Members of university’s faculty, staff recognized for high achievements

Windy Gordon (standing) is recipient of WCU’s 2018 Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award, the highest teaching honor bestowed by the university.

The achievements of Western Carolina University’s faculty and staff in the arenas of teaching, scholarship and service were recognized Friday (April 27) during the 2017-18 Faculty and Staff Excellence Awards program held in the conference room of Blue Ridge Hall.

The event was presided over by Alison Morrison-Shetlar, WCU’s acting chancellor, and Carol Burton, the university’s acting provost. Speakers included Brian Railsback, chair of the Faculty Senate, and Mandy Dockendorf, chair of the Staff Senate.

Laura Wright

Teaching award recipients recognized during the event were Windy Gordon, professor of psychology, who received the highest teaching honor bestowed by the university, the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award, and Laura Wright, professor of English, who is WCU’s 2018 winner of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching. Wright will receive her award during the university’s undergraduate commencement that begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 12.

Staff members honored for the high quality of their work are Al Webster, building and environmental services supervisor in the Department of Facilities Management, Star Staff Award; Wes Bintz, research operations manager in the College of Arts and Sciences, Bright Idea Staff Award; Amy McKenzie, administrative support associate in the Department of Philosophy and Religion, Judy H. Dowell Outstanding Support Staff Award; and Pamela DeGraffenreid, director of the University Bookstore, Paul A. Reid Distinguished Service Award for Administrative Staff.

Teaching, scholarship and service honors presented to faculty members included Yue Hillon, associate professor of management, Paul A. Reid Distinguished Service Award for Faculty; Brian Gastle, professor of English, University Scholar Award; Baldwin Sanders, assistant professor of nutrition and dietetics, Excellence in Teaching Liberal Studies Award; the research team of Kloo Hansen, undergraduate research coordinator in the Office of the Provost, and William Kwochka, associate professor of organic chemistry, Innovative Scholarship Award; and Beth Wall-Bassett, associate professor of nutrition and dietetics, Excellence in Community Engagement Award.

Other honors went to Alesia Jennings, instructor in chemistry, Student-Nominated Faculty of the Year Award (formerly known as the “Last Lecture Award”); and the Cherokee Studies Program, winner of the Academic Program of Excellence Award.

Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award

For Windy Gordon, recipient of the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award, teaching is all about engaging students, Morrison-Shetlar said in presenting the honor. “Even in a traditional lecture format course, he uses a modality that he calls ‘interactive lectures.’ When the material may not be the most naturally engaging, Dr. Gordon works to make essential content comprehensible,” she said.

“As his courses and attention to teaching indicate, Dr. Gordon loves teaching and finds that WCU is a great place to teach as it supports teachers and learners,” she said. “Windy, 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

Al Webster and WCU Acting Chancellor Alison Morrison-Shetlar

The work performed by Al Webster, recipient of the Star Staff Award, “is an inspiration to all of us,” Morrison-Shetlar said. “Al regularly goes above and beyond to ensure that campus grounds are looking their best for all occasions,” she said.

“Ask anyone, and they’ll always say he’s always got a smile on his face when driving around the parking lots, and he’ll stop and talk for a minute or two,” Morrison-Shetlar said, reading from an award nomination. “He shows up early morning, and if needed, he’ll leave late just to make sure that the campus looks the way it needs to be.”

Bright Idea Staff Award

Wes Bintz

In her recognition of Wes Bintz, winner of the Bright Idea Staff Award, Morrison-Shetlar said his implementation of a chemical database system for the College of Arts and Sciences exemplifies the spirit of the award.

The database increases safety and efficiency, improves operations and convenience, solves a problem and was created in collaboration with faculty. Reading from a nomination, Morrison-Shetlar said, “I can’t think of another staff member that I work with who is more deserving of this award. Wes fits the description: dependable, cooperative spirit and loyal to WCU. I would add these qualities: supportive, ambitious and hard working.”

Judy H. Dowell Outstanding Support Staff Award

Amy McKenzie (left) and Alison Morrison-Shetlar

“Amy McKenzie’s dedication and cooperative spirit is shown every day in her work with faculty and students in the Department of Philosophy and Religion, as well as in her service to the broader campus community,” Morrison-Shetlar said in presenting the Dowell Outstanding Support Staff Award.

“Amy’s work creates a positive, harmonious environment, and she goes above and beyond to promote and create an inclusive, supportive environment on our campus,” Morrison-Shetlar said. McKenzie often will send a text to those in the department who live farther from campus to inform them of road conditions in the winter. “This may seem like a small thing, but it’s the willingness to do small things that can help make a difference,” Morrison-Shetlar said.

Paul A. Reid Distinguished Service Award for Administrative Staff

Pamela DeGraffenreid (left) and Alison Morrison-Shetlar

Pamela DeGraffenreid, director of the WCU Bookstore since 1995, “is an exceptional leader with commitment to WCU students,” Morrison-Shetlar said as she presented the Reid Distinguished Service Award for Administrative Staff. “She is creative, determined and passionate about enhancing the student experience – just go into the bookstore. It is a warm and inviting space.

“She is a great collaborator and ready to partner any way possible to ensure the event or program is a success,” Morrison-Shetlar said. “Pam has a wealth of institutional knowledge. Her way of framing the legacy of Western has crafted a powerful experience for me and so many others. She is a true asset to Western.”

Paul A. Reid Distinguished Service Award for Faculty

Yue Hillon (center)

Yue Hillon, recipient of the Reid Distinguished Service Award for Faculty, has quickly become an outstanding member of the WCU community in her four years on campus, Morrison-Shetlar said.

Hillon has voluntarily contributed many hours to at least four major planning initiatives, Morrison-Shetlar said. “Her efforts in these initiatives are consistent, high quality and selfless. She incorporates her students in this work and affords them opportunities to engage with service while applying the principles of strategic management learned under her tutelage. We would not have been successful in navigating very politically charged landscapes without her deft, diplomatic and collegial skill,” Morrison-Shetlar said.

University Scholar Award

Brian Gastle, winner of the University Scholar Award, conducts scholarship into medieval British literature, focusing on the works of Geoffrey Chaucer and John Gower.

Brian Gastle

That work “is widely impactful and includes four book collections, 13 peer-reviewed articles and more than two dozen conference presentations,” Morrison-Shetlar said.

“The diversity of courses that he teaches includes the graduate research methods course where he exposes students to an open-minded and student-centered approach that continues to benefit students long after their course is complete and their degree is conferred,” she said. Gastle also has served in administrative roles, including department head, associate dean and Provost Fellow, Morrison-Shetlar said.

Excellence in Teaching Liberal Studies Award

From left, Acting Provost Carol Burton, Baldwin Sanders and Acting Chancellor Alison Morrison-Shetlar

Burton presented the Excellence in Teaching Liberal Studies Award to Baldwin Sanders. “Baldwin is deeply committed to the success of her students, and she expresses this commitment through the structure of her liberal studies courses, all of which emphasize independent problem-solving, cultural sensitivity and awareness, and the development of life skills, like the cultivation of grit or the ability to keep working toward a goal, despite any setbacks or failures,” Burton said.

“Baldwin told us that she feels a responsibility to help her students experience the joy of self-discovery through learning, and it was clear to the committee that she uses her liberal studies courses to achieve just that and more for the students lucky enough to take her classes.”

Innovative Scholarship Award

From left, Carol Burton, William Kwochka, Kloo Hansen and Alison Morrison-Shetlar

As she presented the Innovative Scholarship Award to the research team of Kloo Hansen and William Kwochka, Burton said the two have collaborated with faculty at Florida Atlantic University and the University of Central Florida to implement the retention model Learning Environment and Academic Research Network. Funded through the National Science Foundation, the program is designed to help first-year, first-generation students and transfer students stay enrolled and achieve the science, technology, engineering and math (also known as STEM) degrees that they seek.

To ensure that outcome, Hansen and Kwochka have made data-driven decisions to adjust the model, building relationships with many WCU stakeholders to support the students who are participating, Burton said.

Excellence in Community Engagement Award

Beth Wall-Bassett

Beth Wall-Bassett, recipient of the Excellence in Community Engagement Award, seeks to align her teaching, scholarship and service, and her professional aspirations, with her personal values, Burton said. Wall-Bassett’s community engagement focuses on public health and the impacts of knowledge and healthy practices focused on nutrition and dietetics to have a healthier life, family and community.

“The service she does is an extension of her commitment to her field, her institution and her community,” Burton said. “Her commitment is to not simply add-on service, but to fully integrate it, and this has led to the development of an exemplar model based on a continuum of service to influence learning and impact the community.”

Student-Nominated Faculty of the Year Award

From left, Carol Burton, Alesia Jennings and Alison Morrison-Shetlar

Alesia Jennings, winner of the Student-Nominated Faculty of the Year Award, “is adored within the classroom and is known throughout campus as a strong instructor and leader,” Burton said.

“Students consistently share how kind she is to others and how she not only takes time to learn everyone’s names in the class, but eases minds with her calm spirit on materials they learn. One student shared, ‘She is incredibly approachable and took time this year to make sure I learned as much as I could. You can really see how she cares about the subject, and her teaching style reflects how we learn best.’”

Program of Excellence Award

Ben Steere, director of the Cherokee Studies Program (standing)

Morrison-Shetlar presented the Program of Excellence Award to Ben Steere, the director of WCU’s Cherokee Studies Program who accepted the honor on behalf of the program’s faculty and staff. Because the WCU campus theme for 2017-18 has been focused on Cherokee culture, the program found itself in the spotlight and experienced noteworthy accomplishments in the arenas of research, teaching and service while also helping to strengthen WCU’s relationship with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Morrison-Shetlar said.

“Their extraordinary year did not culminate in a single noteworthy accomplishment, but rather a stunning list of engaged scholarship accomplishments, contributing to WCU’s ‘2020’ Vision by helping to build and maintain partnerships between WCU and the Cherokee community and by sharing important information about Cherokee culture with the campus and region,” she said.

The faculty and staff of the program hope to use the $10,000 that comes along with the award to establish an endowed scholarship to be named after a prominent Cherokee traditional knowledge keeper, she said.


Scholarly Development Assignment Program

Recipients and their projects:

Steve Brown, professor of criminology and criminal justice, will participate in scholarly leave to research and write his book tentatively titled “Crime, Deviance and Norms: The Relativity of Social Control.” His research and publication is expected to enhance course offerings in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, including the course “Theories of Crime.”

Brian Byrd, associate professor of environmental health, is finishing work on a professional handbook about the mosquitoes of North Carolina, which is used by mosquito control professionals. Scholarly leave will support his work on the handbook, as well as travel and fieldwork for sample and data collection in Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina.

Channa De Silva, associate professor of bioinorganic chemistry, will spend a semester on scholarly leave collaborating with faculty at the Institute of Chemistry Ceylon and the University of Kelaniya in Sri Lanka. He will study natural products that may be incorporated into metal-based nanomaterials with potential anticancer and antimicrobial properties.

Beth Huber, associate professor of English, will be traveling during her scholarly leave to conduct research in the reading-room-only presidential libraries of Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Lyndon B. Johnson and at Princeton University to further develop the “Cold War” section of the Political Rhetoric Database, a peer-reviewed archive.

Eleanor Petrone, associate professor of English, will conclude data collection and work on her qualitative analysis of the experiences of returned and removed Dreamers while on scholarly leave. Her goal is to submit an outline for a book proposal on the effects that deportation and reverse migration have on the educational trajectory of Dreamers, a term often used to describe young people who were brought to the U.S. as children without documentation.

College of Arts and Sciences

Board of Governors College of Arts and Sciences Teaching Award – Risto Atanasov, associate professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science.

College of Business

Board of Governors Creative and Innovative Teaching Award – James “Nathan” Johnson, assistant professor in the School of Economics, Management and Project Management.

College of Education and Allied Professions

Board of Governors Award for Superior Teaching – Nancy Luke, associate professor in the School of Teaching and Learning.

College of Engineering and Technology

Board of Governors Distinguished Teaching Award – Yanjun Yan, assistant professor in the School of Engineering and Technology.

College of Health and Human Sciences

Board of Governors Innovative Teaching Award – Georgia Hambrecht, professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders.

Hunter Library

Hunter Scholar Award – Andrew Denson, associate professor in the Department of History.


Ten Years of Service

Andrew Adams, Regina Aton, John Balentine, Bruce Barker, Matthew Barrett, Kevin Baxley, Thomas Belt, Travis Bennett, Brittania Bintz, Wesley Bintz, Natalie Broom, Andrew Coburn, Beverly Collins, Shawn Collins, Angela Conner, Eve Cook, Regina Cowan, Dale Cox, Robert Crow, Mary Engel, Jonathan Farmer, Tammy Frizzell, Sandra Gideon, Lucas Greene, John Hawes, Jeremy Hyman, Teresa James, Angie Johnson, David Kinner, Lisa Lefler, Steve Marr, Jerry McCall, Dennis McConnell, Pamela McFarland, Amber McKendrick, Sarah Meltzer, Arika Morrison, Lee Nickles, Patricia Norton, Christopher Parrish, Joseph Pechmann, Dale Putman, David Ross, Denise Royer, Shauna Sage, Linda Shuler, Josie Simic, Amber Stevens, April Tallant, Laura Trivette, Sanji Watson, Gayle Wells, Gabriel Williams and Jessica Woods.

Fifteen Years of Service

Anne Aldrich, Melissa Allen, Jason Brady, Patricia Bricker, Heidi Buchanan, Donald Carringer, Misty Colton, Annette Debo, Brian Dinkelmeyer, Jane Eastman, Matt Henley, Kimberly Jamison, Thomas Martin, William Martin, Thelma Mathis, Patricia McGraw, Niall Michelsen, Peter Nieckarz, Sean O’Connell, David Steinbicker, George Sutton, Vicki Szabo, Jedidiah Tate, Rachel Wike and Denise Wilfong.

Twenty Years of Service

Cynthia Atterholt, Debasish Banerjee, Julia Barnes, Elizabeth Breedlove, Martha Carpenter, Dan Clapper, Mae Claxton, James Costa, Mark Couture, Linda Donaldson, Joyce Farmer, Monty Graham, Suzanne Grider, Jeffrey Gunter, Brenda Holcombe, Julie Johnson-Busbin, Dennis Messer, Sharon Metcalfe, Leslie Philyaw, David Porter, Kathy Starr and Michael Taylor.

Twenty-Five Years of Service

Pamela Buchanan, James Busbin, David Cowan, William Frady, John Freeman, Sue McPherson, John Surber, Thomas Walawender, Donna Watson and Cindy Williams.

Thirty-Plus Years of Service

Jeffrey Hagberg, Anthony Hickey, Mary Hill, Ann Johnson, Deborah Justice, Aileen Moss, Todd Murdock, Cindy Nicholson, Chris Ray, Wilma Turpin, John West and Michael Wheatley.

Retiring Faculty and Staff

Aaron Ball, Sandra Ballinger, Louis Barozzini, Shirley Beck, Roseanna Belt, Robert Berry, Nancy Brown, Susan Brown-Strauss, Dale Buchanan, Mildred Buchanan, Johnnie Clark, William Clarke, Deborah Coggins, Eva Cook, Renee Corbin, Wanda Crawford, Barbara Culp, John Degrove, Cassandra Dickson, Steven Forst, Mario Gaetano, Glenda Gainor, Peter Johnson, Tony Johnson, Maurice Phipps, Sylvia Pulte, Jeffrey Ray, Judith Robinson, Jack Sholder, Susan Stewart, Robert Strauss, Donald Taylor, Mary Watkins, Margaret Watson, Terry Welch, Julia Wetmore, Roy Williamson, Stephen Wohlrab and Marc Yops.