University of Nebraska names top teaching, research and engagement award winners

March 28, 2013

University of Nebraska President James B. Milliken has announced the 2013 winners of the university’s most prestigious awards for teaching, research and engagement.

The university-wide awards recognize faculty whose work has had a strong impact on students, the university and the state, according to Milliken.

“Great faculty are at the heart of a great university. The University of Nebraska is fortunate to have on its campuses tremendously talented faculty whose commitment to excellence is a true inspiration,” Milliken said. “I’m proud to take this opportunity to recognize the faculty who play such an important role in serving our students, the university and the state of Nebraska.”

Awards will be presented during a luncheon in April. Winners are:


Outstanding Teaching and Instructional Creativity Award (OTICA): recognizes individual faculty members who have demonstrated meritorious and sustained records of excellence and creativity in teaching.

Ed Vandenberg, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

A UNMC faculty member since 1998, Vandenberg has earned a reputation for his commitment to working across disciplines to improve curricula, particularly in the area of geriatrics. He has improved instruction in critical for medical students as they transition from medical school to residency, such as medical errors, the costs of medical care, inter-professional team training and communication, and management of cardiac arrests. While serious about teaching, Vandenberg doesn’t hesitate to incorporate humor into his lectures – his lecture on falls among the elderly, which he delivers in full knight’s armor, is famous among students. Vandenberg’s “GERI Pearls” – brief summaries on various geriatric topics that have proved to be tremendous learning tools for students – also have become legendary on campus.

Watch Ed Vandenberg's video play video

Peter Wolcott, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Information Systems and Quantitative Analysis at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Wolcott already is an award-winning professor, having received UNO’s Excellence in Teaching Award and the Outstanding Service-Learning Faculty Award in 2011. In evaluations, students consistently praise his mastery of course content and his ability to communicate it effectively. Wolcott also is committed to service learning, regularly making connections with microenterprises in Omaha and supervising groups of students who work with those businesses to provide solutions, coaching, skill-building and planning for their technology needs. “The help and empowerment these students provide makes a real difference, and Peter provides the leadership to make that happen,” Wolcott’s department chair, Ilze Zigurs, wrote in his nomination letter. Wolcott also has been a leader in distance learning, making educational opportunities available to many more students.

Watch Peter Wolcott's video play video


Outstanding Research and Creative Activity (ORCA) Award: recognizes individual faculty members for outstanding research or creative activity of national or international significance.

Kenneth Price, Ph.D., Hillegass University Professor of American Literature and co-director of the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Price is a well-known scholar of both Walt Whitman and 19th-century American literature. He has published several books while at Nebraska, including To Walt Whitman, America, a study of Whitman’s continuing reputation in the 20th and 21st centuries. Price serves as President of the Association of Documentary Editing, an organization that includes editors of prestigious projects like the George Washington Papers, the Thomas Jefferson Papers and other collections of the works of major American writers and figures. He also developed what has become the Walt Whitman Archive, an electronic research and teaching tool that has made Whitman’s work, for the first time, easily accessible to scholars, students and general readers. The Archive has been called the “gold standard for digital humanities.”

Watch Kenneth Price's video play video

Thomas Porter, M.D., Hubbard Chair of Cardiology and professor of internal medicine at UNMC.

Porter is a true “triple threat” – a renowned cardiologist, teacher and researcher whose innovations have led to new technologies with strong commercialization potential. According to his nominator, UNMC’s vice chancellor for research, Dr. Jennifer Larsen, Porter has developed a number of innovative approaches to cardiac ultrasound, to the extent that it is no longer considered just a diagnostic test but a means to deliver therapeutic interventions. As a result of his efforts, he is now among the nation’s leaders in cardiac ultrasound. As a top clinical cardiologist, Porter is regularly referred patients from across the region and is often called upon to assist with interpretation of clinical data. Additionally, he is regularly named a “top teacher” in his department.

Watch Thomas Porter's video play video


Innovation, Development and Engagement Award (IDEA): recognizes faculty members who have extended their academic expertise beyond the boundaries of the university in ways that have enriched the broader community.

Susan Swindells, M.B.B.S., professor of internal medicine and Watanabe Chair for HIV/AIDS Research and Care at UNMC.

Swindells, who directs UNMC’s HIV clinic, is a recognized leader in HIV research who has also built a reputation for her commitment to helping underserved populations, improving AIDS education and training, and providing compassionate care. Swindells created an HIV care focus track in the medical school and developed a pediatric clinic to serve the growing number of children affected by HIV/AIDS. On the scientific side, Swindells has developed strategies to improve health care for patients worldwide. For example, she and her team conducted a study that found that a simpler medication regimen for patients, involving fewer pills taken at more convenient intervals, could be as effective as significantly more complicated regiments – a finding that has been helpful for both patients and physicians.

Watch Susan Swindells's video play video

Media Contact:
Melissa Lee
Director of Communications,
University of Nebraska