Cameron University presents honors during Celebration of Faculty Excellence

Cameron University honored eight faculty members during the university’s inaugural Celebration of Faculty Excellence ceremony. Awards presented included the Hackler Award for Teaching Excellence, the Bhattacharya Research Award and Faculty Excellence Awards, as well as inductions into the Cameron University Alumni Association’s Faculty Hall of Fame.

faculty members honored with awards“In the past, we have presented these honors at different events throughout the academic year,” says Ronna Vanderslice, Vice President for Academic Affairs. “Rather than celebrate the achievements of our outstanding faculty members at separate ceremonies throughout the year, we combined the award presentations into one celebration. Cameron’s faculty is made up of dedicated professionals who are committed to helping their students achieve their educational goals, and such dedication is worthy of recognition.”

Karen Hardin, Assistant Professor in the Office of Extended Learning, received the 2016-17 Harold and Elizabeth Hackler Award for Teaching Excellence, Cameron’s highest faculty honor. The Hackler Lectureship in Teaching Excellence was established in 1996 by Cameron alumni Harold and Elizabeth Hackler to recognize outstanding contributions by faculty in the lives of Cameron students. Through the endowment, Hardin will receive a stipend and a grant for professional development. Her name will be added to the Hackler Award honor roll plaque.

The nomination for Hardin cites her as “a pioneer and trendsetter in online and traditional learning…she has taught, developed or helped others to develop literally dozens of creative face-to-face and online classes over the last 19 years.” As Director of Distance Learning, Hardin worked with faculty members across campus to integrate appropriate internet-based technology to specific course or curricular needs, finding ways to make technology fit the needs of a wide array of courses. In 2007, she stepped away from that role in order to concentrate on teaching, expanding her online course offerings and playing a crucial role in the development of the Organizational Leadership degree program at Cameron as well as at the state level. The nominator writes that Hardin “remains a vital resource for faculty across campus when it comes to online learning. Her experience is second to none, and she has managed to remain energetic and committed to new technologies…I consider her the most dynamic and well-informed expert on online learning I have ever met.”  The nominator concludes with, “She is, in fact, the very model of a gifted educator wholly dedicated to our students and exemplifies all of the qualities we seek and seldom find.”

Hardin joined the Cameron faculty in 1996. She has been integral in developing and enhancing the university’s delivery of online and ITV classes, in addition to impacting the lives of her own students. One former student recently wrote to her, saying, “Accomplishment has been the common thread throughout your classes. Your assignments and guidance have influenced my life.”

The Bhattacharya Endowed Lectureship for Excellence in Research Award was presented to Dr. Sarah Janda, Professor of History. Her most recent research will be published next year in her third book, “Oklahoma Prairie Power: Student Activism and the Counterculture, 1962-1972.” Her research examines how national and regional forces converged to shape both activism and retreat from society in Oklahoma between 1962 and 1972. The book explores the role of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in Norman and Stillwater, its relationship to prairie power, and the copious amounts of hostility and surveillance directed at it. Other topics include student activism juxtaposed against public, political, and legal reaction to their efforts and an examination of those who chose to retreat from the mainstream rather than fight to change it. Janda has been a member of the CU faculty since 2001. She is the recipient of the 2007-08 Hackler Award for Teaching Excellence.

Faculty Excellence Awards were presented to four members of the faculty in recognition of their contributions to Cameron’s academic community.

The Faculty Award for Excellence and Innovation in Teaching recognizes a full-time faculty member who performs superbly in the classroom. Travis Childs, an instructor of history, was the recipient. In the nomination, Childs is referred to as “a peerless classroom teacher, tireless and pro-active with university service, an excellent student advisor, a strong scholar, and an outstanding community servant who consistently exemplifies all that we hope to find in individuals who devote themselves to careers in higher education.” Childs joined the CU faculty in 2008. The nomination specifically cites his excellence in the classroom by writing, “He is particularly well suited for teaching history, as he is a magnificent story-teller and boasts a magnetic personality and a delightfully insightful and enthusiastic sense of humor that students find eminently compelling.”

Sheri Geiger received the Adjunct Faculty Award for Excellence and Innovation in Teaching, which recognizes an adjunct faculty member who performs superbly in the classroom. She is an adjunct in the Department of Sports and Exercise Science, teaching online physical education courses which provide numerous challenges to the online environment. “Professor Geiger has accepted these challenges and has taken them farther than we imagined possible,” writes the nominator. “She customizes each of her online courses and uses innovative activities to keep her students engaged.” The nominator also notes that Geiger “strives to ensure that her online courses have the same rigor as traditional courses” and states that she “is a tremendous asset to CU.” She has served as a CU adjunct professor since 2012. .

The Faculty Award for Excellence in Mentoring Student Research, which recognizes a faculty member who has an excellent sustained record of mentoring student research and scholarship, was presented to Dr. Adam Randell, Assistant Professor of Psychology. Randell leads a research lab for students in which he and the students design experiments, collect and analyze data and present their research at regional and national conferences. The nominator notes that “None of this research is done as part of a class he teaches. The countless hours Dr. Randell spends guiding student research projects is not part of his teaching load.” Since joining the CU faculty in 2013, Randell established the Research Club to provide students and faculty an opportunity to share research ideas, presented well-formed research plans with one another for feedback and to practice presenting research prior to upcoming conferences. Randell says that his passion for psychological research was ignited by the training and assistance he received from “amazing and devoted professors who trained me in the science of psychology.” That passion has motivated him to work with students to foster that same passion in them.

The Faculty Award for Excellence in Service recognizes a faculty member who has applied his/her professional expertise beyond the classroom to advance the university and its constituents. Dr. Jeff Seger, Assistant Professor of Psychology, was honored with the award. Seger was nominated by one of his students, who noted that Seger “worked non-stop” to help him pass Experimental Psychology by providing appropriate accommodations for the student’s disability. “He is a great teacher,” the student wrote. “He always reached out to me and still does to make sure I am okay now that I’m taking Psychological Research.” In addition to his commitment to ensuring student success, Seger has served in a variety of volunteer leadership positions on campus since joining the faculty in 2011. He has been a faculty advisor for Alpha Sigma Phi, chaired the department’s B.S. Psychology Assessment Committee, serves as administrator for the department’s online research scheduling system, and has been a member of the university’s Curriculum Committee.

Eric Abbott, Associate Professor of Theatre Arts, and Dave Smith, Instructor of Computing and Technology, were inducted into the Cameron University Alumni Association Faculty Hall of Fame.

Abbott’s nominator wrote that he “works magic with all students regardless of ability. He listens to their concerns, reads drafts of papers and finds monologues. He sincerely cares for every student.” In a written statement of his teaching philosophy, Abbott imparts that his goal is to help students develop their theater-related skills as well as their communication abilities. He does so by encouraging clear thinking and openness to the world at large – something he believes is essential in a liberal arts setting. “Many students may change their professional course after graduation and need to have had exposure to, and knowledge of, other areas and possibilities,” Abbott says. “The skills they learn under my tutelage can then be applied to a new field of choice or, if they stay in theater, directly to the work at hand. They will take the skills I have taught—history, research, social and political aspects—and place them into the context of their lives and work.” Abbott joined the CU faculty in 2009.

Smith, who joined the CU faculty in 2000, is referred to as “a rare gem in the classroom” by the nominator, who also said, “Mr. Smith takes the time with his students to make sure not only that the material is understood, but that Cameron students can use those skills outside the classroom in the employment market.” In addition, the nominator noted his dedication to mentoring his students. “He has an open door policy...He encourages his students to come visit him during office hours to ask questions or to find him in the lab for help. With his dedication to his students, Mr. Smith ensures his students are on the right track for their class projects and prepared for the future.” Smith’s ability to cultivate opportunities for students outside the classroom and his service to the community were also noted.

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April 13, 2017