Today@Sam Article

Honoring The 2021 Faculty Excellence Winners

July 1, 2021
SHSU Media Contact: Wes Hamilton

Group photo of Faculty Excellence Award winners.President Alisa White (center) recently recognized the 2021 Faculty Excellence Award recipients. They are (from left) William Wells, Mary Breaux, and Lee Miller. 


Sam Houston State University professors whose scholarly accomplishments, service and academic engagement stand out among their peers have been honored with the 2021 Faculty Excellence Awards. The recipients are William Wells, Excellence in Scholarly and Creative Accomplishments; Lee Miller, Excellence in Service; and Mary Breaux, the David Payne Academic Community Engagement Award.

Each year, the university invites the Bearkat community to nominate faculty members who have consistently demonstrated excellence. A committee reviews the nominations and selects winners to be honored at the Annual Faculty/Staff Meeting and receive a financial stipend.


Excellence in Scholarly and Creative Accomplishments

William Wells, Professor and Chair of Criminal Justice & Criminology, COCJ

Demonstrating a dedication to seeking support for research during his time at Sam Houston State University, Wells has worked on externally funded projects totaling $1.48 million. Wells places a high value on externally funded research projects because of the unique opportunity to advance scientific knowledge base, influence the practice of criminal justice, contribute new resources to SHSU, and provide terrific research experiences for students.

The values that direct his research are a commitment to advance scholarly discussions about pressing social issues and to improve the practice of criminal justice. Wells has published 50 peer-reviewed journal articles (38 since arriving at SHSU) and his research has been cited over 2,000 times. Wells carries out high-quality research that is impactful and is reflected in the journals that have published his research including Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Injury Prevention, Journal of Applied Memory and Cognition, Justice Quarterly, Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, Violence Against Women, and Journal of Experimental Criminology.

Recently, Wells completed a project with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and is currently collaborating with faculty and graduate students on two multi-year projects with the Houston Police Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.


Comments supporting his nomination included:

“Dr. Wells has stewarded the growth and achieved excellence in scholarly work in the areas of investigation of sexual assaults, eyewitness identification, and policing innovations. I believe that his vast scholarly accomplishments and commitment to empirical research exemplify the goal of this award.”

“Professor Wells’ commitment to the quality of personnel holding critical responsibilities as law enforcement officers transcends the college classroom. Hundreds of his former students now hold positions of responsibility in law enforcement agencies. Another significant accomplishment contributing to the quality of law enforcement education and training in Texas is his stewardship of the Texas Major Cities program of the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas (LEMIT).”


The David Payne Academic Community Engagement Award

Mary Breaux, Clinical Associate Professor, COCJ

As a recipient of an award given to a faculty member for upholding the SHSU motto, “The measure of a Life is its Service,” Breaux stood out from a group of highly qualified faculty nominees making important contributions to our students, faculty, and communities because of the numbers of individuals benefiting from her efforts and those of her SHSU students. Breaux teaches her students that the focus of her Academic Community Engagement courses is to carefully examine the social and legal issues that crime victims face and assist partner agencies in finding and evaluating resources to support these victims. 

Breaux’s impact on the community was noteworthy thanks to her students. Projects included local communities through a variety of activities such as enhancing services to vulnerable older adults with disabilities, creating awareness brochures for Hospitality House, and fundraising to assist victims of child abuse.

Breaux has brought visibility and recognition to her ACE projects with numerous partnerships. Over the past four years, her students have partnered with over 200 victim-services agencies and organizations locally, statewide, and nationally using resources to explore services for victims and finding creative ways to help these agencies support victims of crime.


Comments supporting her nomination included:

“Dr. Breaux’s pioneer spirit and deep passion for making a difference in society continues as she passes her enthusiasm to her students. She not only teaches what is required for their academic degree, she challenges and encourages her students to seek opportunities where they too can make a positive difference in helping the most vulnerable adults out in the community.”

“Dr. Breaux’s work with students on the SHSU campus enables them to engage with agencies and organizations prior to starting their professional careers. She has taught a wide spectrum of courses where students learn the value of engaging with public and private organizations to improve communities.”


Excellence in Service

Lee Miller, Professor of Sociology, CHSS

Since joining SHSU in 2005, Miller has consistently contributed to making her department, college, and university a dynamic, nationally acclaimed, and inclusive academic home for Bearkat students and faculty. Miller has developed curriculum, supported students and faculty, and increased the visibility and status of SHSU. Additionally, Miller serves as director of the SHSU Center for Community Engagement.

Campus initiatives Miller has taken an active part in developing include: Constitution Day, Celebrating Democracy Week, voting campaigns, volunteer fairs, essay contests, speaking engagements, federal grants, and many more projects that exemplify her dedication to service. Miller also has contributed notably to SHSU being designated as a Carnegie Community Engagement Classification university, serving as a lead writer in the application process.

The university motto “The measure of a Life is its Service,” coincides with her personal philosophy, and it is evident in her commitment to SHSU and the community it serves.


Comments supporting her nomination included:

“There is no one more worthy of this award for service to the university. Dr. Miller has been a major force in having SHSU recognized as a public institution that promotes public good. Service is her life, her philosophy, it is what she does best.”

“Miller’s impact is visible. There is truly nobody like her. It is clear that her service to the university has resulted in major changes – from the unbelievable increase in Academic Community Engagement
course offerings across all colleges and departments, to the branding of SHSU as an engaged campus with the Carnegie Classification. Few faculty members can claim this type of impact as a result of their service.”


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