After being canceled in 2020 because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Western Carolina University’s Faculty and Staff Excellence Awards resumed, albeit in a limited capacity form.
Only the nominees were invited to attend the April 23 event, which featured a reception afterward. The rest of the campus community was invited to watch the event via livestream.
The event is a celebration of achievements of the university’s faculty and staff in the areas of teaching, scholarship and service. Chancellor Kelli R. Brown presided over the event, along with Provost Richard Starnes. It also featured speakers Kadie Otto, chair of the Faculty Senate, and Ben Pendry, chair of the Staff Senate.
“As we reflect on where we are as a university, this annual celebration of the extraordinary work that is accomplished each and every day by our faculty and staff also affords us the opportunity to look back on the challenges and successes of the academic year quickly coming to a close,” Brown said.
“To be certain, 2020-21 was filled with many challenges, but also many achievements to celebrate. Our faculty, staff and students have worked harder than ever amid the challenging circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic to achieve their goals and to make a positive difference in the world. The pandemic may have altered the way we do business on campus, but it hasn’t stopped us from doing what we do best.”
Prior to announcing the university award winners, Brown recognized Catherine Carter, a professor in the Department of English, who on Thursday, April 22, was announced by the University of North Carolina System as WCU’s recipient of the UNC Board of Governors Excellence in Teaching Award.
Below is a look at this year’s WCU Faculty and Staff Excellence Award winners:
Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award – Cyndy Caravelis
“Cyndy exemplifies superior teaching. She demonstrates a clear understanding of how to connect with students and deliver content in an effective manner,” Brown said. “She instills in her students the importance of recognizing and appreciating diversity, social justice, advocacy for victims of crime and empathy for the incarcerated.
“Cyndy is active in creating community service and study abroad opportunities in her quest to create engaged and global citizens. She has led study abroad opportunities in five different countries and seven states.”
Star Staff Award – Linda Shuler
Shuler is a building and environment services technician in Facility Management.
“Diligent and caring, Linda always makes sure that our facilities look their best,” Brown said. “She cares for her three grandchildren during the day and spends her nights working for Western. She goes the extra mile by checking with staff to ensure that they have a safe and clean workspace, all the while remaining positive.”
Bright Idea Staff Award – William “Zach” Phillips
In spring 2020, operations at WCU were interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic as students, faculty and staff were sent home and classes were moved online. Phillips oversaw adding conference functionality to 140 classroom computers and (bring your own device) laptops that were able to be installed, making fall instruction possible in the remote learning environment.
“Zach’s idea has had an impact across the entire Western Carolina University community, making him deserving of the Bright Idea Award,” Brown said.
Judy H. Dowell Outstanding Support Staff Award – Dina Towey
Towey works in Student Affairs as a student support specialist for WCU Admissions.
“Nominated for her dedication to faculty, staff and students, Dina is always present and ready to provide support to ensure events run smoothly. Anyone that has ever attended an open house has benefited from her dedication. Dina works orientation check-in, produces and runs slide shows at Western on Tour, arrives early and stays late without being asked and never asks for the attention or credit that she so deserves.”
Paul A. Reid Distinguished Service Award for Administrative Staff – Phil Cauley
“In describing Phil’s contributions, one colleague addressed how he ‘always has one eye to the future as we plan for growth, while keeping one eye on the past to ensure we never forget who we are.’ The selection committee noted especially Phil’s longstanding contributions to WCU, as well as all the work he continues to do. He truly embodies the ideas and the spirit of what it means to be a Catamount,” Brown said.
Paul A. Reid Distinguished Service Award for Faculty – Jane Eastman
“As one colleague pointed out, Jane has contributed ’20 years of service to the Tsali Tsigwayhi archive and her excavation and preservation of the Norton site. She has committed herself to these parts of Cherokee heritage because of her deep, ethical drive to do the right thing.’ Jane’s work, past and present, is commendable and represents an invaluable asset to WCU.”
University Scholar Award – Debra Burke
Burke’s scholarship on business law includes minimum wage law, child pornography statutes, export controls and discrimination, and franchising laws which exhibits the wide range of legal expertise that she has published.
“Her collaborative research indicates her willingness to delve into topics across multiple fields with experts from numerous institutions. Her external letter of support indicates that she has been cited in well-respected journals, such as the Michigan Law Review and the Yale Law Journal, as well as peer-reviewed book chapters,” Brown said.
Excellence in Teaching Liberal Studies Abroad – Heidi Turlington
“Dr. Turlington is an energetic, dedicated and creative instructor, and through her teaching, she demonstrates a deep commitment to bettering the lives of her students. Within the Liberal Studies program, her work focuses on helping students become aware of the physical, mental, social, emotional and environmental variables that affect their own health and wellness, so that they can make informed decisions about their future,” Starnes said.
“The enthusiasm with which she dedicates herself to this task is truly infectious – and the selection committee was very impressed with all the methods she utilized to innovate her teaching, especially her use of interactive simulations and games to help students recognize the consequences of certain behaviors.”
Innovative Scholarship Award – Laura Wright
The selection committee unanimously chose Wright for the Innovative Scholarship Award.
“For a number of years, she has been working collaboratively across groups of people and disciplines, including topic experts and students,” Starnes said. “One of the major goals of her scholarship was to promote and advance climate change literacy among all citizens, not just STEM majors, so that they may make informed decisions as voters, policy makers and business leaders.
“Laura’s scholarship has resulted in products that are many and varied, including a teaching module that will be widely available for instructors in multiple fields. This module with thorough extensive reviews nationally by several well-known organization, received a rating of exemplary. In addition, her essay ‘Cli-Fi: Environmental Literature for the Anthropocene’ was published in a recent novel.”
Excellence in Community Engagement Award – Eleanor Petrone
“Dr. Eleanor Petrone dedicates her teaching, scholarship, service and life to teaching English to speakers of other languages. In partnership with the Cullowhee Valley Elementary School, WCU and the United Methodist Church of Cullowhee, her collaborative efforts and leadership have led to the development of the Language Enhancement Afterschool Program. This program has served as a living-learning lab for her TESOL students, and an essential afterschool for children in our community who need additional assistance with language skills,” Starnes said.
“The program also serves as a host site for hundreds of service-learning volunteers, and an exemplar of mutually beneficial partnerships associated with high-impact community engagement. The LEAP program has been supported by nearly $700,000 in grants over the past six years and is designed to help provide opportunities for language enhancement to our youth.”
Student-Nominated Faculty of the Year Award – Candy Noltensmeyer
“Dr. Candy Noltensmeyer consistently exhibits excellence in teaching,” Starnes said. “As a professor that manages a broad course load, teaching a multitude of students, her courses are described as challenging but engaging. She excels in offering frequent support to students who might otherwise not enjoy the coursework, delicately balancing her robust assignments with desired learning outcomes. Indeed, many students have described her as ‘one of (their) favorite professors of all time.’”
Program of Excellence Award: Academic Program – Educational Leadership
The winner of this award receives a $10,000 award that will be available use during the 2021-22 academic year.
“Diversity, inclusion and equity remain at the forefront of the university’s goals and planning,” Brown said. “It only makes sense that this year’s winner of the Academic Program of Excellence Award would be Educational Leadership. Those who nominated the Educational Leadership program had this to say about the program, ‘The Educational Leadership program is dedicated to promoting new and current leaders in K-12 and higher education. Faculty members in the program have diverse educational and research backgrounds, which allow them to support leaders in a variety of contexts. Additionally, faculty in the program are nationally known, prolific researchers and writers, and are consistently recognized for their pedagogical techniques.’”
Program of Excellence - Irene W. Welch Award: Administration Program – Health Services
The winner of this award receives a $10,000 award that will be available for use during the 2021-22 academic year.
“The staff in Health Services has done an amazing and phenomenal job taking care of students, staff and faculty during this yearlong, crazy pandemic season of COVID-19,” one of those who nominated the department said. “I am so proud of the team. They have worked together through short staffing, record numbers, so many unknowns, and have really come through shining bright. The daily ‘thank yous’ from parents and students, as well as from other departments, should be enough, but Health Services is truly deserving of this award.
OTHER UNIVERSITY HONORS
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:
Debra Burke, professor in the School of Accounting, Finance, Information Systems and Business Law, is compiling a “Recipes for Teaching Business Law” online book that is housed on the members only page of the Academy of Legal Studies in Business website.
Brian Gastle, professor in the Department of English, is translating (with Catherine Carter as co-translator) for the first time a 33,000-line Middle English poem, John Gower’s Confessio Amantis (Confession of a Lover) into modern English.
Marie Line-Germain, professor in the Department of Human Services, completed a book titled “Expertise at Work: Current and Emerging Trends” that was released April 11.
Jeremy Jones, associate professor in the Department of English, worked on the final stages of nonfiction book manuscript tentatively titled “The Coded Life.”
Sudhir Kaul, associate professor in the Department of Engineering and Technology, completed the manuscript for a book and worked on three journal articles.
Lori Oxford, associate professor in the Department of World Languages is completing a monograph on Cuban literature produced during the Special Period, an era of economic and social crises that immediately followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, which had served as the island’s most powerful benefactor for decades.
College of Arts and Sciences
Board of Governors College of Arts and Sciences Teaching Award – Katie Zejdlik-Passalacqua, assistant professor and Forensic Anthropology facilities director in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology.
College of Business
Board of Governors Creative and Innovative Teaching Award – Andrew Carnes, assistant professor in the School of Economics, Management, and Project Management.
College of Education and Allied Professions
Board of Governors Award for Superior Teaching – Melissa Faetz, instructor in the School of Teaching and Learning
College of Engineering and Technology
Board of Governors Distinguished Teaching Award – Wes Stone, professor in the School of Engineering and Technology.
David Orr Belcher College of Fine and Performing Arts
Board of Governors College of Fine and Performing Arts Teaching Award – Shelby Hicks, assistant professor in the School of Art and Design.
College of Health and Human Sciences
Board of Governors Innovative Teaching Award – David Wells, associate professor in the School of Nursing and Amy Murphy-Nugen, associate professor and MSW program director in the School of Social Work.
Hunter Scholar Award – Wingyan Chung, Kneedler Distinguished Professor of CIS from the College of Business, School of Accounting, Finance, Information Systems, and Business Law.
Graduate School and Research
Million Dollar Circle Award – Joseph Pechman, associate professor in the Department of Biology.
Retired Faculty and Staff
July 2018 through June 2019
Arledge Armenaki, School of Stage and Screen
Terri Armfield, School of Music
Harold Bailey, Facilities Management
Ruby Banerjee, Hunter Library
Jennifer Beck, Office of the Dean, Education and Allied Professions
Thomas Belt, Anthropology and Sociology
Russell Binkley, School of Teaching and Learning
Carroll Brown, Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Sports Management,
and Hospitality & Tourism
Jane Buchanan, School of Heath Sciences
Linda Carmody, One Stop
Donald Carringer, Health and Counseling Services
Robert Carton (Phased Retirement), Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Sports
Management, and Hospitality & Tourism
Kefyn Catley, Biology
Jeffrey Davis, Health and Counseling Services
Judy Dillard, Office of the Dean, Health and Human Sciences
Marjorie Eyre, Academic Engagement and IT Governance
Vicki Fisher, Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Sports Management and Hospitality & Tourism
Bruce Frazier, School of Music
Judith Frizzell, Controller’s Office
Joy Green, Physical Therapy
Mark Haskett, Communications and Public Relations
Elizabeth Jones (Phased Retirement), Accounting, Finance, Information Systems and Business Law
Vicki Knaack, Human Resources and Payroll
Linda Mallonee, Communications and Public Relations
Brenda Marques, School of Health Sciences
William Martin (Phased Retirement), School of Music
Sue McPherson, Physical Therapy
Dona Potts, Accounting, Finance, Information Systems, and Business Law
Dale Putman, Residential Living
Baldwin Sanders, School of Health Sciences
Valerie Schwiebert, Human Services
Brenda Setzer, Parking Services
David Shapiro, Communication Sciences and Disorders
Judy Smith, Facilities Management
Benedict Tholkes (Phased Retirement), Human Services
July 2019 through June 2020
Martin Anthony, University Police
Larry Arbaugh, Office of Athletic Programs
Debasish Banerjee, Accounting, Finance, Information Systems, and Business Law
Patricia Benson, Controller’s Office
Tim Chapman, Residential Living
Dawne Coward, Facilities Management
Pamela Degraffenreid, Book and Supply Store
Mimi Fenton (Phased Retirement), English
Susan Fouts, Educational Outreach Programs
Paul Heckert (Phased Retirement), Chemistry and Physics
David Heisler, Facilities Management
Steve Henson (Phased Retirement), Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Sports Management and Hospitality & Tourism
Anthony Hickey, Anthropology and Sociology
Phyllis Hoffman, Political Science and Public Affairs
Randall Holcombe, Communications and Public Relations
Yvonne Hooper, Student Financial Aid
Jack Hoyle, Facilities Management
Becky Lindsay, Accessibility Services
Suzan Melvin, WCU Programs in Asheville
Todd Murdock, Human Services
Gwen Nicholson, Office of Dean, Health and Human Sciences
Burton Ogle, School of Health Sciences
Kathy Pace, Facilities Management
Renee Parker, Facilities Management
David Porter, Emergency Services
Laura Samal, English
Laura Simon, IT Applications and Systems
Deborah Walters, Mathematics and Computer Science
David Westling, School of Teaching and Learning
July 2020 through April 2021
Robert Adams (Phased Retirement), School of Engineering and Technology
Brian Buchanan, Facilities Management
Diana Catley, Human Resources and Payroll
Michael Caudill, Communication
David Cowan, Facilities Management
Mark Dehart, Book and Supply Store
Wanda Dills, Residential Living
Terry Domagalski (Phased Retirement), Economics, Management and Project Management
Cheryl Farrell, Registrar
Thomas Frazier, Printing and Mail Services
John Freeman, Facilities Management
Rick Fulton, Office of Athletic Programs
Bruce Henderson, Psychology
Glenda Hensley, First Year Experience
Marianne Hollis, School of Health Sciences
Jon Jicha, School of Art and Design
Pam McFarland, Admissions
James McLachlan, Philosophy and Religion
Sharon Metcalfe, School of Nursing
Jon Passow, University Police
Mickey Randolph (Phased Retirement), Psychology
Marissa Ray, School of Teaching and Learning
Pan Riggs, Sponsored Research
Reggie Rogers, Controller’s Office
Sandra Saunders, English
David Strahan, School of Teaching and Learning
Bill Studenc, Communications and Public Relations
Thomas Walawender, University Police
John West, School of Music
John Williams, Anthropology and Sociology