UMSL celebrates exemplary faculty, staff with Chancellor’s Awards

by | Sep 6, 2022

Twelve faculty members and four staff members received Chancellor's Awards for Excellence and the Gerald and Deanne Gitner Excellence in Teaching Award.
Chancellor Kristin Sobolik stands with 2022 recipients of the Chancellor's Awards for Excellence

Chancellor Kristin Sobolik (at left) presented Chancellor’s Award to faculty and staff members, including George Zsidisin, Jennifer Nolan, Julia Sakharova, Aimee Dunlap, Kim Song, Betsy Sampson, April Regester, Joanna Mendoza, Tchule Moore and Matt McCluskey. Other honorees included: Kurt Baldwin, John McGrosso, Steven Riegerix, Jacqueline Smith and Stephen Bagwell. (Photo by August Jennewein)

The University of Missouri–St. Louis community honored outstanding contributions of faculty and staff members at the Faculty and Staff Recognition Ceremony, held Thursday in conjunction with the annual State of the University Address at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center.

Steven Berberich, UMSL’s provost and interim vice chancellor for academic affairs, announced the 12 faculty members and four staff members honored with Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence and the Gerald and Deanne Gitner Excellence in Teaching Award, and Chancellor Kristin Sobolik presented them with their awards.

The faculty honorees:

Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in for Excellence in Collaborative Research and Creativity

Professor Kurt Baldwin, Professor John McGrosso, Professor Joanna Mendoza and Associate Professor Julia Sakharova in the Department of Music
The members of the Arianna String Quartet – McGrosso, first violin; Sakharova, second violin; Mendoza, viola; and Baldwin, cello – have delivered extensive creative output over the past 10 years with performances from a substantial repertoire in a wide range of locations and released recordings of the first two-thirds of a complete cycle of Beethoven’s string quartets as well as finished recordings of the remaining quartets. They have taught and performed at multiple chamber music festivals and expanded their chamber music festival in St. Louis to include international students. They have integrated their creative endeavors with their teaching, providing UMSL students both individual lessons and training in playing in small ensembles. The quartet is regularly invited to teach in masterclass settings at other institutions and is sought after as a quartet-in-residence for the highly competitive summer chamber music festivals.

Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Research and Creativity

Kim Song, professor in the Department of Educator Preparation and Leadership
Song’s research aims to help teachers unravel how particular content, discourse and academic competencies resemble the modes of imagination and creativity in which racially, linguistically and culturally diverse learners can develop multiple language identities. Her research thus far has contributed to changing school climate, educators’ mindset and curriculum in critical ways, especially in the era of digitalization, globalization and trans nationalization.

George Zsidisin, John W. Barriger III Professor in the Department of Supply Chain and Analytics
Zsidisin, the director of UMSL’s Supply Chain Risk and Resilience Research Institute, is a pioneer in advancing knowledge and practice in the domain of supply chain risk and is widely regarded as a highly prolific and influential researcher. He’s recently co-edited a new book, “Supply Chain Resilience: Reconceptualizing Supply Chain Risk Management in a Post-Pandemic World,” due to be published in 2023.

Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching to a Tenured or Tenure Track Faculty Member

Aimee Dunlap, associate professor in the Department of Biology
Dunlap has implemented numerous best practices and novel activities or assessments in her courses. She is committed to diversity, equity and inclusivity and realizes that all students do not have the same opportunities to succeed. She has helped numerous students become stronger and more confident in their abilities regardless of their rank in classes. She has placed a special emphasis on mentoring students and future scientists with disabilities.

Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching to a Non-Tenure Track Faculty Member

Jennifer Nolan, associate teaching professor in the Department of History
Nolan is a much-admired educator, beloved instructor and inspiring teacher for thousands of UMSL students, both in-person and online. She has devoted significant time ensuring student success through tutoring, advising, instructing, and guiding students. Her teaching, community outreach, research and advocacy for and promotion of equity, diversity and inclusion exemplifies to the priorities and goals of the major compacts of the UMSL Strategic Plan.

Chancellor’s Award for Sustained Excellence in Online Teaching

Amy Michael, associate teaching professor in the Department of Language and Cultural Studies
Michael embodies all the essential characteristics of an excellent online instructor and is particularly skilled at creating online courses that are highly structured, clearly organized and fully accessible. She is often a go-to person when it comes to course design because of her focus on innovation and fearless approach to trying out new technologies. She carefully evaluates and selects the best tools to deliver the content in a way that is clear and engaging.

Chancellor’s Award for Excellence to a Part-Time Faculty Member

Steven Riegerix, adjunct professor in the Department of Computer Science
Riegerix, an alumnus of the Department of Computer Science, discovered his love for teaching after first receiving valuable experience in the industry. He has revamped courses in the constantly changing field of computer science, bringing in his previous work experience to better prepare students. Beyond his coursework, he has been the GitHub administrator for the computer science department.

Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Service

April Regester, associate professor and chair in the Department of Educator Preparation and Leadership
Regester’s commitment to service most apparent in her work with the UMSL Succeed program, a nationally recognized post-secondary model she helped develop in concert with other faculty members and St. Louis Arc. More recently, Regester has been awarded a U.S. Department of Education grant to create an individualized four-year academic program option, enhance support and partnerships in the existing programming and build a statewide awareness campaign highlighting postsecondary options for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Gerald and Deanne Gitner Excellence in Teaching Award

Stephen Bagwell, assistant professor in the Department of Political Science
In his short time at UMSL, Bagwell has shown remarkable dedication and success in engaging students. He’s been a mentor to graduate students in political science and helps extend learning beyond the classroom, connecting students to internships and career opportunities in the fields of political science and international relations. Bagwell devoted significant time and effort helping students get more involved in research projects.

The staff honorees:

Chancellor’s Award for Inclusive Excellence – Celebrating Diversity Award

Jacqueline Smith, development coordinator at St. Louis Public Radio
Smith has served as the facilitator for St. Louis Public Radio’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. In a difficult time, she has taken on the task of engaging in the research and purposeful thought on how to heal the hurts of the past and what changes are necessary to move on to a fuller and healthier future. Her work has energized those around her to think more deeply and work more holistically towards true diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Chancellor’s Awards for Staff Excellence

Matt McCluskey, third-party specialist in Student Financial Services
McCluskey plays a huge role assisting the UMSL Veterans Center and their students. Certifying VA/DoD education benefits is very technical and riddled with obstacles. To ensure certifications happen and everyone gets paid, McCluskey is constantly having to think on his feet and is always working to create new processes and procedures that streamline these efforts. He is innovative in his approach for the greater good of UMSL and its students.

Tchule Moore, academic advisor in the School of Social Work
Moore is an excellent advocate for students and works diligently to ensure that they have the resources they need to succeed on campus. During the pandemic, she helped students meet challenges by working to ensure they had schedules that worked with each of their unique situations, and she helped them find resources they needed when struggling academically and personally.

Betsy Sampson, senior program/project support coordinator in Academic Affairs
Sampson’s work is integral to the campus. Her duties include managing many vendor-related products such as CourseLeaf that are used to support academic policies, practices and processes. Sampson continually works to ensure the university is using current best practices and evaluates new features to see if incorporating them maximizes UMSL’s use of the products. Sampson has always kept the best interests of the students and university in mind when navigating decisions.

Faculty Retiree of the Year

Zuleyma Tang-Martinez, professor emerita in the Department of Biology
Tang-Martinez has remained active with the Department of Biology since her retirement in 2014,  frequently attending faculty meetings, participating in almost all department seminars and serving on all faculty searches. She brings her heart, enthusiasm, passion and deep knowledge to all these involvements. She is often writing papers, drafting documents and sending or responding to emails from colleagues, students, and others throughout the day. 

Staff Retiree of the Year

Connie Jeffries, retired program manager in the Department of Continuing Education
Jeffries retired as program manager in the School of Professional and Continuing Studies in 2011. Realizing that the pandemic caused significant mental and emotional issues for many, especially among seniors and the newly retired, Jeffries set off to challenge herself and encourage others, many of them women, to embrace their curiosity for the gifts of nature, crisscrossing the United States and Europe to encourage women to become and stay active.

Steve Walentik

Steve Walentik