Today@Sam Article

Announcing The 2023 Faculty Excellence Winners

Aug. 25, 2023
SHSU Media Contact: Campbell Atkins

Michael Stephenson, Brandon Strubberg, Lisa Brown, Kandi Tayebi, Adannaa Alexander, Helena Halmari, Alisa White

Sam Houston State University professors whose scholarly accomplishments, service and academic engagement stand out among their peers have been honored with the 2023 Faculty Excellence Awards. The recipients are Kandi Tayebi, Excellence in Teaching; Lisa Brown, Excellence in Service; Helena Halmari, Excellence in Scholarly & Creative Accomplishments; Adannaa Alexander, Non-Tenure Track Teaching; and Brandon Strubberg, 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 Teaching:

Kandi Tayebi, Professor of English

Kandi Tayebi has spent 30 years in the classroom finding new and innovative ways to connect with her students. The English professor expresses a passion for helping develop a curiosity and love for language and aims to contribute to the process of creating a deeper understanding of the fundamental and enduring questions that are raised by thoughtful human beings wherever an intellectual tradition is established and perpetuated.    

Tayebi fosters independent thinkers and use modern methods to understand some of the most hotly debated topics literature and history have to offer. Hired in 1999 as a specialist in 19th-century British literature, she has taught a broad range of undergraduate and graduate courses; including composition, surveys of British literature, literary theory and criticism, the English novel, the literature of diversity and single-author subjects.

While thriving in the classroom, Tayebi has also showcased her broad range of educational professionalism with administrative stints as Associate Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (2004-09) as well as Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Graduate Studies (2009-15).


“There are few subjects in the field that, it seems, she cannot teach—and teach well. She also takes innovative approaches to engaging students. Because of this remarkable range of interests and pedagogical approaches and her ability to engage students at all levels, Tayebi, perhaps predictably, has been asked to direct a number of MA theses since coming to the university and serve as reading committee member on many others. Given the time and energy required of this extracurricular work, the number of theses is impressive.”

“Despite her superior record of teaching and administrative service at the university, Tayebi is refreshingly modest about her manifest accomplishments. She seems to take for granted the fact that good teaching and administrative contributions are what dedicated members of our academic community who are concerned about our students do. That she is able to teach and serve so well while maintaining a healthy balance in those “other lives” that we lead at the university is a testimony to her tireless energies and her devotion to these students and the SHSU community.”

Excellence in Service:

Lisa Brown, Associate Professor, College of Education

Lisa Brown’s dedication to service has resulted in an overwhelming list of projects that have advanced SHSU and the communities she is a part of. She has possessed a servant’s heart from an early age and works tirelessly to share her passion for giving with her students, often through Academic Community Engagement (ACE) courses.

One of Brown’s ongoing service projects is the SHSU Raven Tree Trail, in which secondary agricultural teacher candidates have participated in the collection of tree measurements, tree species and tree health to input into the Texas Tree Trails website. The project is a collaboration with SHSU Arborist Evan Anderson, Texas Forestry Association and the Texas A&M Forest Service to help with data collection and tree identification. She is currently working to extend the trail to the museum property as well as placing Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) markers on the trees so trail walkers can view the tree information from their phones.

Brown has also offered extensive assistance to the armed services and veteran communities. She has earned the rank of Major as an active member of the George H.W. Bush Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), where she serves as the Aerospace Education Officer and provides educator workshops and school visits. Her work with Operation Gratitude and Mission K9 rescue has supported deployed troops, first responders, National Guardsmen, as well as four-legged heroes.


“Lisa Brown has certainly had an outsized impact on the State of Texas, her community and SHSU students… Her efforts ensure that the next generation of teachers heading off into communities all over the state have the tools ready to educate the next generation on complex environmental issues." 

“I consider Brown to be one of the most impactful members in our squadron’s history. As a 25-year member of Civil Air Patrol and having served with a wide variety of aerospace education professionals, I can confidently attest that Brown’s commitment to serving the Brazos Valley community in this capacity over the past twelve years has promoted the highly demanded advancement of STEM curriculum and shaped the trajectory of our future leaders, and we are extremely fortunate for her contributions to our organization.”

Excellence in Scholarly & Creative Accomplishments:

Helena Halmari, Distinguished Professor of English

By the time Helena Halmari joined SHSU’s English faculty in 1995, she had already established herself as a remarkable scholar with four separate master’s degrees in English philosophy, library sciences, English composition and linguistics. In nearly 30 years of academic service to the university, her prestige and dedication to her profession have continued to grow exponentially.

The scope of Halmari’s research knows no borders. Her work on rhetoric and persuasion has garnered international attention and, from 2011-21, she served as editor-in-chief of the international scholarly journal, the Journal of Finnish Studies. One of her recent research projects involves the increased use of Ukrainian language in Ukraine, as opposed to Russian, as a result of the current war.

She has been published in nearly 50 articles or book chapters as well as 10 book reviews and presented over 70 scholarly conference papers at national and international meetings. She has been invited to present more than 15 other lectures by scholarly organizations in the U.S., Britain, New Zealand and Finland.

Halmari was awarded the designation of Distinguished Professor in 2020 after she was nominated by her colleagues at SHSU. The following year, she received the Texas State University System (TSUS) Regents’ Professor Award. She has additionally been named a Senior Specialist in her field by the Fulbright Program, and she has also earned substantial grant money for her research.


“If one’s professional accomplishments were merely line items on a resume, Halmari’s would be remarkable by any accounting. But her scholarship, teaching and service are much more: everything she does – from studying language so that we can understand better the persons who speak it to serving in various professional capacities here and abroad to cultivating a culture of scholarship in our own university to being the best of classroom instructors – is undertaken in the spirit of genuine intellectual curiosity and a generous, shared searching for the truth.”

“Halmari managed to keep up her rigorous research schedule while serving as Chair of the Department of English, a position she held for more than five years. Although she fretted sometimes that her scholarly output dropped off after she assumed the duties of Chair, she published seven articles, made steady progress on book manuscripts and presented scholarly work at 12 national or international conferences.” 

Non-Tenure Track Teaching:

Adannaa Alexander, Clinical Assistant Professor, the Department of Public Health

Adannaa Alexander’s self-described teaching philosophy is to equip students with knowledge, skills, attitudes, tools and resources that they can apply in real world settings. The extensive support she has received from former and current students alike, as well as her SHSU colleagues, suggests that this philosophy resonates greatly with others. She joined SHSU in 2019 and teaches four in-person and online courses, offers invaluable mentorship and helps facilitate workshops and lectures focused on improving public health.

Alexander regularly attends conferences to seek out innovative approaches in improving her classes. Her thorough and unique approach includes integrating video into her online courses to assist in teaching concepts as well as improving course navigation.

She also brings a plethora of real-world experience to her instruction by incorporating her years as a Peace Corps coordinator as well as nonprofit work. In line with her real-world approach, Alexander believes in practicing accountability with her students.

Prior to her time at SHSU and work as a coordinator in the Peace Corps, Alexander served as a health educator at Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta. She also served as communications chair for the Association of Black Public Health Students at Emory University and as Africa program assistant for Global Health Action.


“Professor Alexander is a genuine and warm individual that all students and faculty gravitate towards. She truly exemplifies an excellent example of a faculty member and colleague you want to be around.”

“I have observed her in front of students, presenting to faculty and staff, and officiating a student organization. Her passion for teaching is contagious. She is one of the most outstanding instructors that I have witnessed in two decades in higher education.”

David Payne Academic Community Engagement (ACE) Award:

Brandon Strubberg, Assistant Professor of Technical Communication in the Department of English

One commonality that can be found in all of Brandon Strubberg’s technical writing courses is his emphasis on understanding professional situations. His ACE courses strive to provide transformational learning experiences for SHSU students.

He stood out for this distinction among a highly qualified group of candidates due to his clear commitment to community engagement in all his courses, his approach to scholarship and his service to the university, profession and community.

In one of Strubberg’s upcoming projects, his students will work with the Houston Metropolitan Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force to help create informational training material on the topic of sextortion. This will provide students with the opportunity to gain experience relevant to their post-graduation pursuits as well as learn about a topic that could impact their own personal safety.   


“The partnership with Professor Strubberg and his students has been invaluable to me serving in different roles throughout the Houston Police Department. When acting as the Geographic Information Supervisor with the HPD GIS Unit, Professor Strubberg’s students assisted in the creation of many technical documents for our unit, ranging from branding guidelines to our unit’s Standard Operating Procedures, saving me and my coworkers countless hours of work, allowing us to focus on many projects that impact operations to this day.”

“In Strubberg’s TCOM 5330 Technical Style and Editing, I once again experienced hands-on training that had an immediate impact. Strubberg required his students to work with iFixit, an internet-based company that provides free digital repair guides, to edit pre-existing pages that lacked in-depth content. This project reinforced, for me, the importance of audience analysis and effective research and writing—again, information that I could relate to on a professional level. I still continue to receive periodic updates on my work through iFixit, and as of January 15, 2023, one of the guides I heavily edited had reached 212 people since its publication. I find it rewarding that the work I completed through Strubberg’s Technical Style and Editing class continues to make an impact. I began the class unsure of editing skills and finished with great confidence in my style and editing abilities.”

To see photos from the 2023 President's Academic Awards Dinner, follow this link.

- END -

This page maintained by SHSU's Communications Office:

Director of Content Communications: Emily Binetti

Communications Manager: Mikah Boyd
Telephone: 936.294.1837

Communications Specialist: Campbell Atkins
Telephone: 936.294.2638

Please send comments, corrections, news tips to