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Faculty members recognized as University Fellows, Karlgaard award winners

| Gary Johnson

Nine high-achieving University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire faculty members in different stages of their careers are being celebrated for their excellence.

The recipients of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation donor-supported University Fellows awards and Karlgaard Faculty Excellence Awards were recognized at a March 4 reception.

Foundation donors realize that their support of UW-Eau Claire faculty impacts hundreds of students who learn from those faculty members, says Julia Diggins, interim president of the Foundation.

“For me, personally, these are among the most meaningful projects the Foundation works on because I remember the faculty members who changed my life when I was a student,” Diggins says. “So many of our alumni can point to a professor, a coach, an advisor, a hall director — someone on campus who made their time at UWEC better. The University Fellows are a celebration of those people from the past, the present and of the future.”

2024-25 University Fellows

Recipients of the 2024-25 UW-Eau Claire Foundation university fellowships are, from left, Dr. Susan Tily, Dr. Kaishan Kong, Dr. Dalete Mota, Dr. Beth Evans, Dr. Scott Lester and Dr. Seungbin Oh.

2024-25 University Fellows

The University Fellows will work on a project of their choice over a period of three to five years, with $10,000 or $12,500 per year awards paying for course overloads or a course release. The program initiative breaks the awards into three categories — early-, mid- and late-career. Interested faculty submitted project proposals that were reviewed by a committee of college deans, who selected the recipients.

“The academic deans are grateful for this opportunity to celebrate our outstanding faculty,” says Dr. Aleks Sternfeld-Dunn, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, speaking on behalf of the four academic deans. “As with past recipients, this year’s fellows demonstrate excellent teaching, high-quality research, engaged campus citizenship and a deep commitment to creating belonging among students, faculty and staff.”

Dr. Beth Evans, assistant professor of nursing

Beth Evans

Dr. Beth Evans, assistant professor of nursing

Evans received the Mary C. and Fred Bliss University Fellow for Tenure Track Nursing Faculty award, a $12,500-a-year award for three years for early-career faculty in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences.

Evans says the award will help her develop new knowledge and support her scholarship endeavors in two primary areas: Continued development of an innovative clinical leadership immersion for senior-level baccalaureate nursing students and the examination of self-care skills among nursing students.

“Given the current flow of nurses leaving the health care field, particularly bedside nursing due to burnout, and persistent mental health care needs in general, addressing self-care skills could prove to be a strategy to stem this dissipation of the nursing workforce,” Evans says in her proposal. “In my teaching role, I find myself naturally encouraging both students and colleagues to identify and use their chosen self-care strategies as they progress through their program or work.”

Evans’ dedication to teaching and leadership within the nursing field has been exemplary, says Dr. Dalete Mota, professor of nursing, in her recommendation letter on behalf of her colleague.

“In addition to Dr. Evans’ research endeavors, her teaching and service roles are positively influencing the next generation of nursing professionals and the UWEC community,” Mota says.

Dr. Dalete Mota, professor of nursing

Dalete Mota

Dr. Dalete Mota, professor of nursing

Mota received the Nancy Quinn Senior University Fellow in Nursing award, a $12,500-a-year award for five years for senior career faculty in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences.

Mota plans to use the award toward the continued development of research in nursing oncology, an area in which she has dedicated her career. Before coming to UW-Eau Claire, she studied cancer-related fatigue and has continued that oncology-related research in collaboration with colleagues and students at the university.

“The financial resources provided by the award will enable me to undertake comprehensive studies in oncology nursing, potentially leading to groundbreaking advancements in patient care and nursing practices,” Mota says in her proposal. “Over the time of this fellowship, I plan to publish papers, apply for an external grant and strengthen international research collaboration while involving UWEC colleagues and students.”

Mota has been a “continuous source of inspiration, knowledge and support” to her colleagues at UW-Eau Claire, says Dr. Jeanette Olsen, associate professor of nursing and director of assessment and evaluation, in her recommendation letter on behalf of Mota.

“She is highly respected for her caring approach to students, diverse service activities and research expertise,” Olsen says.

Dr. Scott Lester, professor of management 

Scott Lester

Dr. Scott Lester, professor of management

Lester received the Nancy Quinn Senior University Fellow award, a $12,500-a-year award for five years for senior faculty in any college.

Lester says he works to collaborate with students and faculty “to ensure they are able to achieve their professional and academic goals.” The fellowship will facilitate his future work on campus in the areas of research, teaching and service to broaden his impact on students, colleagues and community members.

“I hope to be a role model for high engagement and high impact as I enter the latter stages of my career,” Lester says in his proposal. “I strive to be someone that is always contributing to a positive work culture that is characterized by teamwork, engagement, respect and academic excellence.”

Lester is one of the most respected people in the College of Business “who always has a moment for junior faculty, students or anyone who might benefit from his time,” says Dr. Daniel Gullifor, assistant professor of management, in his recommendation of Lester.

“He is a thoughtful and authentic individual that has been a steadying force in times of change over the last several years,” Gullifor says. “He has helped foster a culture of collegiality and inclusivity that makes for an environment where everyone feels welcome, supported and able to become the best version of themselves.”

Dr. Susan Tily, assistant professor of education for equity and justice

Susan Tily

Dr. Susan Tily, assistant professor of education for equity and justice

Tily received the Nancy Quinn Early Career University Fellow award, a $12,500-a-year award for five years for early career faculty in any college.

Tily says she applied for the fellowship as she envisions future work to build community partnerships and support UW-Eau Claire students and early-career teachers. Tily approaches education with the stance of a lifelong learner. The excitement of working with 75 preservice teachers a semester and seeing their work and reflections about education “gives me hope for the future.”

“I teach introductory courses for undergraduates interested in teaching as well as literacy methods courses for preservice teachers enrolled in our program,” Tily says. “I enjoy getting the opportunity to work with students over multiple points in their undergraduate career.”

Tily is concerned by statistics indicating that more than half of teachers leave the field within the first five years and wants to work to develop induction programming to better support UW-Eau Claire graduates.

“I plan to use the fellowship opportunity to start to build outreach for graduates from our program so we can remain connected to them and provide support in a variety of forms to help sustain their work as early-career educators,” Tily says.

Dr. Kaishan Kong, associate professor of languages

A woman smiling

Dr. Kaishan Kong, associate professor of languages

Kong received the Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich University Fellow award, a $12,500-a-year award for five years for mid-career faculty in any college.

Kong recalls her first day in the classroom at UW-Eau Claire where she expected to “dismantle all stereotypes that my students might have about China,” but discovered there were no stereotypes because students had no knowledge of Chinese culture.

“That was an ‘aha!’ moment for me when I realized that I had to adjust my expectations, that I had an opportunity to build a program, and that most importantly, I could do some impactful work to promote global learning on campus,” Kong says in her proposal.

As the first and only full-time instructor in UW-Eau Claire’s Chinese program, Kong has developed 10 courses related to Chinese language and culture. In her nine years at UW-Eau Claire, Kong says she has been dedicated to building a “culturally relevant, student-centered and globally engaged program.”

The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages awarded the Chinese program a 2023 Global Engagement Initiative Award to acknowledge outstanding accomplishments and efforts in developing globally minded students.

Kate Paesani, director of the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition and an associate professor of French at the University of Minnesota, says in a recommendation letter that Kong is a well-respected teacher-scholar who is recognized nationally for her contributions to the profession of language education.

Dr. Seungbin Oh, associate professor of accounting and finance

Seungbin Oh

Dr. Seungbin Oh, associate professor of accounting and finance

Oh received the Wipfli Accounting Faculty Fellow award, a $10,000-a-year award for five years for any level accounting faculty.

Oh has maintained a dedication to teaching, research and service since he joined UW-Eau Claire in 2016. He has successfully taught ACCT 301: Intermediate Accounting 1, considered a vital component of the accounting program that builds the foundation necessary for graduates to succeed in their careers, and developed a new accounting course to prepare students for the CPA exam.

“I think I have made strides towards accomplishing the goals of our university, college and the department over the last seven years,” Oh says in his proposal. “Taking it to the next level, I am willing to spend my time and energy on activities of teaching, research, professional development and service which assist me in achieving the mission of the university and in contributing to the success of the accounting industry.”

Dr. Ling Liu, professor and chair of the accounting and finance department, says Oh is a valuable asset to students, the academic department and the broader university community.

“His students consistently praise his teaching approach, emphasizing the respect and care he extends to them in the classroom,” Liu says in a recommendation letter. “As a non-native speaker, Seungbin’s understanding of the needs of international students is commendable, and his commitment to fostering an inclusive environment is evident through his participation in EDI workshops.”

Karlgaard award winners

Recipients of the 2023-24 Karlgaard Faculty Excellence Awards are, from left, Dr. Lyle Ford, Dr. Mohammad Aziz and Dr. Rahul Gomes.

2023-24 Karlgaard Faculty Excellence Awards

The $10,000 awards are available annually to faculty in the departments of physics and astronomy, computer science and mathematics. The funding is provided by UW-Eau Claire alumni and longtime donors David and Marilyn Karlgaard to recognize faculty and encourage them to remain at the university.

“David and Marilyn Karlgaard have been supporting faculty and students at UW-Eau Claire for many years, and their collective impact is hard to put into words,” Diggins says. “Their understanding that by supporting faculty, they are supporting students, is part of what makes their philanthropy so powerful.”

Dr. Lyle Ford, professor of physics and astronomy

Lyle Ford

Dr. Lyle Ford, professor of physics and astronomy

Ford received the Karlgaard Excellence Award for senior faculty, recognizing teaching excellence and years of service to UW-Eau Claire. The award rewards senior faculty who are role models in teaching excellence and are mentors to younger faculty to improve their teaching.

Ford, who has been a member of the physics and astronomy department since 1996, has taught 19 different courses in the department ranging from non-major introductory courses to the most complex upper-level major courses. His teaching evaluations and classroom visits demonstrate that he is an expert instructor and educator across all of the courses, says Dr. Erik Hendrickson, chair of the department.

Ford has published 20 journal articles and has had 26 poster presentations given by undergraduate collaborative research students.

“Dr. Ford is the epitome of a university colleague,” Hendrickson says. “He willingly assists everyone in the department with teaching/education questions/concerns. He has a long list of potential student-faculty collaborative research projects, which is extremely helpful since each of our majors must do a project to graduate.  He freely gives his time and energy toward service needs for the department, the university and the scientific community.”

Dr. Mohammad Aziz, professor of mathematics

Professional portrait of Mohammad Aziz

Dr. Mohammad Aziz, professor of mathematics

Aziz received the Karlgaard Excellence Award for mid-career faculty. The recipient demonstrates excellence in teaching, scholarship and service, and is actively engaged in student-faculty collaborative research.

Aziz has been a mathematics department faculty member since 2012, being promoted to professor in 2023. Aziz has mentored seven undergraduate students in five research projects since 2017. His work with student researchers has resulted in high-impact activities, including work within the McNair Scholar program, Diversity Mentoring Program and student presentations at local (Celebration of Excellence in Research and Creative Activity and Math Retreat), UW System (UW Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity), regional (Seven Rivers Undergraduate Research Symposium) and national (Joint Mathematical Meetings and Joint Statistical Meetings) levels. One of the summer REU projects that Aziz mentored was a recipient of a Mayo Clinic Choice Award in 2018.

Aziz has published two papers with undergraduate co-authors and two additional manuscripts under review with student co-authors. He also is one of three primary collaborators on a research project about tapering chronic opioid therapy that received a UW-Eau Claire and Mayo Partnership Grant Award.

Dr. Abra Brisbin, chair of the department of mathematics, says Aziz is an outstanding researcher and teacher in the field of applied statistics.

“Dr. Aziz is intentional about his teaching, using partially completed notes to help him better engage students and reduce student anxiety about notetaking,” Brisbin says. “In a major course revision for the Independent Learning Math 246: Elementary Statistics course in 2022, Dr. Aziz chose an open educational resource textbook that is available for free, making his course more inclusive for low-income students.”

Dr. Rahul Gomes, assistant professor of computer science

Rahul Gomes

Dr. Rahul Gomes, assistant professor of computer science

Gomes received the Karlgaard Excellence Award for early-career faculty. The award supports the recipient’s teaching and scholarship in fulfillment of tenure and promotion requirements.

Gomes, who has been a member of the computer science faculty for three years, has established an exceptional research and publication record, says Dr. Alex Smith, professor and chair of the computer science department. Gomes’ specialized research has primarily focused on utilizing machine learning and artificial intelligence tools and methods for analyzing biomedical data to advance patient health outcomes.

Gomes has published 31 peer-reviewed scientific articles and been published in some of the most prestigious journals in his field. Gomes is an exceptional mentor for undergraduates, Smith says, and his research collaborations with students have received funding from sources such as the National Science Foundation.

“I think of Rahul as an exemplar of Boyer’s teacher-scholar model of a professor,” Smith says. “He inspires his colleagues with his enthusiasm and talent for integrating his specialized research with undergraduate education.”