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BELLINGHAM – Western Washington University honored eight outstanding faculty and staff members and one interdepartmental program recently with annual awards highlighting the best in teaching, research and service to the campus community.
WWU President Bruce Shepard presented the awards at Opening Convocation for faculty and staff Sept. 17. This year’s award winners were Theatre Arts Assistant Professor Rich Brown, who received the Excellence in Teaching Award; Philosophy Professor Hud Hudson, winner of the Paul J. Olscamp Research Award; Mathematics Professor Jerry Johnson, who received the Peter J. Elich Excellence in Teaching Award; Engineering Technology Professor Kathleen Kitto, honored with the Diversity Achievement Award; Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies Professor Daniel Larner, who won the Faculty Outstanding Service Award; William Managan, assistant director for Operations in Facilities Management, winner of the Professional Staff Award for Excellence; Chemistry Professor David Patrick, who received the Carl H. Simpson Bridging Award; and Grounds and Nursery Specialist Heidi Zeretzke, who won the Outstanding Classified Staff Award. In addition, the Team Recognition Award was presented to the faculty and staff of the Advanced Materials Science and Engineering Center (AMSEC).
The teaching, service and diversity awards include $1,500 stipends to use for research, teaching equipment and supplies, or professional enhancement. The research and bridging award recipients each receive $1,000.
Excellence in Teaching Award: Rich Brown
Theatre Arts Assistant Professor Rich Brown focuses his teaching style on creating positive learning environments for students. He says this begins with a human relationship; he strives to “create a safe space where students are encouraged to participate without fear of making mistakes, where experiential learning through process outweighs product.” To Brown, teaching is more than conveying information, “teaching must provide an emotional hook, a connection into some aspect of the students’ lives.” When students feel something personal is at stake in the classroom, Brown says, that’s when he finds success as a teacher.
During winter quarter Brown directed and toured regionally with six WWU students for the Theatre Ambassadors Tour. The group then traveled during spring break to New York City, England and Japan, where Brown and the students performed in Japanese. Brown also just returned from Romania teaching a two-week intensive course in the physical acting method known as Viewpoints.
The selection committee was impressed with Brown’s commitment to push students outside of their comfort zones, his introduction of new material into the Theatre Arts major, and the rigor of his courses. Brown’s passion for teaching is also evident in his extremely high student evaluations. The comments from students show their great respect for him and their appreciation of what Brown is teaching them.
Paul J. Olscamp Research Award: Hud Hudson
Internationally renowned philosopher, Professor Hud Hudson is arguably among the very best metaphysicians in the world today. The branch of philosophy known as metaphysics is in a golden age, with more groundbreaking work in the last 50 years than during any similar period in the history of philosophy – and Hudson is among those leading the way.
Hudson has amassed an impressive number of publications since he began teaching at Western in 1992 – three books, more than 40 articles, six edited volumes and three critical book reviews. He has recently published a paper, “Confining Composition,” in The Journal of Philosophy, widely considered the top journal in the philosophy discipline. He has also published in some of the top 15 philosophy journals including the Australasian Journal of Philosophy, The Monist, and Noûs.
His colleagues consider Hudson a master at making sophisticated work in metaphysics accessible and engaging without sacrificing rigor. This ability is on display throughout his most recent book, “The Metaphysics of Hyperspace,” which argues that our world has more than three spatial dimensions. In recent years, he has been invited to present his work to several universities in Australia, as well as in New Zealand, Belgium, China, Russia, Germany, Scotland, Switzerland and Italy.
Although Hudson is best known for his work in metaphysics and the history of philosophy, he has also published papers in epistemology, the philosophy of religion, ethics and mathematics. Hudson’s critical eye and generous spirit continually contribute to research at Western by inspiring, encouraging and improving the work of those around him.
Peter J. Elich Excellence in Teaching Award: Jerry Johnson
Jerry Johnson, a professor of Mathematics specializing in math education, captivates his students with thoughtful, probing questions that inspire them to think about math in a new way.
With an irrepressible curiosity about mathematics and how people learn about it, Johnson draws upon real-world experiences to illustrate math concepts and reach students with a variety of learning styles. His students remember these discussions long after, both for mathematical understanding and for the teaching techniques they hope to emulate.
His former students now teach in classrooms throughout Whatcom and Skagit counties and beyond, but continue to seek out Johnson for guidance on improving their teaching practices. “Would Jerry be proud?” is a question Kulshan Middle School math teacher Chuck DeVange still asks himself nearly 20 years after his first class with Johnson.
And judging by the number of math teachers who pack Johnson’s seminars at regional conferences, he’s not alone.
Diversity Achievement Award: Kathleen Kitto
Throughout her career at Western, Kathleen Kitto has been a leading supporter of gender diversity initiatives for both faculty and students, developing opportunities for women in the sciences, engineering and mathematics.
Kitto was the first female engineer hired in WWU’s Engineering Technology department, joining the faculty as an assistant professor in 1988. She rose to the rank of professor in 1995 and served as the Engineering Technology department chair from 1996 to 2003.
Since the College of Sciences and Technology was founded in fall 2003, Kitto has split her time, serving as associate dean for CST and as a faculty member in Engineering Technology. She is also the newly appointed director of the Advanced Materials Science and Engineering Center (AMSEC). She actively encourages women students to enter the field of engineering. She serves not only as a strong role model, but through mentorship of female students and working with student groups, encourages more women to enter the engineering field.
In her leadership role as department chair, Kitto helped shape a culture change that led to the hiring of additional women into the Engineering Technology department, which now has more women faculty than most engineering technology departments in the country.
Now, Kitto leads Western’s first large-scale effort to address the cultural and structural issues that impact women’s career development at WWU. Under her leadership and with the support of several Western colleagues, Western won a National Science Foundation ADVANCE Catalyst grant, designed to focus specifically on the needs and challenges of women in the Colleges of Sciences and Technology.
Faculty Outstanding Service Award: Daniel Larner
Fairhaven Professor Daniel Larner’s service to Western began in 1968 with membership on university committees and a presidential task force. In 1976, he was one of the founders of The College of Fine and Performing Arts. Larner then served as the dean of Fairhaven College from 1982 to 1989, and subsequently chaired critical personnel and tenure committees implementing new college policies. He has been an active member of more than 30 WWU committees, ranging from the University Planning Council, to search committees for faculty and administrative positions. He was also president of the Faculty Senate, 2009-10, and a member of the university President’s Cabinet.
A playwright and theatre scholar, Larner’s scholarly service includes 11 years on the board of directors of the Eugene O’Neill society, chairing the committee reviewing the society’s international scholarly journal. A consultant on interdisciplinary programs, in 2006 he was appointed to the committee reviewing the Interdisciplinary Arts programs at the University of Washington, Tacoma.
In service to the wider community, Larner has been a member the boards of directors of two influential organizations: the Mount Baker Theatre and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington. The theatre’s revival as a community arts facility has had a profound meaning for Bellingham, and Larner was one of the architects of that effort. As a 40-year member of the ACLU, Larner has led many task forces and workshops, advised the WWU student ACLU Club, and given over 100 presentations about civil rights to a wide variety of community organizations.
In 2008 he was awarded the Law Day Liberty Bell Award by the Whatcom County Bar Association, for lifetime commitment to civil rights education and advocacy.
Professional Staff Award for Excellence: William Managan
Bill Managan, assistant director for Operations in Facilities Management, is described as a true “Renaissance Man” who devotes his considerable leadership skills to keeping Western fully operational and innovative.
Responsible for maintaining WWU’s buildings, grounds, utilities and vehicle fleets, Managan constantly looks for new ways to improve efficiency, even under the constraints of budget and personnel cuts. He is known for encouraging – and sometimes demanding – innovation. Under his guidance, the Academic Custodial Services achieved national honors for their green cleaning practices and Grounds Maintenance staff members received recognition for the sustainable practice of foregoing pesticides.
Managan is also one of the state’s most noted experts on the “Facility Condition Index,” a measure of the repair condition of a building, and his counsel and insight are often called upon by the state of Washington. Currently, he is leading a feasibility study of converting Western’s natural gas-fueled steam boilers to run on biomass fuel. Though extremely technically difficult, the study will help inform Western’s strategy to become “climate neutral” by the year 2030. For the example he sets as a leader and innovator, Managan is this year’s recipient of the Professional Staff Award for Excellence.
Carl H. Simpson Bridging Award: David Patrick
David Patrick’s career at WWU has been devoted to building collaborations. A Chemistry professor, Patrick co-founded and directed WWU’s Advanced Materials Science and Engineering Center, where faculty from several departments from the College of Science and Technology collaborate and innovate to provide world-class research and teaching in materials science.
The center, known as AMSEC, also collaborates with industry to solve practical problems and promote private sector innovation. Many in industry find that AMSEC’s interdisciplinary approach, with experts from Chemistry, Physics, Geology, Mathematics and Engineering Technology, offers new ways to approach problems. And these projects often pay additional dividends in the form of new questions and methods to consider back in the classroom and research laboratory.
Under Patrick’s leadership, “AMSEC has grown to be one of the truly bright spots in the future of sciences and technology at Western,” wrote Arlan Norman, dean of the College of Sciences and Technology.
AMSEC has instituted a number of innovative programs designed to encourage and enhance interdisciplinary science and engineering research on campus, including providing “seed grants” and undergraduate summer research fellowships to support new collaborations, sponsoring colloquia in targeted areas of special opportunity, grant-writing to support acquisition of multi-user scientific instrumentation, and the hiring of new faculty with interdisciplinary research interests and multi-department appointments.
The Carl H. Simpson Bridging Award recognizes efforts to create bridges and forge new paths that others may follow and build upon. The award recognizes a WWU staff or faculty member or student who demonstrates a remarkable ability or innovative approach to bridging some aspect of academic or campus life, and includes a $1,000 award.
Outstanding Classified Staff Award: Heidi Zeretzke
Heidi Zeretzke, a grounds and nursery specialist responsible for the care and upkeep of the central area of the WWU campus, is an essential part the outdoor maintenance team at Western.
From her aesthetic creativity to her innovative use of organic material, Zeretzke’s work is highly respected among colleagues and across campus. She was integral in the design, planting and implementation of large landscaping projects around Old Main and Higginson Hall, as well as the Rose Garden and Bird Sanctuary.
“The central campus area would not have the same beautiful, well-kept appearance without her,” says her co-worker, Randy Godfrey.
Zeretzke is also passionate about using sustainable cultivation methods in her work, opting for organic fertilizers and minimizing the use of herbicides. She even brews her own organic compost tea for the Rose Garden. Community members benefit from her expertise, too, with her annual classes on rose pruning. More recently, Zeretzke took on the design and planting of the “Biosphere” exhibit in the Western Gallery.
Zeretzke’s co-workers are also grateful for her gift of diplomacy and her creative solutions to potential conflict. Known as a team player and leader, dependable, passionate and diplomatic, Zeretzke is the first recipient of the Outstanding Classified Staff Award. She was chosen by representatives from the two classified staff unions on campus, with the support of the president.
Team Recognition Award: AMSEC
The Advanced Materials Science and Engineering Center (AMSEC) was established to promote interdisciplinary materials science research, educate students and improve private sector innovation through access to technology, expertise and a skilled workforce.
AMSEC is the culmination of an effort that began nearly six years ago when a group of Chemistry, Physics and Engineering Technology faculty came together to increase support for multi-user instrumentation and collaborative research in the area of materials science. With the support of College of Sciences and Technology Dean Arlan Norman, the group prepared a successful $400,000 proposal to the National Science Foundation outlining a vision for the creation of the new center, and in 2006, helped draft a $1.2 million “decision package” to the state Legislature to get the center enough funding to operate.
Team members have engaged in a range of initiatives designed to build new collaborations between faculty, from hiring faculty with multi-department appointments, to sponsoring colloquia in proposal writing and joint exploratory research. Today AMSEC has 22 faculty members representing five academic departments, two staff and more than 30 undergraduates enrolled in its minor degree program. “These achievements were only possible though the dedicated efforts over many years of a highly committed team of faculty and staff,” says David Patrick, director of AMSEC.
The AMSEC team’s spirit of collaboration and shared dedication to students made it the perfect recipient of the Team Recognition Award. The award recognizes a group of staff and faculty who exemplify cooperation, collaboration and open communication. AMSEC team members include Chemistry Professor and Director David Patrick, Program Manager Tina Copsey, Research Analyst Polly Berseth, Assistant to the Dean of the College of Science and Technology Susan Hoidal, Chemistry professors, Mark Bussell, Susan DeBari and James Vyvyan, Engineering Technology professors Steven Dillman, Kathleen Kitto and Nicole Hoekstra, Geology Professor Bernard Housen, Physics Professor Brad Johnson, Associate Chemistry Professor Steven Emory, Associate Physics Professor Milton From, Associate Mathematics Professor Stephen McDowall, Assistant Chemistry professors John Gilbertson, Amanda Murphy, Elizabeth Raymond and Clint Spiegel, Assistant Engineering Technology Professor Nicole Larson, Assistant Physics professors Andreas Riemann, Janelle Leger, and Associate Professor Takele Seda, and Chemistry instructors Mark Peyron and Tom Pratum.