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Front row, l-r, Renee Polubinsky, Febe Pamonag, Jennifer Grimm, Julia Albarracin; back row, l-r, President Jack Thomas, Thomas Hegna, Shawn Meagher, Christopher Carpenter, Interim Provost Kathy Neumann.
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Provost's Award of Excellence Winners

October 13, 2016

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MACOMB, IL -- Six Western Illinois University faculty members and one academic adviser have been named 2016 Provost's Award of Excellence winners. The Center for Innovation in Teaching and Research (CITR) at WIU organized six-member committees charged with evaluating excellence in each of the determined areas.

"It is a privilege to present the Provost's Awards of Excellence to the WIU faculty and staff who have dedicated themselves to Western Illinois University and who go above and beyond, in and out of the classroom, to ensure that their students receive an outstanding learning experience," said Interim Provost Kathy Neumann.

Provost's Award for Academic Excellence in Teaching with Technology: Thomas Hegna, Geology.

The selection committee noted: "Professor Hegna's teaching centers on the pillars of critical thinking and science as a process. Today's careers often require students to process information to make decisions and solve problems regardless of discipline. Dr. Hegna's instructional methods in the field of geology provide hands-on experience that not only brings the past to life, but prepares students for a future where dinosaurs often get left behind in the job market. He uses a reflective teaching approach to prepare his students for the future. As a result, Dr. Hegna provides a learning environment and experience for his students that is innovative, resourceful and takes on many forms as technology is integrated into his teaching. What truly sets Dr. Hegna's teaching apart is the use of 3D printing technology to provide a tactile experience with physical recreations of fossil life. Learning is often most successful when students become immersed in the content. Specimen access is a problem in geology courses at smaller universities. Fossil specimens are extremely costly, and even where large collections may be available, these artifacts are often not physically accessible to students. Necessity is often the mother of invention. Based upon his innovation, insight and ingenuity, his work is at the heart of teaching with technology."

Provost's Award for Academic Excellence in University/Community Service: Renee Polubinsky, Kinesiology.

The selection committee said, "Dr. Polubinsky represents the athletic training program, the college, the department and the University nationally, statewide and locally at many levels. She is an active proposal reviewer at the National Athletic Trainers Association Clinical Symposia, and is the co-coordinator of the medical staff for the American Drug-Free Powerlifting Federation. Her students also have the benefit of attending the event as volunteers, gaining valuable experience. Dr. Polubinsky is in her eighth year in the Governor-appointed position on the Athletic Trainer Board for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, and she is a founding member of the Illinois Athletic Trainers Association – Critical Incident Stress Management Team. Her longtime service commitments include American Red Cross instructor, Senior Olympics medical coordinator and presenting at the Illinois Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance State Meeting. She has also taken it upon herself to attend trainings such as Run, Hide, Fight; suicide prevention training and supervisor certificate training that expands her knowledge to assist in times of crisis. She is the internship coordinator for all summer intern students, served on four graduate theses committees, guided three independent studies and mentored two graduate teaching assistants. Dr. Polubinsky has generously shared her pronounced expertise in athletic training by providing valuable service to her profession, the WIU community and the city of Macomb. She embodies the qualities associated with committed professionals."

Provost's Award for Academic Excellence in Scholarly/Creative/Performative/Professional Activities: Christopher Carpenter, Communication.

According to the selection committee, "Dr. Carpenter's research is to use social science to help people make healthier and safer choices. During the three-year period under consideration, he published 13 articles in peer-reviewed journals, three book chapters, two encyclopedia articles and gave 17 presentations at national, international and regional conferences. He was the first or sole author on nine of the 13 articles and first or sole presenter on 15 of the 17 presentations. Dr. Carpenter also won two awards for conference presentations and was invited to a colloquium presentation at Michigan State. He has served on the editorial boards of three highly-respected journals in his field, and his research resulted in collaborative study with researchers from the University of Bordeaux. Dr. Carpenter's research interests are varied, including people's reaction to persuasion, promoting positive behaviors and the use of social networking as a method of communication. His work has been cited over 700 times, and has also been reported in the popular media, on CNN, MSNBC, The Guardian (London) and the New York Times. The popular media reports on his research received over 40 million hits; the WIU press releases have received over 1.5 million hits. We are pleased to recommend Dr. Christopher Carpenter for this year's award."

Provost's Award for Academic Excellence in Multicultural Teaching: Febe Pamonag, History.

The selection committee said, "Dr. Pamonag's approach to multicultural teaching is one that provides students with useful knowledge of the past that promotes a better understanding not only of other cultures but also of one's own. She facilitates this approach by prompting all of her students to examine and discuss sources that represent a wide range of perspectives on an issue. For instance, in a History of Asia class, materials students may use to learn about imperialism on that continent might include political cartoons from the U.S., an essay by Mark Twain and a hymn composed by a British Anglican bishop who was born in Calcutta. She developed the 300-level class, 'Women and Gender in Asian History,' to allow further exploration of various cultures. Dr. Pamonag has mentored numerous students in developing their research to present at conferences and for publication, and provided guest lectures for religion classes. She has also served as adviser for the WIU Anime Club since 2012. She has volunteered for WIU's International Neighbor's Program, and she has given presentations on Asian history topics for WIU's LIFE (Learning is ForEver) program. Her 2013 trip to China as a Fulbright-Hayes Fellow supported her efforts in teaching classes on the history of China; the curriculum project she developed as part of the fellowship program further helped her provide a template for her students majoring in teacher education. Her research into colonial policy toward leprosy patients in the Philippines has been presented nationally and internationally. Dr. Pamonag also serves as an editor for a sub-module of the Women and Social Movements in Modern Empires Since 1820 project. With all this in mind, the committee unreservedly affirms the statement of one of Dr. Pamonag's supporters, that she is wholly deserving of this Award of Excellence."

Provost's Award for Academic Excellence in Teaching: Shawn Meagher, Biology.

According to the selection committee, "Dr. Meagher takes his teaching very seriously and regularly goes above and beyond to make his classes accessible to a variety of students and learning styles. In addition to his command of the subject matter, his enthusiasm for sharing his discipline with his students is impressive. Dr. Meagher is an excellent mentor to his students because of the time that he is willing to commit to them. Since 2012, he has mentored 15 undergraduate independent research projects and five Honors students. Dr. Meagher has served as adviser for three completed graduate students and currently advises three more, all of whom have been successful in receiving research grants both within and outside of WIU. His work with students is laudable, and he is an excellent teacher who is wholly deserving of this award. As one letter of support stated, 'Dr. Meagher brings excellence to WIU as a lecturer, mentor and researcher, and his enthusiasm and love for teaching has impacted many student lives at our institution.'"

Provost's Award for Excellence in Internationalizing the Campus: Julia Albarracin, Political Science.

The selection committee noted, "From 2012 to 2015, Dr. Albarracin demonstrated exemplary initiative, persistence and imagination to enhance Western's international identity through service, teaching and scholarship. She arranged exchange agreements between WIU and three universities in Argentina, her native country, and developed a study abroad course there, with collaboration of both Western and foreign faculty partners. Making effective use of Skype technology and her Spanish language proficiency, Dr. Albarracin also helped arrange for Western students studying the rhetoric of Argentine women who lost children during the country's military dictatorship to dialogue with a founder of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. She also established the University's annual celebration of International Peace Day. In addition to teaching and service, Dr. Albarracin maintained a robust research program, using resources from the Dan and Laura Webb Endowed Professorship that she currently holds, as well as other research grants. Her current research focuses on the experiences of Mexican immigrants in rural Illinois. A product of her research, involving field research conducted by her as well as Western students, is a book, "At the Core and in the Margins: Incorporation of Mexican Immigrants in Two Rural Midwestern Communities," published in 2016. Dr. Albarracin's scholarship thus illustrates how as Western fulfills its educational and service commitment to the region; it also fulfills its mission as a unique kind of international institution."

Outstanding Academic Adviser: Jennifer Grimm, Communication.

According to the committee, "In a nominating letter for Ms. Grimm, it was stated 'Jennifer does not simply 'do' her job on a daily basis; she actively seeks to excel in that job in a manner that is both consistent and exemplary.' She is known by the advising community and faculty for her active role in the College of Fine Arts and Communication, and her expertise and knowledge is respected and highly valued across the various departments of COFAC, as well as in the Dean's Office. Ms. Grimm also assists in a variety of recruitment activities, both on campus and off, as well serving as a resource point for faculty for catalog and University curriculum issues and regulations. She is a part of various committees for the departments, the college and Council of Advisers, and also serves on a judicial board through Student Judicial Programs. A former student added that because of his interaction with Ms. Grimm, he decided to change his career path and become an academic adviser. It is this kind of interaction, support and admiration, which this committee feels establishes Jennifer Grimm as the best deserved candidate for Adviser of the Year."

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