2013 University Faculty Awards

Six Wichita State University faculty members were honored during the 2013 Faculty Awards. The honorees were recognized for setting the gold standard for teaching, research and creative activities at WSU.

2013 Honorees

Academy for Effective Teaching Preethika Kumar
Gamal Weheba
Young Faculty Scholar Pingfeng Wang
Leadership in the Advancement of Teaching Michael B. Flores
Excellence in Teaching Stan Longhofer
Vinod Namboodiri

The Community Research, Excellence in Creative Activity and Excellence in Research awards were not bestowed in 2013.

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.

JPEG ImagePreethika Kumar, Assistant Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, College of Engineering

Preethika Kumar earned the Bachelor of Science in electronics and computer engineering at Bangalore University in India in 2000. She earned the Master of Science and the doctorate in electrical engineering from WSU in 2004 and 2007, respectively. She joined the WSU faculty in 2007 and won the university's 2012 Excellence in Teaching Award.

The longer she teaches, the more she becomes a better friend to her students, says Preethika Kumar.

That doesn't mean she's relaxing standards in the classroom. If anything, she's increased them.

Kumar places great value in being a good person overall. She also wants to be a good professor. She has realized that by placing high expectations on her students' academic outcomes, she is showing she cares. Her students have noticed how her expectations have gone up each successive year in her teaching career – and they like it.

“I'm becoming more strict and my SPTE (scores) are increasing,” Kumar says, referring to the Student Perception of Teaching Effectiveness evaluations.

Senior Corbin Taylor is just one of many students who raves about Kumar.

“... Dr. Kumar is an exceptional professor, among the best I have ever had,” he writes. “Not only is her knowledge of the course material incredibly strong, but her enthusiasm fills the lecture room every day. There was not a single lecture in which Dr. Kumar wasn't enthusiastic about teaching. In fact, I believe Dr. Kumar truly loves teaching and educating her students and takes great pleasure in seeing her students learn and grow.”

“She does not dilute the information within a course to allow people to pass,” says Shawn Westervelt. For that, Westervelt wrote, Kumar is well-respected. He and fellow students often peruse upcoming course offerings, looking for her name. “When you enroll in one of her courses, you know you will be challenged to learn a new topic and tested to ensure that you have the understanding expected. But most importantly, she will provide you with all the tools a student needs to be successful in the course.”

Her Introduction to Quantum Computing, an elective class she developed, continues to grow each semester. Kumar, who tends to be modest and humble, thinks the class is popular because students realize they need to understand quantum physics as engineers try to make processors smaller and faster.

But it probably also has to do with Kumar making a complex subject understandable, an ability noted in several student nomination letters. Her ability to decipher difficult topics is why students seek her help with their other courses, too, Westervelt noted.

Kumar, whose research interests are in quantum computing, quantum neural networks and quantum algorithms, says it's the students who fuel her enthusiasm and capacity to share knowledge. Kumar believes she has an easier job than students when it comes to getting fired up about her topic material because she feeds off the students' energy. And they greatly outnumber her in a classroom, she notes.

“They just have one person – me – to draw energy from. However, I have them all.”

Her enthusiasm is why she's the department's go-to person for coordinating campus visits with prospective students, talking to freshmen who are considering engineering as a major or hosting a group of middle school students.

Kumar has been granted tenure and the rank of associate professor, effective July 1.

JPEG ImageGamal Weheba, Associate Professor, Department of Industrial and Manufacturing, College of Engineering

Gamal Weheba received the Bachelor of Science degree in production engineering and mechanical design and the Master of Science in production engineering from Menoufia University in Egypt in 1981 and 1987, respectively. He earned a doctorate in industrial engineering in 1996 from the University of Central Florida. He joined the WSU faculty in 1999.

Gamal Weheba's teaching and research is all about quality.

His success in the classroom, his teaching awards record and the fact that he's the only Kansan recognized as a fellow in the American Society for Quality (ASQ) are all testaments to his field – which is implementing and improving quality engineering.

Since coming to WSU in 1999, Weheba has received a number of teaching accolades. He's a four-time winner of the engineering college's Polished Professor Award, a two-time winner of the college's Dwane and Velma Wallace Outstanding Educator Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the 2008 recipient of Wichita State's Leadership in the Advancement of Teaching Award.

He's also a consistent high scorer – often the department's highest – in the university's Student Perception of Teaching Effectiveness evaluations. Not satisfied with getting feedback at the end of the semester – which is the usual time the SPTEs are given as a sort of exit interview for professors – Weheba developed a mid-semester survey.

He'd been using the end-of-semester evaluations to improve his teaching, he says, but he wanted to get more timely feedback that he could incorporate during the class as it was underway. Now, his fellow IME department colleagues use the survey, too.

Weheba also works hard to ensure his students are well-prepared and seen as top-notch in quality standards. To help give students a competitive edge in the marketplace, he compiled primers, which are available in Ablah Library, so students can study for ASQ certification exams. ASQ certification is the global gold standard of quality and is a highly valued credential.

“The minute students get certification, they get a job,” he says. Often companies invest at least $10,000 or more in getting employees ASQ-certified. For a student to get certified while earning their degree at WSU saves a company money, Weheba says, but more importantly “it's a statement that they not only have the classroom knowledge but have the practical knowledge, as well.” More than 90 WSU students have obtained the certification.

Weheba himself has been a certified quality engineer since 1994. In the late 1990s, the idea of quality standards in business became popular nationwide, particularly after CEO Jack Welch used Motorola's Six-Sigma program as a guiding business strategy for General Electric.

At WSU, Weheba has developed a graduate certificate program for the Foundations of Six-Sigma and Quality Improvements. The program includes most of the requirements of Six-Sigma's green belt certification requirements. Weheba also proctors the green belt certification tests for students and professionals.

He has developed at least four new courses and three learning laboratories at WSU, a certification software, a tooling technique and a virtual environment model to teach fire safety to autistic children.

Weheba has advised five doctoral students, co-advised three to graduation and served on 10 dissertation committees. In the past six years, he has advised 37 master's students in thesis completions. He has published 14 refereed papers in internationally recognized journals and presented several others in various conferences, most of which were co-authored with his students.

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 receives a $2,000 award.

JPEG ImagePingfeng Wang, Assistant Professor, Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, College of Engineering

Pingfeng Wang received the Bachelor of Engineering degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Science and Technology in Beijing in 2001, the Master of Science in applied mathematics from Tsinghua University in Beijing in 2006 and the doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of Maryland in 2010. He joined the WSU faculty in 2010.

When it comes to doing research that gets attention, Pingfeng Wang's record is off the charts.

A common measurement of good research work is the impact factor it has on other research – and in academe that means how often a paper is cited by other researchers. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the average citation of a paper published in the discipline of industrial engineering at top universities is 4.7 times in a four-year period.

Wang, who does research in reliability and risk analysis, has far surpassed that. In three years at Wichita State, his top three papers have been cited 39, 34 and 24 times already. Overall his work has received more than 189 citations – an average of more than 10 citations per journal article.

Wang has had 18 peer-reviewed journal articles published or accepted for publication, 46 peer-reviewed conference papers, and has another five articles under review. Because he's become such a well-respected researcher, he is invited to sit on national proposal review panels and as a reviewer for many peer-reviewed journals, writes Michael Jorgensen, an associate professor in industrial and manufacturing engineering who won the 2006 Young Faculty Scholar award.

In 2012, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers recognized him with its prestigious Best Paper Award.

Another measurement of Wang's success is his research funding, which department chair and professor Krishna Krishnan calls “exceptional, with a total amount of $802,000 since joining WSU in 2010.”
He secured a revered National Science Foundation grant to further study engineered resilience through concurrent design of functional reliability and failure prognosis.

Developing reliability and resilience in high-risk engineering systems such as aging infrastructures and services has been recognized as a key challenge for the century by the National Academy for Engineering. It can save companies billions of dollars and be a significant factor in building brand reputation. The grounding of an aircraft for a system failure, for example, can cost $1 million a day, Wang notes.

With the NSF grant, Wang established the Reliability Engineering Automation Laboratory, or REAL, to help WSU become a research leader in finding reliable, safe and cost-effective processes. REAL's research team includes nine graduate students and is currently researching reliability of wind turbine and aviation systems, including work for Spirit Aerosystems.

“There's huge potential here so that's why I'm working hard to find funding,” says Wang.

His prolific publication record helps build WSU's credibility as a place that can do this type of research. He also sees the potential for providing more research opportunities for his students. He's already advised five doctoral and seven master's students. Students regularly ask to join his research group. With more research funding, he can grow that team.

As a doctoral student, Wang was part of the University of Maryland's selective Future Faculty Program – which helps doctoral students develop and understand the teaching, research and service roles of a university professor. Being mentored in that program helped him understand the importance of mentoring, Wang notes.

He often invites his students to publish with him and attend conferences to showcase the students and research being done at WSU.

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.

JPEG ImageMichael Flores, Assistant Director and Assistant Professor, School of Accountancy, W. Frank Barton School of Business

Michael Flores received the Bachelor of Business Administration in accounting from the University of Texas at El Paso in 1981, the Master of Accountancy from New Mexico State University in 1982 and completed all but dissertation for a doctoral degree in accountancy from Texas Tech University in 1998. He joined the WSU faculty in 1998.

When Michael Flores won the university's Academy for Effective Teaching Award in 2006, he felt as though he'd been inducted into Wichita State's teaching hall of fame.

The winner is determined by an honored group of WSU emeriti professor and is usually considered the cream of WSU's faculty crop.

When Flores found out about the academy's plans to compile a book of teaching tips from its award winners to share with new faculty, he volunteered to spearhead the effort.

The 50-page booklet, “A Handbook of Reflections on the Art of Teaching,” was published July 2011.
It contains the teaching advice and perspectives of 32 past recipients of the Academy for Effective Teaching Award, including himself.

Flores says the booklet is his way of “paying it forward” – a way to help mentor other faculty. If it hadn’t been for his mentoring by Barton School colleagues and AET award winners Bill Jarnagin and John Belt, Flores says, he wouldn't be winning his third university-level teaching award in the past decade. He received the Excellence in Teaching Award in 2003.

“They took the time and effort to mentor me, and I want to do the same,” says Flores. “I'm a much different teacher than when I got here.”

Part of the reason Flores strives to be effective in the classroom is because he's had both good examples and cautionary tales among his own college professors.

“A university professor very early in my undergraduate degree so dismayed me on accounting, on teaching, on myself as a person that I came within a sorrowful weekend of leaving the profession completely,” wrote Flores in the foreword of the booklet. “That is why becoming a good teacher is so important to me.”

The booklet isn't Flores' only way of paying it forward, however. In the past he's made presentations to new WSU faculty and he's also offered advice and encouragement to fellow Barton School colleagues.

“When I joined the faculty on a full-time basis, Michael was the first person who helped me,” recalls Patricia O'Sullivan. He coached her on handling various situations, incorporating technology into her teaching and understanding the impact professors have on students' educational and personal development, she wrote in her nomination letter.

When the WSU Graduate School required all graduate students to take academic ethics training and assessment, Flores helped create the module adopted by all four Barton School graduate programs.

Among his colleagues, Flores is known for turning technology or other resources, such as an online warehouse of the tax filing documents of nonprofits, into useful classroom tools. For example, he introduces his students to GuideStar.org to do financial and ethical analyses of nonprofits.

In a kind of Oscar-winner's tribute, Flores praises his colleagues, particularly Belt and Jarnigan, and his parents for helping him become an award-winning teacher. His father was a lauded accountancy professor at the University of Texas at El Paso who inspired Flores, while his mother gave him the confidence to pursue his dream of teaching, he says.

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.

JPEG ImageStanley Longhofer, Professor and Stephen L. Clark Chair of Real Estate and Finance, W. Frank Barton School of Business

Stanley Longhofer received the Bachelor of Business Administration degree in economics, magna cum laude, from Wichita State University in 1989, the Master of Science in economics in 1991 and the doctorate in economics in 1995 from the University of Illinois. He joined the WSU faculty in 1999.

For Barton School students, the regional real estate and business community and even students at other universities, Stanley Longhofer has become a valuable asset.

When Longhofer joined the business school faculty at his alma mater in 1999, one of his first goals was to revive the real estate program. As the real estate market had declined in the late 1980s, so had the program's students, causing the program to move from a major to an area of emphasis for finance majors. By the time he arrived in 1999, the program was virtually defunct.

His second goal was to do research with and outreach among the regional business community that would benefit both professionals and students alike. That goal was important, he says, because “research universities are key drivers of economic growth.”

He's managed to do both in stellar fashion.

Recognizing that every business person can benefit from some real estate knowledge – whether to buy or lease space, understand appraisals etc. – he expanded the areas of emphasis to marketing, economics and entrepreneurship degrees. More than 50 students are in the program now.

Students understand that by adding the real estate emphasis, they are more marketable, Longhofer says. It certainly paid off for alumnus Shane Wagnon when a business development director at Invista asked Wagnon if he knew anything about leasing versus owning analysis. Because he did, he became one of the youngest members of the company's business development team.

To help ensure he can pack as many concepts as he can into his classes, Longhofer requires students to take a pre-exam at the beginning of two of his courses. The exam, for which students need to score at least 80 percent or higher, serves as a review of concepts introduced in prerequisite courses. By doing that initial review, the students' knowledge is refreshed and they are ready to move on, he says.

Before coming to WSU, Longhofer was an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, where he often provided articles and resources for various entities.

At WSU, he continues to be a valuable resource for others – through a center he founded and one of the most extensive websites of any professor at the university.

In 2000, Longhofer started the Center for Real Estate, which is often sought out for presentations and research. He's given more than 120 presentations to professional groups and taught 14 different professional development courses in Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma. The center also benefits students who get involved with the research and gives them the opportunity to network at professional meetings.

Longhofer's website includes myriad material on real estate, including practice problems and past exams, complete with detailed solutions.

The site is not only used heavily by his students, but by others as well. A high school history teacher in Oklahoma was able to help her students understand homesteading, Native American land allotments and other concepts when she found his presentation on legal property descriptions. A business professor at Ohio University downloaded material and problems to use for a finance class he teaches. A law student at The University of Chicago Law School was able to understand valuation, investment analysis and capital structure when he found Longhofer's site.

JPEG ImageVinod Namboodiri, Assistant Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, College of Engineering

Vinod Namboodiri received the Bachelor of Engineering in instrumentation and control engineering from Gujarat University in Ahmedabad, India, in 2000, the Master of Science in computer science from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, in 2003 and the doctorate in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Massachusetts in 2008. He joined the WSU faculty in 2008.

Anyone who complains about the high cost of electricity or their smartphone's battery life will appreciate the contributions Vinod Namboodiri is making toward educating future engineers who will try to create more energy-efficient electricity networks and wireless devices.

Namboodiri has been on the cutting edge of teaching Wichita State students to work on the “smart grid,” which the U.S. Department of Energy defines as being the class of technology that will be used to bring electricity delivery systems into the 21st century. Part of that advancement will mean using two-way communication technology and computer processing on the electricity networks, such as power plants and wind farms, to deliver electricity to consumers.

It could even mean a different pricing system, possibly leading to peak and off-peak cycles and charges, much like data plans for cell phones.

Getting to the point of using smart grids will involve various fields, such as computer networking and communications, power systems, application-based controls, environmental issues and economics. To prepare students for contributing to smart grids, Namboodiri and a group of WSU professors, along with an economist with Kansas State University in Salina, developed an interdisciplinary graduate course on smart grids in spring 2012.

They will offer the class again in fall 2013, this time asking students to learn about other disciplines through online materials and peer education so more class time can be spent on the class objectives. Because this effort is considered a groundbreaking idea for education about smart grids, the team was asked to write an article, “Five Heads is Better than One,” that was recently published in the IEEE Power and Energy Magazine.

In 2009, Namboodiri developed a wireless teaching lab, where students can get practical hands-on experience with various types of wireless devices. Students in his Energy Intelligent Mobile Computing class work with small battery-powered devices to learn how to develop programs that help preserve battery life, as well as use smart grid concepts. Former student Surya Narayan Mohapatra (cq) credits this class and his lab experience with helping him land a job with the smart grid business unit of Cisco Systems.

Just as he works in a field that is ever-changing, Namboodiri looks for new ways to teach his classes. In fall 2011, he experimented with offering his Data Communications Networks class totally online. He experimented with a hybrid version the following year. Unlike other integrated classes, his lectures are online and classroom time is spent in discussions and problem-solving. It's a model being used by other professors in his department.

Former student Reshma Syeda, now a software engineer at Net App, says she gained valuable team-building and critical thinking skills in Namboodiri's classes – through the research-oriented group project for which students had to use professional papers and conference publications and the weekly critiques each student had to write and present about current research papers in the field.

Students give Namboodiri high marks for stimulating their interest, providing experiences that broaden their textbook knowledge and piquing their research interests.

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