UM-Dearborn honors faculty and students at 35th Annual Honor Scholars and Faculty Awards Ceremony

April 5, 2017

University of Michigan-Dearborn recognized seven faculty members and more than 90 students Tuesday, March 28, during the 35th Annual Honor Scholars and Faculty Awards Ceremony. 

University of Michigan-Dearborn recognized seven faculty members and more than 90 students Tuesday, March 28, during the 35th Annual Honor Scholars and Faculty Awards Ceremony. The program honors faculty who have distinguished themselves in teaching, research and service, and students who have excelled academically.

Faculty awards included:

  • Distinguished Service Award: John Riebesell, professor of biology, College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters
  • Distinguished Research Award: Jacqueline Vansant, professor of German, College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters
  • Distinguished Digital Education Award: Joy Beatty, associate professor of organizational behavior, College of Business
  • Distinguished Teaching Award (Tenured): Brian Green, professor of accounting, College of Business
  • Distinguished Teaching Award (Non-Tenured): Emily Matthews Luxon, assistant professor of political science, College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters
  • Collegiate Lecturer Award: Deborah Roundtree, lecturer II of psychology, College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters
  • William E Stirton Professorship: Qiang Zhu, professor of professor of computer and information science, College of Engineering and Computer Science

Collegiate professorships will be announced following regental approval.

Riebesell’s distinguished service contributions started early in his career as an assistant professor when he served on the Department of Natural Sciences Executive Committee (1979-1980), and later on as he took the responsibilities of biological sciences discipline chair (1980-1983).

Riebesell returned to this role more recently when he was elected by his colleagues to serve for two consecutive terms (2010-2016). During this period, the biological sciences program reached new heights in enrollment to become one of the largest programs in CASL. Riebesell addressed the staffing of the additional courses that needed to be offered due to high enrollment pressures, hired suitable and well-qualified, part-time instructors and managed the resources well to maximize their effective utility. For many years, Riebesell served as chair of the environmental science program. He is currently shepherding the program through a self-study and an external review.

His outstanding contributions to the affairs of the Natural Sciences Department and the biological sciences discipline have not been limited to administrative duties. He has serve students with distinction as the environmental science concentration adviser for most of his career. And he, along with the late Linda Fisher, developed the first mandatory advising programs in the Department of Natural Sciences.

Riebesell’s service contributions to CASL and the UM-Dearborn campus included memberships on the CASL Executive Committee, the CASL Curriculum Committee and the Faculty Senate, where he served as chair for two years. His service contributions have extended beyond the UM-Dearborn campus. He was a member of the University of Michigan Senate Assembly—where he also served as vice chair—and a member of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs.

Through many years of sustained scholarly contributions to the field of German/ Austrian literature and culture studies, Vansant has developed path-breaking analyses in a variety of genres. Her colleagues know her as a dedicated academic, generous with her time and passionate about her work, which is interdisciplinary, accessible, creative and internationally acclaimed.

Vansant has centered her scholarly work on the constructions of ethnicities, gender and identities in post-World War II and contemporary Austrian literature, memoirs and films. This translated into the publication of two academic books, and a third under contract, as well as many articles, book chapters, edited collections and presentations. Her first book, Against the Horizon: Feminism and Postwar Austrian Women Writers, is a socio-historical study of five Austrian women writers. Her second book, Reclaiming ‘Heimat’: Trauma and Mourning in Memoirs by Jewish-Austrian Réemigrés, combines cultural and social theory with literary analysis to conclude that these accounts are both testimonies of a troubled era and attempts by the authors to reclaim their place in Austrian history.

Austria Made in Hollywood is a book-length study under contract that builds on Vansant’s previous work on Austrian national identity. The first scholarly investigation of films set in Austria and produced in Hollywood between 1923 and 1995, this study brings to light implied cultural commentaries on both contemporary America and Austria, and uncovers the factors contributing to the films’ evolution, including the influential role of Hollywood producers and directors who were Austrian exiles from Nazi Germany.

Extending her work in exile studies, Vansant has contributed a number of related publications and projects, including a groundbreaking edited collection-in-progress of letters chronicling the exile and wartime experiences of a group of young Jewish refugees from post-Anschluss Austria.

If these books comprised her entire body of research, they would be an exceptional achievement, but they do not begin to cover Vansant’s contributions. Her versatility as a scholar is underscored by her publications in language pedagogy, including a very successful collaborative first-year textbook for teaching German, and a second-year textbook on which she is the sole author. She has also published four edited volumes and 23 book chapters and scholarly articles in her field’s leading journals, as well as a long list of review articles, interview pieces, article translations, and book reviews.

Vansant is also an active participant in international scholarly communities. Her visiting professorships in Austria and Germany, her many successful grant applications and her numerous invitations to present her research in the U.S. and abroad provide impressive testimony for her reputation. She served as the founding co-editor of Modern Austrian Literature, the journal of record in her field. On campus, she has organized film series, hosted speakers and writers, and led a campus-wide, semester-long series of talks, colloquia and workshops on memory.

Beatty has taught courses on organizational behavior since joining the university in the fall of 2004. She is a widely recognized expert in pedagogy in the field of organizational behavior, as evidenced by her service as the associate editor for the Journal of Management Education and election to the board of the Organizational Behavior Teaching Society.

Beatty is an innovative educator who has developed a number of new courses on campus and who continually works to adopt new teaching practices and ways of engaging her students. In recent years, she has focused her tremendous strengths in the area on the design, implementation and delivery of an online graduate-level course on organizational behavior.

Students are favorably impressed by Beatty’s online courses. They enjoy the interaction with each other and with Beatty, and find the videos that she uses to deliver course content to be very effective. Even students who were initially reluctant to take an online course have found her course to be effective and enjoyable. One student writing to support Beatty’s nomination for the award noted that students are “challenged in this course not just to read and participate in discussions but to also be part of a distance learning exercise, Tinsel Town. This activity provided the class the challenge of being part of a team with people outside of our university, even outside of the country. The learnings tied in well to what we were studying around how distance can enhance the bottom line but at times can create difficulties such as time zone differences, unique levels of engagement and potentially missing information.” A second student praised Beatty’s “exceptional attention to each student’s development.”

Colleagues are also impressed with Beatty’s approach to digital education. A colleague who reviewed her online course in detail noted that “it makes you feel like she is right there with you. . . . Going through one of her online lectures makes you feel as close as possible, as if you were in the classroom with her by your side.” A second colleague noted, “The course content and structure clearly represents Prof. Beatty’s teaching philosophy. Prof. Beatty believes that learning is an active process that involves participation, reflection, and critical inquiry. This philosophy is embedded in the learning structure that Prof. Beatty has built” in her online course.

Green transforms the classroom experience. Many collegiate classes center around a PowerPoint presentation; however, critical thinking, discussions and real-world examples serve as the focal points of Green’s classes. Thus, lectures are transformed into dialogues where students are free to challenge the status quo and ask, “Why is a certain audit procedure done this way? Is there a more efficient way of doing so?”

In the classroom, Green uniquely challenges yet encourages students. He blends humor into his lectures while still keeping everyone focused. Having worked as a consultant and owned his own CPA firm, Green calls upon his experiences in the field in order to prepare students for their careers. He has also succeeded at the difficult task of teaching an array of courses during his time at UM-Dearborn, bringing the same passion and enthusiasm to each one.

When class is finished, Green does not stop supporting students. For many students, he has been instrumental in interview preparation. Whether for an internship in public accounting or a full-time corporate position, Green will run students through potential interview questions and give tips for personal conduct. Other students go to him with questions preparing for the CPA exam or for figuring out their future career path, even if it isn’t in accounting. His patience and encouragement for all students is admirable. Student athletes, transfer students and students with unique situations remark about how understanding and accommodating he is with coursework. Student organization leaders also benefit from Green’s assistance, whether it be with finding guest speakers or talking through the organization’s strategy.

The Executive Speaker Series has been an incredible opportunity for students all across campus. Green organizes and runs each event, which includes choosing the topic, lining up industry leaders as speakers and moderating the event. The speakers come from companies such as Google, Ford and IBM. Green enables students to not only learn about economic and industry trends, but also network with the panelists from these companies.

In addition to organizing the series, Green is also a distinguished and published researcher. This helps improve not only the accounting and teaching fields, but also the university. With regards to the Executive Speaker Series and his work with students outside the classroom, one student remarked, “This separates Dr. Green from other professors because it shows that he wants to provide additional ways for students to be successful.”

Matthews Luxon joined the political science faculty in 2013 to teach courses in comparative and environmental politics and policy. Since arriving at UM-Dearborn, she has developed a new course, Food Politics and Policy, and resurrected Comparative Environmental Policy—and both courses have increased their enrollments each time she has offered them.

As one colleague writes, Matthews Luxon “perfectly interweaves various teaching methods in ways that maximize student learning,” by smoothly “pivoting from a teacher-centered learning environment to a student-centered one.” Her classes utilize multiple modalities to implement the material and engage the student. For example, she often combines traditional lectures with illustrative multimedia and active learning techniques, like mini-simulations, small-group discussions, think-pair-shares and self-reflections.

Matthews Luxon is committed to education above and beyond the field of political science. Her classes are interdisciplinary and draw freely from other academic sources to connect to students and make the material relatable to their lives. In response, students find Matthews Luxon “deeply committed to student development and success,” a goal which is helped immensely by her enthusiasm, her “compassionate demeanor,” her “approachability,” her “ability to make knowledge accessible to her students,” and her creation of a classroom environment that is “highly participatory, as she respects and encourages student questions.”

Matthews Luxon’s passion toward education for the value and privilege of what it means to be educated is contagious. In her course evaluations, many students have credited her for instilling a joy of learning, even among those initially skeptical that politics can be interesting: She “made a lasting impact on my sense of intellectual curiosity outside the classroom;” she helps students “set up a mindset for learning on their own;” she “makes you passionate about learning the subject;” and she helps them “feel that [they] can apply concepts learned in this course to [their] personal life.” Though her teaching evaluations have been very high since she joined the UM-Dearborn faculty, Matthews Luxon has actively participated in teaching development programs on campus in order to learn new and better techniques for teaching.

She deeply believes that just as all students can improve their skills and knowledge, so can teachers, and she tries to incorporate new pedagogical practices each semester to help her students learn more effectively and enjoyably. She takes these lessons learned beyond her own classrooms through her teaching-related service work, particularly around assessment. Matthews Luxon has—as another political science colleague noted—“reinvigorated discussions of pedagogy in our discipline” and turned the implementation of new assessment procedures “into an opportunity for us to get together as teachers who want to connect with students, understand better how they are doing and how we can help them, and learn from each other’s experiences.”

Roundtree began teaching at UM-Dearborn in 2003 and has expanded her role over the past 14 years to include direction of a vibrant Supplemental Instruction program. Among a strong set of talented, scholarly and dedicated lecturers in her cohort, Roundtree stands out in exemplifying the characteristics of teaching excellence, outstanding mentorship and commitment to undergraduate education.

Roundtree has excelled in teaching courses ranging from introductory to capstone experiences. Roundtree exemplified “engaged” learning long before it was a buzzword on campus. Students in her introductory courses have received ample opportunity for written reflection as well as hands-on activities and demonstrations that bring theory to life. Student nomination letters included rave reviews of her Abnormal Psychology class, in which she combines didactic lessons with analyses of presentations of mental illness in popular film contexts.

Roundtree’s interactions outside the classroom are even more impressive. She was recruited to develop one of the early Supplemental Instruction programs, targeting Introductory Psychology courses; she was so successful that both faculty and their students clamored for expansion of the program. Soon a large number of challenging courses across the curriculum had the added benefit of Supplemental Instruction. In addition to the tangible results of the program, as demonstrated by a significant decrease in the number of failures and withdrawals, Roundtree provides something that is equally valuable to our students, her mentorship of the Supplemental Instruction leaders. These students have gained confidence, leadership skills, teaching experience and the ability to work collaboratively. As a result, many of them are encouraged to seek further education beyond the walls of UM-Dearborn, seeking higher degrees in medicine, law, psychology and other fields.

Roundtree is the type of instructor who is continually honing her skills and improving her approach to student learning. She has demonstrated this with her own self-assessments of teaching and learning, again well before it became a regular requirement of instructors on campus. Her motivation for professional growth is evident as she sought further training in Supplemental Instruction, organized SI training workshops across four units, and helped the SI programs across two CASL departments and the College of Business obtain national certification through the International Center for Supplemental Instruction. She works toward both her own professional growth and the growth of others who have followed her lead. All of these efforts are conducted with a commitment and level of professionalism far beyond her pay grade, and her colleagues are honored to see her receive this recognition.

Zhu joined the Department of Computer and Information Science (CIS) as an assistant professor in September 1995. He was promoted to associate professor in September 2001 and to full professor in September 2007. Zhu’s accomplishments in all three areas of teaching, research and service during his 21-year tenure at UM-Dearborn are exceptional. He is a truly outstanding and highly respected teacher, scholar and colleague at UM-Dearborn.

Zhu is an excellent and devoted teacher. He has demonstrated great enthusiasm, dedication and professionalism in both undergraduate and graduate education. He has taught in both system and theory areas of computer and information science, and is one of the most well-regarded teachers in the CIS department, as his students and peers speak highly of his excellence in teaching. Students praise him on various aspects of his teaching, including his broad knowledge of the subject and contemporary applications, his effective teaching methodologies, and his tremendous help for students in their studies.

Zhu is an internationally recognized scholar in the field of databases. He is the founding director of the Database and Multimedia Systems Laboratory and has received a number of prestigious research grants from highly competitive external funding sources including the National Science Foundation (NSF), IBM and Ford, as well as from competitive internal funding sources. It is worth noting that NSF research grants are selective and awarded to only the top research programs in the field nationwide. It is also noted that Zhu’s high-quality research work has built up good credibility that helped him warrant research grants from the same competitive funding sponsor multiple times. He was also one of the first few awardees at UM-Dearborn to receive a research grant from the Ford–UM Alliance Program, which exemplifies the importance of his relevant work to the local automotive industry.

Zhu has made an excellent service contribution to UM-Dearborn at all levels (department, college, campus), as demonstrated by his extensive services for more than 50 committees. In professional activities, he serviced as a program/organizing committee member for over 100 international conferences, including various leadership responsibilities. He served as an editor-in-chief, an associate editor and an editorial board member for six international journals.

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