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A dozen making a difference

Faculty members recognized for outstanding successes in labs and classrooms

Contact: ​Jeff Johnston


A dozen outstanding Central Michigan University faculty will be guests of honor at the 2019 Faculty Excellence Exhibition for their research and teaching.

The event at 3 p.m. Thursday, March 21, in the Bovee University Center Rotunda recognizes the recipients of the annual President's and Provost's Awards, Faculty Distinguished Service Award, and several Excellence in Teaching Awards. 

Also being recognized are the external funding recipients from 2017-18. Faculty members from several departments will displaying their research following the formal awards program.

President's Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Activity

The President's Award was created to allow peers to select and recognize outstanding senior faculty members for scholarship of national and international merit. This year's recipients:

mug-ute.jpgUte Hochgeschwender, College of MedicineHochgeschwender is a pioneer and leader in the emerging field of optogenetics, using light from biological enzymes to actuate individual neurons within the brain. This manipulation of neurons could advance treatment of brain damage and research into brain function. 

Additionally, she has collaborated on research to develop reprogrammed pluripotent stem cells in animals, an important tool for biological and biomedical research.

Since joining the College of Medicine in 2014, Hochgeschwender has been part of research grants totaling more than $13 million and has published 15 peer-reviewed articles. 

She also is recognized as a gifted teacher who inspires students' attention to detail and passion for research.

mug-newland.jpgGuy Newland, philosophy and religionWhen the Dalai Lama lectured in the United States on the most important work by the founder of his sect of Tibetan Buddhism, Newland was invited to translate those teachings.

Newland, philosophy and religion department chair, is internationally respected for his contributions to the study of Tibetan Buddhism in English for academic and general audiences. A multiyear project he led to translate one of Tibet's most important and challenging philosophical texts produced a work that peers consider a masterpiece.

"To translate this into English at all, let alone such readable, lucid English that miraculously follows the Tibetan closely without any awkwardness, is an accomplishment that has the world of Tibetan and Buddhist studies in awe," said a colleague.

Newland also is known for his collegiality, creativity, intellectual rigor, and skills as a scholar and storyteller.

Provost's Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Activity

This honor was created to allow peers to select and recognize accomplished up-and-coming faculty members for scholarship of national and international merit. This year's recipients:

mug-rossignol.jpgJulien Rossignol, College of Medicine: 

Rossignol leads a team working to deliver cell therapy and genomic editing to the brain through human-made dendrimer molecules. The approach could apply to treatment for conditions such as stroke, Alzheimer's disease and Huntington's disease. 

The research has yielded data on using stem cells, viral vectors and genomic editing to treat neurodegenerative diseases.

Rossignol received his first early-career research grant of $30,000 in 2012. A $450,000 grant announced last week from the National Institutes of Health brings his total awards to nearly $1.5 million.

Since joining CMU in 2007, Rossignol also has supervised and mentored more than 30 graduate students and a larger number of undergraduate students in the neuroscience program, setting an outstanding example of scientific conduct.

mug-valoti.jpgAlicia Marie Valoti, School of Music

As a scholar and a violist, Valoti seeks out challenges. Her research brings new appreciation to the often overlooked musical heritage of the viola, and her performance repertoire includes challenging contemporary works and compositions by women, Latin-American composers and little-known historical figures. 

Valoti is an avid performer, taking the stage in Iceland, Denmark, Germany, Brazil and beyond since joining the School of Music in 2016, as well as performing on campus and in the Saginaw Bay, Midland and Lansing symphony orchestras and the River Raisin Ragtime Revue.

Her master classes in countries including Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia bring high-caliber instruction to often under-resourced students, many of whom she has recruited to study at CMU and play in prestigious American and international festivals.

Faculty Distinguished Service Award

Created by the provost in 2002, the award recognizes faculty members with a record of sustained and distinguished service at CMU. This year's recipient: 

mug-fanning.jpgRobert Fanning, English language and literature

As founder and facilitator of The Wellspring Literary Series, Fanning has brought more than 50 nationally prominent and diverse Michigan authors to Mount Pleasant over the past 10 years to read original poetry and fiction. His leadership through Wellspring cultivates meaningful relationships among CMU's School of Music, English department and the local community.

Excellence in Teaching Awards

These awards were created by the Academic Senate to provide special recognition to faculty members who exceed the usual standards and expectations. This year's recipients:

mug-burke.jpgApril Burke, English language and literature

Students and faculty praise Burke for leading her classes with a variety of teaching methods to inspire and empower them. One student said Burke "engaged us and enhanced our learning process by blending excitement and participation in the educational experience."

mug-dejong.jpgBrian DeJong, School of Engineering and Technology

The student who nominated DeJong described his friendly disposition: "He is very understanding and kind. He always has a smile on his face and is willing to help anyone and everyone excel." Another student emphasized DeJong's commitment to making sure his students are prepared for careers.

mug-douglas.jpgNatalie Douglas, communication sciences and disorders

Douglas teaches through "transformative learning" that focuses on helping students find meaning through task-oriented problem-solving, cause-and-effect relationships, and reflection. Students say Douglas is more than an educator: "She is a mentor, giver, motivator and leader."

mug-gutierrez-rivas.jpgCarolina Gutiérrez-Rivas, world languages and cultures (Spanish): 

Gutiérrez-Rivasfinds novel ways to stimulate her students' imaginations and curiosity, promote critical thinking, and apply classroom content to real life. She said she finds her greatest joy in watching students develop skills and competency in new subjects and theories, and her goal is to awaken minds by encouraging discussion, questions, performance, imagination, and — most importantly — good reading and writing skills.  

mug-mcginnis.jpgAmy Beth McGinnis, management

Students are the center of McGinnis' teaching, and she instills into them a deep appreciation for learning. She strives to collaborate with students as equals in an environment of trust, respect, mutual exchange, engagement and critical thinking. 

Lorrie Ryan Memorial Excellence in Teaching Award

Lorrie Ryan was a faculty member in human environmental studies and an awardee of the 2002 Excellence in Teaching Award. This award, established in 2006, is given in her memory each year to a faculty member who inspires students by building a sense of community within the learning environment and demonstrating a profound mentorship and respect for others. This year's recipient:

mug-cavanaugh.jpgShane Cavanaugh, teacher education and professional development

"She made me feel important," an alum said of Cavanaugh, "and I hope that I, too, am giving that gift as I teach." Cavanaugh exemplifies a passion for knowing her students and seeks to build community, respect and rapport in her classes as a positive foundation for learning.

Student Choice Award for Excellence in Teaching

This award allows students to recognize a faculty member for creative excellence in overall instructional effectiveness. This year's recipient:

mug-barron-duncan.jpgRachael Barron-Duncan, art and design

Students say Barron-Duncan goes above and beyond to support them inside and outside the classroom and connect them with opportunities. Barron-Duncan's classes and teaching style give students the opportunity to gain experience understanding difficult topics regarding art historical writing. She challenges her students to understand different ways of thinking.


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