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Cameron University faculty members honored with awards

Cameron University faculty members Dr. Ioannis K. Argyros, Dr. Shaun Calix, Dr. Danyelle Lee, Dr. Michelle Smith, Dr. Jan Thomas, and Dr. Aubree Walton have been honored with awards recognizing their contributions to Cameron’s academic community.

“It is always rewarding to recognize dedicated faculty members,” says Dr. Ronna Vanderslice, Vice President for Academic Affairs. “These award recipients, who teach in different academic disciplines, share a common goal: to assist Cameron students in completing their educational goals by providing exceptional learning experiences.”

Dr. Michelle Smith, Associate Professor in the Department of Education, received the 2020-21 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.

Smith was nominated by one of her students, who wrote, “What is the sheer definition of teacher excellence if not to inspire change and growth inside whole classrooms at a time and who does this wholeheartedly? Where could knowledge go to find the person with the ability to instill itself into future generations to ensure its everlasting life without a shred of doubt or misgivings? How do you fix a broken world if you’re only one person and you are driven to shape and guide future educators of the universe? The answer is simple: you seek Mrs. Smith for all her many talents.”

The nominator noted Smith’s “exceptional talent for molding bright futures for inexperienced students...and never giving up on anybody.”

Smith describes her teaching philosophy as “REAL,” an acronym for relationships, engagement, applicable, and love of learning. She believes effective teaching begins with establishing relationships, which then leads to engaging students in class.

She is committed to instilling a love of learning in her students. “Teachers with passion inspire learning,” she says. “It is important to be passionate about the career path one chooses in order to do it for most of one’s life. Teachers should be passionate, life-long learners.”

The Bhattacharya Endowed Lectureship for Excellence in Research Award was presented to Dr. Ioannis Argyros, Professor of Mathematical Sciences. Argyros has a prolific portfolio of research in topics including mathematical analysis, applied mathematics/analysis, management science, wavelet and neural networks, mathematical economics, and mathematical physics. He regularly involves his students in research, as he strives to empower students through teaching, research and mentoring. He serves as an advisor to students in addition to mentoring their research projects and providing guidance as they present papers and talks at professional and academic conferences.

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 in Service recognizes a faculty member who has applied his/her professional expertise beyond the classroom to advance the university and its constituents. Dr. Shaun Calix, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology, was honored with the award. Calix, who was nominated for his service as faculty advisor for the Native American Student Association, was cited for his “support and encouragement for us to be who we are as students while representing our culture,” according to the nominator. The nomination cited Calix’s willingness to go “over and beyond in recognizing this student organization on campus.”

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. Danyelle Lee, Associate Professor in the Department of Agriculture, Biology and Health Sciences. One nominator described Lee as “an outstanding mentor who had the biggest impact on my time at Cameron.”

The student nominator described her work with Lee on a research project, saying, “It is from this one-on-one learning experience that I was able to obtain skills in the research lab that could not have been taught in a classroom setting.” Additional nominations cited Lee’s ability to guide students through all steps of research, communicating the importance of research goals, her willingness to reach out to other researchers to compare results, and the mentorship she provides in the preparation of research posters and presentations.

Dr. Jan Thomas received the Adjunct Faculty Award for Excellence and Innovation in Teaching, which recognizes an adjunct faculty member who performs superbly in the classroom. A classroom teacher at Tomlinson Middle School in Lawton, Thomas has served as an adjunct at Cameron since 2014, teaching a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses in the Department of Education. In her statement of teaching philosophy, Thomas notes that she genuinely loves teaching and serving others, adding, “I understand relationships, collaboration and motivation are key to student success. Therefore, I try to incorporate human, unique hooks, and teaching strategies that are outside the box to reach my students.”

The Faculty Award for Excellence and Innovation in Teaching recognizes a full-time faculty member who performs superbly in the classroom. Dr. Aubree Walton, Professor of Business, was the recipient. Walton has been teaching online classes since 2004. Rather than rely on publisher content that doesn’t suit the disciplines she teaches, Walton personally develops her own online pedagogy. This includes creating recorded lectures with note-takings, utilizing student video demonstration assignments, incorporating recorded group case discussions, hosting a virtual open house for online students, and more. She states that many students have expressed a desire for more student-to-student interaction, so she created tools to meet that need.

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PR#21-079