University of Nebraska President Ted Carter today announced the 2020 recipients of the university system’s most prestigious faculty awards for teaching, research and engagement.
The university-wide President’s Excellence Awards recognize faculty whose work has had a significant impact on students, the university and the state.
“The University of Nebraska exists to transform lives and communities. Our faculty, who are among the best in the world at what they do, carry out that mission every day in classrooms, labs and fields across our state,” Carter said. “It’s an honor to serve among such talented and dedicated colleagues and to celebrate their work and impact. I thank these faculty for all they do for our 51,000 students and people in our state and around the world.”
Award recipients are selected by a system-wide committee of faculty members and, in the case of the engagement award, community members. They will be honored at a luncheon hosted by Carter this spring.
The 2020 winners are:
Outstanding Teaching the Instructional Creativity Award (OTICA): recognizes individual faculty members who have demonstrated meritorious and sustained records of excellence and creativity in teaching.
Jody Koenig Kellas, Ph.D., professor, Department of Communication Studies, and co-director of the Peer Review of Teaching Project, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Kellas’ teaching is guided by the philosophy that the quality of a person’s communication is linked to the quality of their life. She works to help students become tolerant, mindful, discerning and compassionate communicators in an increasingly complex and global world. Kellas uses one-on-one interviews, lectures and discussions, active applications of material, and other strategies in her courses to enhance students’ learning. She asks for feedback mid-semester so she can make changes to improve her students’ experience, reflecting the link between the quality of teaching and the quality of learning. She also redesigns courses every time she teaches them, incorporating student input and her own assessments to continually improve teaching and learning. Kellas has made a significant impact on her department’s curriculum, having designed a dozen undergraduate and graduate courses at UNL. She has provided particular leadership in the area of health communications, which has grown more popular during her tenure. Kellas’ evaluation scores from students are exceptionally high, with many commenting that she is the “best professor” they’ve had or that her courses were “life-changing.”
Walter Stroup, Ph.D., professor, Department of Statistics, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. A colleague of Stroup’s once told him, “I focus on the topics to be taught – your focus is on the students you are teaching.” It was a high compliment for Stroup, a member of UNL’s faculty since 1979, whose guiding principle is to ask himself what his students need and what he can do to help them get there. Stroup teaches both students who aim to be professional statisticians and students who will need to use statistics as a tool in their own fields, helping make statistics accessible for those within and outside of the discipline. Outside the classroom, he consults with individuals who need help with statistical design and analysis, serving as a “teacher” in a different way. He involves graduate students in the process, giving them real-world experience to help prepare them for their own careers. Stroup also designed a class project that pairs non-statistics majors in consumer disciplines with statistics graduate students, having them role-play as researcher and consultant. Students report that the “dress rehearsal” experience is the most valuable part of the course and helps build their confidence in applying statistics techniques to their work.
Outstanding Research and Creative Activity (ORCA) Award: recognizes individual faculty members for outstanding research or creative activity of national or international significance.
Ed Cahoon, Ph.D., George Holmes University Professor of Biochemistry and director of the Center for Plant Science Innovation, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Cahoon is one of UNL’s most productive and highly regarded faculty members, having significantly advanced scientific knowledge locally and globally in addition to his service as a mentor to countless students and early-career scientists. Cahoon’s research is aimed at enhancing the nutritional and industrial value of crop plants, helping to feed the world’s growing population. At the time of his nomination, Cahoon had published 128 papers, was an inventor or co-inventor on 34 U.S.-issued patents, and had garnered more than $35 million in grants and contracts. Notably, Cahoon led the effort to secure a $20 million National Science Foundation EPSCoR grant to establish the Center for Root and Rhizobiome Innovation, a multidisciplinary effort that will expand Nebraska’s research capacity and competitiveness. Similarly, his leadership since 2010 of the Center for Plant Science Innovation has not only positioned the center as a cornerstone of plant biology research at UNL, but has also become a magnet for new faculty talent to the state. Wrote his nominator, Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development Bob Wilhelm: “Ed would be a preeminent faculty member at any institution in the world.”
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.
Armando De Alba Rosales, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor in the College of Public Health, University of Nebraska Medical Center. Even as a master’s student at UNMC, De Alba embodied the university’s commitment to improving the health of its community, working for the Consulate of Mexico as a coordinator of a healthcare program that served immigrant communities in Nebraska and Iowa. Later as a full-time UNMC employee, De Alba assisted the Consulate in partnering with local organizations to provide free health screenings and vaccinations for underserved communities. He also established and raised funds for an eye-care program for the Consulate. De Alba has served as a Health Disparities Fellow for the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s Office of Minority Health, identifying strategies for communicating health promotion and disease prevention information to Hispanics with limited English proficiency. The FDA has incorporated some of his recommendations into its Spanish web materials. During the 2015 Ebola crisis, when UNMC served as a treatment site, De Alba volunteered to help keep the Spanish-speaking community informed. As a faculty member, De Alba teaches courses that address health care for the underserved, community-oriented primary care and foundations of public health, enriching UNMC students’ cultural competence while also advancing the cause of health equity.
Sajda Qureshi, Ph.D., Kayser Chair and professor, Department of Information Systems & Quantitative Analysis, University of Nebraska at Omaha. Qureshi has a long track record of partnering with businesses, nonprofits, healthcare providers and international academic organizations to improve communities, promote economic development and grow small businesses. Her collaborative work has also expanded the global community of scholars studying the relationship between information and communication technologies and social, economic and human development. Qureshi and her students have worked with 200 microenterprises in Omaha and rural Nebraska to employ information and communication technologies to bring about economic development. Not only have these projects improved outcomes in Nebraska communities, but they have provided real-world training for students. For example, one of her former doctoral students whose research focuses on electronic health records for patient-centered care continues to work with Qureshi on using mobile health applications to achieve equitable healthcare for rural and Native American communities. Mobile health, or “mHealth,” is among the research activities of UNO’s Cloud Computing Lab, which Qureshi directs and which engages an interdisciplinary team from UNO, UNMC and UNL. Over her career, Qureshi has secured more than $1.2 million in grant funding, almost all of which she has received since joining UNO in 2002.