July 21, 2024

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Western Carolina University – Faculty and Staff Excellence Awards return

11 min read

After being canceled in 2020 because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Western Carolina
University’s Faculty and Staff Excellence Awards resumed, albeit in a limited capacity

Only the nominees were invited to attend the April 23 event, which featured a reception
afterward. The rest of the campus community was invited to watch the event via livestream.

The event is a celebration of achievements of the university’s faculty and staff in
the areas of teaching, scholarship and service. Chancellor Kelli R. Brown presided
over the event, along with Provost Richard Starnes. It also featured speakers Kadie
Otto, chair of the Faculty Senate, and Ben Pendry, chair of the Staff Senate.

“As we reflect on where we are as a university, this annual celebration of the extraordinary
work that is accomplished each and every day by our faculty and staff also affords
us the opportunity to look back on the challenges and successes of the academic year
quickly coming to a close,” Brown said.

catherine carter

Catherine Carter

“To be certain, 2020-21 was filled with many challenges, but also many achievements
to celebrate. Our faculty, staff and students have worked harder than ever amid the
challenging circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic to achieve their goals and to make
a positive difference in the world. The pandemic may have altered the way we do business
on campus, but it hasn’t stopped us from doing what we do best.”

Prior to announcing the university award winners, Brown recognized Catherine Carter,
a professor in the Department of English, who on Thursday, April 22, was announced
by the University of North Carolina System as WCU’s recipient of the UNC Board of Governors Excellence in Teaching Award.

Below is a look at this year’s WCU Faculty and Staff Excellence Award winners:

Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award – Cyndy Caravelis

Cyndy Caravelis

Cyndy Caravelis

“Cyndy exemplifies superior teaching. She demonstrates a clear understanding of how
to connect with students and deliver content in an effective manner,” Brown said.
“She instills in her students the importance of recognizing and appreciating diversity,
social justice, advocacy for victims of crime and empathy for the incarcerated.

“Cyndy is active in creating community service and study abroad opportunities in her
quest to create engaged and global citizens. She has led study abroad opportunities
in five different countries and seven states.”

Star Staff Award – Linda Shuler

Shuler is a building and environment services technician in Facility Management.

“Diligent and caring, Linda always makes sure that our facilities look their best,”
Brown said. “She cares for her three grandchildren during the day and spends her nights
working for Western. She goes the extra mile by checking with staff to ensure that
they have a safe and clean workspace, all the while remaining positive.”

Bright Idea Staff Award – William “Zach” Phillips

Zach Phillips

Zach Phillips

In spring 2020, operations at WCU were interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic as students,
faculty and staff were sent home and classes were moved online. Phillips oversaw adding
conference functionality to 140 classroom computers and (bring your own device) laptops
that were able to be installed, making fall instruction possible in the remote learning

“Zach’s idea has had an impact across the entire Western Carolina University community,
making him deserving of the Bright Idea Award,” Brown said.

Judy H. Dowell Outstanding Support Staff Award – Dina Towey

Dina Towey

Dina Towey

Towey works in Student Affairs as a student support specialist for WCU Admissions.

“Nominated for her dedication to faculty, staff and students, Dina is always present
and ready to provide support to ensure events run smoothly. Anyone that has ever attended
an open house has benefited from her dedication. Dina works orientation check-in,
produces and runs slide shows at Western on Tour, arrives early and stays late without
being asked and never asks for the attention or credit that she so deserves.”

Paul A. Reid Distinguished Service Award for Administrative Staff – Phil Cauley

Phil Cauley

Phil Cauley

“In describing Phil’s contributions, one colleague addressed how he ‘always has one
eye to the future as we plan for growth, while keeping one eye on the past to ensure
we never forget who we are.’ The selection committee noted especially Phil’s longstanding
contributions to WCU, as well as all the work he continues to do. He truly embodies
the ideas and the spirit of what it means to be a Catamount,” Brown said.

Paul A. Reid Distinguished Service Award for Faculty – Jane Eastman

Jane Eastman

Jane Eastman

“As one colleague pointed out, Jane has contributed ’20 years of service to the Tsali
Tsigwayhi archive and her excavation and preservation of the Norton site. She has
committed herself to these parts of Cherokee heritage because of her deep, ethical
drive to do the right thing.’ Jane’s work, past and present, is commendable and represents
an invaluable asset to WCU.”

University Scholar Award – Debra Burke

Debra Burke

Debra Burke

Burke’s scholarship on business law includes minimum wage law, child pornography statutes,
export controls and discrimination, and franchising laws which exhibits the wide range
of legal expertise that she has published.

“Her collaborative research indicates her willingness to delve into topics across
multiple fields with experts from numerous institutions. Her external letter of support
indicates that she published in well-respected journals, such as the Michigan Law
Review and the Yale Law Journal, as well as peer-reviewed book chapters,” Brown said.

Excellence in Teaching Liberal Studies Abroad – Heidi Turlington

Heidi Turlington

Heidi Turlington

“Dr. Turlington is an energetic, dedicated and creative instructor, and through her
teaching, she demonstrates a deep commitment to bettering the lives of her students.
Within the Liberal Studies program, her work focuses on helping students become aware
of the physical, mental, social, emotional and environmental variables that affect
their own health and wellness, so that they can make informed decisions about their
future,” Starnes said.

“The enthusiasm with which she dedicates herself to this task is truly infectious
– and the selection committee was very impressed with all the methods she utilized
to innovate her teaching, especially her use of interactive simulations and games
to help students recognize the consequences of certain behaviors.”

Innovative Scholarship Award – Laura Wright

Laura Wright

Laura Wright

The selection committee unanimously chose Wright for the Innovative Scholarship Award.

“For a number of years, she has been working collaboratively across groups of people
and disciplines, including topic experts and students,” Starnes said. “One of the
major goals of her scholarship was to promote and advance climate change literacy
among all citizens, not just STEM majors, so that they may make informed decisions
as voters, policy makers and business leaders.

“Laura’s scholarship has resulted in products that are many and varied, including
a teaching module that will be widely available for instructors in multiple fields.
This module with thorough extensive reviews nationally by several well-known organization,
received a rating of exemplary. In addition, her essay ‘Cli-Fi: Environmental Literature
for the Anthropocene’ was published in a recent novel.”

Excellence in Community Engagement Award – Eleanor Petrone

Eleanor Patrone

Eleanor Patrone

“Dr. Eleanor Petrone dedicates her teaching, scholarship, service and life to teaching
English to speakers of other languages. In partnership with the Cullowhee Valley Elementary
School, WCU and the United Methodist Church of Cullowhee, her collaborative efforts
and leadership have led to the development of the Language Enhancement Afterschool
Program. This program has served as a living-learning lab for her TESOL students,
and an essential afterschool for children in our community who need additional assistance
with language skills,” Starnes said.

“The program also serves as a host site for hundreds of service-learning volunteers,
and an exemplar of mutually beneficial partnerships associated with high-impact community
engagement. The LEAP program has been supported by nearly $700,000 in grants over
the past six years and is designed to help provide opportunities for language enhancement
to our youth.”

Student-Nominated Faculty of the Year Award – Candy Noltensmeyer

Candy Noltenmeyer

Candy Noltensmeyer

“Dr. Candy Noltensmeyer consistently exhibits excellence in teaching,” Starnes said.
“As a professor that manages a broad course load, teaching a multitude of students,
her courses are described as challenging but engaging. She excels in offering frequent
support to students who might otherwise not enjoy the coursework, delicately balancing
her robust assignments with desired learning outcomes. Indeed, many students have
described her as ‘one of (their) favorite professors of all time.’”

Program of Excellence Award: Academic Program – Educational Leadership

Jess Weiler

Jess Weiler, program director for Educational Leadership.

The winner of this award receives a $10,000 award that will be available use during
the 2021-22 academic year.

“Diversity, inclusion and equity remain at the forefront of the university’s goals
and planning,” Brown said. “It only makes sense that this year’s winner of the Academic
Program of Excellence Award would be Educational Leadership. Those who nominated the
Educational Leadership program had this to say about the program, ‘The Educational
Leadership program is dedicated to promoting new and current leaders in K-12 and higher
education. Faculty members in the program have diverse educational and research backgrounds,
which allow them to support leaders in a variety of contexts. Additionally, faculty
in the program are nationally known, prolific researchers and writers, and are consistently
recognized for their pedagogical techniques.’”

Program of Excellence – Irene W. Welch Award: Administration Program – Health Services

Pam Buchanan

Pam Buchanan, director of Health Services.

The winner of this award receives a $10,000 award that will be available for use during
the 2021-22 academic year.

“The staff in Health Services has done an amazing and phenomenal job taking care of
students, staff and faculty during this yearlong, crazy pandemic season of COVID-19,”
one of those who nominated the department said. “I am so proud of the team. They have
worked together through short staffing, record numbers, so many unknowns, and have
really come through shining bright. The daily ‘thank yous’ from parents and students,
as well as from other departments, should be enough, but Health Services is truly
deserving of this award.


Scholarly Development Assignment Program

The program assists faculty members in improving their competence as scholars by providing
a period of leave to pursue scholarly work. Recipients and their projects:

Debra Burke, professor in the School of Accounting, Finance, Information Systems and
Law, is compiling a “Recipes for Teaching Business Law” online book that is housed
on the 
members only page of the Academy of Legal Studies in Business website.

Brian Gastle, professor in the Department of English, is translating (with Catherine
Carter as co-translator) for the first time a 33,000-line Middle English poem, John
Gower’s Confessio Amantis (Confession of a Lover) into modern English.

Marie Line-Germain, professor in the Department of Human Services, completed a book
titled “Expertise at Work: Current and Emerging Trends” that was released April 11.

Jeremy Jones, associate professor in the Department of English, worked on the final
stages of nonfiction book manuscript tentatively titled “The Coded Life.”

Sudhir Kaul, associate professor in the Department of Engineering and Technology,
completed the manuscript for a book and worked on three journal articles.

Lori Oxford, associate professor in the Department of World Languages is completing
a monograph on Cuban literature produced during the Special Period, an era of economic
and social crises that immediately followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, which
had served as the island’s most powerful benefactor for decades.

College of Arts and Sciences

Board of Governors College of Arts and Sciences Teaching Award – Katie Zejdlik-Passalacqua,
assistant professor and Forensic Anthropology facilities director in the Department
of Anthropology and Sociology.

College of Business

Board of Governors Creative and Innovative Teaching Award – Andrew Carnes, assistant
professor in the School of Economics, Management, and Project Management.

College of Education and Allied Professions

Board of Governors Award for Superior Teaching – Melissa Faetz, instructor in the
School of Teaching and Learning

College of Engineering and Technology

Board of Governors Distinguished Teaching Award – Wes Stone, professor in the School
of Engineering and Technology.

David Orr Belcher College of Fine and Performing Arts

Board of Governors College of Fine and Performing Arts Teaching Award – Shelby Hicks,
assistant professor in the School of Art and Design.

College of Health and Human Sciences

Board of Governors Innovative Teaching Award – David Wells, associate professor in
the School of Nursing and Amy Murphy-Nugen, associate professor and MSW program director
in the School of Social Work.

Hunter Library

Hunter Scholar Award – Wingyan Chung, Kneedler Distinguished Professor of CIS from the College of Business, School of Accounting,
Finance, Information Systems, and Business Law.

Graduate School and Research

Hunter Scholar Award – Joseph Pechman, associate professor in the Department of Biology.

Retired Faculty and Staff

July 2018 through June 2019

Arledge Armenaki, School of Stage and Screen

Terri Armfield, School of Music

Harold Bailey, Facilities Management

Ruby Banerjee, Hunter Library

Jennifer Beck, Office of the Dean, Education and Allied Professions

Thomas Belt, Anthropology and Sociology

Russell Binkley, School of Teaching and Learning

Carroll Brown, Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Sports Management,

and Hospitality & Tourism

Jane Buchanan, School of Heath Sciences

Linda Carmody, One Stop

Donald Carringer, Health and Counseling Services

Robert Carton (Phased Retirement), Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Sports

Management, and Hospitality & Tourism

Kefyn Catley, Biology

Jeffrey Davis, Health and Counseling Services

Judy Dillard, Office of the Dean, Health and Human Sciences

Marjorie Eyre, Academic Engagement and IT Governance

Vicki Fisher, Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Sports Management and Hospitality & Tourism

Bruce Frazier, School of Music

Judith Frizzell, Controller’s Office

Joy Green, Physical Therapy

Mark Haskett, Communications and Public Relations

Elizabeth Jones (Phased Retirement), Accounting, Finance, Information Systems and
Business Law

Vicki Knaack, Human Resources and Payroll

Linda Mallonee, Communications and Public Relations

Brenda Marques, School of Health Sciences

William Martin (Phased Retirement), School of Music

Sue McPherson, Physical Therapy

Dona Potts, Accounting, Finance, Information Systems, and Business Law

Dale Putman, Residential Living

Baldwin Sanders, School of Health Sciences

Valerie Schwiebert, Human Services

Brenda Setzer, Parking Services

David Shapiro, Communication Sciences and Disorders

Judy Smith, Facilities Management

Benedict Tholkes (Phased Retirement), Human Services

July 2019 through June 2020

Martin Anthony, University Police

Larry Arbaugh, Office of Athletic Programs

Debasish Banerjee, Accounting, Finance, Information Systems, and Business Law

Patricia Benson, Controller’s Office

Tim Chapman, Residential Living

Dawne Coward, Facilities Management

Pamela Degraffenreid, Book and Supply Store

Mimi Fenton (Phased Retirement), English

Susan Fouts, Educational Outreach Programs

Paul Heckert (Phased Retirement), Chemistry and Physics

David Heisler, Facilities Management

Steve Henson (Phased Retirement), Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Sports Management and
Hospitality & Tourism

Anthony Hickey, Anthropology and Sociology

Phyllis Hoffman, Political Science and Public Affairs

Randall Holcombe, Communications and Public Relations

Yvonne Hooper, Student Financial Aid

Jack Hoyle, Facilities Management

Becky Lindsay, Accessibility Services

Suzan Melvin, WCU Programs in Asheville

Todd Murdock, Human Services

Gwen Nicholson, Office of Dean, Health and Human Sciences

Burton Ogle, School of Health Sciences

Kathy Pace, Facilities Management

Renee Parker, Facilities Management

David Porter, Emergency Services

Laura Samal, English

Laura Simon, IT Applications and Systems

Deborah Walters, Mathematics and Computer Science

David Westling, School of Teaching and Learning

July 2020 through April 2021

Robert Adams (Phased Retirement), School of Engineering and Technology

Brian Buchanan, Facilities Management

Diana Catley, Human Resources and Payroll

Michael Caudill, Communication

David Cowan, Facilities Management

Mark Dehart, Book and Supply Store

Wanda Dills, Residential Living

Terry Domagalski (Phased Retirement), Economics, Management and Project Management

Cheryl Farrell, Registrar

Thomas Frazier, Printing and Mail Services

John Freeman, Facilities Management

Rick Fulton, Office of Athletic Programs

Bruce Henderson, Psychology

Glenda Hensley, First Year Experience

Marianne Hollis, School of Health Sciences

Jon Jicha, School of Art and Design

Pam McFarland, Admissions

James McLachlan, Philosophy and Religion

Sharon Metcalfe, School of Nursing

Jon Passow, University Police

Mickey Randolph (Phased Retirement), Psychology

Marissa Ray, School of Teaching and Learning

Pan Riggs, Sponsored Research

Reggie Rogers, Controller’s Office

Sandra Saunders, English

David Strahan, School of Teaching and Learning

Bill Studenc, Communications and Public Relations

Thomas Walawender, University Police

John West, School of Music

John Williams, Anthropology and Sociology

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