Faculty 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.

The next Faculty Awards Convocation Ceremony is scheduled for February 8, 2022 at 4:00 p.m., location to be announced.

View the February 9, 2021 Faculty Awards Convocation Ceremony

2021 Recipients

University Awards for Excellence

Naoki Kanaboshi

Internationalization Award

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.

Tara Kneeshaw

Outstanding Advising and Student Services Award

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.

Todd Aschenbach

Outstanding Community Service Award

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.

C. Griff Griffin

Outstanding University Service Award

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.

Jack Mangala

Distinguished Contribution in a Discipline Award

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.

Sally Pelon

University Outstanding Teacher Award

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.

Felix Ngassa

Glenn A. Niemeyer Award

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.

Pew Awards for Excellence

Reginald Blockett

Burch, Jacobs, and Moore Diversity Teaching Excellence Award

Reginald Blockett, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership and Counseling
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2018

Reginald Blockett embodies the values and practices of equity and inclusion. Students in his courses achieve deeper and critical understanding of systemic power, privilege, and oppression. His syllabi honor and deconstruct seminal theories on college student development, by both respecting the history of the discipline, while simultaneously calling for reexamination of how these theories are founded upon the under representation of diverse subjects. Engaging students on Grand Valley’s Detroit campus and routinely inviting colleagues from all over the country to share their expertise with students, Blockett expands student perspectives, helping them to see experts as approachable scholar-activists.

Isaac Simon

Pew Teaching Excellence Award for Part-time Faculty

Isaac Simon, M.A.
Adjunct Instructor of Communications
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2013

Isaac Simon is committed to a student-centered teaching approach. When circumstances demanded a transition to online learning, this philosophy grounded the process, providing clear expectations paired with mindfully organized academic scheduling. Students appreciate him as an inspiring teacher who facilitates deeper thinking. Simon’s contributions to the first Grand Valley State University Competitive Speech Team are evidence of his strong commitment to experiential learning. Colleagues appreciate his valuable collaboration in the department, teaching multiple courses and supporting students throughout their educational experiences at Grand Valley.

Gayle Schaub

Pew Excellence Award for Teaching and Learning Enrichment

Gayle Schaub, M.L.I.S.
Associate Librarian of University Libraries
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2012

Gayle Schaub is recognized for the numerous ways she contributes to student learning at Grand Valley and in the wider community. She is responsible for strong collaborations including Learn the Terms, a project focused on information Literacy, and Challenge Scholar programming, which creates research partnerships and celebrations with Grand Valley students and middle school students. Another one of Schaub’s key projects, Connected: An Exhibit of Shared Laker Experiences, encompasses audio stories and images with diverse Grand Valley students, creating a resource connection, shared experience, cultural understanding, and historical context in the coming decades. These projects provide unique teaching and learning tools for use in a wide range of disciplinary contexts.


Krista Benson

Pew Teaching with Technology Award

Krista Benson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor for Integrative, Religious, and Intercultural Studies
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2017

Krista Benson requires students to interrogate worldviews, question assumptions, and apply learning. Creativity, intentionality, and rigor characterize her approach to teaching with technology. Benson facilitates student engagement through activites on a range of platforms like class discussion on Slack, student-created podcasts using Anchor, group projects using Screencast-o-Matic, class protocol summaries using Google Docs, and even student-created videos edited in iMovie and disseminated on YouTube. Benson is recognized for playing a key role in the success of the Digital Studies Minor, sharing pedagogical support and knowledge with other faculty teaching in the program.


Elizabeth Storey

Pew Teaching with Technology Award

Elizabeth Storey, M.Ed.
Assistant Professor of Teaching and Learning
Joined Grand Valley State University in 1990

Liz Storey is a leader within the College of Education in modeling the effective use of technological tools, including Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, Zoom, Flipgrid, Padlet, Google Classroom, GoReact, Weebly and Mursion virtual reality. By using these tools in their courses,  students are able to transfer these online experiences into their own classroom teaching forays as pre-service teachers. Storey is currently working with the Smithsonian Learning Lab to pilot pre-service teachers’ creation and use of online resources and Smithsonian artifacts to engage learners. Colleagues refer to Storey as a beacon as they engage more fully with the pedagogically sound use of technology.

Carrie Buist

Pew Teaching Excellence Award

Carrie Buist, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2016

Carrie Buist is the consummate colleague, sparking conversations that improve the teaching of those around her. Students themselves attest to the ways she changes lives, guiding career decisions and opening minds to transformative criminal justice perspectives. A pioneer in the field, co-authoring a groundbreaking book titled “Queer Criminology”, she incorporates research into every course. Buist’s teaching excellence includes skilled use of classroom dialogue, personal reflection, critical examination of societal structures and cultural values that impact criminal justice. In the words of a student, Buist is “an excellent professor…riveting and funny....She is the best.”

Erica Hamilton

Pew Teaching Excellence Award

Erica Hamilton, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Literacy and Technology
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2014

Erica Hamilton’s teaching excellence is lauded by many in the College of Education. A Literacy and Technology colleague remarks “Dr. Hamilton’s teaching and her performance is nothing short of spectacular. I cannot imagine… a more dedicated and excellent teacher at GVSU.”  Students consistently concur: “Dr. Hamilton models teaching excellence as seen in her intelligence, kindness, and authenticity.” Beyond the classroom, her creation of partnerships with public schools facilitate applied classroom opportunities for Grand Valley students that continue to garner praise. Recognized as a Distinguished Early Career Scholar in 2018 Hamilton collaborates with students in relevant research raising their educational experience to new levels.

Laura Hawk

Pew Teaching Excellence Award

Laura Hawk, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2017

Laura Hawk demonstrates teaching excellence in very challenging chemistry courses at Grand Valley. Using evidence-based teaching strategies in organic and biochemistry, she promotes actively engaged classrooms. Using in-class problems where students practice to better explore lectures, students ultimately construct their own knowledge. Hawk uses examples such as Alzheimer’s Disease and COVID-19 to bring real-world questions to Grand Valley students. Her mentoring of student research alongside her own National Science Foundation research gives students significant learning experiences. In the words of one student, “I hate chemistry. But I love chemistry with Professor Hawk. Hands down one of THE best professors I've ever had!”

Misti Ryefield

Pew Teaching Excellence Award

Misti Ryefield, M.S.
Assistant Professor of Allied Health Sciences
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2014

Misti Ryefield is recognized for stretching students’ thinking, establishing an active and engaging learning environment, and providing constructive feedback. She effectively incorporates technology and a variety of hands-on active learning tools in teaching American Sign Language. Beyond these excellent educational practices, she builds into her classes interaction with the local Deaf community, seeking to provide students with insights into Deaf culture. Ryefield’s passion for sharing her ASL expertise is compelling and she is actively creating opportunities for others in the Grand Valley community to learn this invaluable skill through digital badges.

CSCE Awards for Scholarly and Creative Excellence

Andrea Bostrom

Distinguished Graduate Mentoring Award

Andrea Bostrom, Ph.D.
Professor of Nursing
Joined Grand Valley State University in 1989

Andrea Bostrom has 30 years of contributions to Grand Valley and the Kirkhof College of Nursing. Her outstanding record of success in mentoring has ensured that many nurses have gone on to influential positions – from the point of care to institutions of higher education. She has also had a profound impact on students’ intellectual and professional growth across Grand Valley’s graduate programs by serving as chair of Graduate Council since 2017. As a faculty advisor and Graduate Council leader, Bostrom skillfully navigates the evolutionary transformation of the student through the provision of personal, professional, and technical support to ensure success in graduate school and into their professional roles. Her mentoring philosophy emphasizes presence and availability, enthusiasm, and curiosity.

Karyn Rabourn

Distinguished Graduate Mentoring Award

Karyn Rabourn, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership and Counseling
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2015

Karyn Rabourn has an exemplary track record of mentoring Grand Valley graduate students in the College Student Affairs Leadership program. She has held a number of roles dedicated to supporting graduate students and their success,  including master’s project advisor, thesis chair, research partner, internship supervisor, and professional development facilitator. Rabourn approaches each of these roles as collaborative learning opportunities, working with students as partners in their own learning and professional development processes. Her approach to mentorship has encouraged students’ lifelong learning and  continuous improvement of research-informed practices in higher education and student affairs.

Lori Houghton-Rahrig

Distinguished Undergraduate Mentoring Award

Lori Houghton-Rahrig, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Nursing
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2002

Lori Houghton-Rahrig instills in her students a passion for nursing, confidence in their abilities, and an aptitude to think critically about complex situations.  She is known for being generous in sharing her time, talents, and positive spirit with both students and colleagues. Her approach to mentoring undergraduate students emphasizes that well-prepared nurses embrace the discipline’s scholarly nature, incorporating evidence-based practices at every turn. By keeping evidence-based practices front and center in her interactions with students, Houghton-Rahrig models for all faculty how to help students integrate their intellectual work with professional aspirations.

Randy Winchester

Distinguished Undergraduate Mentoring Award

Randy Winchester, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Chemistry      
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2001

Randy Winchester has had a positive influence on the lives of numerous undergraduates by providing critical time and attention they’ve needed to flourish and succeed in their research projects. His goal in mentoring undergraduate students is to enable their original research, providing direction along the way, and, consistent with the preparation of the student, to transfer ownership of the research project to the student. As Professor Winchester states, “Far more rewarding than the research is the careful development of the relationship with a student that assists them in their growth, their self-confidence and in becoming independent researchers themselves.”

Abdullah Alrebh

Distinguished Early-Career Scholar Award

Abdullah Alrebh, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Sociology
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2016

Abdullah Alrebh’s research explores the sociology of religion, authority in Muslim societies, and the socio-political impact of education in Middle Eastern countries. His work is interdisciplinary in scope, as  evidenced by his co-authoring recent publications in the fields of education, psychology, and anthropology. One publication considered the impact of education in developing a consciousness of democracy in the post-Arab Spring era and issues of access for Syrian refugees. In addition to numerous articles and chapters published since his arrival at Grand Valley, including in top-tier journals, Alrebh’s expertise has attracted the attention of think tanks in the United States and the Middle East.

Jaclyn Cwick

Distinguished Early-Career Scholar Award

Jaclyn Cwick, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2016

Jaclyn Cwick has quickly established a reputation as an expert in the field of collateral community consequences of mass incarceration including social disorganization life course criminology; neighborhoods and crime; race, inequality and crime; and prisoner reentry. Since receiving her doctorate in 2016, Cwick has written three peer reviewed journal articles, four book chapters, a technical manuscript, and five national conference presentations. Because of her reputation as a prolific scholar. Cwick is frequently called upon to review scholarly papers, provide professional trainings, assist community partners, and provide media commentary on issues surrounding the impact of mass incarceration on communities.

Byron DeVries

Distinguished Early-Career Scholar Award

Byron DeVries, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Computing and Information Systems
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2017

Byron DeVries’ research centers on software and engineering problems related to high-assurance systems--those that monitor, control, or protect safety in critical infrastructure. In just three years, he has a launched a diverse, prolific, and highly-cited research program at Grand Valley. In 2018, he received the Faculty Mentor Award by the Graduate Student Association because he regularly works with undergraduate and graduate students on his research and its dissemination. With a broad focus on AI-generated software systems, DeVries’ work promises to improve safety in cutting-edge cyber-physical systems, such as self-driving cars.

Leanne Kang

Distinguished Early-Career Scholar Award

Leanne Kang, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Educational Foundations       
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2015

Having previously taught in inner-city New Jersey, Leanne Kang’s scholarship and teaching focuses on racial justice in public education. Her book, Dismantled: The Breakup of an Urban School System (Columbia University’s Teachers College Press, 2020), details the recent dissolution of Detroit Public Schools, while elucidating connections between history and contemporary policy. Kang credits her instruction of teachers and administrators at Grand Valley’s Detroit Center with allowing her to test theories and ideas with people experiencing the upheaval first hand. Her book and ongoing scholarship on urban education have garnered attention from scholars, activists, and educational reformers nationwide.

Special Recognition

Stephen Mattox

Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year

Stephen Mattox, Ph.D.
Professor of Geology
Joined Grand Valley State University in 1998

In his more than 21 years at Grand Valley, Stephen Mattox has been a powerful teacher, mentor, and role model for students and educators in the geoscience and education communities. For more than 20 years he has served as the faculty advisor of the National Science Teachers Association student chapter at Grand Valley. Mattox is a leader in experiential learning; Mattox recently became the director of a new study abroad course in collaboration with Grand Rapids Community College and the University of Iceland that gives students a unique opportunity to participate in the geosciences.

Celebration of Milestones

25 Years

Teresa Beck, Professor of Therapeutic Recreation
John Capodilupo, Professor of Biomedical Sciences
John Constantelos, Professor of Political Science
Jodee Hunt, Professor of Biology
Paul Isely, Professor of Economics
Richard Jelier, Professor of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration
Mary Karpen, Professor of Chemistry
Erika King, Professor of Political Science
Dennis Malaret, Associate Professor of Sociology
Sandra Miller, Associate Professor of Teaching and Learning
Kristine Mullendore, Professor of Criminal Justice (retired December 2020)
Kathryn Remlinger, Professor of English
Carol Sanchez, Professor of Management (retired December 2020)
Gerald Simons, Professor of Economics
Christine Smith, Professor of Psychology
Paul Stephenson, Professor of Statistics
John Weber, Professor of Geology
Clark Wells, Associate Professor of Mathematics
Pamela Wells, Professor of Mathematics    

30 Years

Barbara Baker, Associate Professor of Physical Therapy
Anne Caillaud, Associate Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures
Jann-Huei Jinn, Professor of Statistics (retired May 2020)
Blair Miller, Professor of Chemistry
Jaideep Motwani, Professor of Management
Karen Ozga, Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy
Kim Ranger, Senior Librarian
Ross Reynolds, Professor of Physics
Maureen Ryan, Assistant Professor of Nursing
James Smither, Professor of History
Ivo Soljan, Professor of English
Elizabeth Storey, Assistant Professor of Teaching and Learning
Yonglei Tao, Professor of Computing and Information Systems
Steven Tripp, Professor of History
Brian White, Professor of English

35 Years

Larry Kotman, Associate Professor of Computing and Information Systems
Alireza Mohammadzadeh, Associate Professor of Engineering
Michael Yuhas, Professor of Accounting

40 Years

Rita Grant, Associate Professor of Accounting
James Sanford, Professor of Management|
Timothy Strickler, Professor of Biomedical Sciences (retired August 2020)

45 Years

Gregg Dimkoff, Professor of Finance
Roger Ellis, Professor of Music, Theatre and Dance

50 Years

Robert Beasecker, Senior Librarian