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

Felix Ngassa Professional Photo

2021 Recipient

Felix Ngassa, Ph.D.
Professor of Chemistry
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2004

Felix Ngassa’s colleagues say he embodies a spirit of excellence, enthusiasm, and dedication to teaching, scholarship, and service. While at Grand Valley, Ngassa continually engaged 4-6 students in his research program focused on the novel synthesis of modified nucleosides, involving methodologies of synthetic organic and computational chemistry. This work has impacted many dozens of undergraduate students over the course of his career. His teaching earned him the GVSU Alumni Association Outstanding Educator Award, which is based on student nominations. And from some reservoir of capacity and initiative, he earned an MBA while engaged in teaching, service and research that has led to 27 peer-reviewed journal articles, including six in 2020 alone. His service includes everything from producing questions for AP Tests and helping to produce the Science Olympiad to serving on search committees for the President, Provost, Vice President for Finance, and CLAS Dean. This year in particular, we honor his exemplary service as Chair of the Academic Senate during a year of extraordinary challenge due to the pandemic.

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

Sally Pelon Professional Photo

2021 Recipient

Sally Pelon, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Social Work
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2014

Sally Pelon exemplifies the best of Grand Valley’s teaching excellence practices. Guiding students to professional and personal relevance of knowledge required to be an effective social worker, she engages multiple pedagogies, creating assignments that align with professional challenges. By partnering with Grand Valley’s Simulation Center, Pelon stimulates intellectual curiosity using reflection to develop observable gains. Her teaching expands student perspectives, as evidenced by the following student comment: “Dr. Pelon asked many questions that required deep reflection and knowledge … it did stretch my thinking and made me justify why I believe as I do. A very good course that is not only valuable to our profession, but our own lives.” Modeling clinical expertise in the classroom, Pelon teaches students how to engage warmly with others, how to listen well, and how to empower, recognize, and utilize their own strengths to create healing for clients.

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

Jack Mangala Professional Photo

2021 Recipient

Jack Mangala, Ph.D.
Professor of Area and Global Studies and Political Science
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2005

Jack Mangala’s interdisciplinary research involves a wide range of issues in African politics and international relations. His work departs from the traditional core-periphery model that dominates the study of Africa’s international relations to call for a new framework of analysis that emphasizes complex interdependencies and Africa’s own agency. By shifting the paradigm from a humanitarian to a strategic view of Africa in world affairs, his scholarship creates new ways of interrogating Africa’s historical trajectory and understanding its present condition in the community of nations. Mangala’s work has advanced public and policy debates on issues of importance to the African continent. He is regularly invited by policy institutions and public organizations in Africa, at the EU, and in the US, to lend his expertise on issues ranging from peace and security to migration and governance reform.

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

Griff Griffin Professional Photo

2021 Recipient

C. “Griff” Griffin, Ph.D.
Professor of General Education and Biology
Joined Grand Valley State University in 1996

Carol “Griff” Griffin’s service to the university spans decades. Since 2005, Griffin has served as the Director of the General Education Program, during which time she shepherded the General Education Committee through a major curriculum revision, established an ambitious campus-wide Gen Ed assessment program, and advised countless students. She was appointed to serve on two Higher Learning Commission reaccreditation teams in which capacity she worked with faculty and staff from across the university and was a major factor in our institutional success. The extent, impact, and persistence of her contributions to Grand Valley remain evident in the University’s robust culture of assessment that continues to benefit from her years of service and dedication to the greater good. Griffin is a consummate servant leader who demonstrates significant vision, determination, skill, and sensitivity.

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

Todd Aschenbach Professional Photo

2021 Recipient

Todd Aschenbach, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Biology         
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2007

Todd Aschenbach began taking on substantial community service commitments early in his career at Grand Valley and continues that trajectory in a way that is synergistic with his teaching and scholarship. He works with the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, West Michigan Conservation Network, Society for Ecological Restoration – Midwest Great Lakes Chapter, Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, and Buses by the Beach, serving on advisory boards and committees. But his service extends beyond our immediate community: he has co-led study abroad trips to South Africa since 2012 where students work with local communities on issues of natural resource management. The entire world benefits from Grand Valley’s Peregrine Falcon Project that Achenbach organized with his students, which focuses a web cam on the endangered birds’ nesting box. His work benefits our students, the university, and the public’s positive perception of the university.

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

Tara Kneeshaw Professional Photo

2021 Recipient

Tara Kneeshaw, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Geology
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2011

In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Tara Kneeshaw advises all of the students in the Geology-Chemistry program and is the Geology department’s liaison to the CLAS Advising Center. Her energetic and positive style of engagement makes her a sought-out mentor by many students. Kneeshaw also mentors students in a variety of field/lab research projects over the summers, serves as an advisor for students attending the Geological Society of America meeting, participates in the Student Success Network, and has engaged in Academic Success Camps. Her colleagues acknowledge her openness and willingness to engage with all students. She has been described by her students as selfless, caring, always quick to say yes, and is seen as a role model and friend to many.

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

Naoki Kanaboschi Professional Photo

2021 Recipient

Naoki Kanaboshi, LL.M., S.J.D.
Associate Professor of Criminal Justice
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2012

Naoki Kanaboshi has demonstrated strong and consistent leadership in internationalization through a wide range of high-impact learning experiences for students in the School of Criminal Justice and for the entire Grand Valley community. He currently serves as co-Chair of International Faculty and Friendsand co-led the Padnos International Center’s Partnership Delegation to Japan in 2016. Kanaboshi has served as the faculty director for a study abroad program based at the Japan Center for Michigan Universities, which serves not only Grand Valley students, but also students from all of the 15 public universities in Michigan. Students and colleagues consistently note that Kanaboshi thoughtfully designs his classes and consistently engages students in the exploration of various aspects of Japanese culture, politics, and the criminal justice system.

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)