2015 University Faculty Awards

Seven Wichita State University faculty members will be honored during the 2015 Faculty Awards Friday, May 6 at 3:00 pm. The honorees are recognized for setting the gold standard for teaching and research activities at WSU. 

2015 Honorees

Academy for Effective Teaching Professor Gina Brown
Professor Brian Rawson
Excellence in Community Research Dr. Mark Glaser
Excellence in Creative Activity Dr. Aleksander Sternfeld-Dunn
Excellence in Research and Excellence in Teaching Dr. Animesh Chakravarthy
Leadership in the Advancement of Teaching Award Dr. Vinod Namboodiri
Young Faculty Scholar Dr. Jingjun (David) Xu

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 students, the 8-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 vice president for Academic Affairs, 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.

Gina BrownGina Brown, Assistant Professor, Department of Physician Assistant, College of Health Professions

Gina Brown received the Bachelor of Science in secondary education, biological sciences in 1985 from Kansas State University, the Bachelor of Science in physician assistant, magna cum laude, from Wichita State University in 2004 and the Master of Physician Assistant Studies from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha in 2009. She joined the Wichita State faculty in 2009.

Gina Brown's motivation for becoming a physician assistant was because she felt it was a way to serve people. By becoming a clinical educator for future physician assistants six years ago, she said, she has broadened her ability to help people.

“I am convinced that physician assistant education has an even bigger impact on patients than my personal work as a PA,” she wrote in a reflections-on-teaching statement for her Academy for Effective Teaching nomination.

“When you are a clinician, you hope you are able to help people one at a time, but when you become an educator and you have all these students who are going to become clinicians themselves, (that) becomes greatly multiplied,” Brown said. “I felt if I could provide really excellent education to my students then I can help them provide better care to all the patients they see in the future.”

The education and lessons she imparts in her classroom have been greatly enriched because of Brown's willingness to serve medically underserved populations, ranging from low-income Kansans to women in Afghanistan. When the Wichita native and her family lived in Pakistan, she helped design a health and science curriculum at an international school. She currently serves as a physician assistant, when needed, at Associates in Family Medicine in Wichita and with the World Impact Ministries Mobile Medical Clinic.

Her sense of service has impressed her students, who last year nominated her for a national award she just won. Brown has been named this year's winner of the American Academy of Physician Assistants' Humanitarian Award, which honors PAs who demonstrate exemplary service to the profession and the community, and who further the image of PAs by exemplifying the profession's philosophy of providing accessible, quality health care (either domestically or internationally) to the underserved in a rural community or inner city.

“Sometimes the greatest motivation for learning is to be reminded of all the places our education can take us and gaining that little insight into the lives and experiences of you and your friends is pretty inspirational,” wrote student Josh Ellis, after Brown had shared a tribute video that had been made to highlight the service of a murdered American optometrist with whom Brown had worked in Kabul, Afghanistan.

When she worked at a family health center in Kabul — where her husband was working as an agricultural consultant — she was the only female provider in a conservative Islamic culture, providing obstetrics-gynecological services to thousands of women. She also developed a prenatal clinic that served about 100 patients a week and expanded the center's preventative health services to children.

Brown believes strongly in fostering the clinician-patient relationship, and tries to facilitate learning that will equip her students to provide medical care that is competent, practical and compassionate, with a deep respect for human dignity, she said.

“When a patient comes to you, they've already decided that they are going to be vulnerable because they are going to tell you some of their problems, and they hope that they can trust you with their vulnerability,” Brown said.

Brain RawsonBrian Rawson, Lecturer, Department of Management, W. Frank Barton School of Business

Brian Rawson earned the Bachelor of Science in organizational psychology from Brigham Young University in 1986 and a Master of Business Administration from The Darden Graduate School of Business, University of Virginia in 1993. Following 25 years in consulting, management and executive roles in the corporate world, Rawson became a Barton School lecturer in 2008.

After 25 years in the corporate world, Brian Rawson looks at most things with a business perspective, from the path his career took to the innovative projects he has brought to his classes.

The first part of his career, spent as a manager with PepsiCo Food Systems and as an executive for The Coleman Company, was mainly about “acquisition,” he said, noting the disparity between his executive compensation and that of his teaching salary.

As the son of a geology professor at Northern Arizona University — living down the street from his dad's boss, Eugene Hughes, who would become WSU's president — Rawson knew teaching was a rewarding profession, but not in financial standards.

As he became an educator, he started thinking about how he could best prepare students for the business world. As a result he's brought in several innovations — most of which he calls projects —ranging from managing change in one's personal life to a new approach to team projects to international networking.

“So far he's hit a home run with every course we have thrown at him, and I have begun to wonder if there is anything he cannot teach well,” said Steven Farmer, WSU management department chair and the W. Frank Barton Distinguished Chair in Business.

In an introductory management course, Rawson started the Personal Improvement Project. Students have to identify the one thing that they are not doing now that if they began doing would greatly improve the quality of their lives. Then they develop and implement a plan to create that change. The project teaches students how to effectively put together a performance improvement plan for themselves or the people they will one day manage.

When Rawson reviewed the syllabi for two higher-level management courses, he started thinking that the students “who are just weeks or months away from their paycheck depending on their ability to apply things learned at WSU” would be better prepared if they did readings and case studies that focus on application and practice of principles learned, he said.

In a class on building effective work teams, Rawson uses the concept of self-selected teams who complete a semester-long service project. Students have to lobby team leaders for a position and if someone is slacking, he or she is fired, just like in the real world. Once fired, they have to find “work” with another team.

In past service projects, one team raised more than $20,000 for a nonprofit, while another secured approximately $10,000 in furniture donations for a refugee center.

“All of the students now have something they can put on their resume that is a quantifiable team project,” Rawson said about the experience the students gain.

In an international business class, Rawson, who worked for seven years in Japan, introduced the International Networking Project. Student have to develop contacts with 10 people in at least five different countries by asking them three assigned questions.

Ultimately, Rawson hopes that through his classes students begin to see that their success is tied to them being agents of change. “I encourage them to participate in the learning process — to take action,” he said. “I insist that they take responsibility for their actions or lack thereof.”

Excellence in Community Research

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 community in problem solving or development. Full-time faculty who have served at WSU for at least three years are eligible. The recipient is awarded $2,500.

Mark GlaserMark Glaser, Professor of Public Administration, Hugo Wall School of Public Affairs, Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Mark Glaser earned the Bachelor of Business Administration (1970) and the Master of Urban Affairs (1974) from Wichita State University. He received the Doctor of Philosophy in Administration/Urban Studies from the Institute for Urban Studies at the University of Texas at Arlington in 1981. He rejoined the WSU faculty in 1994, having taught previously at WSU from 1981-1990 and at the University of Central Florida from 1992-1994. During his career, he has also served as professor-in-residence at the Wichita City Manager's office.

For nearly three decades, Mark Glaser has been gauging how citizens feel about the communities where they live and helping public entities determine how they can best serve their citizens.

“Mark has an excellent 'eye' for community projects in which his expertise can be brought to bear on significant public problems — like willingness to pay taxes,” said Robert Denhart from the Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California, who worked with Glaser at the University of Central Florida.

“What I try to do is tell how the citizens see the world around them, and then they (policymakers) respond to that either by changing what they are doing or by trying to change how the citizens see the world around them,” said Glaser about the community research he's done in Kansas, Florida, Virginia and elsewhere.

Glaser's ability to turn those community-based research projects into published articles in refereed journals is very remarkable, Denhart said. Glaser has published more than 40 articles based on his research.

His reputation and experience has garnered international interest, as well, in the concept of community engagement and public interest, which involves balancing the well-being of citizens today and those of tomorrow. Last fall, he was invited to make a presentation at a World Bank meeting in Paris.

Recently, he consulted on a five-county, south-central Kansas project to promote regional approaches to challenges such as transportation, health community design, workforce development, business development and natural resources. In another recent project, he surveyed more than 4,000 voters in Wichita to get a sense of what infrastructure investments are priorities.

In other Wichita projects, Glaser has surveyed the public's willingness to support bond issues to upgrade schools and on perceived quality of life.

When two of the largest and most respected research organizations in the Washington, D.C., area thought a survey of immigrants and refugees in Fairfax County, Va., would be too complex, Glaser stepped in.

During that project, Glaser worked closely with more than 20 nonprofit and faith organizations, volunteer interpreters, the county's demographer and staff social workers, and Fairfax County Public Schools, completing more than 900 interviews in seven languages with people representing more than 40 counties of origins, said Patricia Stevens, executive director of the county's Office of Public Private Partnerships.

Glaser loves what he does because it blends teaching, research and public service, and provides the ability to improve lives through policy decisions, he said. Much of the data he gathers for his commissioned surveys ends up being research fodder for students in his research methods and applied statistics classes.

He understands when his graduate students share with him that they want to have a career where they can do good.

“That was a driver for me, too, to choose this field,” he said. “I'd just gotten out of the military in the era of Vietnam and when I got out, I wanted to do something that had meaning.”

When the Derby native returned to Wichita State to work on a graduate degree in 1972, he encountered an urban sociology professor who showed him it was possible to do research that could do public good. That professor was John Bardo, now WSU's president.

Excellence in Creative Activity

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.

Aleksander Sternfeld-DunnAleksander Sternfeld-Dunn, Assistant Professor of Composition, Theory and Technology, School of Music, College of Fine Arts

Aleksander Sternfeld-Dunn received the Bachelor of Arts in music from California State University East Bay in 2004, the Master of Arts in Music Composition with additional studies in orchestral conducting from Washington State University in 2006 and the Doctor of Musical Arts in music composition with a doctoral minor in music theory from the University of Hartford in Connecticut in 2009. He joined the Wichita State University faculty in 2011. He previously taught at Washington State University from 2008-2011.

After being educated on the East and West coasts, composer Aleksander Sternfeld-Dunn thought taking a job in Kansas, the only U.S. state without a state arts council, might hold back his career.

“I thought there's no way I'm moving to Kansas,” said Sternfeld-Dunn. “That's cultural death. And then I came here and I was really impressed. Actually, my best work and all the accolades have come in the past four years,” since he joined the WSU School of Music faculty.

“It's really a great, invigorating place to be,” he said.

When Sternfeld-Dunn won the national 2013 American Prize for composition for his concerto “Fireworks,” he used the opportunity to highlight in media interviews and conversations with others the 180-degree turn in his own initial personal bias.

“I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, studied there and did my doctorate in Connecticut. There is a bit of snobbery in the arts scene and when I beat out New York and other composers, I said, 'Look, there is stuff happening here,'” he said.

Sternfeld-Dunn's list of creative activity in just four years at WSU is “astounding,” said Dean Roush, WSU School of Music professor and director of musicology-composition.

In addition to the 2013 American Prize, Sternfeld-Dunn has had 12 commissions for new works, 53 performances of his works (including 27 national and seven international), three compact discs featuring his works on commercial labels, the just-released CD of his works for wind instruments, recognition in three additional international and national contests, three appearances as guest composer at universities in Connecticut, California and Washington, and more.

When asked to take on organizing WSU's Contemporary Music Festival, Sternfeld-Dunn took new approaches, bringing in guest performers in addition to composers.

“I work with many composers but few have the extensive knowledge of both traditional and contemporary classical repertoire, as well as many different pop genres,” said Geoffrey Deibel, assistant professor of saxophone and director of jazz studies at WSU.

Sternfeld-Dunn has had three pieces premiere in two different concerts in Carnegie Hall.

This spring, the premieres of two works took place in an unusual setting: the WSU Heskett Center pool. The composition was part of the WSU dance department's recital based on the 1930s novel, “Brave New World.”

In the next few months, several other works will have premieres: for the WSU Symphony Orchestra and for the 20-year anniversary celebrations of the local Chamber at the Barn series. A triathlete, Sternfeld-Dunn said the piece for the former is a tribute about the Boston Marathon bombing.

Sternfeld-Dunn, who became a musician as a teen, discovered he liked creating new music when his piano teacher encouraged him to come up with pieces while teaching him scales. He also developed a keen interest in music theory.

At WSU, he's developed an online music theory course to help retain music majors. His dream goal is to create a degree program in recording arts at WSU.

Excellence in Research and Excellence in Teaching

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. 

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 through the Excellence in Teaching Award. The recipient is awarded $2,000. 

Animesh ChakravarthyAnimesh Chakravarthy, Assistant Professor, Departments of Aerospace Engineering and of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, College of Engineering

Animesh Chakravarthy earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Bangalore University, a master's degree in aerospace engineering from the Indian Institute of Science, and a Ph.D. in controls and estimation from the aeronautics/astronautics department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2007. He joined the WSU faculty in 2011. He had previously been an assistant research scientist at the University of Florida Research and Engineering Education Facility from 2007-2010.

For some faculty, garnering two university-level awards during their career is quite an accomplishment. Animesh Chakravarthy has managed to receive two in one year: WSU's Excellence in Research and Excellence in Teaching awards.

Chakravarthy also holds another interesting distinction at WSU: He has joint appointments in two departments, in large part because he specializes in controls engineering. Controls engineering is an interdisciplinary practice that has various applications in the fields of aerospace, automotive, earthquake control, biomedical, alternative energy, robotics, disc drives, power systems and more.

He is one of only four faculty members at WSU who has ever won the National Science Foundation Career Award, one of the NSF's most prestigious awards that supports “junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organization,” noted John Watkins, professor and chair of the electrical engineering and computer science department.

With the $400,000 NSF grant, Chakravarthy is building upon collision avoidance research that he started with his master's thesis. As more and more moving, inorganic things share our space — such as space debris, swarms of drones including unmanned aerial and micro air vehicles the size of insects, humanoid robotics and even self-driven cars, like the one pioneered by Google that operates on autopilot — it's important to study how those things can avoid colliding with one another and with humans.

In other research, Chakravarthy — who as a teen thought “it would be cool to be a researcher”— is looking at control and dynamics issues for a large, passenger-sized morphing aircraft, a conceptual idea that involves wings changing shape while in flight, like birds do.

While morphing aircraft is an idea that exists only on paper right now, Chakravarthy has played a role in the control system design of an aircraft that eventually took flight: a fighter jet for the Indian air force that he worked on while with the Aeronautical Development Agency in India.

In addition to the NSF, his research has been funded by the U.S. Air Force, NASA and the FAA. He credits his Ph.D supervisor at MIT, Eric Feron for inculcating in him a constant drive to actively pursue research funding.

His publication record includes nine peer-reviewed articles in some of the most significant journals in his field and 24 peer-reviewed conference papers. His papers have more than 370 citations in Google Scholar and 230 citations in Scopus — “an excellent testament to the quality of his work,” said John Rogacki, associate director for the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition.

While Chakravarthy loves research, it was the opportunity to do both teaching and research that prompted him to come to WSU, where he has about 10 doctoral, master's and undergraduate students who conduct research with him.

He hopes he can inspire students who study from and research with him, like his master's thesis supervisor Debasish Ghose and MIT professors Jaime Peraire and Nicholas Hadjiconstantinou were for him. He found their teaching styles to be “relaxing,” he said.

And he's apparently succeeded. When fellow professor Hyuck Kwon from WSU's electrical engineering and computer science department visited Chakravarthy's class, he said he liked Chakravarthy's lecture style. It was unhurried yet it offered a lot of content that was understood very clearly by most of the students, Kwon wrote in his nomination letter.

In Neff Hall, Chakravarthy has developed a joint teaching lab between the two departments of aerospace engineering, his primary department, and electrical engineering and computer science. In the lab, students can do various experiments, which help them visualize the mathematical aspects behind control engineering.

As an outgrowth of his research, he has developed a new, interdisciplinary graduate course called Cooperative Controls, which deals with how groups of inanimate objects can work together in swarms to complete tasks — like a group of underwater fish-like robots tracking oil spills, or multiple UAVs on a surveillance mission or even airplanes flying together in a certain formation to reduce drag.

In student satisfaction surveys, Chakravarthy consistently receives scores of very good or high, noted Watkins. In 2014, he received the College of Engineering's highest teaching award, the Dwane and Velma Wallace Excellence in Teaching Award.

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. 

Vinod NamboodiriVinod Namboodiri, Associate 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 and the WSU Academy for Effective Teaching Award in 2014.

If there was such a thing as three-peat award for outstanding faculty at WSU, Vinod Namboodiri would get that honor.

This year's Leadership in the Advancement of Teaching Award is Namboodiri's third consecutive university-level teaching award.

Based on his track record of inspiring and piquing the interest of not only his students, but a fellow faculty member who once enrolled in Namboodiri's class, Namboodiri is making a name for himself in the area of innovative teaching methods and his willingness to experiment with ways to improve his teaching and his students' experience.

In part, his experimentation is motivated by the subject matter he teaches and researches in: wireless networks and smart grid technologies. The latter is expected to change the power industry and along with it, the education and workforce development that power industry professionals will need. Namboodiri created and now directs WSU's Wireless, Networking, and Energy Systems Research Lab, where students can conduct research in those emerging fields.

His involvement in creating an interdisciplinary graduate class on smart grids, involving a group of WSU professors and an economist from Kansas State University in Salina, has been getting national attention. As a result of an article published on this groundbreaking class format, Namboodiri has been invited to sit on multiple national-level panel discussions regarding educating future professionals in the field. For example, in 2014, he participated in a panel discussion at the IEEE Innovative Smart Grid Technologies Conference in Washington, D.C., sharing how universities need to ensure programs are developed to provide the expertise needed to work with the new and developing technologies happening within the field.

At WSU, he's become a go-to faculty person for his college when it comes to teaching. From more than a year, he served as chair of the College of Engineering's committee on learning enhancement, which surveyed and helped implement instructional best practices throughout the college.

Since November 2013, he has served as the college's representative on WSU's online advisory committee, which has been overseeing various issues, ranging from quality standards to intellectual property, related to the university's expanding online education opportunities.

He teaches online and hybrid online classes every year, and 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. As a result of his successful teaching record, he's given talks about online course instruction to Barton School of Business faculty and about effective teaching methods to new faculty during orientation.

He continues to serve as a mentor for junior faculty in not only the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, but also the College of Engineering.

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. 

Jingjun (David) XuJingjun (David) Xu, Assistant Professor and Barton Fellow, Department of Finance, Real Estate and Decision Sciences, W. Frank Barton School of Business

David Xu earned the Bachelor of Business Administration in information systems, with first-class honors, from Lingnan University in Hong Kong in 2002, the Master of Philosophy in information systems from City University of Hong Kong in 2006 and a doctoral degree in information systems from the University of British Columbia in Canada in 2011. He joined the WSU business school faculty in 2011.

David Xu likes studying how and why we interact with technology.

“There's always new technology and we can build new systems, but that doesn't mean people will use it or continue to use it,” said the management information systems scholar.

That's why he studies such things as whether people are more apt to lie in text conversations compared to video chats — which they are because of the impersonal nature of texting compared to face-to-face conversations — and how e-commerce tools can be designed to help consumers in buying decisions.

He's become one of the top researchers in his field in a very short time, having published 20 peer-reviewed scholarly articles, including eight in top-tier journals already.

Of particular note, is that Xu was the sole author of a paper published in the Journal of Computer Information Systems, an A-ranked journal in information systems by the Excellence in Research in Australia, which has an acceptance rate of less than 10 percent. Furthermore, this sole-authored paper has been cited over 130 times and has the second highest citations among the 61 papers published in 2006.

Izak Benbasat, who was Xu's dissertation co-supervisor at the University of British Columbia, called Xu one of the top doctoral students he has supervised from among the more than 35 he's supervised in the past 30 years.

Statistically, what Xu has done — publishing three articles in the field's top two journals, MIS Quarterly and Information Systems Research within three years of a doctorate — is “phenomenal,” said Benbasat,a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Only 3 percent of management information systems scholars manage to do that in six to seven years after receiving a doctorate.

Xu's article on the changes in people's integrity when using text messages or video chats received widespread mainstream media attention after it was published in 2012 in the Journal of Business Ethics, another top-notch journal. Publications such as The Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Men's Health and other outlets featured his research findings.

He is continuing to research and publish on how to design what's known in e-commerce as a recommendation agent. It's the online tool where a consumer inputs what features they want from a particular product and then receives recommendations. For example, a person might want a computer with lots of storage and processing speed, but really doesn't have the budget for it. The agent might make a recommendation based on the features but it doesn't take into account the person's budget. Xu is looking at ways to improve a customer's satisfaction and make the decision-making aid much better.

In nominating Xu for this award, James Jordan-Wagner, the Barton School's interim dean, said “Dr. Xu has achieved the goal that we all aim for: He is a challenging teacher who is effective in the classroom, well liked by his students and colleagues, and a prolific researcher who has reached the most respected outlets in his field for his work. The fact that he has managed to do this at such an early point in his career is most impressive.”

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