Awards honor faculty excellence

Seven faculty recognized for nurturing strong connections

| Author: Aaron Mills | Media Contact: Aaron Mills

Central Michigan University is celebrating faculty members who set the leadership standard by prioritizing student success, providing rich knowledge-based experiences and nurturing strong connections inside and outside of the classroom.

Faculty Distinguished Service Award

Created by the provost in 2001, the award recognizes faculty members with a record of sustained and distinguished service at CMU. Nominations are reviewed by members of the Instructional Development Advisory Council, a subcommittee of CMU's Academic Senate.

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Emil Boasson

Emil Boasson

Business Information Systems Department

In 13 years as director of the Master of Science in Information Systems program, Emil Boasson has made extraordinary contributions, including working diligently to increase the total number of MSIS students from 63 in January 2010 to 612 in the fall of 2022. He has been the linchpin of the program's success through a collaborative effort among faculty and staff while maintaining a smile and having time to support colleagues and students. A key factor in Boasson’s success is working with students throughout their journey, including recruiting both domestically and internationally, evaluating application materials, communicating with incoming and current students, facilitating class registration through advising, mentoring teaching assistants and helping students find academic and wellness resources.

Excellence in Teaching Awards

Created by CMU in 1985, the Excellence in Teaching Awards recognize outstanding teaching efforts by faculty. Awardees are selected from faculty members nominated and supported by their peers and students, who then undergo a rigorous selection process by the Excellence in Teaching Awards Committee.

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Jodi Brookins-Fisher

Jodi Brookins-Fisher

School of Health Sciences

Jodi Brookins-Fisher is a professor in the School of Health Sciences. Jodi is passionate about what she teaches and has a wealth of experiences that inspire her students. Her priority is to establish a climate of respect, kindness, and decency to each other within each class, as this helps her lay the groundwork of clear and high expectations. Jodi uses a variety of modes, including group work, journaling, self-reflection, case studies, games, guest speakers, and field trips. She especially loves experiences outside of class that are beneficial for the students and community. 



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Robert Fanning


Robert Fanning

Department of English Language and Literature

Robert Fanning is a professor of English in the Department of English Language and Literature. Fanning strives to create a tight-knit community in his classroom by providing an environment of deep connection, respect, trust, and empathy among all students. As one student affirmed, “This professor prioritizes a comfortable, safe haven for creativity.” Another stated, “He treats every student as if they are the most valuable person in the classroom.” Fanning compares his class to “a large boat we’re launching out to sea, that we all must launch together, hop in and row, joyfully, in unison, to both appreciate the journey and reach our shared destination.”  



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M. Dawn Nelson


M. Dawn Nelson

Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders

M. Dawn Nelson is a professor of audiology within the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. Her teaching centers on cultivating strong classroom learning communities. She is passionate about building positive relationships with students to successfully lead them toward mastery of learning the content. Nelson’s empathetic and compassionate approach to teaching fosters a supportive learning environment for all students. She is also known among students and colleagues for providing real-world applications and materials to supplement the course content. Her courses help students develop strong connections between theory and practice. 



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Kirsten Nicholson


Kirsten Nicholson

Department of Biology

Kirsten Nicholson is a professor of biology in the College of Science and Engineering. Nicholson’s teaching employs “supported active learning” that asks “students to take control of their education.”  Nicholson’s students speak highly of her and her teaching methods. One student offered that her teaching “fosters a sense of respect and belonging in students and encourages the mindset that they are all working toward a common goal.” A colleague shared, “she is extremely respectful of students in the classroom, and it shows in their willingness to ask questions and engage in discussion in class.”



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Wendy Robertson


Wendy Robertson

Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences

Wendy Robertson is an associate professor of earth and atmospheric sciences in the College of Science and Engineering. She strives to foster a welcoming, respectful, inquisitive and collaborative classroom community. With her innovative pedagogy, she pioneers the development and real-world application of simulations and game-based learning to engage and inspire students. As stated by one of her students, “The games made learning fun – I wanted to keep doing it.” Robertson emphasizes applying knowledge and skills to students’ future careers through student-directed projects such as technical documents, data collection and analysis, making sound recommendations, and proposals for broad audiences.  


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.

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Alejandra Rengifo

Alejandra Rengifo

Department of History, World Languages & Cultures

Alejandra Rengifo, a Spanish professor in the Department of History, World Languages, and Cultures, is invested in building learning communities. Her teaching philosophy centers on creating safe spaces where students “…can identify the common goal of shared learning done through teamwork and social interaction.” Students and colleagues affirm her commitment to student success. One student wrote: “I rarely feel as connected with other students … as I do in the classes with this professor.” A colleague described her as “…a positive role model … who deeply cares about student learning.” A student agreed, “This instructor is one of the most genuinely caring professors I have ever had.”

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