Faculty Awards 2009

Eight Wichita State faculty members were honored during the 2009 Faculty Awards. Jill Docking with the Kansas Board of Regents will present the awards. The honorees were chosen for setting the gold standard for teaching, research and creative activities at WSU.

2009 Honorees

Academy for Effective Teaching M. Edwin Sawan
Community Research Michael Jorgensen
Excellence in Creative Activity Darren DeFrain
Excellence in Research Award Alex Chaparro
Young Faculty Scholar Anthony DiLollo
Leadership in the Advancement of Teaching LaDonna Hale
Excellence in Teaching Amy Drassen Ham
Richard LeCompte

Academy for Effective Teaching Award

Established in 1996, these awards are given by WSU’s Academy for Effective Teaching, a group of outstanding emeriti faculty nominated for membership by current faculty and staff at WSU. Recipients of the AET Teaching Award are chosen through a multi-stage process. After collecting nominations from current upper-division and graduate students, the 10-person AET Steering Committee creates a short list of excellent teachers, each of whom is invited to submit a teaching portfolio. On the basis of the portfolios, the AET Steering Committee recommends winners to the Provost, who makes the final award. Awardees who are full-time faculty receive a $2,000 addition to their base salary beginning the following academic year; adjunct awardees receive a one-time $2,000 award.

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M. Edwin Sawan, professor and interim chair, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, College of Engineering

M. Edwin Sawan received a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering and a Master of Science in automatic control and computer science from the University of Alexandria in Egypt in 1973 and 1976, respectively. He received a doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1979. He joined the WSU faculty in 1979.
One of Sawan’s favorite quotes is from Santiago Ramon y Cajal, a Spanish scientist who won a 1906 Nobel Prize:

“Enthusiasm and perseverance make miracles.” Guided by that notion, Sawan approaches every class he teaches with a sense of enthusiasm and renewal — to the point that he develops a new set of notes, examples, tests and homework every semester for each class.

“Each student has only one chance to learn this material,” Sawan said of his practice. “Students will spend the rest of their careers with an impression of me and my subject based on how I treat them in a particular semester, regardless of my performance in other semesters.”

Every semester, Sawan spends the first week of classes discussing his views about teaching in general and describing the engineering profession in particular. That’s when he explains that he considers the relationship between a student and a professor as one of sharing, not delivering, knowledge.

“I clarify this metaphor by noting that at the conclusion of a transaction based on delivery, only one party possesses the item being delivered,” Sawan wrote in his philosophy of teaching statement. “The person who delivers the item will no longer have any of it. Teaching is quite different from that.”

Sawan likens a classroom experience to that of preparing a wonderful meal for close friends — much time and effort go into the preparation and as people sit down to be fulfilled, all become equal and enjoy one another’s company.
His open-door policy for students, his quick smile and gracious personality have had quite an effect on students. Some have switched majors after taking a class from him; others have found support to continue their educational careers. One criminal justice major wrote how he credits Sawan, whom he sought out for guidance, for helping him make it through WSU.

On evaluations, students repeatedly praise Sawan for his organization, his clear explanations of concepts and his respectful treatment of students.

Sawan’s approach of valuing opinions and engaging in discussions also extends to his colleagues, who value his leadership. For six of the past eight years, he has served either as interim chair or chair of his department, including overseeing the electrical and computer engineering department’s merger with computer science.

For 13 years, from 1993 through 2006, he served as graduate coordinator of electrical engineering students. He has chaired nine doctoral dissertation committees, and has supervised more than 15 theses or directed projects.
Sawan has previously won two college-level teaching awards during his 30-year career at WSU.

Community Research Award

The Community Research Award recognizes a faculty member who has established an exemplary and demonstrable record of scholarship extended to external constituents resulting in significant outcome for individuals, organizations or communities in problem solving or development. Full-time faculty who have served at WSU of at least three years are eligible. The recipient is awarded $2,500.

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Michael Jorgensenassociate professor, Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, College of Engineering

Michael J. Jorgensen received a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in industrial and management systems engineering from the University of Nebraska in 1986 and 1989, respectively. He worked for five years as an industrial engineer and ergonomist with the U.S. Department of Labor before earning a doctorate in industrial and systems engineering from Ohio State University in 2001. He joined the WSU faculty in 2001 and was the university’s Young Faculty Scholar Award recipient in 2006.

If there’s a whole lot of shaking going on at the workplace, Jorgensen is interested in what happens to the human body.
Since joining the WSU faculty, Jorgensen has developed research programs and publication and presentation records on intervention strategies to reduce the risk of workplace injuries to the lower back and upper extremities.
Much of his research has dealt with the effects of vibration on the human body while doing certain tasks. For a number of years, he studied the vibrations, jolting, jarring and awkward body postures that construction industry workers endure, securing funding from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

It seems only natural that he would eventually develop a research program related to Wichita’s major industry — aviation — where his work has the potential to impact the safety and health of local workers.

For the past few years, Jorgensen has researched bucking bars to develop strategies to reduce injuries that can be caused by repetitive and long-term exposure to hand-arm vibrations and extreme grip-force. At local aviation plants, as one worker punches rivets with a rivet gun, another is on the other side of the skin, holding the metal bar firmly in place to form the bucktail, or head of the rivet.

Jorgensen’s aviation-related research started when Hawker Beechcraft began using bars made of tungsten, rather than the industry-standard steel. While anecdotal evidence from workers suggested tungsten seemed to dampen the vibrations, the company’s safety officer wondered if hand-grip exertion levels increased because of the tungsten bar weighing twice as much as a steel one.

Jorgensen and his team of graduate students started conducting tests on site with the laborers, attaching sensors to their hands and arms to measure vibration and muscle exertions.

“That’s what makes this research so relevant and real-world, because we are working directly with the workers exposed to this equipment and are trying to improve their situation,” Jorgensen said.

They found that tungsten dampened vibrations by more than 30 percent but the hand-grip exertions didn’t increase. Since tungsten bars cost significantly more to purchase than steel ones, Jorgensen and his team are searching for other solutions to modify the use of steel ones, such as attaching a handle to the bars, which are often the size of a deck of playing cards. That changes the grip from a pinch grip, which is harder on muscles, to a power grip. They’re also exploring creating hybrid bucking bars that combine steel and other elements to dampen the vibrations to workers while holding down the costs of the tools.

While his work at the U.S. Department of Labor gave him insight into the inner workings of a lot of industries¬ — from meat-packing plants to the making of toys — Jorgensen said he much prefers to research and teach. “I love exploring new ideas.”

Excellence in Creative Activity Award

The Excellence in Creative Activity Award, established in 1999, is given to a faculty member who has established an exemplary record of creative activity that has brought recognition to the University. Creative activity can include work in musical compositions, visual arts, choreography, writing, and performance. Full-time faculty who have been at WSU for three years are eligible. The recipient is awarded $2,500.

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Darren DeFrain, assistant professor and director of the writing program, english, Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Darren DeFrain received a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Bachelor of Science in psychology, with a minor in Italian, from the University of Utah in 1989, a Master of Arts in English from Kansas State University in 1992, a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Southwest Texas State University in 1995, and a doctoral degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University in 2000. He taught at the University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley for five years before joining the WSU faculty in 2005.

One might think that DeFrain is a comic book collector, judging by the box of cartoon magazines in his Lindquist Hall office. But they actually are part of DeFrain’s research for his next novel, “The Romulus and Remus of Adams County, NE.”
It’s a book that will combine the subjects of farming, mythology, comic books and even mail-order brides.

“I’m having a wild time researching it,” said DeFrain, who has written two chapters of the book. Thanks to his research, he can lapse into a whole dialogue linking how farming practices have changed to obesity and a change in American’s dietary habits.

Combining an unusual mix of themes is something DeFrain has had success with in the past. His first cult novel, “Salt Palace,” published the same year he came to WSU, received favorable critical reviews and was short-listed as a best novel of 2005 in a number of national publications and rankings.

The book was set against the Utah Jazz’s 1996 run at the NBA championship, a team DeFrain has been a fan of for years. The main character, Brian, is making his way home to Utah from Michigan to help his parents move out of his boyhood home. He impulsively agrees to take along a one-armed, foul-mouthed missionary looking for a ride. The novel juxtaposed the journey with a series of histories of the Utah Jazz, the Mormon church, the state of Utah and the Bible, all of which have had a hand in shaping Brian. In researching that book, DeFrain had similar “wild” experiences — often agreeing to listen to the spiel of Mormon missionaries knocking at his door if they in turn would answer his questions about their religion.

Margaret Rabb, director of WSU’s creative writing program, called the work “quintessentially unorthodox and fresh.” American author John Dufresne called it “gritty and propulsive.” DeFrain even uses the words “strange” and “quirky” to describe his writing, which is an amalgam of various concepts that overlay one another.

His short story collection, “Inside & Out: Stories,” published in October 2008, is also getting critical reviews. A Kansas City Star reviewer called the stories “muscular and swift, weight-lifting Chekhov.” He’s given standing-room only readings of the collection at Watermark Books and Ablah Library, as well as around the region.

In the past six years, he’s also published six short stories and six nonfiction pieces in literary journals.

DeFrain has impressed his colleagues with his ability to continue such a voracious writing record, considering he joined the faculty in 2005 as the director of the writing program — where he oversees more than 30 graduate teaching assistants teaching the required English Composition I and II classes — and also stepped in to direct the department’s notable creative writing program from 2007-08.

Excellence in Research Award

The Excellence in Research Award, established in 1997, recognizes a faculty member who as established an exemplary record of research that has advanced the University's research mission. Full-time faculty who have been at WSU for three years are eligible. The recipient is awarded $2,500.

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Alex Chaparro, associate professor, psychology, Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Alex Chaparro received a Bachelor of Science in experimental psychology from Florida Institute of Technology in 1984 and a doctorate in the same field from Texas Tech University in 1990. He completed six years of post-doctoral training at Harvard University before joining the WSU faculty in 1996.

While Chaparro’s research initially has been grounded in vision, aging and cognition while driving, his recent work has been more up in the air — in trying to develop a better crew station for unmanned aircraft patroling war zones and U.S. borders.

Funded by more than $1.5 million in grants, Chaparro and a team of human factors psychology doctoral students and faculty have been working for the past three years on a new ground control station for General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, the leading manufacturer of unmanned aircraft systems, such as the Predator and Reaper. The planes are used not only in the U.S. antiterrorism and war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq but also along U.S. borders for homeland security and disaster relief efforts.

Since the first delivery in 1994 of the Predator, the control system has developed into a complex component of multiple screens, keyboards, joysticks and other devices because of new mission requirements.

“They just kept adding onto the system and now they want a new integrated interface system that will be more ergonomic and easier to work with,” explained Chaparro, who has visited with the U.S.-based pilots who fly the planes in the Middle East.

This isn’t Chaparro’s only research involving aviation, a field he’s been fascinated with since childhood. He still collects airplane memorabilia — his Jabara Hall office is filled with vintage airplane and space rocket banks, and aircraft paintings decorate his walls. Wichita’s status as the Air Capital of the World was a major reason Chaparro joined the WSU faculty in 1996, hoping he could combine his boyhood hobby with his research.

Chaparro’s other aviation-related research involves studying instrument panel design, the decision-making styles of pilots, and the design of aircraft maintenance manuals.

Chaparro still continues research on driving performance and road safety. His earlier research dealt with aging and low-vision drivers and led to the conclusion that the standard vision test for obtaining a driver’s license has no bearing on predicting whether drivers are road hazards. He recommends the “useful field of view” test that measures a driver’s ability to divide his or her attention among objects.

With the boom in drivers using cell phones and texting, Chaparro is now studying multitasking while driving. During his 2004 sabbatical, he paired with a researcher in Australia to use a closed-road driving range to study young and old drivers’ abilities to multitask, as they dodged road hazards, including the occasional kangaroo. He’s made three trips since to collaborate with researchers and continue tests.

Chaparro’s research with real-world applications has resulted in his graduate students getting plum jobs at such agencies as the National Transportation Safety Board, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Dell and Honeywell.
One benchmark of his research excellence is that his research, published in many prestigious international and national journals, has received more than 330 citations in other articles, said Clemson University professor Rick Tyrrell. Another indicator of Chaparro’s standing in his field is his appointment to several grant review panels for such agencies as the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and a National Institutes of Health division, said WSU colleague Jim Snyder.

Young Faculty Scholar Award

Wichita State University's Board of Trustees established the Young Faculty Scholar Award in 1988 to recognize faculty members who are between their third and eighth year of service and have records of excellence in teaching performance and substantial achievement in research and/or creative activity. The recipient is awarded $2,000.

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Anthony DiLollo, assistant professor, communication sciences and disorders, College of Health Professions

Anthony DiLollo completed a bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Western Australia in Perth in 1986, a Master of Science at the University of Mississippi in 1996 and a doctorate from the University of Memphis in Tennessee in 2001. He joined the WSU faculty in 2002.

With his five years of experience as a school psychologist and counselor in Western Australia, DiLollo, who now works primarily in the areas of fluency disorders, has found a way to meld his understanding of psychology and counseling to promote long-term changes in people who stutter. His innovative approach may help reduce the high relapse rate of people treated for stuttering.

In her award nomination letter, WSU professor Barbara Hodson said that in her 34-year career at three major universities she’s never encountered a more outstanding junior faculty member than DiLollo. That’s high praise coming from the 2008 recipient of WSU’s Excellence in Research Award who’s been published widely and has been recognized as a pioneer in her field.

DiLollo stands poised to take his place alongside Hodson and other accomplished researchers with what WSU communication sciences and disorders chair Kathy Coufal calls “important, groundbreaking research.”

With speech therapy, it’s relatively easy to help people become fluent and speak without stuttering, but more than 70 percent eventually relapse into their previous speech habits, DiLollo said. To counter that high relapse rate, other approaches need to be considered.

“For someone who grows up stuttering, it becomes part of who they are,” said DiLollo. It affects how they feel about themselves and how they socialize with others. By incorporating a counseling approach as part of their speech therapy, they “can change their story of who they are,” said DiLollo. “If you’re just treating the speech behavior, you’re missing the larger picture.”

His research, which borrows from what psychology calls “narrative therapy,” is getting considerable attention by his peers. The highlight of his career, DiLollo said, was being invited to present the keynote address at the 5th World Congress on Fluency Disorders, which was held in Dublin, Ireland, in 2006 — an achievement University of Memphis professor Walter H. Manning called “especially noteworthy.” He’s been invited to give presentations at American Speech-Language-Hearing Association conferences, as well.

DiLollo has published several articles, including eight in refereed professional journals and two in conference proceedings. He’s already co-authored a clinical textbook and has written four textbook chapters. His work has been cited more than 30 times in other articles, a mark of success for a published researcher.

For much of his research, DiLollo has worked with other researchers and professors in the field of speech therapy. While he loves the academic requirements of teaching, writing, research and mentoring graduate students, he particularly enjoys collaborating with others to consider new or different approaches to solving problems of speech, he said.

He’s even had the opportunity to collaborate with his wife, Lara, an audiologist at WSU’s Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic. They recently had a co-authored article accepted for publication.

Leadership in the Advancement of Teaching Award

Wichita State University's Board of Trustees established the Leadership in the Advancement of Teaching Award in 1982 to recognize exemplary effort and leadership in improvement and learning at WSU. The recipient is awarded $1,000.

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LaDonna Hale, associate professor, Department of Physician Assistant, College of Health Professions

LaDonna S. Hale received a Bachelor of Science in pharmacy and a doctorate in pharmacy from the University of Kansas in 1995 and 1996, respectively. She started teaching at WSU in 1997. She was a clinical pharmacist with Wesley Hospital from 1995-98, and continues as a pharmacy consultant for the Wichita hospital.

Hale loved working as a pharmacist in a local hospital. When she got a phone call in 1997 to teach a single WSU course, she thought her passion for learning would help overcome her aversion to public speaking.

“I started teaching with the notion that it would be a one-time venture, but I fell in love with teaching and wanted to continue,” wrote Hale in her award portfolio. “I love learning daily, right along with the students.”

In an ever-changing field such as pharmacology, Hale certainly has that opportunity. In her classroom, Hale often shares the dramatic changes in how some medications are now used as compared to even 10 years ago.

She always keeps in mind that the students in her classroom will soon be our health-care providers, writing our prescriptions.

“One of the most important things that I have to convey is lifelong learning. Students must be able to teach themselves without a lecture or a PowerPoint presentation,” Hale said.

“Leadership in teaching is not how far we advance ourselves but how far we advance others,” Hale wrote in her teaching philosophy.

Students praise her organization and ability to make a complex subject understandable.

”I’ve never had a professor communicate difficult concepts in such a clear, understandable way. She has high expectations for learning of her students,” wrote one.

Another student realized the significance of her class later: “(Her) pharmacology class was very difficult for me and it seemed like I studied for it all the time, but now that I am on rotations, I’m so glad she made it that way. Thank you!”

Hale said she has been rejuvenated by participating in the College of Health Profession’s Leadership Academy, composed of selected faculty interested in fostering leadership. It’s helped her realize she can model and encourage leadership for students in various ways.

“As an instructor or health-care provider, you are a leader whether or not you recognize yourself as such,” Hale said. “Leadership is not a position, it’s an activity.”

Hale teaches pharmacology courses for students in nursing, dental hygiene, physical therapy, physician assistant, nurse practitioner and athletic training. She also oversees student research projects that have won major awards from WSU’s Graduate School and professional organizations with several resulting in publication.

Hale, who won the WSU Academy for Effective Teaching Award in 2005, has published in the areas of online education, critical thinking, standardized patients and multidisciplinary instruction.

In addition to an active teaching and publication record, Hale is heading a multidisciplinary grant project with WSU colleagues from physical therapy, exercise science and health communications to improve the risks of falls by the elderly in rural Kansas and elsewhere. Medication — whether it be the wrong combination, a change or too many — is one of the four major risk factors for falls.

Excellence in Teaching Award

The University of Wichita Board of Regents, now known as the WSU Board of Trustees, established a corpus of $50,000 in 1964 to provide grants to recognize superior teaching. The recipient is awarded $2,000.

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Amy Drassen Haminstructor, public health sciences, College of Health Professions

Amy Drassen Ham earned a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology, with a minor in psychology, and a Master of Arts in anthropology from Wichita State University in 1993 and 1997, respectively. She earned a Master of Public Health degree from WSU in 2001 and is working on a doctorate in medical anthropology from the University of Kansas. She has held several appointments at WSU: department of anthropology lecturer, 1997-2003; public health sciences instructor, 2001-05 and 2008-present; and instructor in health services management and community development, 2005-08.

When Rick Muma, chair of public health sciences, first met Drassen Ham in 2004, he found she was “smart, intellectually aggressive, genuine, considerate and a great storyteller,” he said. He isn’t alone in that sentiment. Former professors and current colleagues to associates and students tend to feel the same way when meeting Drassen Ham, working on a project with her or taking a class from her.

Students, in particular, rave about Drassen Ham when given the opportunity. The 4-inch thick portfolio submitted for her current award had multiple pages of glowing commentary and evaluations.

“She makes the learning very interactive and fun,” remarked one student.

Another wrote: “She is a fabulous instructor, very engaging and passionate about her subject. As a person she cares a lot about her students and encourages them to participate in many community efforts outside the classroom.”

One student commented that while the course title seemed boring, “she seems to grab my attention every week and I walk out of her class learning something valuable and new.”

Drassen Ham has found that by using the teaching methods of direct application and storytelling, she can accomplish her goal of nurturing and facilitating a student’s synthesis of theory, life and experience.

One outgrowth of her use of direct application has been the formation and projects of a student organization called HEALTH (Health Education Advocates for Leadership, Teamwork and Humanity). With her guidance as HEALTH’s faculty adviser, the student group uses the principles and theories learned in classes to create projects to improve health for everyone. For example, students from her senior capstone and another course played integral roles in securing $4,000 in grants to fund the group’s various campus projects, including securing a smoke-free policy for WSU’s residence halls.

Drassen Ham’s storytelling resonates with students, as well, with many mentioning that technique in their evaluations. For example, when she lectures about mandatory injury reporting, she often shares the story of taking a teenager to the emergency room with deep arm lacerations from reportedly falling in the street and how that incident became a full-blown police report and investigation into acts of vandalism.

While students have provided enthusiastic written support for Drassen Ham’s various award nominations over the years, Drassen Ham is perhaps more honored by the opportunity to teach — “to be considered a person of expertise and to help shape students’ futures,” as she puts it. “I never have nor ever will take lightly the responsibility of teaching and feel completely privileged to do so for my living.”

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Richard L.B. LeCompte, H. Dene Heskett Chair of Finance, associate professor and chair of the Department of Finance, Real Estate and Decision Sciences, W. Frank Barton School of Business

Richard LeCompte received a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in economics from the University of Arkansas in 1976 and 1978, respectively. He received a doctorate in finance from the University of Texas at Austin in 1987. He joined the WSU faculty in 1989.

In the classroom, LeCompte likes to balance the theories of finance with real-world applications. Given his expertise in investments and banking and the current economic state, he has had plenty of fodder for discussion.

One clear way students can understand finance is through LeCompte’s investment simulation, in which students compete against him in a real-time scenario. During the three months students are buying stocks and bonds in the simulation, they face the same scenarios actual investors face, which in recent months have included the risks of investing and the impact of a credit market collapse.

“I try to tell them that they may not have all the answers,” LeCompte said. “And I tell them they will make mistakes, but the key is to keep from making big mistakes that can wipe them out.”

His class discussions of late have also revolved around ethics, including such recent scandals as the Ponzi scheme fraud carried out by Bernie Madoff and sub-prime mortgage fraud.

“Those are ethical issues that have had huge implications and are costing us all,” LeCompte said. One key piece of advice LeCompte imparts is that his students should keep asking questions when money — whether it’s theirs or someone else’s — is involved “until you feel it’s a trustworthy situation.” He realizes the students face both personal and professional questions about their financial future, such as whether they can obtain a home mortgage and what will be the impact of the current crisis on their careers in finance.

According to one colleague, economics department chair Jen-Chi Cheng, who won a 2008 Excellence in Teaching Award, “the rapport (LeCompte) achieves with his students is almost unparalleled, while at the same time he is maintaining a very high level of course demands.”

Student comments like this one are not unusual: “I learned the most in his class and found him to be one of if not the most intelligent and knowledgeable teacher I have had at WSU.”

The fact that he cares about his students’ overall personal, academic and career development was played out on a recent morning when a former student dropped by his office to thank him and bid him goodbye before leaving for a job in Japan.

Through Facebook, LeCompte is reconnecting with other students, as well.

As the main investment and banking expert within the Barton School, LeCompte teaches classes in the undergraduate, MBA and Executive MBA programs. He also created WSU’s Certified Financial Planner certification program that attracts about a dozen professionals every offering.

His expertise also led to his being appointed chair of the Campus Credit Union’s board of directors and to hold one of two faculty appointments to the Kansas Board of Regents retirement investment planning committee, overseeing the system’s involvement in such alternative plans as TIAA-CREF and ING.

This year, LeCompte was also honored with the national Outstanding Educator Award from the Federation of Business disciplines, whose 600-plus members are in finance academia.

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