Faculty Awards Convocation

Faculty Awards Convocation logo

Faculty Awards Convocation is held each February to honor the outstanding contributions of our faculty. University awards are presented for excellence in teaching in and outside of the classroom, scholarship that advances the professions and helps society, inspiring mentoring to aid our students successfully along their way, and dedicated service to the campus and larger community.

2024 Recipients

University Awards for Excellence

Kevin Lehnert

Glenn A. Niemeyer Award

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

Glenn A. Niemeyer Award

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

Glenn A. Niemeyer Award

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.

Kristin Hedges

University Outstanding Teacher Award

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.

Rachel Powers

Distinguished Contribution in a Discipline Award

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.

Mark Staves

Outstanding University Service Award

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.

Jing Chen

Outstanding Community Service Award

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.

Kathryn Ohle

Outstanding Academic Advising & Student Services Award

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.

Zsuzsanna Palmer

Internationalization Award

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.

Pew Awards for Excellence

Michelle Calkins

Burch, Jacobs, and Moore Diversity Teaching Excellence Award

Michelle Calkins, M.F.A.
Affiliate Faculty of Writing
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2019

Michelle Calkins teaches: “to help students see their own backgrounds, experiences, and ways of using language as valid…” Demystifying academic discursive norms, students are empowered through the work of writing. Calkins participates in the Department of Writing’s Inclusive Teaching reading group and curricular development contributing beyond contractual obligations. These efforts support new student populations in courses serving as de facto college orientation. Her welcoming approach impacts our students in unplanned ways as they adjust to college-level expectations. Her universal design for learning pedagogy and deliberate connection with colleagues across the university are a model for all.

Joanne Finazzi

Pew Teaching Excellence Award for Adjunct Faculty

Joanne Finazzi, D.N.P.
Adjunct Instructor of Nursing
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2010

Joanne Finazzi models concept-based learning to foster skill development with GVSU nursing students who will become care providers, coordinators, managers, and leaders. Embracing multiple teaching methods involving deep learning in the classroom and clinical setting, Finazzi serves as an inspiration to her colleagues, students, and community members. She is a role model of excellence in the community nursing curriculum, engaging students with speakers, projects, debates, and other activities to facilitate their growth. A student highlights her “…unlimited understanding and patience in teaching us the material. She was extremely approachable and offered help and guidance at every step…”

Megan F

Pew Teaching with Technology Award

Megan Freudigmann, M.S.
Senior Affiliate Faculty of Teaching and Learning
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2012

Megan Freudigmann facilitates immersive learning experiences, allowing future educators to refine their teaching skills in simulated environments and mixed modality classrooms. These experiences bolster students’ confidence and creativity and instill in them a deep appreciation for the transformative potential of technology in education. Freudigmann coordinated integration of GoReact, a video assignment platform, which enhances feedback mechanisms in teacher education. She also implemented Mursion technology, fostering immersive training simulations for teacher candidates through avatars. One student commented, “Her dedication to supporting her students, her focus on equity and inclusion, and her innovative use of technology make her an exemplary educator.”

Krisanne Chapin

Pew Teaching Excellence Award

Krisanne Chapin, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Movement Science
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2020

Krisanne Chapin embraces active learning, with a “focus on student centered learning, enhanced collaboration among students, and increased engagement... ” Embracing a flipped classroom model, technology is integrated in the form of a powerful graphical musculoskeletal anatomy application. Students manipulate the musculoskeletal rendering in three dimensions, putting the joints in motion. In the classroom, life-size skeletons offer work groups practice applying their knowledge. A colleague notes that Chapin’s experience at Mary Free Bed Hospital contributes to outstanding mentorship to students. Additionally, she engages in research with undergraduates and honors projects, and chairs the Gait and Movement Analysis Society.

Christopher Lawrence

Pew Teaching Excellence Award

Christopher Lawrence, Ph.D.
Professor of Chemistry
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2004

Christopher Lawrence thinks deeply and plans courses that engage students across the chemistry curriculum. Using interactive lectures and tools, students gain knowledge and skill. A colleague ranks Lawrence as a top five teacher, celebrating and respecting his dedication to teaching, including well-crafted materials, a love for the work, and willingness to go beyond his workload, teaching advanced quantum chemistry for more than 10 semesters. His caring and patient demeanor, availability, and extra time for each student is celebrated in his course feedback, with one student stating, “Prof. L was the best professor I’ve had at Grand Valley…”


Pew Teaching Excellence Award

Sanjivan Manoharan, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Engineering
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2017

“How do I motivate students to become lifelong learners?” Using daily teaching journals to trace continuous improvements, Manoharan’s pedagogy includes deep student engagement. Coupled with structural and attuned adjustments, students learn in a broad range of courses. He authors grants to augment School of Engineering equipment, including a centrifugal pump, a wind tunnel, and other tools for hands-on experiences. A recent National Science Foundation grant award supports the recruitment and graduation of financially disadvantaged, academically talented students in the GVSU pipeline from historically Black colleges and universities. A colleague remarks that working with Manoharan makes her a better teacher and professional.

Hannah Seidel

Pew Teaching Excellence Award

Hannah Seidel, M.F.A.
Associate Professor of Music, Theatre, and Dance
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2015

In Hannah Seidel’s own words, “We never ‘just dance,’” rather she engages students in critical discussions, incorporating kinesiological best practices and dance/movement therapy principles, historical analysis, and technology’s impact on choreography. Exploring the history of concert dance as inextricable from the social, cultural, economic, and political contexts, students learn about authorship and intellectual property. Students thrive, stating, “This class was extremely intellectual for me. This physical class also caused me to push mental boundaries. I left every class feeling fulfilled.” Her dedication, thoughtfulness, creativity, and skill at scaffolding learning within and across semesters yields significant noticeable progress in her students.

Heather Tafel

Pew Teaching Excellence Award

Heather Tafel, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Political Science
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2004

Heather Tafel cites the guiding principles of relevance, active student involvement, high standards, and support in her teaching endeavors. This approach seamlessly navigates the complexities of rapidly evolving subject matter in political science and world politics. Her commitment to active learning is evident in her dynamic teaching methods, fostering engaging classroom environments where students analyze current events, discuss research articles, and apply theoretical concepts to real-world situations. Her distinct combination of challenge and support creates a classroom atmosphere full of energy and curiosity. Colleagues and students highlight her generosity with time and materials, as well as her leadership in student scholarship.

Sarah Clark

Pew Excellence Award for Teaching and Learning Enrichment

Sarah Clark, M.S.
Senior Affiliate Faculty of Chemistry
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2014

Sarah Clark’s classroom teaching and academic support leadership requires collaboration with colleagues on significant teaching and learning initiatives in the Chemistry Success Center, where she serves as director. Creating and delivering programming, including free tutoring and faculty support for foundational chemistry students, requires training, supervision, coordination, and outreach. The program feedback is stellar with one of every three students utilizing this specialized support, totaling 4,743 student visits in 2022, with high tutor retention and success. Her expert knowledge in chemistry education is lauded by a colleague who states, “She exemplifies everything we dream of in a scholarly teacher and collaborative colleague.”

CSCE Awards for Scholarly and Creative Excellence

Nicholas Baine

Distinguished Graduate Mentoring Award

Nicholas Baine, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Engineering
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2014

Nicholas Baine has been a dedicated mentor to multiple graduate students and an active graduate committee member for many years. His individualized approach to mentoring acknowledges the diverse backgrounds, aspirations, and needs of each student, providing the technical skills and professional development necessary for their next stages. This level of dedication has enabled his students to publish their work, pursue patents on intellectual property, and win prestigious awards like the Midwest Association of Graduate Schools Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award. His graduate students have found much success after GVSU, whether it is in Ph.D. programs or careers in high-demand fields.

Kristy Dean

Distinguished Undergraduate Mentoring Award

Kristy Dean, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2009

Kristy Dean studies facets of social exclusion with her undergraduate mentees. She strives to “understand where they’ve been and where they are now, [to] guide them to where they want to go.” Many of her students have coauthored publications or presentations and have pursued successful academic and professional careers. Dean’s impact on undergraduate mentoring is campus-wide. She served for seven years on the Undergraduate Research Council (two years as chair) and supported the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship by designing and analyzing data from a large-scale survey describing faculty members’ experiences with, and perception of, research at GVSU.

Adaline Borti

Distinguished Early-Career Scholar Award

Adeline Borti, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of English
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2019

Adeline Borti’s exceptional work highlights a combination of productive scholarship that has yielded several publications, including Language Needs of Francophone Students in English as a Second Language, and development of an international reputation. Her international comparative work that builds on her scholarship in Ghana focuses on linguistics and literacy around preservice teaching support systems; it exhibits Borti’s interwoven commitment to research, teaching, and service. Her existing recognition and awards, including the Literacy Research Association’s Best Research Paper in 2020, exemplifies her distinguished contributions, and supports her trajectory and disciplinary excellence along with the positive impact she continues to have on GVSU.

Zachary DeBruine

Distinguished Early-Career Scholar Award

Zachary DeBruine, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Computing
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2022

Zachary DeBruine produces distinguished work that draws together bioinformatics with AI software development to optimize treatment. The recipient of multiple external grants, including from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and National Institutes of Health, his open-sourced matrix computation software library demonstrates the wide disbursement and broad impact of his scholarship. DeBruine’s emphasis in supporting students in his scholarship highlights his commitment to integrating scholarship, teaching, and service in ways that promote innovative development alongside community connections in West Michigan. His range of activities highlights DeBruine’s recognition within his field and the ways his work supports broader initiatives of GVSU.

Lalia McCloud

Distinguished Early-Career Scholar Award

Laila McCloud, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership and Counseling
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2021

Laila McCloud is an award-winning researcher, nationally recognized for her work on higher education research. She published six peer-reviewed articles, one book chapter, and has given several presentations. McCloud was interviewed by the Chronicle of Higher Education for her influential work on ungrading and innovative pedagogical practices. She was recognized as an Emerging Scholar by American College Personnel Association and received the 2022 Robert Schaffer Award for excellent graduate teaching and mentoring. She currently serves as associate editor of About Campus and sits on the editorial board of two other journals. McCloud’s impacts go well beyond GVSU.

Christina Quick

Distinguished Early-Career Scholar Award

Christina Quick, D.N.P.
Assistant Professor of Nursing
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2019

Christina Quick is a nurse practitioner seeking to help practice and theory inform one another in improving outcomes for vulnerable youth. Her efforts toward supporting GVSU’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program include securing grants from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund for collaborative community assessment on integrating behavioral health with primary care for at-risk children in foster care, as well as grants focused on Health Resources and Services Administration focused on enhancing simulation education for nursing students. Her mentorship and involvement in student research projects underscore her commitment to shaping the next generation of nurse practitioners. Her scholarship, teaching, and service impacts the community beyond GVSU.

Celebration of Milestones

Click here to view the complete 2023-2024 Celebration of Milestones awardees.

Page last modified February 20, 2024