Wilkes University recognized 12 faculty and staff members for excellence in teaching and advising at the 2015 Teacher Recognition and Effectiveness Committee (TREC) Awards Ceremony. The recipients of this year’s awards are:
Marianne Rexer, Robert Capin Professor of Accounting, received the Carpenter Award for Teaching. The award recognizes an outstanding teacher at Wilkes and includes a $1,000 award and a framed certificate. The name of the recipient is also inscribed on a permanent plaque on campus. The awardee is nominated by his or her full-time colleagues and must have been a full-time employee for at least three years.
Rexer joined Wilkes as an assistant professor in 1990. She was nominated for the award by Matthew Sowcik, department chair of entrepreneurship, leadership, and marketing. His nomination stated that Rexer models teaching excellence for faculty and students within the business school, demonstrating hard work, dedication, and a desire to set the bar and redefine how accounting is taught. Students have commented that she demonstrates her interest in their success now and as future accountants. She also makes an effort to attend an extracurricular event for every student she advises, has collaborated with numerous students and mentored students on scholarly projects. She also received much positive support from alumni, who noted her ability to relate to the aspirations of her students and her commitment to their success as business and accounting leaders. Rexer is currently building the Sidhu School programs at the newly renovated Mesa Center for Higher Education in Mesa, Arizona. She works with accounting students there to integrate them into the community through extracurricular activities such as the IRS’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Grant Program.
Paola Bianco, professor of global history and languages, received the Multiculturalism Award. The award recognizes an outstanding faculty member who demonstrates leadership in the advancement of multiculturalism ideals in the classroom. In a few of her classes, Bianco uses her last book that includes universal topics such as immigration, euthanasia, domestic violence and human rights, among others. In her award nomination, it was noted that Bianco wants her students to experience other languages, beliefs, cultures and traditions so they can appreciate, respect, accept and embrace people from diverse backgrounds. As a professor of foreign languages, she believes in integrating multicultural education into every aspect of the curriculum through her teaching, advising, new course creation and participation in diversity events.
The Outstanding Advisor Award is a student-nominated award that recognizes one academic advisor from each college who demonstrates excellence in academic advising based on load, advising philosophy and testimony by advisees. This year’s recipients are:
- Karen A. Frantz-Fry, assistant professor of education-undergraduate, received the Outstanding Advisor Award for the School of Education. As an advisor, Frantz-Fry believes it is her responsibility to communicate with students, provide them a map of requirements that must be met for graduation and refer them to university resources to assist them in their academic and developmental success. She treats her advisees as family and checks in with them throughout the semester.
- Dean F. Frear, associate professor of business, received the Outstanding Advisor Award for the Sidhu School of Business. Frear’s advising philosophy centers around helping students with course scheduling and focusing on a career path. Students have commented on the individual attention he gives to their schedules and making sure they graduate on time.
- Gretchen Yeninas, associate dean of student affairs, received the Outstanding Advisor Award for the University College. Working primarily with first-year students, Yeninas strives to teach her advisees about policy and procedural issues, and also how to be better students inside and outside the classroom. Yeninas was formerly an advising coordinator in University College.
- Kalen M.A. Churcher, assistant professor of communication studies, received the Outstanding Advisor Award for the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. Churcher views advising as being part mentor, part cheerleader and part apron string-cutter. She believes it is a privilege to advise students, holds high expectations for her students and challenges them to succeed.
- Prahlad Murthy, associate dean and professor of environmental engineering and earth sciences, received the Outstanding Advisor Award for the College of Science and Engineering. Murthy believes that in addition to assisting students in evaluating their academic progress, the ability to listen and communicate well with students and at times with their parents is important for effective advising. Students have commented that he is very approachable and tries to provide advisees with as many professional opportunities as possible by discussing their career aspirations and other professional interests.
- Maria Grandinetti, assistant professor of nursing-undergraduate, received the Outstanding Advisor Award for the Passan School of Nursing. Grandinetti is a proactive advisor; answering questions, being supportive, and proving guidance when needed. Her advisees know that she is available to them, as she makes a conscious effort to stay connected throughout the year. Her overall aim is to be an effective and friendly advisor. Students appreciate the excellence in advising that she demonstrates.
- Jonathan D. Ference, associate professor of pharmacy practice, received the Outstanding Advisor Award for the School of Pharmacy. Ference understands mentorship as a process of nurturing individuals to understand and act on their abilities while challenging them to achieve greatness. He employs student self-confidence, comfort, competence and control to aid him when advising students during the personal and professional development processes.
Edward T. Bednarz III, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, received the Innovative and Non-Traditional Teaching Award. The student-nominated award recognizes a teacher who successfully incorporates innovative or non-traditional strategies into at least one class. Teaching innovation includes effective small group, collaborative methods; advanced use of technology in the classroom; consistent student-centered, interactive classroom experience; engagement in outside-the-classroom learning experiences that enrich student mastery of concepts and theories; and engaging students in joint faculty-student research projects.
Bednarz was nominated by several students who enjoy the many innovative projects and real life examples he brings to his courses. He creates examples to ensure that students are actively participating and, no matter the class size, makes an effort to connect with each student.
Donald E. Mencer, associate professor and chair of chemistry, received the Alumni Mentoring Award. The alumni-nominated award recognizes a teacher who continues to mentor students post-graduation. Mencer was nominated by four former students who expressed their gratitude and provided examples of his continued mentoring, such as making phone calls to graduate school programs, developing research collaborations for former students and providing career advice.
Andrew R. Wilczak, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology, received the Outstanding New Faculty Award. The award recognizes one full-time, non-visiting faculty member in his or her second or third year of full-time teaching at Wilkes University who demonstrates excellence in teaching, advising, and service. The awardee is nominated by his or her department chair.
Wilczak, who specializes in criminology, joined the Wilkes faculty in fall 2012. Students have consistently commented that Wilczak makes the material interesting, is engaging, makes the class fun and pushes his students to learn. Also, unsatisfied with the textbook options for the foundational course he teaches in criminology, Wilczak crafted a proposal to write a criminology textbook himself and received a contract with Lynne Rienner Publishers. When he is not teaching, Wilczak spends time mentoring students and advising student research, and conducts his own research on youth violence and victimization.