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 2021 Faculty Awards Convocation will be held on Tuesday, February 9 at 4 p.m. in Loosemore Auditorium, in the Richard M. DeVos Center on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus.

Photos from the 2020 Faculty Awards Convocation Ceremony will be available and posted soon. 


2020 Recipients

University Awards for Excellence

Anne Caillaud

Internationalization Award

Anne Caillaud, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures
Joined Grand Valley State University in 1990


Anne Caillaud has served in numerous roles to advance international education and the global learning mission at Grand Valley for 29 years. During this time, she has been involved in developing and leading several faculty-led programs to France, and she has served as an advisor to study abroad students, to students pursuing internship opportunities abroad, and to the French Club. She also has served as a mentor for the Padnos International Center’s Fit the Mitt program. Caillaud has traveled abroad to international program sites to evaluate their suitability for study abroad opportunities for
our students and has played key roles on university-wide committees such as the International Affairs Advisory Committee and the Internationalization Taskforce.

Feryal Alayont

Outstanding Advising and Student Services Award

Feryal Alayont, Ph.D.
Professor of Mathematics
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2006

In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Feryal Alayont serves as the Mathematics Advising and Engagement Coordinator and, as such, is the advisor to all students interested in mathematics at Grand Valley. She has long been a strong and tireless advocate for students. Her colleagues describe her as having “superhuman” advising skills with exceptional depth and personal knowledge of her students’ needs. Alayont organizes job and graduate school application preparation workshops, maintains connections with alumni and local companies, and collaborates with other Grand Valley units in an effort to provide holistic support for students pursuing their career goals. Her students recognize that she makes a special effort to care for and support them. The significant impact she has made with Grand Valley mathematics students is sure to be long lasting.

Richard Rediske

Outstanding Community Service Award

Richard Rediske, Ph.D.
Professor of Robert B. Annis Water Resources Institute
Joined Grand Valley State University in 1994


Richard Rediske’s community service has been well documented by local news organizations and endorsed by legislators over the past several years. His work within the local community has resulted in new legislation and provided local citizens and large corporations with understandable and fact-based information about chemical contamination. His work has been featured in authoritative and scientific journals, which resulted in community awareness and proactive efforts in support of water quality. In 2013, Professor Rediske led a study abroad trip to Ghana and founded ISHEW: International
Sustainability Health, Education, and Water, a nonprofit organization. His leadership and sharing of lab equipment allowed the organization to analyze water samples in rural villages. Rediske’s research has provided valuable data to our understanding of water quality and has demonstrated a successful model for interdepartmental collaboration and interdisciplinary research.

Brian Johnson

Outstanding University Service Award

Brian Johnson, Ph.D.
Professor of Criminal Justice
Joined Grand Valley State University in 1994


Brian Johnson has served as the undergraduate program coordinator, internship coordinator, and coordinator of unit compliance during the 2019 visit from the Higher Learning Commission for the College of Community and Public Service (CCPS). In addition, he has served as the Chair of the CCPS College Advisory Committee and, given his extensive background in public and private security, was selected by the Dean’s Office to serve as the emergency coordinator. Johnson has chaired the provost’s Ad Hoc Grievance Committee and the Safe and Sustainable Communities Committee. His service on the University Research Council, University Assessment Committee, University Writing Skills Committee, and University Academic Integrity Task Force brings immeasurable benefits that make a direct impact at all levels within the academic arena. Most notable is Johnson’s service to students, which is evident in his long-standing presence and participation at freshman orientation each year, as well as his ongoing customized training program for hospitality students participating in international travel.

Craig Benjamin

Distinguished Contribution in a Discipline Award

Craig Benjamin, Ph.D.
Professor of History, Frederik Meijer Honors College
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2003


Craig Benjamin is an influential and talented historian whose work on world history is at the cutting edge of the field. He has a long list of important contributions to the area of his expertise, including the fields of ancient central Asian history, ancient world history, and big history. Since arriving at Grand Valley, he has published three books, edited three volumes, and written 27 peer-reviewed articles. His research productivity is matched by an enthusiasm to collaborate with others and to make world history relevant to both scholars and students. Benjamin’s approach is recognized for the way it reaches across disciplines and raises important and controversial questions about the future possibilities for the human species during the next century and beyond. He is admired worldwide for his acute intelligence, rigorous scholarship, extraordinary energy, and commitment to education and teaching.

Susan Strouse

University Outstanding Teacher Award

Susan Strouse, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Nursing
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2013


Susan Strouse embodies the best of Grand Valley’s ethos regarding teaching excellence and ensuring students succeed in nursing practice. The structure of her courses scaffold learning aimed beyond application of knowledge to critical analysis. She embraces deep learning through guided development, including study abroad coursework in Ghana. Most recently she co-authored and published an online educational resource titled Innovative Lesson Plans for Active Learning: Teaching Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Practice, demonstrating her pedagogical proficiency and collaborative, collegial nature. Her mastery extends to online education, disaster management, and award-winning work with persons with disabilities. Most importantly are student reports signifying the inspiration, support, and transformation they experienced in studying with her.

D. Robert Adams

Glenn A. Niemeyer Award

D. Robert Adams, Ph.D.
Professor of Computing and Information Systems
Joined Grand Valley State University in 1998


Is the Death Star™ a key to student retention? While it may seem unorthodox, the LEGO® Death Star on Robert Adams’ desk attracts students, stimulates conversations, and exemplifies his approach to teaching. For more than 20 years, Adams has focused his teaching and research on providing students with the personal attention needed to be successful. While guiding students through their Capstone projects, often with industry or international collaborators, he intervenes where necessary while leaving space for them to find their way to the final product. As the graduate program director, Adams has participated in 71 masters theses and projects. Adams has served the university in numerous ways, most notably as Chair of the University Curriculum Committee and Chair of the Online Education Council. His prior recognitions include Grand Valley’s Outstanding University Service Award and a Fulbright Scholarship.

Pew Awards for Excellence

Ana Posada

Burch, Jacobs, and Moore Diversity Teaching Excellence Award

Ana Posada, M.S.
Affiliate Faculty of Computing and Information Systems
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2002


Ana Posada has demonstrated excellence in computing and information systems at Grand Valley for more than 15 years. As a female in a male-dominated field, she is recognized in the department as a positive role model for students and as a consistent and trusted colleague. Beyond the classroom, she co-led a summer camp in robotics for middle school girls and served as the first faculty advisor for the Women in Computing club. Colleagues recognize the critical importance of these events and organizations to improve female representation in their discipline. A native of Colombia, Posada offers students a global perspective on computing principles.

Elizabeth West

Pew Teaching Excellence Award for Part-time Faculty

Elizabeth West, M.A.
Senior Adjunct Instructor of Chemistry
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2003


Elizabeth West connects and guides Grand Valley students, whether in entry-level chemistry courses or organic chemistry for upper-level students. Using a variety of pedagogical tools, her empathy and personal connections invite them into complex material requiring mastery before advancing. Despite these high stakes, students praise and express gratitude for the opportunity to learn with her. In the words of a student, “I am extremely thankful to Professor West for investing in my education and supporting me as a person, not just another student. She is a remarkable professor who truly cares for her students.”

Carla Floyd-Salbaugh

Pew Teaching with Technology Award

Carla Floyd-Slabaugh, Dr.O.T.
Assistant Professor of Occupational Science and Therapy
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2015


Carla Floyd-Slabaugh, in collaboration with eLearning and Emerging Technologies developed an application simulating specific visual deficits, including macular degeneration, visual field cuts, and neglect of one side. Grand Valley students use virtual reality to understand these visual challenges. Additionally, she uses the GONI app in the teaching of joint range of motion. Students seeing the placement of the goniometer on a patient learn to master related occupational therapy skills. During a 2018 presentation on autism to caregivers in Zacapa, Guatemala, Floyd-Slabaugh incorporated the use of a closed Facebook™ group, facilitating local outreach and access.

Denise Goerisch

Pew Teaching with Technology Award

Denise Goerisch, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Integrative, Religious, and Intercultural Studies
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2016


Denise Goerisch teaches students to engage technology, digital tools, and social media to understand complex systems of power and marginalization. Her focus on social change enhances students’ technological skills and digital literacy, enabling them to disseminate ideas innovatively. As one colleague notes, “What drives her choice of digital teaching tools or platforms is rooted in a deeply reflective pedagogy that prioritizes inclusive and engaged student learning. At each stage of development, her work models how faculty can deepen specific dimensions of their pedagogy while also adapting to different technological tools and platforms.”

Nicholas Baine

Pew Teaching Excellence Award

Nicholas Baine, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Engineering
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2013


Early in his career, Nicholas Baine recognized the limitations of expecting students to learn as he did. Revising teaching to ensure the goal of stimulating curiosity, he connects the classroom to engineering career preparation. Engaged in curriculum reform and serving as architect in the first-year engineering experience, Baine created the Formula SAE® competition team, which challenges teams of students to conceive, design, fabricate, develop, and compete with formula-style vehicles. As an advisor, he raised more than $70,000 building Laker Racing. The impact on student learning has been tremendous, and he is recognized for his deep commitment to student mentoring far beyond the classroom.

Chris Harper

Pew Teaching Excellence Award

Christopher Harper, M.B.A.
Affiliate Faculty of Accounting
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2012

One hallmark of Christopher Harper’s expertise includes effective practices bridging professional accounting experience with a passion for teaching. Practical examples from consulting and business ownership engage students across the curriculum, including graduate and undergraduate students. Such teaching excellence is recognized with nominations and awards from both the Grand Valley Alumni Association and Beta Alpha Psi. Within the classroom, he integrates technology aimed at engagement with Top Hat, Panopto, and utilizing a flipped classroom format. Colleagues and students alike acknowledge his deep commitment to teaching, scholarship, and to the university.

David Leonard

Pew Teaching Excellence Award

David Leonard, Ph.D.
Professor of Chemistry
Joined Grand Valley State University in 1998

David Leonard has established himself as an exceptional teacher, one who contributes to the growth of colleagues as well. His work ethic, humility, and devotion to inclusive undergraduate education make him a role model for students and faculty. With more than 50 undergraduates in his laboratory, he maintains an active and successful research group that is focused on amelioration of antibiotic resistance. Leonard’s research students have co-authored papers in top research journals. Through Leonard’s mentoring and leadership, chemistry education at Grand Valley incorporates active learning and
evidenced-based pedagogies that ensure every chemistry student has the opportunity to succeed.

Figen Mekik

Pew Teaching Excellence Award

Figen Mekik, Ph.D.
Professor of Geology
Joined Grand Valley State University in 1999


Figen Mekik states, “The core of my teaching philosophy is to meet learners where they are and lead them to discover new worlds, new skills, and new perspectives.” Students and colleagues corroboratewith praise for Mekik’s use of assignments including essays, games, and technology. She brings
boundless enthusiasm and humor to the classroom. Engaging students in scholarship, including National Science Foundation grants, she enlightens them in geoscience, focusing on climate change and the state of our oceans. One student shared, “I’ve never had a professor or teacher who was so fully invested in making sure that each and every one of their students felt confident in the material.”

Karen Pezzetti

Pew Teaching Excellence Award

Karen Pezzetti, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of English
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2016


Karen Pezzetti models the pedagogy she wants her future educators to embody. In doing so, she cultivates reflection, theory, and action toward the development of critical consciousness. Colleagues and students alike celebrate the success of this approach by acknowledging her as a “fantastic teacher.” Observations and evaluations of her practices celebrate her ability to teach difficult concepts with creative use of technology and reflection. Pezzetti actively mentors students outside the classroom, earning her a Queer Connections Excellence in Mentoring award. Her scholarship and connections to teachers in the field have expanded opportunities for Grand Valley students to flourish in the community.

Robin Spring

Pew Teaching Excellence Award

Robin Spring, M.S.
Assistant Professor of Communications
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2014


Robin Spring is innovative and energetic, and her courses incorporate design thinking and team-based learning. She serves as Teaching and Pedagogy Chair for the Advertising Division of the Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication, and she is involved in numerous professional organizations. Of significance is her stellar leadership of the National Student Advertising Competition team. This program, involving 25 Grand Valley students, finished fourth nationally in 2017 out of 150 teams. Student reflections resounding with “she saw something in me that I did not see in myself” are perhaps her greatest tribute.

Glenn Valdez

Pew Teaching Excellence Award

Glenn Valdez, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychology
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2006


When teaching Foundations of Behavioral Neuroscience and Psychopharmacology, Glenn Valdez concentrates on the scientific process. Renowned for bringing popular and provocative topics into the classroom, Valdez is commended by students on his teaching effectiveness. Students review complex research findings–around the use of ecstasy, for example–learning broad overview of the biological processes, and then circling back to the systems involved at each step. Significantly, Valdez was the primary person responsible for creating the behavioral neuroscience major.

CSCE Awards for Scholarly and Creative Excellence

Robert Hollister

Distinguished Graduate Mentoring Award

Robert Hollister, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2004


As each enthusiastic letter of support attests, Robert Hollister exemplifies excellence at Grand Valley. He is dedicated to student success; his mentoring philosophy focuses on supporting all aspects of a student’s development. A former student writes, “It cannot be overstated how influential Bob has been in my life. He creates a positive work environment and works to challenge students to explore their own ideas and develop independent projects. Bob encourages all of his graduate students to be involved in the greater scientific community.”

Jonathan Hodge

Distinguished Undergraduate Mentoring Award

Jonathan Hodge, Ph.D.
Professor of Mathematics
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2002

Jonathan Hodge inspires both students and colleagues through his commitment and dedication to undergraduate student mentoring. As a co-director of Grand Valley’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) in mathematics funded by the National Science Foundation, Hodge has made a positive impact on the lives of countless students through research. A former student sums up Hodge’s impact on his undergraduate career by stating, “He helped me recognize my love for mathematics and inspired purpose and direction in my life. He recognized my talent, helped me develop as a mathematician, and encouraged me to achieve more for myself.”

Carrie Buist

Distinguished Early-Career Scholar Award

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


Carrie Buist is a pioneer in her field, specializing in queer criminology and LGBTQ issues within the criminal justice system. Her first book, Queer Criminology, was awarded the Outstanding Book of the Year Award from the Division of Critical Criminology within the American Society of Criminology. The first of its kind, this piece of theoretically grounded literature has contributed not only to the discipline, but to conversations on campuses across the country. Buist’s scholarship has enhanced the national reputation of Grand Valley.

Caitlin Callahan

Distinguished Early-Career Scholar Award

Caitlin Callahan, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Geology
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2015

Geoscience scholar Caitlin Callahan has demonstrated a consistent and strong commitment to increasing diversity in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. She currently serves as co-principal investigator on a National Science Foundation Award exploring the importance of relationships and community networks in attracting and retaining underrepresented students in the geosciences. Callahan has emerged as a national leader for the Earth Educators’ Rendezvous, an annual event bringing together researchers and practitioners working in all aspects of undergraduate earth education.

Christopher Dondzila

Distinguished Early-Career Scholar Award

Christopher Dondzila, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Movement Science
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2015


Christopher Dondzila’s multifaceted research explores the relationship of physical activity, chronic diseases, and physical functioning. He was awarded the Hally Beth Poindexter Young Scholar Award by the National Association for Kinesiology in Higher Education in 2018. While at Grand Valley, Dondzila has published two articles related to the accuracy of physical activity trackers and four articles on physical activity, aging, and exercise intervention — all of which have been heavily cited by his peers. Dondzila exemplifies the best aspects of the teacher-scholar model that Grand Valley values.

Huafang LI

Distinguished Early-Career Scholar Award

Huafang Li, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Public, Nonprofit, and Health Administration
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2017

Huafang Li has distinguished himself as a leading scholar in the practice of philanthropic giving, foundations, and the nonprofit sector in China. In a little over two years, he has published 10 peer-reviewed journal articles and contributed to two chapters in the book Experiments in Public Management Research: Challenges and Contributions (Cambridge University Press). His impressive scholarship has earned him high standing in his field, as evidenced by the many talks Li has been invited to give.