2014 University Faculty Awards

Five Wichita State University faculty members will be honored during the 2014 Faculty Awards Friday, May 9 at 3:00 pm. The honorees are recognized for setting the gold standard for teaching and research activities at WSU.

2014 Honorees

Academy for Effective Teaching Dr. Vinod Namboodiri
Excellence in Research Dr. Elaine Steinke
Excellence in Teaching Dr. J. Kirk Ring
Professor Stephanie Nicks
Young Faculty Scholar Dr. Ramazan Asmatulu

TheLeadership in the Advancement in Teaching , Excellence in Creative Activity , and Community Research awards were not bestowed in 2014.

Academy for Effective Teaching

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.

Academy for Effective Teaching Honoree, Vinod Namboodiri (2014)Vinod 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, and received the WSU Excellence in Teaching Award in 2013.

He's motivated another faculty member to audit his class, and he's got a reputation for patiently working with students, who often line up to visit him in his second-floor Jabara Hall office.

From the time he joined the WSU faculty in 2008, Vinod Namboodiri “has been an incredible resource for students and faculty,” according to Ravi Pendse, a former departmental colleague and WSU administrator. “Students tend to gravitate toward faculty members who care and assist them.”

His ability to relate to and shepherd students through their studies comes from his experience as a college student – and as a parent, Namboodiri said.

“I was not a good learner and had to push and be challenged myself,” said Namboodiri. When a senior faculty member and WSU Academy for Effective Teaching (AET) winner advised him early in his teaching career to “be caring and understanding but stay firm, just like you would be with a son or daughter,” Namboodiri couldn't relate. But not long after, his twin girls were born.

“As they started growing up (and their demands increased!), I understood what being caring and staying firm at the same time meant,” wrote Namboodiri in his AET teaching philosophy. “I was able to make my students understand this in my classes as well, and with time I started having a great rapport with my students in and outside the class.”

Just as he works in a field that is ever-changing, Namboodiri likes to evolve and experiment with different teaching methods and innovations. He's found three that he feels work well - experiential learning, online reinforcement and interdisciplinary education - and his academic offerings reflect that.

To help students put theory into practice – which falls in the experiential learning category, he developed a wireless teaching laboratory from scratch. Student projects done in the lab become fodder for graduate research and scholarly projects presented at symposiums.

In fall 2012, he started using “the flipped classroom” concept in teaching his popular Data Communication Network class. Lectures are put online and classroom time is used for discussions and problem-solving. “The experience far exceeded my expectations for being able to reach students at their convenience, while having an opportunity to add significant value through in-class interaction, as indicated by student evaluations,” he noted.

Namboodiri worked with a group of professors from WSU and an economist from Kansas State University in Salina to develop an interdisciplinary class on smart grids, which have the potential to create a better, more effective and economically efficient system for the nation's electricity usage. The class' format led to an article in the IEEE Power and Energy Magazine. Before helping develop the smart grid class, WSU faculty member Visvakumar Aravinthan audited Namboodiri's Wireless Networks class, another popular class.

“His patience and passion to build students' knowledge ensured that every student fulfilled their learning objectives,”Aravinthan observed. “Auditing this course not only helped me acquire knowledge in the wireless network area but also helped me to improve my teaching skills.”

Excellence in Research

The Excellence in Research Award, established in 1997, recognizes a faculty member who has 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.

Excellence in Research Honoree, Elaine Steinke (2014)Elaine Steinke, professor, School of Nursing, College of Health Professions

Elaine Steinke earned the Diploma in Nursing from St. Francis Hospital School of Nursing in Wichita in 1975, the Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a master's degree in nursing from Wichita State University in 1979 and 1982, respectively, and the doctorate in adult and occupational educational from Kansas State University in 1987. She is a licensed Advanced Practice Registered Nurse. She is also a Fellow in both the American Academy of Nursing and the American Heart Association.

Last year, the American Heart Association issued a scientific statement that health care professionals should advise heart attack and stroke patients on how to resume a healthy sex life. It was the first time the group had issued specific guidelines  for how health care providers can talk to patients and their partners about intimacy after heart attack, stroke and heart procedures.

Wichita State's Elaine Steinke, who is the top U.S. expert on sexual counseling and cardiac patients, was the lead author of that statement.

“Patients are anxious and often afraid sex will trigger another cardiac event – but the topic sometimes gets passed over because of embarrassment or discomfort,” said Steinke, when the statement was published simultaneously in July 2013 in the AHA's journal Circulation and the European Heart Journal, both premier research journals.

Steinke is not at all embarrassed about the topic. What she found troubling as she started researching the topic in the 1990s was that it wasn't being talked about.

“Health care professionals said if the patients were young and male they might bring up the topic of sex, but they assumed women and older populations weren't interested,” said Steinke. After initially doing research on aging, Steinke started focusing on sexual counseling for cardiac patients.

Steinke became the first U.S. researcher to get a National Institutes of Health grant to do a clinical trial using sexual counseling intervention after a heart attack. During her career, she's received more than $174,000 in grand funding from external and internal sources, including the NIH, the AHA, the National Institute of Nursing Research and WSU's Regional Institute on Aging.

“Her research is groundbreaking in that she was the first to describe patients' level of concern about resuming sexual activity after a cardiac event, as well as to describe clinical practice related to sexual counseling by practitioners,” said Kathleen Dracup, professor emeritus of the University of California San Francisco School of Nursing.

Steinke's research and scholarly activities include 52 publications in refereed multidisciplinary and nursing research and clinical journals, numerous abstracts published in journals, 18 book chapters and being a go-to source on the topic for other professional publications and news media. She's also given nearly 30 presentations at international meetings and dozens more for national, state and local groups.

Her publications are widely cited and her studies are being replicated worldwide, in places such as Europe, Asia and even Pakistan.

“What drives me and continues to drive me in my research is for one patient to say, 'I am so glad you brought this up for me because no one else has,'” said Steinke, about her goal of helping educate practicing and future health care professionals about how to approach the sensitive subject.

“And to have more researchers jump on board is awesome, because that means more patients will receive the information they need.”

Steinke has broadened her research to look at psychological issues related to resuming a healthy sex life for cardiac patients. Anxiety and depression related to intimacy issues can impact a cardiac patient's quality of life.

“We need to better understand those issues, too,” she said.

Excellence in Teaching

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.

Excellence in Teaching Honoree, J. Kirk Ring (2014)Kirk Ring, Assistant Professor, Department of Management, and Kansas Family Business Forum director, W. Frank Barton School of Business

Kirk Ring earned the Bachelor of Science in Management in 2000 and the Master of Business Administration in 2002, both from the University of Southern Mississippi. He earned a doctorate of philosophy in business strategy with an emphasis in family business and entrepreneurship in 2009 from Mississippi State University. He joined the WSU business faculty in 2008. He was awarded the WSU Young Faculty Scholar Award in 2011.

One of the secrets to Kirk Ring's teaching success can be found stuffed in the desk drawer of his Devlin Hall office.

The stacks of index cards, rubber-banded together, give him insights to his students and help him tailor each class session so they can relate to the content.

Since coming to WSU in 2008, Ring has taught the Barton School of Business' capstone class, Strategic Management. It's a class Ring's department chair calls “perhaps the single most important, and difficult, course in the business school curriculum as it brings together every business discipline … in a tightly focused and highly applied package.

“Simply put ... Dr. Ring's teaching in this course has been nothing short of superlative,” said management department chair Stephen Farmer, professor and W. Frank Barton Distinguished Chair in Business. “The most obvious marker of this teaching quality is SPTE ratings,” which Farmer called “literally off the charts.”

At the beginning of every semester, Ring gives the 40 or so students in his class an index card with their student ID photo on it. He asks them for several bits of information, such as their degree, their hometown, their best work experience so far and their career aspirations.

“I was always surprised as a college student that the content was seemingly more about the coursework than being content that a student could relate to,” said Ring. “By including my students' real world experiences I have been able to create a much more focused and experiential learning environment.”

He likes to go beyond the scope of the textbook, bringing in current stories about businesses; talking about his experience working for Cintas, a major North American company, and for the family-controlled Isle of Capri gaming company; and encouraging the students to talk about the correlation between the content and themselves.

That's where the index cards come in handy, because Ring has reviewed them before each class and can engage students who can relate through either work experiences or future goals.

Another important component of the class is a business simulation project, in which groups of students run athletic shoe companies. The simulation is capped off by a boardroom-style presentation by the each company's top management team.

Ring also sees himself as a mentor to the students. He encourages students to connect with him on LinkedIn so that he can introduce former and current students with similar interests. He draws on his business experience and that of being director of the Kansas Family Business Forum to talk about the types of positions, companies and career paths that await the graduating seniors in his class.

In 2013, Ring became director of WSU's Kansas Family Business Forum, a nationally recognized membership group. The forum regularly meets for learning opportunities on issues unique to family businesses and for presentations by successful family business CEOs.

Ring has always had an affinity for family businesses. He's worked for one and he's developed a strong research focus into them, which earned him the 2011 WSU Young Faculty Scholar Award and an Academy of Management Best Paper Proceedings award in 2013.

Academy for Effective Teaching Honoree, Stephanie Nicks (2014)Stephanie Nicks, Clinical Educator, School of Nursing, College of Health Professions

Stephanie Nicks earned the Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Newman University in 2002 and the Master of Science in Nursing from Wichita State University in 2007. She is a licensed Advanced Practice Registered Nurse. Nicks has been an instructor at WSU since 2007.

Stephanie Nicks initially wanted a career in medicine, thinking she'd become a doctor. Working as a certified nurse assistant, she realized doctors don't have as much contact with patients as she thought. She decided to become a teacher instead, thinking she'd have more impact. Then she realized as a nursing educator she could combine both medicine and teaching.

“I can reach so many more people by teaching nurses who go on to help others,” said Nicks, about  combining her two passions.

As a nurse, Nicks has worked with vulnerable populations, including prisoners at correctional facilities in El Dorado and Winfield, and providing home health for underserved populations and hospice care for patients in their last days of life.

As an educator, she teaches primarily undergraduate students about the holistic assessment of individuals and families from diverse populations and taking care of patients with complex health needs. This past year, she became clinical education coordinator for WSU's School of Nursing, the second largest nursing school in Kansas. In that role, Nicks coordinates the rotations of about 240 undergraduate students each semester as they rotate through area health care facilities to experience various facets of nursing.

“Someone once told me that I get to see the best and worst of society, working at a university and at a prison,” Nicks said.

In evaluations, students often use words like “very professional” and “extremely knowledgeable.” They appreciate that she shares her real-life nursing experiences in the classroom. “She uses great examples,” one student said.

“It makes a huge difference to tell relevant, current stories,” Nicks said.

“She has the best bedside manner with her students,” said one student. “A true model for new nurses.”

“She's the best instructor and clinical adviser in WSU's nursing program,” said another student.“Her priority is to help students succeed.”

In 2013, the College of Health Professions awarded Nicks the Dolores, Etta and Sidney Rodenberg Award for Excellence in Teaching, another affirmation of her success in the classroom.

From her own experience of being thanked by family members of patients or patients themselves at random times – including at 2 a.m. while having breakfast at Denny's – Nicks knows that nurses can have a lasting impact.

“It's very rewarding,” said Nicks, of being a nurse.

Students also call her challenging. That's OK with Nicks.

“My students are the future of health care,” she said. “I want to be sure that if I or anyone else are cared for by them that they are well-prepared.”

She learned early in life that being challenged is a good thing. “My third-grade teacher never would take anything less than my best,” she said, citing the teacher who had the most impact on her life. “She really pushed me and helped me realize I couldn't get by with the minimum.”

Young Faculty Scholar

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.

Young Faculty Scholar, Ramazan Asmatulu (2014)Ramazan Asmatulu, associate professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering

Ramazan Asmatulu earned the Bachelor of Science in mining engineering from Istanbul Technical University in Turkey in 1992 as an honor student and the doctorate in materials science and engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 2001. He did post-doctoral work at the University of Connecticut and Yale University. Asmatulu joined the WSU faculty in 2006. He has been a visiting professor at Harvard University (2007) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2009) and was a visiting scholar with the Air Force Institute of Technology (2012).

It's the littlest things that will make the biggest difference in our world someday.

Some scientists believe that nanotechology – the creation and application of materials that are super, super tiny – will revolutionize our lives. For perspective, one nanometer is 100,000 times smaller than a hair strand. When familiar material is nanosized, it changes properties so scientists have to study those characteristics and figure out how to arrange or manipulate the nanoparticles to make them better or stronger.

WSU's Ramazan Asmatulu has been studying and researching nanomaterials that can be used to treat cancer, convert energy more efficiently, filter once undrinkable water and make lighter, stronger airplanes.

Nanotechnology has even more applications. According to nano.gov, there already are more than 800 everyday commercial products, such as electronics, sports equipment, clothing and food packaging, that rely on nanoscale materials and processes.

“Nanotechnology is broad,” said Asmatulu. “And there is a big demand.”

Because nanotechnology holds so much promise, research into the area is booming. That wasn't always the case, Asmatulu said. He remembers first hearing about nanotechnology and being intrigued by its potential as a doctoral student at Virginia Tech.

“Some said it was risky, but I'm adventurous,” said Asmatulu, who has garnered nearly $4 million in funding for projects on which he is either the principal investigator or co-PI.

Asmatulu was recruited to WSU in 2006, when the College of Engineering decided to develop a focus in nanotechnology research and training. Since then, he's built WSU's nanotechnology research program, “practically all by himself,” according to one colleague.

Asmatulu created six new courses and updated three other courses, according to department chair David Koert. He also completely modified the materials engineering laboratory and developed the first and only nanotechnology teaching lab for undergraduate students in Kansas, Koert wrote in his nomination letter.

Here is further testament to his research record and expertise: 67 journal papers, 142 conference proceedings, editor of two books, author of 24 book chapters and three laboratory awards, eight patents, 29 honors and awards (including the College of Engineering's top research and teaching awards in 2012), and more than 630 citations of his work.

Since coming to WSU, Asmatulu has focused on creating nanomaterials that can be applied in aerospace, energy and medical fields.

He's also been focused on educating undergraduate and graduate student on becoming better engineers who are on the forefront of a field that holds so much potential. During his time at WSU, he's also helped nearly a dozen area high school students do projects in his research areas of interest.

“I love my job and I want to help students develop their potential,” said Asmatulu. He takes it as a mark of his success that some of his students who've gone on to become professors are using his teaching methods and research training.

“Dr. Asmatulu is clearly one of the most hard-working people I have met,” said WSU Professor Hamid Lankarani, himself an accomplished researcher and teacher. “ … (he) has maintained a nice balance between his teaching and research.”

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