Every year, a chosen few of UNH’s outstanding faculty members from each college and school receive Faculty Excellence Awards in recognition of their achievements in teaching, scholarship and service. Universitywide awards recognize public service, research, teaching and engagement. The 2021 award recipients include:
Kimberly Alexander, 2021 Award for Excellence in Teaching, COLA
Kimberly Alexander knows a thing or two about shoes. She’s the author of the award-winning book, “Treasures Afoot,” which explores the history of the 18th century Georgian shoe and its journey from bustling London streets to the feet of New Englanders. Professor Alexander is a scholar of 18th and 19th century New England material culture and history, and a museum professional passionate about public history.
As such, she is steeped not only in shoes but in all manner of textiles, as well as art, architecture and archaeological finds. This rich archive is fundamental to her teaching, which can be described quite literally as “hands-on,” even if it requires PPE. She brings objects to the classroom so students can personalize history. One guest lecturer arrives to class in Civil War costume; another hews wood with period tools. Her private collection of textiles offers up its own lessons, as do the museum field trips her classes take. History takes form through the paraphernalia of both the famous and the ordinary, and by practicing the methods used to tease out their meaning.
From gateway offerings to the specialized courses in the museum studies graduate program she directs, Alexander prepares students to succeed. Many an internship and project she supervised has turned into a job at sites such as Old Sturbridge Village, the Wright Museum and Ancestry.com.
One undergraduate student sums up Alexander’s impact in this way: “She has taught me both history and life lessons. She has been there for me and supported me as I live away from home. My experience at UNH would be completely different if it weren’t for her.”
Jennifer Borda, 2021 Award for Excellence in Teaching, COLA
Jennifer Borda is never not thinking about her students, says one of her colleagues. A teacher and highly regarded scholar of rhetoric, feminist studies and democratic deliberation, she is constantly innovating in both her syllabi and the rhetoric curriculum.
Assignments must be relevant and engaging, such as “Fake News,” an interactive virtual game she recently co-created to teach students to recognize the strategies in which fake news is propagated. She is tireless in challenging her students to realize their fullest potential – an effort deeply appreciated by them, including one undergraduate with whom she recently co-published an article in a prominent communication journal.
Borda’s goal as a teacher is to “foster students’ education and progression as effective communicators, critical thinkers and life-long learners better prepared to engage the world as ethical, enlightened and thoughtful citizens.”
Perhaps nothing better demonstrates that goal than her work in the Civil Discourse Lab, which she co-founded and co-directs. The CDL, as it’s called, teaches students the theory and techniques of civil discourse and guides them as they put theory into practice in public dialogues on difficult topics. At a time when civil discourse is sorely needed nationally and globally, Borda prepares students to make meaningful impacts in their careers and communities.
In a wonderfully symbiotic way, Borda’s students give as good as they get, such as Cathy, a non-traditional student and mother of two adult daughters, who overcame her self-doubt to grow into an academic role model. When Cathy’s name was called at the graduation ceremony, her family jumped to their feet and erupted in cheers. Borda recalls: “I had a difficult time keeping my composure on stage … it was one of the most fulfilling moments of my teaching career.”
Jennifer Griffith, 2021 Award for Outstanding Assistant Professor, Paul College
Jennifer Griffith demonstrates excellence in all aspects of her profession far beyond what is typically expected of assistant professors.
Griffith is a prolific scholar with 29 well-cited articles on social cogitation, interpersonal relations, and bias. Her work on the #MeToo movement provides scholarly and practical insights on sexual harassment training in the workplace. That research also led to an invitation to be a writer for Forbes on how gender impacts advancement, decision making, collaboration and leadership in the workplace.
Griffith’s excellence as a teacher is matched by her leadership in curriculum development. She added people analytics to the typically non-quantitative organization behavior course and led the redesign of the MBA version of that course. Her multi-faceted approach to assessing and supporting students during COVID was emulated by several other faculty.
Griffith has taken on a number of leadership roles while an assistant professor, primarily related to DEI. In 2017, she was a founding member of Paul College’s DEI Committee. She and a colleague annually lead the DEI orientation program required for all business administration freshmen. She complied a library of DEI-related teaching materials to help her colleagues strengthen their syllabi. Since 2019, she has helped lead annual DEI training events for Paul College faculty and staff.
In addition to these accomplishments, Jenn is a supportive and engaging colleague who makes innumerable small contributions to the academic life of Paul College. UNH is fortunate to have her.
Kholekile Gwebu, 2021 Award for Outstanding Associate Professor, Paul College
Kholekile Gwebu is an accomplished and passionate scholar, an excellent colleague, and a dedicated teacher, bringing the “complete package” to the profession.
Gwebu’s main research focus is in the broadly defined area of information systems with application areas such as cyber security and data breach management. His research is relevant and timely given the increased interest in the field of business analytics in both academia and the industry. He has made significant academic contributions to his area of expertise and has established a notable record of accomplishment of research, as evidenced by his publication record in top-tier journals. Gwebu’s impressive research record has also contributed to the overall name recognition of Paul College and UNH externally. Recently, UNH was ranked among the top 100 research universities in Americas in the field of information systems.
Gwebu’s dedication to teaching excellence is also outstanding, spanning across seven different courses he developed at both undergraduate and graduate levels. His students unanimously indicate that he truly cares about student success, creates a learning environment that is challenging, and arms students with skills that are directly applicable in the workforce. He has been the recipient of four different teaching awards since joining UNH.
Gwebu’s accomplishments in internal as well as external service are exemplary, filled with examples of leadership roles on several occasions. Gwebu not only helped the department develop a curriculum that was modern and competitive, but he also actively helped recruit students for these programs. All these efforts lead him to serve as the chair of the department.
In addition to all his scholarly accomplishments, Gwebu is a respected member of our committee and is well-liked by his peers. Gwebu’s approach to scholarship certainly contributes to UNH’s dedication to provide the highest academic standards in and outside of the classroom.
Ivaylo Nedyalkov, 2021 Award for Excellence in Teaching, CEPS
Ivalyo Nedyalkov demonstrates an uncommon commitment to teaching and his students. Since he joined the faculty in the department of mechanical engineering in 2015, he has excelled at teaching a broad array of courses including fundamental courses, labs and project-based courses. He routinely and actively seeks opportunities for professional development to advance and improve his pedagogy. Learners indicate their appreciation for his teaching approach: “He uses a combination of in-class questions and online tools like Piazza to make his classes interesting and push students to involve themselves in every lecture.”
Beyond teaching important fundamental skills, Nedyalkov prioritizes the professional development of his students. He is engaged in and encourages students to explore applied research activities including studies in the flow physics facility, the world’s largest scientific quality boundary-layer wind tunnel facility. One student noted, “The implementation of theory into practical and real-life scenarios bridged the gap that otherwise is usually skewed toward theory in the academic world of engineering.” In addition, he guides an astounding array of senior capstone projects, which serve as a culmination of our students’ educational experience.
In course evaluations, students frequently praise Nedyalkov’s genuine concern, noting that: “He really cares and would always ask us how we are doing,” “He really wants his students to excel” and “He is always available to help.” His student-centered approach to teaching has paid meaningful dividends, particularly during these past two years, which have presented significant challenges to us all. He truly deserves this recognition.
Joseph Dwyer, 2021 Award for Excellence in Research, CEPS
Joseph Dwyer is a highly recognized researcher in the field of atmospheric and space electricity. He is widely acclaimed for his groundbreaking discoveries in understanding energetic radiation from thunderstorms and lightning, as well as his commitment and success in sharing knowledge and research findings with the broader scientific community and general public.
Dwyer’s publications are products of exceptional creativity and curiosity, which have made transformational impact in his research field. He has published more than 180 peer-reviewed papers and has a Google scholar H-index of 57, with 32 highly cited papers, each cited more than 100 times. One example of his influential papers is a single author paper he published in 2003, which has been cited 360 times. In this study, he discovered that a fundamental physical process can increase the number of energetic particles generated by thunderstorms by more than 10 orders of magnitude. Because of these contributions, he has been recognized by the top honors in the field, including Karl Berger Award (2014), the honor to give AGU Franklin Lecture and election as AGU Fellow.
Beyond his excellence in research, Dwyer has also put serious effort into the broadest possible sharing of his knowledge and research skills. He has mentored many students and young investigators via contributing ideas, research tools, and data. Dwyer is also a resource for the popular media and has done many interviews for high profile outlets such as “Good Morning American” and the New York Times. In many ways, he is the public face of the lightning field.
Dwyer’s work has certainly raised UNH’s research profile and made UNH a stronger institution by contributing to delivering its public mission for excellence in research and outreach.
Juan Rojo, 2021 Award for Excellence in Teaching, COLSA
Juan Rojo, clinical assistant professor, does not just possess the timeless characteristics of an extraordinary educator – passionate, dedicated, collaborative, demanding but fair – but he also displays qualities uniquely suited for students in our current moment. Students refer to his patience, kindness, compassion and preternatural ability to ease the stresses brought on both by complicated coursework and this evolving and uncertain time.
The effect of this skillset is exemplified by a comment from one of his students, who said: “Everyone who comes from a background where many people have doubted them needs a professor like Dr. Rojo to remind them that they are capable of achieving greatness.”
The remarkable bigheartedness and support Rojo shows his students also extends to his colleagues. He regularly helps his peers in the biomedical sciences program become better instructors by sharing new teaching techniques that he learns because of his dogged pursuit of professional development.
Rojo teaches two large lecture courses with labs, general microbiology, and microbes in human disease, and two smaller courses, molecular diagnostics, and mycology, parasitology, and virology. All four are filled with complex concepts, yet he consistently receives stellar evaluations from his students.
The high quality of general microbiology and the biomedical sciences program as a whole have been praised by Rojo’s colleagues, with a nod to the classroom dynamics and teaching methods in all his classes. And at the start of the pandemic, Rojo also took the lead in moving the microbiology laboratories online in a manner that would best fit the needs of his students.
Rojo is a remarkable educator with an uncommon dedication to his craft. He is loved by his students and admired by his colleagues and well-deserving of this year’s Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence.
W. Kelley Thomas, 2021 Award for Distinguished Professor, COLSA
Where to start in summarizing the accomplishments and impact Kelley Thomas has had on UNH? Since his arrival in 2002, the Hubbard Center for Genome Studies that he directs has enabled groundbreaking scientific discoveries — not just in his own laboratory, but by a multitude of researchers at UNH and internationally with whom he has generously shared his time and expertise. His record of scholarly publications attests not only to his productivity and impact on the fields of molecular evolution and environmental genomics, but also to his philosophy of conducting collaborative, interdisciplinary research that serves to advance the careers of those with whom he collaborates.
Thomas’s impact extends to the classroom, where he seamlessly integrates state-of-the-art bioinformatics tools with his deep understanding of genome biology that encompasses microbial to human genomics. Thomas has amplified his impact on student learning by also developing a series of NIH-funded bioinformatics training workshops for faculty to accelerate dissemination of the bioinformatic tools so critical for understanding the human genome as well as the complexity of the biosphere.
HIs service is most recently exemplified by his scientific leadership in creating the COVID-19 Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory. UNH’s ability to maintain on-campus learning experiences for students during the pandemic can be directly attributed to Thomas’s tireless efforts to create the high-throughput clinical diagnostics lab that will have processed over 1 million specimens by the end of this year.
Thomas’s accomplishments are matched by his modesty and generous spirit, his passion for mentoring genome-enabled scientists, and his commitment to rigor in all endeavors. UNH is stronger because of his two decades of leadership in the molecular life sciences.
Kurk Dorsey, 2021 Award for Graduate Faculty Mentor, COLA
Professor Kurk Dorsey has been an integral part of the UNH community for more than 25 years, serving in various roles including director of graduate studies and chair of the history department. The impact of Dorsey’s teaching and scholarship on how foreign policy and the environment intersect to influence American history is made clear by a quick look at his CV, which includes, among many impressive accomplishments, several previous UNH recognitions and two award-winning books. This award, however, recognizes something that he would probably agree is even more important than his own academic achievements, and that is his impact on graduate students as an advisor and mentor.
During his career, Dorsey has supervised 16 doctoral students and 20 master’s students and served on a total of 68 committees. Those numbers are astounding and clear evidence of his commitment to his department and its students, but they do not tell the whole story. What makes Dorsey stand out as a mentor is the ongoing care he takes in helping his students find their way, while they are students at UNH and afterward. This is demonstrated most clearly in the testimony that poured in from former students for his nomination. “He is incredibly selfless,” “a mentor who does the right thing, all the time, without question,” “he has done everything possible to facilitate my success,” “I am a better student, professional and person because of him.”
Please join me in recognizing Dorsey’s warm generosity, kindness, wit and dedication to his students, colleagues, and the university as a whole by awarding him the Graduate Faculty Mentor Award for 2021.
Maeve Dion, 2021 Award for Excellence in Teaching, UNH Manchester
Since joining UNH Manchester’s faculty in 2017, there’s one thing the community echoes about Maeve Dion: She is a fierce champion for students.
The assistant professor of security studies is deeply committed to her students’ success, and that dedication permeates her work. Dion created the online master’s program in cybersecurity policy and risk management in 2018, and she continues to work tirelessly to ensure the program is rigorous, enjoyable and valuable for her students. Colleagues and students alike recognize Dion’s ability to create a welcoming learning environment, which spurs lively discussion on topics like national and international cybersecurity, internet policy and global governance. Her students love that current events and real-world issues are weaved into each lecture.
Speaking of weaving, Dion is also a talented knitter. When she heard that some of our international students were having a hard time adjusting to winter, she offered informal lessons and resources to knit their own scarves. News travels fast at our campus, so she ended up spending several months of lunch hours teaching students and staff how to knit.
Dion’s compassion does not go unnoticed. Colleagues praise her rapport with students, acknowledging her classroom as a place where critical thinking and idea exchange is constant. Student evaluations routinely highlight her willingness to provide constructive feedback and mentorship.
Dion is a tremendous asset to UNH Manchester and a worthy recipient of the 2021 teaching excellence award.
Marcus Hurn, UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law 2021 Award for Excellence in Teaching
UNH Franklin Pierce Law School lost one of its greatest teachers and mentors in February 2021. Marcus, as he was called, taught for more than 40 years, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that he was an expert in virtually the entire law curriculum. He taught more than 18 different classes – Hurn regularly taught a diverse group of courses that rely on different areas of substantive expertise, including contracts, contract design, property, administrative process and business associations. He lectured in the Daniel Webster Scholar mini-series on conflicts of law, negotiable instruments and secured transactions. These lectures have been instrumental in helping DWS students prepare to practice in New Hampshire.
He was the consummate law professor, in his three-piece suit and bow tie with the cascading questioning of a true Socratic scholar. His genius in the classroom was his intricate knowledge of just about all legal history and how the various legal fields all fit together. Hurn would take his students on a journey through the ages and leave them with knowledge of how law developed historically and worked practically.
Hurn was an expert in New Hampshire jurisprudence. He focused on the New Hampshire Constitution and its taxing provisions as well as in aspects of real property. He was a leading expert on LGBTQ+ rights and authored and advocated for numerous pieces of legislation that are law today.
The law school community will never be the same. Hurn appeared a stogy and aloof professor, until one got to know him. Generations of students knew he was deeply caring, a wonderful mentor and an advocate for all students.
Kathryn McCurdy, 2021 Award for Excellence in Teaching, COLA
“Practice what you preach,” is a saying that has special significance for education faculty, although, in the field, it’s modified to “practice what you teach.” As someone who prepares and mentors aspiring and novice teachers, Kathryn McCurdy is ever vigilant about embodying what she teaches, putting theory into actions that students might then consider bringing into their own classrooms. Central to what she demonstrates is a deep respect for and celebration of all the ways that students express their questions, wonderings and understandings. In so doing, she has earned the great admiration of her students, who say they can only hope to inspire their own students as much as she has inspired them.
McCurdy’s influence on educators in New Hampshire is deep and far-reaching – she directs education field experiences at the Manchester campus, teaches and mentors in the north country Teacher Residency for Rural Education program, and teaches courses in Durham not only to preservice teachers but also to seasoned educators pursuing their master’s or doctoral degrees. In all cases, she brings to bear her formidable skills and innovations in STEM pedagogy and diversity, equity and inclusion practices. Moreover, she is an excellent scholar whose research impacts travels well beyond our borders.
Thinking back on all her years in education, McCurdy offers this: “Teaching is a vulnerable and sometimes emotional profession. We pour our hearts and minds into our work daily. In all my work with beginning teachers, there comes a time when the two of us learn how to be okay with being vulnerable and talking through those moments of uncomfortableness — how to share something emotional while also embracing our strength. I find these moments powerful.”
Raymond Cook, 2021 Award for Excellence in Teaching, CEPS
Raymond Cook is the embodiment of the student-centered faculty member, a hallmark of the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences. His students proclaim that he “is a prime example of what a professor should be! He goes far above and beyond to help.” Under his guidance as the undergraduate program director, civil engineering students learn to navigate the academic, social and emotional transition to college life at UNH. Through it all, students have the benefit of a “fun and engaging” professor who is “always willing and available to help.”
Cook’s passion for his discipline is contagious as indicated by his students “Professor Cook is the sole reason I enjoy civil engineering so much.” Cook impressively teaches a full suite of introductory, fundamental skills and design courses including bridge and timber design. Students remark that he creates a welcoming and engaging learning environment. The inclusion of actual “civil engineering feats and disasters” in his teaching materials has been identified as a key to student engagement. In the words of one of his students, “He has set the bar extremely high for my future professors.”
Beyond the classroom, Cook is committed to ensuring and celebrating the well-being and success of his students, as evidenced by his participation in numerous evening and weekend commitments. This commitment is reflected in the adoration expressed by many current and former students. I am pleased that. Cook has received this well-deserved award.
Shane Bradt, 2021 Award for Excellence in Public Service, Extension
Bradt is an Extension state specialist in geospatial technology and water quality and an extension professor in the departments of geography in COLA and biological sciences in COLSA.
Outside his normal job responsibilities on campus Bradt is THE go-to person for faculty, students and staff who need help using geospatial technologies.
Outside Durham, Bradt is part of several professional and volunteer collaboratives working to educate the public on the effects of human activity on the environment. He also trains and supports K-12 teachers who use GIS in the classroom.
The thing I want to get across is when the pandemic hit, Bradt immediately shifted gears and used his expertise to help people in need.
- He built a food access map so people who couldn’t put food on the table could easily find food pantries. Social service organizations throughout NH directed people who had never needed public assistance to these food outlets.
- When restaurants and institutions shut down, farmers lost their buyers. Bradt built a New Hampshire farm products map so consumers could buy food directly from farmers. This prevented thousands of pounds of food from being thrown out.
- When demand from restaurants for seafood dried up, he guided New Hampshire Sea Grant as they developed a local seafood finder map to direct people to local fishermen and women.
- Bradt helped other UNH Extension staff to make a map of community gardens across the state where people could grow their own vegetables.
- Last but not least, Bradt is building interactive maps that document and promote Extension COVID-19 vaccination efforts throughout the country.
Thank you for joining me in honoring Bradt as the winner of the 2021 Excellence in Public Service Award.
Sarah Smith, 2021 Award for Excellence in Teaching, CHHS
Assistant professor Sarah Smith models best-practice principles in her education and preparation of future occupational therapists. Using her 20 years of experience as a pediatric occupational therapist, she infuses her teaching with key principles that prepare students for success as practitioners.
Smith’s effectiveness and value as a teacher cannot be captured solely by student evaluations: However, her overall ratings have been higher than the college average from the moment she began teaching at UNH. Through well-organized course structure, she effectively builds the constructs necessary to make complex, abstract ideas easier to understand and apply. Indeed, she has an extraordinary talent for distilling complexity into accessible visual representations and models. Her emphasis on classroom community ensures that all students are included, uniquely valued and respected. Students often express how much they value Smith as not only a teacher but also as a role model for their future practices. She also employs techniques that actively engage her students and foster their participation and application of skills that they will use in their own practice after graduation.
The many important contributions Smith makes to teaching extend from being the Honors Program advisor, and her participation and expertise in revisions of the current OT curriculum as well as in the development of the new OTD curriculum illustrate her incredible leadership qualities. She is a generous colleague, mentor and teacher. We are proud of her dedication and contributions, and we are thrilled to nominate her for this well-deserved award.
Ethel Sara Wolper, 2021 Award for Excellence in International Engagement, COLA
“Professor Wolper made a foreign topic very accessible and … extremely fascinating.” So wrote a student in Sara Wolper’s Islamic art class, summing up her career at UNH.
Wolper studies the Medieval period from an art history perspective. With research abilities in Arabic, French, Modern Turkish and Ottoman Turkish, she has published and presented material in a wide range of venues. Just since 2010, she has presented her work in Istanbul, London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Ankara and Kalamazoo.
Her most important work has been on the website RememberingMosul.org. She and her colleagues recognized that in many places caught in the wars that have raged across the Middle East over the last 20 years, there was no record of what had been lost. The project is truly remarkable, bringing together the humanities, GIS technology and area studies. Wolper and her team, which has included three UNH undergraduates from different disciplines, a visual resource librarian, an architectural historian from Newcastle University and an assistant professor of architecture at Koya University in Iraqi Kurdistan, have labored to catalogue many of the lost or damaged spaces in Mosul.
And perhaps most importantly, they have made connections with Mosulis, who like many people caught in the middle of fighting, have not always been consulted on how rebuilding should proceed.
Wolper has helped to bring the world to UNH but also brought her work to the world. As a teacher, a scholar and a servant, she has been engaged internationally since the day she arrived.
Andrew Earle, 2021 Award for Excellence in Teaching, Paul College
Andrew Earle is recognized as an innovative, engaged and deeply committed teacher — at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Imagine analyzing the strategies of technology companies in class, only to have a finance director at Microsoft pop into the discussion. Or Zooming with a supply chain manager at a factory in China after a lesson on supply chain sustainability. These are the kinds of real-world connections Earle prides himself on integrating into his classes.
Earle, who teaches strategy and entrepreneurial management and serves as the faculty director of the UNH Holloway Prize Competition, notes that he encourages students to “think bigger, be innovative, challenge themselves and take calculated risks.” Drawing on what he valued from his own faculty as an undergraduate student, he reaches out to any student who is struggling, saying he sees a bit of himself in them. At the same time, he also goes the extra mile with the students who are deeply engaged in his class by sharing podcasts and book recommendations to “try to stoke the fire” that drives them.
One of his students wrote that, “Professor Earle is one of the best professors at UNH. He really cares about his students and is passionate about the course content being taught. His mindset of making sure his students leave the class with knowledge rather than a letter grade is exactly why he is a successful professor.”
Earle is equally lauded by his colleagues. His department chair Peter Lane says “Andrew is a highly skilled and inspiring teacher who consistently brings intelligence, enthusiasm and caring to the classroom. He continually works at improving his teaching and course designs to provide our students with exceptional educational experiences. Andrew is the type of teacher that makes a student’s time at Paul College special and valuable.”
We are very fortunate to have Andrew Earle on our faculty and we look forward to seeing his continuing success.
Ellen Fitzpatrick, 2021 Jean Brierley Award for Excellence in Teaching, COLA
Ellen Fitzpatrick’s long-standing and consistent record of exceptional teaching makes her a highly appropriate recipient of this very special recognition. Her impactful teaching is experienced first-hand by undergraduate and graduate students and, importantly too, the public at large — because of her extensive record of national and regional media interviews and commentary.
In recognition of Fitzpatrick’s truly outstanding record of scholarship, teaching, mentoring and collegial service, she has already received many top awards— including the COLA Lindberg Award, given to an outstanding teacher-scholar in the college; UNH’s Distinguished Professor Award; and UNH’s Excellence in Public Service Award. As her colleagues and associates attest, she is not only an intellectually brilliant and engaging scholar and a highly conscientious, energetic and dedicated teacher, but also extremely hard-working and effective at what she does. She excels at communicating complex historical ideas clearly, combining a commanding presence with a sense of humor that wins over her audience. Even as she is renowned in the department as a great lecturer, insightful discussion leader and helpful mentor, Fitzpatrick may be even more successful as a public intellectual, taking her formidable teaching skills beyond campus. For many years, she was a recurrent guest on the “PBS NewsHour,” and it seems that she has been interviewed by every TV outlet and major newspaper in the country. With more than 150 interviews, she has been the department’s most prominent voice in the media. In her 25 years at the university, Fitzpatrick has been a master teacher in the classroom and in the community beyond campus. Simply put, she belongs in the esteemed ranks of the Jean Brierley Award winners.