Celebrating Faculty Excellence

April 23rd, 2014 | SMWC

From its inception, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College has been a distinctive institution, driven by a focus on academic integrity and student success. At SMWC, faculty play a critical role in engaging students in meaningful learning activities and supporting their academic and social needs. To celebrate their commitment, three Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College faculty members were recognized with the 25th annual Sister Mary Joseph Pomeroy Faculty Excellence Awards for their high ideals of teaching, scholarship and service.

In 1990, the Sister Mary Joseph Pomeroy Faculty Excellence Award was inaugurated, named in honor of the esteemed Woods professor of English who embodied the highest ideals of teaching, scholarship and service. Each of this year’s awardees embodies the spirit of excellence, espoused by the College in its motto “Virtus cum Scientia” (Virtue with Knowledge United) in a particular aspect of faculty work.

Recipients of this year’s awards are Michael Boswell, associate professor of music - for scholarship; Jamie McCracken, associate professor of business - for service; and Douglas Scheib, Ph.D., assistant professor of mathematics - for teaching.

Faculty Excellence in Service

Jamie McCracken, associate professor of business has demonstrated exemplary service to the College, to her profession and to the community. She has been an SMWC faculty since 2006. 

McCracken credits Sister Rosemary Nudd as one of the reasons she wanted to teach.  “I’ve always loved talking to her about service, and I pass that on to my students.  Because of a simple Junior Achievement project in my senior capstone business course, I found my true passion, teaching.  My philosophy on service is simple; if you have a specialized knowledge, why not use it to help others?  The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA, site is my proudest service experience.”

The VITA site provides opportunities for SMWC students and this faculty member to help members of our community with an important service – completing their tax returns.  One of two sites in Vigo County, the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College site completed 290 tax returns this year, a record number, providing over $60,000 of services to the community at no charge.  The site consisted of four campus students and one online student who generated over a quarter of a million dollars in net refunds on federal returns. 

Students are gaining real experience and learning one of our core values – serving their community. One of the students commented, “I love the hands on experience we get and that it is not just a class where we learn about taxes from a book with fake taxes.” 

McCracken provides her expertise with several not-for profits in the Wabash Valley such as the Terre Haute Children’s Museum, Terre Foods Co-op and Meals on Wheels.  After the success of reaching out to the elderly at the Maryvale and Wyndmoor retirement communities to complete tax returns, the students also decided to return to teach the residents about technology.  Students created sessions on how to use the Internet, smartphones, tablets and social media.

She serves her profession notably as a faculty consultant for Pearson Publishing, Gleim Publishing and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.  She is a certified field auditor for the Indiana State Board of Accountants, and she is the Vigo County chairperson for Indiana Money Smart Week and also coordinated Money Smart week activities for SMWC’s campus. 

Her service to the College has included many committee roles such as Graduate Council, Compensation Committee, Rooney Library committee, Social Media Users Group, Women’s Studies committee and she is a faculty consultant for the new summer camp, Camp CEO.  An advocate for online students, she serves as VAST mentor for Woods Online since its inception and presents an advising session at each new WOL student residency.

“When I am involved in service activities, my students see that,” she adds. “If I want them to be more concerned about helping others, I need to show them through my actions.”

Faculty Excellence in Scholarship

Michael Boswell, associate professor of music, believes that in order to study music and perform at a higher level, one must literally learn a new language of musical notation.  As singer and conductor, he is required to become familiar with other languages and cultures.  A faculty member since 2005, he estimates that he has performed in thirty-five languages. 

Boswell is quite well known regionally and nationally. He has been an invited tenor soloist with the Indiana State University Masterworks Chorale Concert and was contracted to be the conductor of the 2014 Festival for the Illinois Music Education Association’s District 5 Senior Choir.  He is also known in the world of professional chamber ensemble singers.  He began singing professionally with the Santa Fe Desert Chorale in 2004. Since then, he has appeared with Santa Fe Pro Musica in Bach's St. John Passion and Haydn's Creation. He has also appeared with Vox Humana, the Oregon Bach Festival Chorus, Tucson Chamber Artists, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra Chorus, Alchemy Ensemble, and The Bach Institute at Valparaiso University.  His work with Vox Humana was recorded and released on a CD titled “Into the Night” in 2013 and in 2014 his work with the group Conspirare was released on CD and received international acclaim.

In 2012, he commissioned and helped conceptualize an original composition by Sydney Guillaume.  Inspired by Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, La Providence was commissioned to educate people about The Woods and the Sisters of Providence.  He continues to utilize his skills as a professional singer to instruct our students and conduct the Chorale and Madrigals.  This spring the SMWC chorale and madrigals performed in Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City with professional women’s choirs from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong and the United States.

Boswell notes that his work “is not for mere entertainment but to educate, inform and create.” He brings this passion and models an exemplary level of professionalism to students.

Faculty Excellence in Teaching

Douglas Scheib, Ph.D., assistant professor of mathematics has been teaching at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College since 2012.   He has quickly noted that “the key to being a successful math teacher is understanding your target audience and having insight into why students either succeed or fail.”

His teaching style epitomizes the type of faculty needed at a small liberal arts institution.  He is academically challenging, but offers the instruction and support that students need to gain confidence in their abilities, and acquire skills in logic, reasoning and even communication.  He is an early adopter of the “flipped classroom” where he records his lectures and posts them on D2L so students can listen to the content outside of class.  This way they can proceed through the content or view a concept repeatedly – leaving the class time for active learning and collaboration with other students.  He also believes in allowing students to discover information on their own, rather than just handing it to them.  For example, teams of statistics students explored data with their group, debated on how best to represent the data, and then disputed why another group’s data presentation is inaccurate. The activity causes lively discussion, and the discovery of valuable lessons about how data can be presented to make any point.

Scheib recognizes the value of using technology to help students visualize concepts and interact with data sets.  He understands how online homework sets can be beneficial, as help and solutions are immediate, which lessens student frustration or “giving up.”  He uses his laptop and screen-casting rather than a chalkboard in class, so that all the problems and work can be referred to later on by students. 

Scheib demonstrates care for having his students learn mathematics, and not just passing it as a hurdle while in college.  He makes adjustments and teaching improvements, while teaching and developing multiple courses in both traditional and online formats, and carrying scholarship and service loads.  He, in countless ways, displays the best qualities of a professor – dedication, genuine interest in his area of instruction and a high standard that is expected of himself and his students.

Alumni Faculty Leadership Award

The Alumni Faculty Leadership Award is given each year for outstanding faculty leadership resulting in added benefits to students.  The SMWC National Alumni Association believes that recognizing outstanding faculty leadership, will, in turn, aid in the strong future of Woods alumni. Current students, faculty and staff members of SMWC submit nominations for the Alumni Faculty Leadership Award. A selection committee is formed to review nominations and to choose a recipient. 

Sharon Boyle, the 2014 recipient of the Alumni Faculty Leadership Award, is an exemplary role model for students, peers and the College. She has been a faculty member since 2002. She serves in numerous leadership roles at the state, regional and national level in music therapy, and recently became a mentor as a part of the Great Lakes Regional Music Therapy Mentorship Program.  At The Woods, she serves on the Curriculum Committee, Graduate Council, and the Campus Strategic Planning group, among others.  She works to pass along her excitement and passion for the field of Music Therapy to her students, helping them to draw upon their own passion and extend it outward.  She has coordinated several special events for music therapy on campus, offering additional learning experiences for students and alums.

One nominator described her leadership by saying, “She constantly pushes students to become better and is always there to lend a helping hand.” 

Boyle provides opportunities for students to lead at the classroom level and places leadership activities at regular levels throughout her curriculum.  She believes that leaders build others up, and help others see their own value and strengths. Boyle spoke to leadership development, saying “our alumni continue to teach me, just as they do when they are students about what it means to be a ‘ripple in the pond’ – passing along a sense of service and change for good in the world, one person at a time.”

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