Faculty Recognized for Excellence

April 24th, 2015 | SMWC

Photos from the Reception

Scholarship, or the pursuit of inquiry, serves as the foundation for excellent teaching. Through the integration of scholarship, teaching, and service that faculty are able to provide a rich educational experience for Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College students. On Faculty Appreciation Day, Tuesday, April 21, 2015, the campus community recognized the work of the faculty and celebrated their many accomplishments.  Three SMWC faculty members were recognized with the Sister Mary Joseph Pomeroy Faculty Excellence Awards for their high ideals of teaching, scholarship and service. In addition, two faculty members received the Alumni Faculty Leadership Award.

Dottie, King, Ph.D., president of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College offered her appreciation to the entire faculty. “Your scholarly work not only enriches your own professional development, but contributes to the academic growth of our students and brings important public recognition to the College.

Recipients of this year’s Pomeroy Faculty Excellence Awards are Robert Jean, Ph.D., assistant professor of ecology – for Service; Douglas Sperry, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology – for Scholarship; and Jamie McCracken, associate professor of business – for Teaching.

Pomeroy Faculty Excellence Award for Service

A member of the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods faculty since 2011, Robert Jean, Ph.D. has demonstrated exemplary service to the College, to his profession  and to the Wabash Valley community.

Jean says that “service to others, to myself and my community is a way of life. These values were instilled upon me at a young age by my parents who strongly encouraged (and sometimes enforced) sharing and giving, especially those talents given to us by God.”  He also shares that another strong influence on his leadership and service values was the Boy Scouts.

Robert Jean receives award

His service to the college is visible in numerous ways from simple maintenance of the plants in the greenhouse or in front of Hulman Hall to the grant work on projects that will literally change the look of campus – the Le Fer Lake grant project supported by the Oakley Foundation and the building of a passive solar greenhouse on the White Violet Center/Sister of Providence property.  What is even more interesting is how he collaborates and brings others into his service.  Last summer during the Oakley Innovation Academy, Lake Le Fer had more than ten middle school girls exploring around it to identify the habitat’s plant and animal species.

Jean also serves on the Curriculum Committee, the Greening of the Woods Committee, the President’s Strategic Planning committee; is the faculty advisor to the Discovery Club and Sustainability Club, and advises students in the Environmental Sciences major (a major he developed and launched in the last few years).

He is often sought out for his professional expertise in bee and insect identifications receiving numerous calls, emails and invitations from universities nationwide.  He also is consulted locally on sustainability, conservation and ecological ethics. 

In the area of service to the community, Jean can be found in leadership and advisory roles and hands-on work. He sits on the boards of TREES, Oubache Land Conservancy and the White Violet Center. He can often be found with muddy work boots and dusty hands as he helps coordinate and participates in events such as Operation Wabashiki, the fall foliage educational hikes, invasive species removal at Jackson-Snyder Nature Preserve, the Lake Le Fer restoration, roadside cleanups, and recycling projects using bins which he secured from a Coca-Cola grant.    

Jean said, “I feel very lucky to participate with so many students, faculty, staff  and other community members during these endeavors.  It is these relationships and the knowledge that I am helping students and myself aspire higher to achieve our mission and to instill our values.  Saint Mother Theodore Guerin is considered the ‘green saint’ and I know she is proud of our accomplishments, but we of course still have miles to go.”

Pomeroy Faculty Excellence Award for Scholarship

Douglas Sperry, assistant professor of psychology, has been a member of the SMWC faculty since 2013. 

Douglas Sperry receives award

His research and scholarship is centered on issues concerning how young children learn language, as well as unique methods developed to carry out this research.  His research questions centered on language development are not from a cognitive perspective, but rather from a socio-linguist interested in how language is used by children and caregivers in everyday transactions to accomplish the tasks of learning about a child’s culture and environment.  His approach is known as language socialization that is grounded in ethnographic inquiry.  It incorporates elements in the disciplines of anthropology, linguistics and developmental psychology. 

He has two other areas of research both with strong collaborations – one with his wife at Indiana State University and the other that he is establishing with our own undergraduate students.  One of these areas is in examining how young children learn to tell narratives. 

Narratives are cited as ways in which we define or identify ourselves in the context of our experiences.  Sperry is working to understand the conversational practices that children of all races and backgrounds bring to school with them from their home environment, and how those practices may or may not be consistent with the emerging literacy instruction they will receive in school. 

As a result of this research collaboration, one of our undergraduate students presented with him at a national conference in Las Vegas, Nev., on the investigations of narratives told by rural Indiana children.  He and his collaborators have been invited to present more than 10 papers and posters on this research in the last two years and he has published two peer-reviewed papers on his novel research approach.

Pomeroy Faculty Excellence Award for Teaching

Jamie McCracken, associate professor of business, has been teaching at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College for nine years.   

Her teaching epitomizes our expectation of the type of faculty at a small liberal arts institution:  delivering personalized attention and caring about the student as a human being and the journey she or he is undergoing at Saint Mary-of-the-Wood College.

Jamie McCracken receives award

Her willingness to incorporate a well-recognized, high-impact practice of service learning into her teaching has been what she describes as “life-changing” for both herself and students.  She has increased levels of interest and engagement from students in learning tax returns and tax laws by running the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site.  Each year, she improves and raises the expectations for her students and they come through.  For the last three years, the tax site has increased the number of clients served and returns completed, with the same, or smaller, number of students. 

McCracken delegates responsibility to students to help them gain leadership experience, while balancing her own workload.  This is evident in the coordination of the city-wide tax day at the Vigo County Library and involving accounting students in the Money Smart Week event.  She believes students who take ownership of something gain a higher level of learning. She engages and teaches these values to students in all delivery methods – traditional, online and master’s programs.  She has always been ahead of the curve and in instructional technology and assessment rubrics. 

Alumni Faculty Leadership Award

The Alumni Faculty Leadership Award is given each year for outstanding faculty leadership resulting in added benefits to students.  The Alumni Association believes that recognizing outstanding faculty leadership, will, in turn, aid in the strong future of Woods alumni. This year two faculty members will receive the award.

Robert Jean receives leadership award

Robert Jean, Ph.D.

Robert Jean, Ph.D., assistant professor of ecology, serves in numerous leadership roles on campus and in the community. He is active in the Curriculum Committee, Greening the Woods, College Council and serves as the advisor for the Sustainability Club and Discovery Club. Within the community, he represents The Woods on Our Green Valley Alliance, TREES Inc., Ouabache Land Conservancy and as a member of the advisory council for the White Violet Center for Ecojustice. He does all of this while staying active in research, grant writing, publishing and teaching several courses.    

Excerpts from his nomination read, “He helps students develop leadership skills by facilitating their opportunities to lead and providing encouragement. He encourages these women and other students to open their minds, research, think critically to develop their personal perspective, then to get involved – to act on what they care about. He impresses on them the importance of living their lives with integrity – whether or not others feel the same. He encourages them to be well-educated, enthusiastic and persistent.”

Lamprini Pantazi receives leadership award

Lamprini Pantazi, Ph.D.

Lamprini Pantazi, Ph.D., associate professor, Master’s of Leadership Development,  has served the College community since 2007. She consistently demonstrates her commitment to a Woods education. She is quick to reply to student questions and faculty requests, is available for virtual office hours, and gladly serves on campus committees as the president of the Graduate Council and the chair of the Institutional Review Board. Additionally, Pantazi provides global leadership as she travels to Greece each year and teaches courses while on her travels. She is a well-known presenter at leadership conferences and takes an active lead in research. She also focuses on emotional and social intelligence in her teaching.

When asked how she helps students develop leadership skills she said, “Through my assignments, projects and my overall course work, I help them develop interpersonal and conceptual skills –

specifically, a knowledge of human behavior and interpersonal processes, the ability to understand the feelings, attitudes  and motives of others, the ability to communicate clearly and effectively, and the ability to establish effective and cooperative relationships.”

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