2022 Faculty/Staff Awards
Category: campus experience Video duration: 2022 Faculty/Staff Awards
Virginia Tech congratulates faculty and staff members for their contributions in a number of categories, from advising students to championing outreach and research.
Hello everyone. Welcome to our 2022 Faculty/Staff Awards. This has been quite an eventful year and I'm proud of the way Virginia Tech is finishing strong. It took a lot of collective hard work, cooperation and a commitment to the spirit of Ut Prosim, (That I may serve.) I can't say enough about the way our employees stepped up to meet our challenges and advance the university's mission. Today we recognize faculty and staff for outstanding work and dedication and I'm honored to begin with the President's Award for Excellence. This award recognizes the important role our classified staff play in supporting the quality of university life at Virginia Tech. The winners were announced in an earlier ceremony and I would like to recognize them again today. Latawnya Burleson, an advancement associate senior in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences dean's office, also serves as president of the college's staff association. She helped acknowledge and elevate staff roles by implementing a staff member of the year award. She also provided significant leadership to the university through nine years on the staff senate. Julie Carlson, an administrative support specialist for Hokie Wellness, stepped up during the pandemic to ensure the university responded to its employees and students with certainty and compassion. She altered her work schedule, made time to verify vaccination statuses, worked at vaccination clinics and answered questions about the ever-changing landscape. She was one of many frontline employees who helped the university weather COVID-19 with success. Connie Lynn Heffron, a laboratory specialist senior for the Meng lab of molecular virology at the Virginia- Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, uses creative problem-solving skills and has helped countless students and postdocs with their research projects by performing various experiments. Since joining the virology lab in 2012, she's coauthored more than 25 scientific publications, including a co first author paper. Such a high level of contribution to scholarly activities is rare for a lab specialist. Max Ofsa, the 3D Design Studio manager for University Libraries, brainstormed the idea for the studio as one of the University Libraries' most popular services. The space which provides free 3D printing for all of campus, enables numerous projects and hands-on experience with additive manufacturing technologies to students from all majors. His proposal provided a strong groundwork for the space, and he was involved with all the steps of seeing the project come to fruition. I now have the pleasure to present this year's Presidential Principles of Community Awards. These awards recognize a faculty and staff member who exemplify and promote a welcoming and inclusive environment in accordance with the Principles of Community at Virginia Tech. Congratulations to all nominees and winners. The Black Caucus of Virginia Tech receives the Principles of Community Group Award. Established in 1981 to provide support to Black faculty and staff members, students, and the university community, it is the oldest caucus at Virginia Tech. Its extraordinary work directly affects the quality of life for the Black campus community. Caucus members serve the Virginia Tech community well beyond the formal requirements of their employment, and they are continually challenged to move forward with their agenda of assistance and advocacy. Eric Z. Glenn receives the Principles of Community Award for Individual Achievement, A project manager at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, his diversity, equity and inclusion work began to take shape when he was asked to organize the Institute's first Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee. He uses a combination of lived and educational experiences to develop and support the committee's 60 plus members. He loves having the opportunity to use his passion, creativity, charisma, and knowledge to create and foster a culture of psychological safety, acceptance, and belonging for all. Melissa Faircloth, the director of the American Indian and Indigenous Community Center, started her journey at Virginia Tech as a graduate student pursuing a PhD in Sociology. She was named Director of the Center in 2018. Since then, she's built center programming and promoted initiatives to recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day on campus, to develop the university's land acknowledgment, and to create campus markers that offer a more inclusive and nuanced history of our university. Tamarah Smith receives the Principles of Community Award. Her service to the university is shaped by a deep commitment to equity, justice, fairness, and mutual respect. A business operation specialist with the Office of Summer and Winter sessions, she brings an acceptance for others and a willingness to ensure that marginalized faculty, staff, and students are supported at Virginia Tech. Outside of the university, Smith is active with her church and as a community volunteer. She is an avid reader and photographer. Hello, Hokies. Thank you for tuning in today. I am so proud to be able to share this moment with you. Today I have the honor to recognize our Alumni Award recipients. The first award I would like to present is the Alumni Award for Outreach Excellence. This award recognizes outstanding contributions by Virginia Tech faculty members who have extended the university's outreach mission throughout the Commonwealth, the nation, and the world. Chelsea Haines Lyles, Lisa McNair, and Phyllis Leary Newbill receive the Alumni Award for Outreach Excellence for team achievement. Their work and programs at the Center for Educational Networks and Impacts supports the center's mission of "Inspire, Connect, Impact" through outreach experiences, the center's signature Educator Liaison Network, an internal Campus Engagement Network of outreach experts, and an innovative evaluation program. John Gordon Casali, the Grado Chaired Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering, receives the Alumni Award for Outreach Excellence, Individual Achievement, for his ongoing work on innovative engineering systems to prevent noise-induced hearing loss. A triple alumnus of Virginia Tech, he finds motivation and encouragement in the respect and admiration that he sees others having for Virginia Tech and its graduates. In his spare time, he works on a small collection of classic cars and enjoys fishing. The Alumni Awards for Excellence in Teaching recognize outstanding service in the area of instruction at the undergraduate or graduate level. The recipients are chosen from a university-wide pool of faculty. Rachel Arnold, Collegiate Assistant Professor of Mathematics, began teaching at Virginia Tech as a graduate teaching assistant 15 years ago, and has taught eight different mathematics courses. Today, she designs and leads a professional development program for about 50 mathematics graduate student teachers each academic year. She enjoys trail running, hiking, and volleyball. Her golden labradoodle, CJ, has been a key contributor during her Zoom office hours and is deserving of extra treats for her effort in helping Rachel win this Alumni Award. Spanish professor Vinodh Venkatesh receives the Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching. By incorporating the cultures and histories of the Spanish-speaking world into his classes, he shows students the importance of cultural artifacts, which allows them to reflect on their own world views. The Alumni Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Academic Advising is presented to a faculty member who has demonstrated outstanding mentoring of undergraduate students, while the Alumni Award for Excellence in Graduate Academic Advising is presented to a faculty member who has demonstrated outstanding mentoring of graduate students. Helene Shine Goetz receives the Alumni Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Academic Advising for her work as an academic advisor in University Studies and Scholarship Support. With more than 30 years of advising experience, she's worked with diverse student populations throughout her career. She says, "I love to see the metamorphosis of my students as they evolve from unsure and sometimes scared first semester students into confident and secure ones navigating and taking ownership of their future. Seeing their excitement when they have found that perfect major and hearing what they are going to do after graduation is a wonderful feeling." Holly M. Matusovich receives the Alumni Award for Excellence in Graduate Academic Advising. The professor of engineering education wants life to be better for graduate students and works hard to create a culture of belonging. She has been a principal or co-co-principle investigator on 19 funded research projects, including a National Science Foundation CAREER award, is the editor in chief of the journal Advances in Engineering Education, and has received a myriad of recognition for her work, including being inducted into the Virginia Tech Academy of Faculty Leadership in 2020. The next set of awards are the Alumni Awards for Excellence in Extension. These awards are presented to two extension staff members who have made outstanding contributions outside the classroom. Carol B. Nansel has served as Shenandoah County's 4-H Extension Agent since 1984. After growing up in the Fairfax County 4-H program herself, she enjoys seeing the impact that 4-H programming has in people's lives. Nansel and her husband train and compete in agility, dock diving, and a few other dog sports with their golden retrievers. They fostered more than 30 goldens for animal rescue organizations, and only kept two of them. Elena Serrano, Director of the Virginia Family Nutrition Program, is recognized with the Alumni Association Excellence in Extension Award. She has served as an extension specialist and professor at Virginia Tech for 20 years. In 2010, Serrano was named a Healthy School Hero for her work with childhood obesity in schools across Virginia. Driven by a commitment to contribute positively to communities, she finds inspiration in the Hokie Nation's passion to serve. Our next three recipients are receiving the William E. Wine Award. This award is presented annually to recognize a history of university teaching excellence. For nearly 17 years, Gena E. Chandler has taught a variety of subjects at Virginia Tech, including African-American literature and post-colonial literature, and she's received numerous accolades for her work. Her research examines contemporary African-American fiction, poetry, and African-American literary history. Away from campus, she enjoys time with her nine-year-old daughter. She loves to sing, and she dislikes any kind of cheese. Michael Kender, a professor of practice in finance, joined the Pamplin College of Business in 2009, after a 21 year career working in Wall Street finance jobs. He's taught 11 different undergraduate and MBA courses where he strives to bring the real world and the expertise of the alumni network to the classroom. Away from campus, he loves to travel and has visited 47 states and more than 40 countries. James Spotila, professor of geosciences, works on research related to active tectonics, geomorphology, and geo hazards and has taught over 60 classes during his 23 years at Virginia Tech. He's also contributed extensively through service activities, including serving multiple years as associate department head, graduate program director, and on the Faculty Senate. "I love working with a team that is universally committed to excellence in teaching, discovery, and global service." Away from campus, he's an EMT and has been an active member of the Blacksburg Volunteer Rescue Squad since 2008. The leadership and contributions of faculty and academic support staff are critical to the growth and success of Virginia Tech. Those being honored today have distinguished themselves through their innovative and collaborative approaches to teaching, research, and scholarship, and their commitment to student service, advising, and mentorship. The Provost's Award for Excellence in Advising recognizes an individual who serves undergraduate advisees in exemplary ways. Holly Belcher, who has served in an advising role since 2014, receives the Provost's Award for Excellence in Advising. She help students achieve educational goals throughout their academic careers and encourages them to explore Virginia Tech's resources to foster further growth and development. She enjoys being a reliable source for students to always come to ask questions and discuss ideas and future plans, and appreciates the Hokie Nation being one that strives to help others in all circumstances. The XCaliber Award is designed to honor faculty or academic program staff who use an innovative approach to teaching through the use of technology. The team behind The Production Game receives the XCaliber Award for a group. Affectionately known as The Game, it teaches industrial systems engineering students about interactions between decisions and performance measures for a production system. Developed at Le Moyne college, it is part of a spring course, Production Planning and Inventory Control. Associate Professor Kimberly Ellis and Associate Collegiate Professor Natalie Cherbaka began to digitize and improve the game in spring 2020, collaborating with then- students Andrew Thomas, Matthew Garlington, Ben LaBine, and Melissa Tilashalski. The game was well received during alpha and beta implementations in 2020 and 2021. This spring's run will test additional software enhancements and capture student engagement measures. The Sporn Award for Excellence in Teaching Introductory Subjects is named in honor of the late president of American Electric Power Company, Philip Sporn and his wife Sadie. The award is presented to an exemplary teacher of introductory subjects. Candace Wall, a former ocean chemist with the United States Antarctic Program, came to the chemistry department to help develop a transitional chemistry curriculum for first-year students. She officially joined the department as an instructor of general chemistry in 2018. She began incorporating active learning strategies and reflection techniques to improve the large lecture classroom experience for her students. You may occasionally find her in the Duck Pond acquiring samples for lecture demonstrations. I'm honored to be part of this important event. We appreciate the dedicated efforts of every Virginia Tech employee. The important role that our faculty and staff play and their spirit of Ut Prosim is evident. Today we recognize those whose dedication goes above and beyond. For now, I'm excited to present the Staff Career Achievement Awards. These awards recognize retiring staff members who have distinguished themselves through exemplary performance and service during your university career. Thomas Edward Hines, a research specialist senior in plant pathology, physiology, and weed science, worked at Virginia Tech for 48 years, providing research that is vital to agriculture and teaching students the proper procedure in applied field and greenhouse studies. Lynn Tolbert Jones began working at Virginia Tech in 2007 as an emergency hire and was soo