Awards honor faculty excellence in 2024

Eight faculty recognized for excellence in and out of the classroom

| Author: Sarah Scoby

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.

2024 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.

Shilpa Alamuri wearing maroon and smiling while posing for a professional headshot.Shilpa Alamuri
Department of Management

A fixed-term faculty of Management in the College of Business Administration, Professor Alamuri engages and inspires students with high expectations and clear guidelines and puts great effort into planning each lecture so that the time students spend in class is rewarding.  She is highly praised by students and colleagues.  A student stated, “You had such a huge impact on my academic career because you expected so much from me but challenged me in a way that helped me to succeed.” A colleague commented that she “provides an excellent professional role model for our students.”  


Andy Blom wearing a blue shirt while posing for a professional headshot.Andy Blom
Department of Philosophy, Anthropology & Religion

Dr. Andrew Blom is an Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy, Anthropology & Religion. He is a mentor who builds community and focuses on the well-being of his students. One of his colleagues affirms that he has made it his mission to support students in any way he can. He opens class “in ways that invite people into the space as their full selves.” He allows time for announcements and celebrations, which he sees as an opportunity to learn more about his students’ activities and involvements. He fosters relationships and promotes leadership in ways that bring important intellectual and social diversity to his classroom. 


Anne Hornak wearing a black shirt and smiling while posing for a professional headshot.Anne M. Hornak
Department of Counseling, Educational Leadership & Higher Education

Dr. Anne M. Hornak is in her 15th year as a Professor of Higher Education in the College of Education & Human Services. Her philosophy of teaching can best be described as “student-centric, relevant, and innovative.” Dr. Hornak’s focus on “investing in creating and cultivating student connections” was identified as something students appreciate most about her instruction. One student added that “she provides a safe, dynamic, and inclusive learning environment at all times.” Additionally, a colleague described her “incredibly high energy in the classroom and her ability to help students apply complex topics to everyday situations” as commendable. 


Rachael Nelson wearing a black shirt and smiling while posing for a professional headshot.Rachael K. Nelson
School of Health Sciences

Dr. Rachael Nelson is a Professor of Exercise Science in the College of Health Professions. Dr. Nelson’s teaching approach requires students to engage in the material, complete an assessment, take part in the discussion, and incorporate learning into the laboratory. One student stated, “she made connections…to help the students truly grasp the aim” while another noted that she is “the epitome of an educator who cares not only about a student’s education, but their success as an individual.” A colleague noted that her teaching has evolved to what he believes is “the most effective strategy supported by strong research evidence.”


Joseph Michael Sommers wearing a gray jacket and tie with a blue shirt and smiling while posing for a professional headshot.Joseph Sommers
Department of English, Language and Literature

Dr. Joseph Sommers is a Professor of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.  An unfailingly dedicated teacher, Joe has claimed that, as a teacher, “the best tools in my arsenal might be good humor and empathy,” and that one of his primary aims in teaching is to “create trust and respect” between instructor and student.  Joe’s students have no end of praise for his outstanding work in and out of the classroom. One student noted that “he refuses to take anything but our best effort” and that “we were engaged and inspired every day in his class.”  Joe’s colleagues share the same high regard for him. One noted in a peer evaluation that he “is well prepared not only in presenting the subject matter but also in fostering students’ thinking and creativity.”


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.

Dawn Decker wearing a navy blue jacket and smiling while posing for a professional headshot.Dawn M. Decker
Department of Teacher and Special Education

Dr. Dawn Decker is a Professor of Special Education in the College of Education & Human Services. At the core of her teaching philosophy is providing individual student investment, an organized and relevant course experience, and role modeling what she hopes to see in future educators. One student commented that “with an easy-going nature, fair and concise feedback, and regular check-ins, both privately and as a class, this professor goes above and beyond to ensure that students feel respected and valued.” Additionally, a colleague expressed appreciation for Dr. Decker’s commitment to being a well-rounded, present, and accessible educator. 


Student Choice Award

The Student Choice Award is selected by a committee of current students and recognizes a faculty member for creative excellence in overall instructional effectiveness.

JoDell Heroux wearing a black shirt and smiling while posing for a professional headshot.JoDell R. Heroux
Department of Teacher and Special Education

Dr. JoDell Heroux is a professor in the Department of Teacher and Special Education. Her background in Disability Studies and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) guides her instruction and reflects her unwavering commitment to inclusion. For Dr. Heroux, teaching isn't just about disseminating information—it's about creating an environment where every individual feels valued and empowered. UDL is a dynamic framework that celebrates different ways of learning, engaging, and demonstrating knowledge, which maximizes student learning. She goes above and beyond to create “a space that honors and values (students’) knowledge and experiences, demonstrating her commitment to humane and just teaching”.


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 were reviewed, and the winner was selected by the Shared Governance and Communications Committee.

Heather Trommer-Beardslee wearing a gray shirt and smiling while posing for a professional headshot.Heather Trommer-Beardslee
Department of Theatre and Dance

Since joining CMU in 2011, Associate Professor of Dance, Heather Trommer-Beardslee, has a consistent history of dedication to serving the CMU community by engaging in sustained collaborative interdisciplinary efforts and continuously working to engage students in meaningful community outreach endeavors. For many years, she has partnered with the Isabella County Commission on Aging and Crestwood Village Assisted Living facility to teach dance classes to participants and residents. She regularly works outside of class structures to bridge the gaps between disciplines and collaborate with students and faculty across campus. One example includes working with Biology faculty to teach cellular division through dance. This is all in addition to her rigorous committee service on campus, for the National Dance Education Organization and the Journal of Dance Education.

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