Western Carolina University presented its top faculty and staff awards for teaching, research and service for the 2005-06 academic year Friday, April 21, at its annual spring General Faculty Meeting and Awards Convocation.
James Scifers, associate professor of health sciences and director of WCU ‘s athletic training program, won the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award. The Paul A. Reid Service Award for faculty went to Scott Philyaw, associate professor of history, while the Paul A. Reid Service Award for administrative staff went to Fred Hinson, senior associate vice chancellor for academic affairs.
Mimi Fenton, associate professor of English, received the University Scholar Award, while the Academic Program of Excellence Award went to the Kimmel School of Construction Management, Engineering and Technology, and the Integration of Learning Award was given to “Adventure Sports in the Mountains,” a project that will explore adventure sports from several academic perspectives.
The honors were announced by Western Chancellor John W. Bardo; Kyle Carter, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs; and Robert Caruso, vice chancellor for student affairs.
Other major awards recognized at the convocation include the University of North Carolina Board of Governors’ Award for Excellence in Teaching, also won by Scott Philyaw; the Excellence in Teaching Liberal Studies Award; and the Scholarly Development Assignment Program awards.
The Excellence in Teaching Liberal Studies Award is designed to recognize a faculty member for excellence in promoting significant student learning while teaching liberal studies courses on a regular basis, Carter said.
The winner, Leah Hampton, instructor in the English department, “incorporates the ideals of community, responsibility and diversity into her classroom everyday by insisting on mutual respect,” Carter said. “She invests an immense amount of time and self in our students and their futures as she seeks to transform them into citizens of the world, representing the best and highest outcomes of our Liberal Studies Program and of Western Carolina University. She is a teacher in the most profound sense of the word, and she is most deserving of this award.”
Recipients in the Scholarly Development Assignment Program, announced by Carter, are Joan Byrd, acting head and professor in WCU ‘s department of art; and Hal Herzog, professor of psychology. The Scholarly Development Assignment Program provides leave from usual work commitments to full-time tenured faculty so they may pursue concentrated scholarly work. Recipients are chosen on a competitive basis by a faculty committee.
Scifers, winner of the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award, is completing his third year on the health sciences department faculty.
“Dr. Scifers’ teaching philosophy is quite simple: ‘Demand the same excellence from myself as I do from my students,’” Bardo said in announcing the award. “Words such as passionate, energetic and knowledgeable are compliments that bring him great pride and serve as rewards for the time and energy dedicated to helping students achieve their career goals. Jay challenges his students to understand and apply the material they learn in class, rather than to simply memorize and regurgitate what they have heard in assignments and on exams.”
Philyaw, winner of the Reid faculty award and a WCU faculty member for 10 years, has been described as “a scholarly expert, a gifted teacher, an insightful adviser and an inspiring role model,” Bardo said.
Philyaw, who was recently named director of the Mountain Heritage Center, the university’s museum of Southern Appalachian history and culture, “emphasizes critical thinking and its constant companion, clear communication, in his courses,” Bardo said. “He also makes his classes relevant by stressing the advantages of collaborative learning in the workplace and he strives to give his students real-world experience.”
Hinson, recipient of the Reid staff award, joined WCU’s faculty in 1966 as a professor of microbiology. As senior associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, he oversees both graduate and undergraduate admissions and offices of the registrar, financial aid, student support services, OneStop Student Service Center and the advising center. Hinson also serves on an average of 20 committees and task forces each year, many of which he chairs, Bardo said.
“He has won numerous awards for outstanding teaching, and he is an excellent administrator, as well,” Bardo said. “He leads by example – beginning each day before dawn and continuing well into the evening. Fred Hinson has consistently looked for ways to serve this university and its people. He is committed to excellence in all things and leads his team toward this goal by being the first to serve and the last to complain.”
Fenton, who won the University Scholar Award, “embodies the definition of a scholar,” Bardo said in presenting the award. “She has studied, interpreted and expounded upon the works and meanings of John Milton for well over a decade and has risen to a level of prominence in her field. Dr. Fenton is held in high regard by her students, her colleagues both on- and off-campus, and the literary elite.”
Fenton has published many articles in top academic journals and has delivered papers at national and international venues. Her book, “ Milton ‘s Places of Hope: Spiritual and Political Connections of Hope with Land” will be published this fall by Ashgate, one of the world’s most prestigious academic presses.
The Academic Program of Excellence Award provides $10,000 to an academic unit or department to use in enhancing program services. In presenting the award to the Kimmel School of Construction Management, Engineering and Technology, Bardo said the school “provides innovative solutions in construction management, engineering, technology, economic development, professional development, and engagement to businesses and industries in the Western North Carolina community.”
Since 2001, enrollment in the school has increased from 135 to 650, while new programs have been added in construction management, engineering technology and electrical engineering, Bardo said. Also, the school’s Center for Integrated Technologies has established relationships with more than 80 regional companies in less than two years, a $10.4 million endowment established through a gift from the Kimmel family of Asheville has made possible six endowed professorships in construction management, and the school has obtained almost $8 million in external grants to support innovation and technology-based development, he said.
“The Kimmel School is known for its contagious ‘can-do’ spirit. The reputation of our campus has been enhanced by their engagement in the entire Western North Carolina community,” Bardo said.
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 activities within the division. The winning proposal, “Adventure Sports in the Mountains,” will bring together Base Camp Cullowhee, the Mountain Heritage Center, and faculty in English, sociology and history, Caruso said in announcing the honor.
“The purpose of the winning proposal is to enable students to explore adventure sports as an integral part of the outdoor culture pervasive at Western,” Caruso said. “The proposal also seeks to promote wellness, provide opportunities for involvement on campus and in the local community, and help fuel the regional economy.”
Based in a three-course learning community, the project will examine the development of regional activities such as whitewater kayaking, cycling, rock climbing, trail running and hiking. In a sociology class, students will learn how subcultures have evolved around those sports, while a University Studies-Interdisciplinary class will allow students to investigate options and participate in an adventure sport subculture. Students will write stories about their experiences in an English class, Caruso said.
Accepting the award were Kathleen Brennan, assistant professor of sociology; Michael Despeaux, career services coordinator; Jubal Tiner, assistant professor of English; and Scott Philyaw. The four faculty members wrote the proposal in cooperation with Josh Whitmore, assistant director for outdoor programs.
The $2,000 award will be used in carrying out the project, Caruso said.