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Four Recognized With 2013 Faculty Excellence Awards

Aug. 30, 2013
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt

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2013 winners with Dana Gibson
The 2013 Faculty Excellence Award winners, with SHSU President Dana Gibson and Provost Jaimie Hebert (center), include, from left: William Green, professor of economics; Joyce McCauley, professor of reading; Diana Nabors, associate professor of early childhood education; and Ilona Petrikovics, associate professor of chemistry. —Photo by Brian Blalock


Four Sam Houston State University professors whose research, service and academic engagement stands out from among their peers have been selected to receive one of SHSU’s Faculty Excellence Awards.

The 2013 winners include professor of economics William Green, Excellence in Service; associate professor of chemistry Ilona Petrikovics, Excellence in Research; and associate professor of early childhood education Diana Nabors, the David Payne Academic Community Engagement Award. Education professor Joyce McCauley was also selected as the Excellence in Teaching recipient.


Excellence in Service

From mayor to mentor, economics professor William Green’s commitment to both Huntsville and Sam Houston State University for nearly four decades has earned him recognition as the Excellence in Service award recipient.

Green’s contributions to both the community and university began only two years after moving to Huntsville and joining the SHSU faculty in 1974, being elected to the faculty senate and appointed to the Huntsville Planning Commission and Huntsville Data Base Commission in 1976.

In 1984, he was elected to the first of four terms to the Huntsville City Council in an at-large position, and then in 1995 was elected to the first of four terms as the mayor of Huntsville.

During his time as mayor, Green was able to initiate and complete a variety of projects that benefited both the City of Huntsville and SHSU, including the acquisition of the property to extend FM 1374 from Sam Houston Avenue to Bowers Stadium, and he facilitated a contractual relationship between the city and SHSU that allowed the city to build the Raven Nest Golf Course on university property.

“Dr. Green’s cross-cultural work to bridge the town-gown gap has served both the university and the broader community in ways that can hardly be measured,” a nominator said. “He serves the university by cultivating an environment of cooperation with the surrounding mercantile community and by opening lines of communication with the local government.”

On campus, Green has served as a member of, and chaired, a lengthy list of university, college and departmental committees, including presidential, vice presidential and dean search committees; the university curriculum and faculty evaluations committees; and the Faculty and Staff Annual Fund Campaign. He also helped organize and currently advises the SHSU chapter of the Golden Key International Honour Society, a campus-wide honorary organization that annually inducts over 200 new members, and recently chaired the College of Business Administration’s steering committee for reaccreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business and drafted the AACSB reaccreditation report.

“For many of our students, Bill has not just been a teacher who cares only about their academic achievements but also a mentor who has gone that extra mile to help them with the much needed guidance and advice to make best use of their college education,” another nominator said. “As it is well known, many of our students are first-generation college goers and others come from difficult backgrounds. For those students, such mentoring is not only important but also necessary.

“In recognition of Bill’s dedication to serve students, two of his former students, Ashley Riley and Leenette Wilke, established a scholarship in his name at the College of Business Administration,” the nomination continued. “This speaks a volume of how much the students appreciate Bill’s contributions to their lives.”


Excellence in Research

Associate professor of chemistry Ilona Petrikovics’s work as high-level researcher running a top-ranked Homeland Security project could save countless U.S. armed servicemen’s and women’s lives, as well as civilian lives, in a world with an ever-increasing risk of a terrorist attack involving chemical agents. This work also has earned her SHSU’s Excellence in Research Award.

Since 2007, when she came to SHSU, Petrikovics has been working on projects funded by the National Institutes of Health CounterAct Program and the U.S. Army that have examined nerve agents and, more currently, preventing and treating the lethal effects of cyanide.

“When cyanide, a deadly chemical, enters the bloodstream, it prevents the cells from utilizing oxygen and thus prevents them from being able to obtain the energy needed for life. The oxygen sits unused in the body,” Petrikovics said. “This unused oxygen alters the color of the blood to cherry red in both veins and arteries. Since the cyanide prevents the cells from accessing oxygen and thus energy, the body shuts down.

“Our research is focusing on the development of improved therapeutic, counteractive drugs to offset the effects of cyanide poisoning,” she said.

To date, these projects have totaled more than $1.47 million in funding by a special Congressional supplement to the NIH budget under the oversight of the Office of Biodefense Research; 17 peer-reviewed authors (including 19 student co-authors); nine patent applications; a book chapter (of eight she has completed in total); and 47 peer-reviewed presentations at national and international conferences with 42 student coauthors and an additional 33 regional peer-reviewed presentations with 68 student authors.

If it appears that SHSU’s students are heavily involved in her projects, that’s because they are, and it is something Petrikovics is extremely proud of. Each year she is able to accommodate, through her grant funding, an average of 14 undergraduate and graduate students in her research lab, and for three years in a row, one of her students has received the prestigious national American Society of Toxicology Pfizer Award. An additional student received the American Academy of Forensic Science National Award.

“Several of my mentored undergraduate and graduate students have gone on to do toxicology/medical sciences research at prestigious universities and institutions; two of my undergraduate team members prepared an undergraduate Honors College senior research thesis,” she said. “At the ‘Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol’ in Austin, two of my mentored students (Jessica Nasr in 2011 and Anna Duke in 2013) were chosen to represent SHSU, present our research, and speak with legislators about our achievements.

“Combining research with student mentoring is a part of my work that brings me much joy,” Petrikovics said. “Conducting research at an academic institution without involving students would be like trying to play a symphony on a single instrument. Academic research is a special form of teaching, at least in chemistry, and I have been a mentor to my students while also serving in the roles of professor and researcher.”

One nominator also pointed out, as evidence of how the chemical and toxicological community views her research, that Petrikovics is regularly invited as an expert on cyanide toxicity to participate in various panels and she serves on the editorial board of the World Journal of Methodology.

“She is recognized nationally and internationally as one of the top experts in cyanide toxicity, and her research is focused on solving a serious national security problem,” the nominator said.


David Payne Academic Community Engagement Award

As an associate professor of early childhood education, Diana Nabors combines her passion for education and community service to help her “‘big’ children (college students) teach ‘little’ children” and assist both groups in becoming “the best that they can be.”

For her efforts in teaching, research and service—which often converge in her students’ and her own projects—Nabors has been recognized with the David Payne Academic Community Engagement Award.

“Dr. Diana Nabors exemplifies the objectives of the David Payne Award in that she teaches SHSU education students to identify and respond to the early childhood education needs of surrounding communities,” said Lee Miller, associate chair of the SHSU sociology department and chair of the ACE award committee.

“In her classes, with her students, through professional associations and continuing education programs, Dr. Nabors uses her expertise to strengthen educational programs throughout this part of Texas,” Miller said. “Her SHSU students gain an understanding of their professional roles as educators and as active members of their communities. The community organizations (schools, child care centers, professional associations, etc.) benefit from additional resources and training. The children in these schools and programs benefit from teachers who are up to date on the latest pedagogies and have the support of SHSU students as supplementary instructors.”

Nabors’s selection was based on her positive impact on her students, community partners and the university; her collaboration with community partners; her scholarly activity; and the integration of teaching, scholarly activity and service.

This impact can be seen as in her role as adviser for interdisciplinary studies students and for two student organizations (the Sam Houston Association for the Education of Young Children and the SHSU Texas State Teachers Association—Student Programs), as well as assisting with a third (the Sam Houston Student Council for Exceptional Students).

She requires students in her “Families in Diverse Communities” ACE class to participate in 10 hours of community service in their home towns “so that they can be involved where they live” and her “Curriculum for Early Childhood Education” classes work 10-12 hours with pre-kindergarteners, teaching lessons and creating learning experiences for 4 year olds in public pre-k, head start and childcare classrooms. She also assists approximately 100-180 students in finding field experience sites.

“Dr. Nabors has helped me and others in the early childhood field tremendously. Since the beginning, she has been by my side encouraging me every step of the way, through my undergraduate degree, master’s degree, to teaching as a part-time faculty member and now into my doctoral work,” one nominator said. “I can honestly, 100 percent, say that I would not be where I am today if it was not for Dr. Nabors. Her dedication to the university, education, and guiding others to success puts her on a whole other level.”

In addition, her early childhood professional development grant, which is entering its seventh year, provides professional development, in-class mentoring, assessment, and support to teachers of pre-kindergarten teachers, including four hours a month of in-class aid, four hours a month of professional development, classroom curriculum and an abundance of teaching materials.

The grants, over the past seven years, have amounted to almost $1.4 million in funding and served approximately 200 teachers and 3,000 children in Walker and Montgomery Counties. Nabors also has presented in such places as Hawaii on maintaining and sustaining grant funding.

“Diana embraces and accepts responsibility for ensuring that pre-service and childcare center teachers receive quality support, information and professional preparation,” another nominator said. “She is a completely reliable, conscientious, team player who is fully committed to the success and well being of us all.”




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