Faculty excellence celebrated

1:47:13 PM CDT - Wednesday, May 03, 2006

By Inside WSU staff

Eight faculty who are doing outstanding jobs in the classroom, research lab and with community organizations will be honored with university awards for their research, scholarship and teaching during a ceremony Tuesday, May 9, in the Rhatigan Student Center ballroom.

Elsie Shore, who was named the Kansas Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education in November, will also be recognized during the 3 p.m. ceremony.

A reception will begin at 2:30 p.m.

Rhonda Lewis

By forming partnerships with community groups and securing significant grant funding, Rhonda Lewis is trying to make Wichita and Kansas healthier places, particularly in the African-American community.

Rhonda Lewis
Photo by David Dinell
Rhonda Lewis, an associate professor of psychology, is receiving the Community Research Award for working with several community groups, such as the Center for Health and Wellness, in efforts to make Wichita a healthier place.
Early in her career, Lewis, now an associate professor, started receiving multiyear grants, totaling about $2 million, from a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that led to her creating projects to help reduce substance abuse and increase HIV prevention efforts among minorities.

She brought together the Center for Health and Wellness and the Knox Center, a drug and alcohol prevention organization, and other local groups to develop community-based projects, an effort that gets high praise from psychology department colleague Greg Meissen and community advocates.

"Rhonda knows how to make partnerships work," said Edith Knox, the executive director of the Knox Center. "Most community-based agencies realize that partnerships are beneficial but sometimes with reduced funding, agencies compete rather than cooperate. Rhonda brought the spirit of community collaboration to this community and made it work."

And Lewis, who's been at WSU since 1996, has continued her support of these organizations, by helping the groups secure their own funding. For example, she helped the Center for Health and Wellness get a grant to increase physical activity and improve diet and nutrition among low-income African Americans in Wichita's near northeast section, according to the center's retired CEO and founder Arneatha Martin.

Lewis is currently the project evaluator for three grant-funded projects, totaling nearly $13 million, including the Kansas Kids@GEAR UP, a program to help low-income and in particular foster children with educational services and eventual college entrance, and the Wichita/Sedgwick County Weed and Seed project, which is trying to weed out crime by providing after-school tutoring and mentoring.

"My professional interests reflect my experience as an African-American woman working in the fields of prevention, community psychology and public health," said Lewis.

Lewis' work hasn't gone unnoticed or unrewarded. The projects she has overseen have led to about 30 publications in highly respected journals such as the Journal of Community Health and the American Journal of Community Psychology and nearly 100 presentations at conferences and other meetings.
� By Amy Geiszler-Jones

Francis D'Souza

Francis D'Souza has been on the fast track to research success since joining the WSU chemistry faculty 12 years ago as an assistant professor.

Francis D'Souza
Photo by David Dinell
In his research on supramolecules, Francis D'Souza is trying to replicate the natural process of converting sunlight into chemical energy. The research has implications in solar energy conversion, the design of electrical circuits and even the design of medicines.
Within four years, he amassed an impressive research record and numerous funded research studies, garnering him WSU's 1998 Young Faculty Scholar award and earning him a promotion to associate professor in 1999. A few years later, in 2003, he became a full professor. And now he has a worldwide reputation in the field of supramolecules, which are formed when two or more molecules join to create a giant supramolecule.

"There is no question that he is a brilliant young scientist with outstanding abilities, whose work has received worldwide reputation and who is fully accepted as a leader in his research field and among his peers," said Dirk Guldi, a chemistry professor at a German university.

D'Souza has been studying supramolecules that are formed when an electron, stimulated by light, is given up. Along with his many international collaborators, D'Souza has been trying to replicate the natural process of photosynthesis, converting sunlight into chemical energy. The implications of this kind of research are far-reaching, possibly helping in solar energy conversion, the design of electrical circuits and the development of medicines.

The National Science Foundation, the American Chemical Society and the National Institutes of Health have funded much of his research. He's also played a pivotal role in securing grant money � on the order of $900,000 � for equipment, such as a mass spectrometer and a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer, to build the infrastructure of the chemistry department.

Colleague D. Paul Rillema, a past winner of WSU's Excellence in Research Award, has high praise for D'Souza, noting that D'Souza has a stellar reputation both in the classroom and laboratory.

"He modernized the analytical chemistry teaching curriculum upon his arrival where now the division of analytical chemistry offers students up-to-date information and training both in concepts and hands-on instrumentation usage." Rillema also pointed out that D'Souza's students often perform above the national norms on the American Chemical Society's standardized test in the analytical area.

At WSU, D'Souza has published 70 papers in refereed journals and 21 articles published in conference proceedings. His articles are frequently cited, a sign of respected research, by others, noted Karl Kadish, a distinguished chemistry professor at the University of Houston.

As a member of two chemical societies � the Electrochemical Society and the Society of Porphyrins and Phthalocyanines � D'Souza has organized more than a half-dozen symposia.
� By Amy Geiszler-Jones

Michael Flores

"All I ever wanted to be is a teacher," said Flores, an instructor and assistant director of the School of Accountancy. "My late father was an accounting professor, so I caught the bug at a very early age."

Michael Flores
Michael Flores
While his father provided the inspiration, WSU has provided an environment that has allowed him to flourish, said Flores. That's why he strives to create the same environment for his students, so that they can flourish here, too.

He realizes the significance one teacher can play in a student's studies. Flores nearly dropped out of accounting when he encountered a bad teacher. That experience is also why he feels that if a student decides not to become or remain an accounting major that it be because they just don't like accounting, not because of him or something he's done.

When students decide accountancy is in their future, he provides encouragement and support, according to former students.

"Without Professor's Flores' help and guidance, I would not be where I am today," said Carl "Buck" Bonner, who graduated in December 2005. Bonner credits Flores with helping him find scholarships to complete his degree and for help in getting an accounting position at Koch Industries. When alumnus Derek Graham was faced with two job offers, one requiring him to move out of state and the other here in Wichita, he went to Flores for insight. "If it wasn't for (his) guidance, I would have picked the wrong job," said Graham, a trade accountant with Koch Supply and Trading.

Drawing on his corporate accountant experience in the corporate field and on current issues, Flores said he thinks contemporary accounting has become an ethical minefield, which is why he tries to provide ethical dimensions to his courses. "I want my students to consider ethical issues now, not later," he says.

Just last year, Flores was contacted by the U.S. Secret Service to help unravel a sophisticated system of credit-card fraud using fax machines and business valuations. He later used that experience in his Executive MBA case, assigning a version of the cases for his students to solve.

Through e-mails, cards and evaluations, students consistently rave about Flores' enthusiasm, use of technology and ability to help both struggling and achieving students understand accountancy. One student even called his class "perfect," while another gave him an "A+."

Flores not only has the respect of his students, but his peers, as well. He created a set of PowerPoint slides for "Cost Accounting," the best-selling cost accounting text worldwide, that instructors can use with the book.
� By Amy Geiszler-Jones

Susan Huxman

When Susan Huxman was selected to lead the Elliott School of Communication two years ago, after having spent a year as its interim director, her teaching record was cited as one reason she got the job.

Susan Huxman

Photo by David Dinell
A highly proficient public speaker who does research on rhetoric and public speech, Elliott School of Communication director Susan Huxman believes the classroom allows her to practice what she teaches: "to communicate clearly, accurately, ethically and creatively."

"She's an excellent teacher, which I think is mandatory for anyone who wants to move into an administrative position," associate Elliott School director and search committee member Les Anderson said in an interview at the time with The Wichita Eagle.

Excelling in the classroom is something that Huxman has done her entire college career, including as a student, having graduated summa cum laude from Bethel College where she was a top finisher in the National American Forensic League Tournament for four years.

When she moved into a teaching role, Huxman continued to garner awards and accolades for her teaching as an instructor at the University of Kansas and later at Wake Forest University, and now at WSU since 1990.  
A highly proficient public speaker who does research on rhetoric and public speech, Huxman said teaching is an opportunity "to enact the very tenets in my discipline for judging effective communication: to communicate clearly, accurately, ethically and creatively."

For Huxman, one way to "infect" students with enthusiasm is let them see and feel the passion a professor has for the subject, she said. She likes to move around the class, sit in a circle with them and use dynamic verbal and nonverbal communication.

"While I have never jumped on top of a desk as Robin Williams did in �Dead Poet's Society,' I do think that teaching (especially undergraduates) is a performance � not histrionics � but an act of vibrant conviction. Students are adept at sensing phoniness," Huxman wrote in her reflections on teaching statement.

She also sees teaching as a journey, or a work in progress, and admits she has yet to travel down some new paths in incorporating more technology, such as blogging or downloading real-time coverage, into her class.

While students praised her academic knowledge, many pointed out that she shows genuine concern for her students and how she remains available to help students, even though she holds  the leadership position within the Elliott School.

Huxman helped reactivate Lambda Pi Eta, Zeta Eta chapter, the national communication honor society, at WSU in 2003 and recruited its charter members. She continues to serve as its adviser.
� By Amy Geiszler-Jones

Michael Jorgensen

Anyone who has experienced lower back pain will appreciate Michael Jorgensen's research on reducing the risk of back injuries. Besides the obvious discomfort associated with back pain, back injuries often result in a significant loss of production in the workplace.

Michael Jorgenson
Photo by David Dinell
Young Faculty Scholar recipient Michael Jorgenson, an expert in workplace ergonomics, analyzes a lifting move done by graduate student Hapiz Zulkiply, who is wearing a devise that is used to measure back movements.
Since joining WSU in 2001, Jorgensen, an assistant professor in industrial and manufacturing engineering, has developed a research program and publication record on intervention strategies to reduce the risk of workplace injuries to the lower back and upper extremity.

His research on how to reduce the twisting of the back while lifting was published in several peer-reviewed journals and has recently published a chapter in an ergonomics handbook on ways to prevent musculoskeletal disorders in grocery warehouses.

He has secured funding from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Spokane Research Lab, performing research on preventing low back pain while operating heavy mobile construction equipment.

He is currently studying how ankles and knees are affected when a person jumps from mobile construction equipment to exit to identify how to reduce the risk of injury, and is also assessing the effectiveness of a lumbar back support for reducing low back pain from prolonged sitting for long-haul truckers.

Jorgensen is also performing research on bucking bars and rivet guns used in the local aviation industry to find ways to reduce vibration exposure and its potential risks to employees who manufacture airplanes. 

Kermit Davis, assistant professor, department of environmental health at the University of Cincinnati, said, "While Dr. Jorgensen's research has both theoretical and applied components, I would conclude that the strength of his research program has been his applied studies. With the current focus in federal funding agencies and an increasing need by industry, I would expect Dr. Jorgensen's research program to continue to focus on applied research and be one of the leading programs in the field."

Since joining WSU, Jorgensen has published 11 journal articles in peer-reviewed international research journals, and has 19 peer-reviewed conference papers and presentations.
� By Joe Kleinsasser

Brigitte Roussel

Brigitte Roussel doesn't simply teach French. She teaches others how to teach French, and other foreign languages, and also has created activities that enhance learning a foreign language.

Brigitte Roussel
Brigitte Roussel
For nearly a decade, Roussel, who joined the WSU faculty in 1990, was involved in training future high school foreign language teachers in the College of Education, along with teaching French courses in the department of modern and classical languages and literatures.

During that time � until a new professor was hired and trained by Roussel � she supervised the student teaching of WSU's education majors in foreign languages and taught them methodology of foreign languages. She was the principal developer of the new foreign language licensure program for the Kansas Department of Education.

Roussel expanded her work in foreign language pedagogy abroad last year, when she was asked by the University of Orl�ans in France to create a pedagogical template that could help other scholars teaching there who lacked experience supervising group research projects in foreign language. She was invited back to teach there again earlier this semester.

While she no longer teaches courses in the College of Education, Roussel still teaches a teaching-related course: a workshop on foreign language pedagogy that must be taken by all of WSU's new graduate teaching assistants in Spanish and French. Many area high school foreign language teachers take the class, as well.

She also maintains her connections to middle and high school French teachers through an annual event she developed, called Allons � la Frac, which are immersion days for students of French. The activities, all in French, include trivia games, skits and campus tours and bring approximately 400 students and their teachers to campus annually.

Roussel has given numerous workshops during Kansas Foreign Language Association meetings, attended by primary- and secondary-level teachers from across Kansas. Roussel, a past KFLA president, was the inaugural recipient of the group's Kansas French Educator of the Year.

Roussel is also an active researcher, writing articles and book reviews and making presentations on such topics as women in the Renaissance and French feminism. For the past three years, she has been a reviewer on the editorial board of the journal Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching.

Roussel is a member of several professional organizations and is the current president-elect of the WSU Faculty Senate.
� By Amy Geiszler-Jones

Jodi Pelkowski

Jodi Pelkowski understands that several of her students take economics courses with an "absolute fear of graphical and mathematical analysis" and are just trying to fulfill a business school requirement. That's why she tries to show students that the principles of economics are actually rather intuitive and that students just need to use the reasoning skills they use in daily life to understand them.

Jodi Pelkowski
Jodi Pelkowski
Using current news articles, television sitcoms and game shows, Pelkowski is apparently sparking students' interests.

"I did not want to take this course (Principles of Microeconomics) because I was very unsuccessful in Econ 210," wrote one student on a recent evaluation. "She made the class enjoyable and interesting. I actually began to love economics as she does." "She was creative and was always trying to bring new things into class," said another.

Besides relating economics to an episode of "Seinfeld" or an article in The Wall Street Journal, Pelkowski, who's taught at WSU since 2000, has students participate in what she calls "think-pair-share" activities. After assigning problems, Pelkowski has students first think about how to approach the problem, then she asks the students to form pairs or groups, and discuss solving the problem as a group, and then the students share their solution. It's a practice that allows students to become more confident and take active roles in discussions, she believes.

Many students praise Pelkowski's use of technology and prompt e-mail responses. Pelkowski posts homework assignments, readings, handouts and lecture notes on Blackboard.

She responds to e-mail, a communication method she finds very effective, during the day, evenings and even weekends. Pelkowski says she makes a particular effort to check her e-mail the nights before tests and homework assignments are due.

Comments like "great class," "great teacher," "personable," "treats students with respect" are commonplace on Pelkowski's course evaluations. She teaches Principles of Microeconomics, Managerial Economics, Intermediate Economics, and Labor Economics.

Because she believes that extracurricular activities benefit a student's undergraduate experience, Pelkowski serves as faculty adviser to both Omicron Delta Epsilon, an economics honor society that was revived with her involvement, and Economists Anonymous, an organization open to students who don't meet ODE requirements.
� By Amy Geiszler-Jones

Marlene Schommer-Aikins

As a College of Education professor, Marlene Schommer-Aikins teaches some of the most dreaded required courses that education students must take. Yet she consistently gets high marks from students in every section she teaches.

Marlene Schommer-Aikins
Marlene Schommer-Aikins
That says it all, according to her colleagues, because the graduate-level courses include Introduction to Educational Statistics and Introduction to Educational Research.

"Her bottom-line goal is that students learn," said counseling, educational and school psychology department chair Linda Bakken, who nominated Schommer-Aikins for the award.

The courses Schommer-Aikins teaches are challenging for a high percentage of the students, Bakken said, and require creativity, flexibility and sensitivity, all of which Schommer-Aikins regularly delivers. She has even developed detailed workbooks with multiple exercises for students, and graciously shares the materials with her colleagues.

As one of two faculty members concentrated in the educational psychology program, Schommer-Aikins chairs up to a half-dozen theses a year, providing the kind of mentoring that first-time researchers need.

"All of my experiences with her in teaching/mentoring situations have left me awed with the dedication and expertise she has," said Randy Ellsworth, associate dean of education. "She is an exemplary faculty member, teacher and researcher."

The student evaluations stress her humor and willingness to help, continually striving to make sure students understand the material:

"(She) really tried to help us even though it seemed hopeless."

"Her syllabus/workbook were great."

"She understood our frustrations with understanding the material, which helped reduce anxiety and stress."
In the angst-filled statistics course, some students even admitted to liking the detail work once they understood concepts; others credited her with doing a great job teaching statistics but were emphatic about still disliking the subject.

Orpha Duell, professor emeritus and unit assessment coordinator, noted that, regardless of whether they like or dislike the subject, Schommer-Aikens' students can be counted on to know the content when they successfully complete the courses she teaches.

Bakken said that in the past couple of years Schommer-Aikins has taken on a new course on learning theories that has students excited, their only criticism lying in the course's timing. They'd like to study about how young students learn earlier in their own studies.
� By Shannon Littlejohn

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