Faculty Awards

Grand Valley State University honors our excellent faculty in a range of areas of accomplishment: faculty who teach in and outside of the classroom, contribute significant scholarship that advances their profession and enriches their teaching, offer inspired mentoring to our students, and provide dedicated service to the campus and community. Click on the award name below for further information and criteria for each award. Links are provided for a list of previous recipients.

University Awards for Excellence

Glenn A. Niemeyer Award
Faculty selected are honored for their excellence, enthusiasm and loyalty to teaching., scholarship and service. Nominees should have a superior student-centered approach to teaching with continued development of excellence in the classroom that instills students with a love of learning.  They create new knowledge and explore its applications through scholarly activity. They also contribute their expertise and service to the University, professional organizations, and/or the community.
Criteria Recipients

Kevin Lehnert

2024 Recipients

Kevin Lehnert, Ph.D.
Professor of Marketing
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2010

“At your service,” is Kevin Lehnert’s signature phrase. Whether it is responding to a student at 2 a.m., taking over for a sick colleague, or filling the service role that others may overlook, GVSU is a better place because he is here. His service to the university runs wide and deep, including his role as chair of the Institutional Review Board. He carries that philosophy into his research interests, which focus on ethical decision making, pro-social consumer behavior, social impacts, and advertising creativity. He has published in several journals including the Journal of Business Ethics, Journal of Advertising, Psychology & Marketing, and the Journal of Business Research to name a few. Two highlights of his career include Best Paper of the Year Award for 2014 for the International Journal of Advertising and the GVSU Alumni Association Outstanding Educator of the Year Award in Fall 2013.

Samhita Rhodes

Samhita Rhodes, Ph.D.
Professor of Engineering
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2007

Samhita Rhodes has overflowing enthusiasm and is a cross between her engineer father and teacher mother. Rhodes thrives on using her engineering expertise to prepare students for careers in biomedical engineering. Students are drawn to her larger-than-life personality and her desire to teach. Collaborating with academic and medical faculty members, she has received more than $1 million in research funding to understand signal processing in biological systems and has personally mentored 29 graduate students’ research projects. A fervent supporter of K-12 outreach, Rhodes joined with GVSU professors Karen Gipson, Ph.D., and Deanna Weibel, Ph.D., to create Roger That!, a conference that celebrates space exploration and honors Roger Chaffee by introducing K-12 students to STEM topics through a shared love of space and space exploration.

Peter Wampler

Peter Wampler, Ph.D.
Professor of Geology, Frederik Meijer Honors College
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2004

While it may be difficult to prepare for effective teaching sessions in a temperature-controlled indoor classroom, it’s quite another thing to get students ready to learn in a muddy ravine, in a marsh, in rural Haiti, or the coastline of Ghana. Peter Wampler’s track record of getting students in the field to apply sciences in interdisciplinary ways on important problems is perhaps his greatest talent. His service accomplishments are numerous, from creating and leading the Making Waves initiative, to his successes with the Geological Society of America. He is an accomplished scholar, publishing countless articles and technical reports across several decades. Many students and alumni of the Frederik Meijer Honors College and across the university remember their classroom as wet, wild, and wonderful.

University Outstanding Teacher Award
Faculty members honored must use multiple approaches in classroom/laboratory instruction and evaluation; stimulate intellectual curiosity in students; show evidence of being current in field/disciple; demonstrate commitment to student learning as instructor, role model, or positive influence on career development of students; and reflect on past teaching experience to improve current practice.  In addition, faculty must demonstrate characteristics of outstanding teaching by demonstrating that course expectations have consistently high standards and designing pedagogies to maximize students' engagement in their learning and provide exemplary support so that all students can be successful.
Criteria Recipients

Kristin Hedges

2024 Recipient

Kristin Hedges, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Anthropology
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2016

Kristin Hedges excels as a distinguished teacher, mentor, and leader. Hedges centers an unwavering commitment to teaching excellence, with a portfolio that showcases her creation of impactful learning experiences. Her pedagogy incorporates project-based learning, mentorship, adept supervision of independent projects, all combining a talent for crafting assignments that mutually benefit students and community partners. Examples include a Capstone project exploring stress and anxiety, with student projects being shared with campus partners. A prolific and significant contributor to anthropological scholarship and community education, recent projects address critical health issues including a student driven ethnographic substance abuse study, and another regarding vaccination confidence. Hedges’ international impact includes years of student engaged research for fieldwork in Africa. Her leadership also includes prominent departmental roles. Hedges consistently earns praise from students who commend her deep knowledge, seasoned expertise, enthusiastic engagement, and genuine concern for their development and well-being.

Distinguished Contribution in a Discipline Award 
Award honors a faculty member whose performance in scholarly or creative activities, or whose contributions through service to professional organizations, is clearly outstanding. The award may recognize a single, clearly exceptional accomplishment or a continued record of achievement.
Criteria Recipients

Rachel Powers

2024 Recipient

Rachel Powers, Ph.D.
Professor of Chemistry
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2006

Rachel Powers is an internationally recognized scholar specializing in the X-ray crystallography of proteins. Her research program focuses on trying to understand how bacteria are resistant to antibiotics and using that insight to develop next-generation inhibitors to improve health outcomes. Powers has published 21 peer-reviewed articles in top journals including Accounts of Chemical Research and Biochemistry, spoken at international conferences, and organized regional conferences. She is a Fulbright U.S. Scholar, a Cottrell College Science Scholar, and has consistently received external funding (totaling more than $1.5 million) from various sources including the National Institutes of Health. In addition, Powers has mentored 39 students in undergraduate research. Her former students are now research scientists or technicians at Merck, Arbor Assays, Perrigo, and Argonne National Labs. Powers is recognized for her top-quality research, significant disciplinary contributions, and extraordinary impact on students.

Outstanding University Service Award
Faculty member committed to service to the university.
Criteria Recipients

Mark Staves

2024 Recipient

Mark Staves, Ph.D.
Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology
Joined Grand Valley State University in 1996

Mark Staves began his career by recognizing the university’s responsibility to provide equal opportunities for underrepresented individuals to pursue degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. This led to his NIH grant Bridges to the Future to improve access and equity for underrepresented students. His leadership continued to influence the university, as he was crucial in establishing the cell and molecular biology programs at both undergraduate and graduate levels, including the Professional Science Master’s degrees. Staves became the unit head in 2009, when the cell and molecular biology program became an independent unit. Staves has chaired multiple committees and is integral to developing the CLAS Faculty Research Colloquia.

Outstanding Community Service Award 
Faculty member committed to community service that uses the faculty member's professional expertise.
Criteria Recipients

Jing Chen

2024 Recipient

Jing Chen, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology
Joined Grand Valley State University in 1999

Jing Chen is a developmental psychologist dedicated to serving the community for the past 20 years. She has played a crucial role in launching The Art and Science of Aging Conference, which has been held annually since 2004 and is now in its 19th year. Chen also created Grand Connections, a unique intergenerational classroom experience that involves co-mentoring between GVSU students and older adults recruited from the community. She provides leadership to the Students for Aging and Gerontology Enrichment, a student organization with monthly activities such as intergenerational story circles, picnics, and seasonal outings. In addition to her work with students, Chen has provided more than 10 years of support to Family Futures, a nonprofit community organization that supports child development. Through her leadership and expertise, Chen has strengthened GVSU’s bond with the community and has improved the lives of many.

Outstanding Academic Advising & Student Services Award
One faculty member and one AP staff member who consistently demonstrate outstanding academic advising and service to students.
Criteria Recipients

Kathryn Ohle

2024 Recipient

Kathryn Ohle, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Teaching and Learning
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2019

Kathryn Ohle is an exemplary faculty mentor for students. Specializing in the birth to kindergarten general and special education program, early childhood minor, and early childhood education program, she consistently provides students with the best information and options available. With her deep knowledge of curriculum and scheduling, she ensures that students are on track to meet their academic goals. Ohle’s attention to detail, strong interpersonal skills, and caring nature make her an invaluable resource for students. Her commitment to clear and consistent student support, coupled with her passion for early childhood education, greatly contributes to the quality of our programs at GVSU. Her professionalism, engagement, compassion, and extensive knowledge of GVSU policies and procedures make her an outstanding colleague.

Internationalization Award
Award honors a  faculty member for significant service, teaching, program development, international projects, and other contributions to the internationalization of the University and campus community. It recognizes the achievements of tenured, tenure-track, or affiliate faculty members who advance international education and the global learning mission at GVSU.
Criteria Recipients

Zsuzsanna Palmer

2024 Recipient

Zsuzsanna Palmer, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Writing
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2017

Zsuzsanna Palmer is a champion of cultural exchange. To expose students to global perspectives, she integrated virtual exchange projects, engaging close to 500 students in cultural interactions. In ongoing projects, GVSU students collaborate with peers creating accessible websites for Hungarian businesses. Another initiative in Palmer’s Writing in the Global Context course involves students from Poland, Hungary, and the Netherlands exploring job application processes and diverse writing conventions. This year, she is co-leading a Faculty Learning Community to promote international virtual exchange across disciplines, aligning with GVSU’s mission of preparing globally minded citizens.

CSCE Awards for Scholarly and Creative Excellence

The Center for Scholarly and Creative Excellence presents several awards that honor excellent scholarship.

     Distinguished Early Career Scholar Award 
     (Previous Recipients)

     Distinguished Undergraduate Mentoring Award 
     (Previous Recipients)

     Distinguished Graduate Mentoring Award
     (Previous Recipients)


Outstanding Educator Award
Faculty member who has had the most significant impact on the careers of alumni. Presented by the Alumni Association.
(Previous Recipients)

Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year - Michigan Association of State Universities
The Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year program recognizes the outstanding contributions made by the faculty from Michigan's public universities to the education of undergraduate students.
(Previous Recipients)

Michigan Association of Governing Boards Award
no longer presented
(Previous Recipients)

State Excellence in Teaching Award
no longer presented
(Previous Recipients)

Page last modified February 5, 2024