy, associate professor in the Department of Economics, Management and Project Management.

College of Education and Allied Professions

Board of Governors Award for Superior Teaching – William Scales, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology; and Elizabeth Graves, assistant professor in the Department of Human Services.

College of Engineering and Technology

Board of Governors Distinguished Teaching Award – Sudhir Kaul, associate professor in the School of Engineering and Technology.

Belcher College of Fine and Performing Arts

Board of Governors-Belcher College of Fine and Performing Arts Teaching Award – Erin Adams, associate professor in the School of Art and Design.

College of Health and Human Sciences

Board of Governors Innovative Teaching Award – Jennifer L. Hinton, associate professor in the School of Health Sciences.

Hunter Library

Hunter Scholar Award – Sloan Despeaux, professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science.


Ten Years of Service

Laura Allison, Risto Atanasov, Anne Banks, Phillip Bennett, Indi Bose, Donald Bradley, Josh Bright, Jeffrey Brookshire, Maggie Brostic, Brian Buchanan, Pamela Buchanan, Kefyn Catley, Todd Collins, Kim Davis, Jacob Dills, Beau Drenan, Mark Ellersick, Ashley Evans, Axelle Faughn, Ryan Fisher, Tom Ford, Jason Foster, Michael Frazier, Patrick Frazier, Judy Frizzell, Rick Fulton, Santiago Garcia-Castanon, Duane Gibbs, Enrique Gomez, Frank Hachadurian, Becca Hauge, Jonathan Henson, Yeqin Huang, Melody Huddleston, David Hudson, Ian Jeffress, Vicki Knaack, Andrea Lance, Jonathan Leonard, Elizabeth Marcus, Greg McLamb, Phillip Melton, Chad Miller, Sam Miller, Bobby Moranda, Pat Morse, Chris Owen, Tamera Pearson, Sanjay Rajagopal, Matthew Rave, Karen Reed, Bonnie Ross, Peter Tay, Robert Walker, Al Webster, Tonya Westbrook, Bradley Williams and Bill Yang.

Fifteen Years of Service

Harold Bailey, Bob Beaudet, Lisa Briggs, Carroll Brown, Matt Brown, Susan Buchanan, Christopher Cooper, Sharron Crain, James Deconinck, Sloan Despeaux, Claire Eye, Chip Ferguson, Elizabeth Frazier, Roger Gentry, Bonnie Gunter, Stan Hammer, Patty Harley, Steve Henson, Jonathan Maddy, Erin McNelis, Hollye Moss, Tamrick Mull, Burton Ogle, Kenneth Rogers, John Sherlock, Mark Speir, Lois Stiles, Walter Turner, Todd Watson, Katie Williams Lanning and Pavel Wlosok.

Twenty Years of Service

Daniel Fiskeaux, Peter Koch, Lisen Roberts, Tony Sutton, Susan Swanger, Shannon Thompson, Joe Walker, David Westling and Robert Young.

Twenty-Five Years of Service

Jerry Adams, Joyce Beck, Debra Burke, Wallace Deitz, Mimi Fenton, Daryl Hale, Billy Ogletree, Kathy Orr, Will Peebles, Terry Rose and Teresa Starrs.

Thirty-Plus Years of Service

Elaine Bennett, Beverly Carnes, Dale Carpenter, Phil Cauley, Keith Corzine, Pamela Degraffenreid, David Dorondo, Alicia Estes, Burton Fox, Sherry Fox, Sheila Frizzell, Jeff Hagberg, Larry Hammer, Mark Haskett, Paul Heckert, Bruce Henderson, Anthony Hickey, Mary Hill, Yvonne Hooper, Jack Hoyle, Jon Jicha, Ann Johnson, Debbie Justice, Rebecca Lindsay, Aileen Moss, Todd Murdock, Cindy Nicholson, Gwen Nicholson, Sharon Painter, Gregory Plemmons, Mickey Randolph, Chris Ray, Kay Turpin, John West and Carolyn Wiggins.

Retiring Faculty and Staff

Thomas Archer, Arledge Armenaki, Kay Benson, Linda Bowers, Dale Brotherton, Wiley Danner, Marjorie Eyre, Shelia Galloway, Joe Harley, Tammy Haskett, Margaret Hensley, Ernie Hudson, Mike Jackson, Donna Kirk, Ed Lawson, Don Livingston, Brenda Marques, Rusty Marts, Sue McPherson, David Nicholson, Linda Painter, Dona Potts, Michael Powell, Rita Prince, Anita Samuel, Al Sanders, Ginger Seay, David Shapiro, Pipa Swentzel, Doyle Thomas, Michael Wheatley, Ronald Wiggins, Lisa Wilson and Glenna Young.

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