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May 07, 2020

Seven to receive SIU Faculty-Staff Excellence Awards

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Carbondale is honoring seven faculty and staff members for superior scholarship, teaching and service.  

The recipients are: Boyd M. Goodson (Scholar Excellence Award), Angela K. Upchurch (Teaching Excellence Award, tenured and tenure-track), James A. Wall (Teaching Excellence Award, non-tenure track), Pravas Deria (Early Career Faculty Excellence Award), Jaime Clark, (Women of Distinction Award), and Renada D. Greer and Julie Virgo (Staff Excellence Award). 

“This year’s recipients exemplify the qualities that are an SIU hallmark,” said Chancellor John M. Dunn of the Faculty and Staff Excellence Awards recipients. “Their commitment and dedication to our each of our students is emblematic of the university’s faculty and staff. They strive to make sure that our students receive a superior education.” 

Boyd M. Goodson to receive Scholar Excellence Award 

The Scholar Excellence Award “recognizes and promotes outstanding research and creative endeavors” and is given only to those “who have made outstanding contributions to their discipline” and who are “widely recognized for their achievements by other scholars in the field.”  

Goodson is a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and acting associate dean for the College of Science. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and his doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley. He was a post-doctoral scholar at the California Institute of Technology prior to coming to SIU as an assistant professor in 2002. 

Goodson has been a researcher in the fields of optical and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopies. He has published nearly 80 peer-reviewed papers and invited chapters in high-impact journals including the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Angewandte Chemie and PNAS. Goodson has 5 patents in the field of MRI contrast-agent development and his work has been cited more than 4,300 times. 

Since he joined SIU Carbondale in 2002 Goodson’s research has received federal grants totaling more than $6.2 million as principle investigator (PI) or co-PI. In a nomination letter, Lichang Wang, a professor in the department, noted Goodson’s international reputation as “one of the top researchers in his field,” by the large number of invited talks in the U.S. and Europe, the “well-cited scholarly reviews, and by his extensive record of collaborations with research groups throughout the world. 

Wang also cited Goodson’s integral role in involving and supporting his students in research. Many former graduate students have gone on to high-profile jobs and undergraduates have gone on to doctoral programs. 

“Dr. Goodson has been a tireless advocate for student participation in research on this campus and its role in fostering student career development,” Wang wrote. He added that a 2010 fire in Goodson’s lab that destroyed almost everything (no one was injured) was a “true story of the rebirth of the phoenix from the ashes.” 

“The disaster injected Boyd and company with energy and determination,” Wang wrote. “With vision and love of his research and his students, Dr. Goodson has persevered and miraculously turned his devastated research program in the vibrant one with national and international recognition that we see today.” 

Angela K. Upchurch to receive Teaching Excellence Award, tenured and tenure-track 

The Teaching Excellence Award recognizes faculty who demonstrate outstanding teaching, high-quality classroom performance, innovation, and “commitment to student learning outcomes and inclusive excellence in education.”  

Upchurch received her bachelor’s degree in communications and political science from Loyola University in Chicago and was first in her graduating class from the Loyola University Chicago School of Law. Prior to coming to the SIU School of Law in 2014, she was a Professor of Law at Capital University Law School.

In a nomination letter, four law school faculty members wrote of Upchurch’s innovative and cutting-edge teaching and assessment methods, her focus on improving student learning outcomes, and her consistently high evaluation scores with one of the heaviest teaching loads in the law school. Upchurch and her co-authors just released “Click and Learn: A Guide to Civil Procedure,” described as a groundbreaking, interactive online textbook “sure to be the model for legal education in the digital age.” 

Upchurch is chair of the law school’s assessment committee, and she has initiated “some critically important reforms” including bar exam-style assessments for each course, a “mini-bar” test for first-year students and programmatic assessment review. The letter notes that Upchurch’s YouTube channel provides innovative teaching techniques and symbolizes many of her strengths: “her use of innovative technology, her individualized attention to each student, her high expectations for the students, her care and compassion in helping the students meet those expectations and her willingness to help us, her colleagues, learn from her to become better teachers.” 

Her research interests include children and family law, procedural law, and legal education. 

She uses a “variety of in-class technologies to increase student involvement and engagement.” That includes internet polling, daily class podcasts, and several review or skill-based videos on her course TWEN page. Upchurch also relies on interactive small group exercises, legal writing exercises and real-world legal work simulations. 

Upchurch writes that her “experience teaching ‘hybrid’ or ‘flipped’ classes enabled her to see a gap in law school course textbooks and teaching materials. While some legal textbooks can be accessed in an online format, none have harnessed the true potential of the online format.” Available online legal texts “primarily focused on changing from paper to electronic format without considering how the online format can change the way in which the student interacted with the material.”

James A. Wall to receive Teaching Excellence Award, non-tenure track 

The Teaching Excellence Award for non-tenure track faculty recognizes faculty who demonstrate outstanding teaching, high-quality classroom performance, innovation and “commitment to student learning outcomes and inclusive excellence in education.”  

Wall is a senior lecturer in the Department of Radio, Television, and Digital Media, where he teaches within the media industries marketing and management sequence. Wall has been with the university since 1996 and joined the department as a full-time faculty member in 2001. He earned both his bachelor’s degree in radio-television and master’s degree in media management from SIU Carbondale. Wall began teaching while working as the marketing director for WSIL-TV. 

In a nomination letter, Jan Thompson, director of the School of Journalism, wrote that Wall’s professionalism and media industry knowledge is “clearly evident by the sheer number of student accolades and successful graduates working in the industry.” 

Wall utilizes a blended curriculum for all of his classes and notes curriculum is adapted to the changing media landscape. “Cards and letters,” an informal open discussion of current issues relating to electronic media in each of his classes, is designed to “instill in students the desire to continuously seek out new knowledge and to stay current with the most up-to-date information.” Wall credits the “cards and letters” concept to one of his own SIU radio-television professors. 

“I challenge each student not to settle for acceptable performance, but to excel within their own capabilities,” he wrote. 

John Hochheimer, professor emeritus, wrote of Wall’s strong background in media marketing and advertising. He noted Wall is “an advocate for students learning about media businesses along with their production skills work.” The tenor of Wall’s course delivery “has always been to help students grow from being media fans to being young media professionals.” 

Scott Hodgson, the Gaylord Family Endowed Professor at the University of Oklahoma, was the department’s acting chair when Wall became an assistant instructor in 2001. He notes Wall was able to teach multiple classes and “there was never a doubt that, if he took on a class, it would be extremely well taught.” 

Wall wrote that he doesn’t believe teaching is finished when a student graduates. 

“I explain to my students that my ultimate exam is when they are sitting across the table during an employment interview and they ask, ‘…when can you start’? To me, that is my real final exam.” 

Pravas Deria to receive Early Career Faculty Excellence Award 

The Early Career Faculty Excellence Award recognizes faculty within their first five years at SIU Carbondale and honors excellence in scholarship, teaching and other professional activities.  

Deria received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Calcutta University in India, his master’s degree in chemistry from the Indian Institute of Technology and his doctorate in chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania. His experience also includes postdoctoral fellowships at Northwestern University and Duke University. 

An associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Deria joined SIU in 2015. His teaching interests and specialties include general chemistry, inorganic chemistry, bioinspired energy related compositions and photophysics-molecular spectroscopy. 

Deria’s research activities have resulted in “significant findings” that have appeared in nine high-impact journal publications, including four in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. The findings have “impacted the research field tremendously,” said Lichang Wang in a nomination letter. The impact of Deria’s research includes a recent National Science Foundation CAREER grant supporting his work on fundamental process of assembling tiny metal-organic structures that potentially could convert the sun’s energy into stored chemical energy. 

Wang, a professor in the department, noted Deria has established active internal and external collaborations with other researchers, developed or restructured inorganic courses at both the undergraduate and graduate level, and integrated his research activities into undergraduate educational experiences. In addition, papers Deria has authored have attracted 3,300 citations, including more than 750 this year. 

“These publication and citation levels are at a level consistent with that anticipated for a top researcher at the full-professor level working at the peak of his or her career, wrote Joseph T. Hupp, the Morrison Professor of Chemistry at Northwestern University. “Professor Deria and his research program have a growing national and international scientific reputation. He is, without question, one of the most promising emerging leaders in his area of scientific focus.” 

Jaime A. Clark to receive Women of Distinction Award 

The Women of Distinction Award is given to a faculty, administrative/professional or civil service staff member in recognition of a “sustained commitment to women and/or issues of diversity through demonstrated leadership, vision, or actions” in their profession, expertise or service to the university community. 

Clark is the director of SIU Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and associate director of Student Health Services. Clark first came to SIU in 2005 as a volunteer at the Counseling Center, a requirement for advanced practicum students. In 2006 she worked at the center in a post-doctoral internship and became an outreach coordinator and interim practicum coordinator in 2007. After nearly six years as assistant director and director of training with CAPS, Clark became CAPS director and associate director of Student Health Services in 2015. 

Clark earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Colorado State University and her master’s degree and doctorate in counseling psychology from the University of Denver. 

In a nomination letter, Abby Bilderback, practicum training director and CAPS assistant director, wrote Clark is a “visionary who recognizes that the key to success on our campus is through teamwork and is always the first to ensure that all voices at the table are heard and considered, making space for others to feel empowered.” She notes Clark’s active involvement in a variety of committees and task forces on campus. 

Bilderback points to several examples, including Clark being instrumental in developing the “Community Intervention” program, which focused on “establishing liaison relationships with various campus programs, services and organizations that provide services, support or mentorship to students from underserved communities.” Another way to increase services was identifying locations and programs that have a high percentage of need for counseling services. Clark, in collaboration with others on campus, established embedded counseling services within University Housing and the Achieve Program. 

“These programs are atypical of most university counseling centers and are a testament to Dr. Clark’s ability to be a visionary, effectively communicate her ideas, work together while holding authority, and get the task done,” Bilderback stated. 

Along with being instrumental in the creation of a sexual assault treatment team at Student Health Services, Clark is a “staunch advocate for the rights of those who have been victimized, specifically focusing on women who are victims of sexual violence.” Clark is committed to seeing CAPS practicum students, interns and staff receive high quality training, supervision and mentorship. 

A former college athlete, Clark has coached a variety of youth sports including basketball, tennis, soccer and volleyball, and helped launch the Legends Soccer Club eight years ago. 

Clark is “a leader who is a good person who is willing to make choices and accept the consequences,” Bilderback said. “She has stepped up in a multitude of ways for SIU students and our campus at large and truly represents what it means to be student-centered.” 

Renada Greer to receive Staff Excellence Award 

The Staff Excellence Award recognizes an administrative/professional or civil service staff member for “significant contributions” to further the university’s mission. That includes demonstrating excellence in overall work performance, helping to improve students’ experiences, and serving as a positive role model for faculty, staff and students.  

As the assistant dean of students and director of Student Support Services. Renada Greer is an active advocate for students. She oversees several the university’s programs that focus on first-year and first-generation students, including TriO, Saluki Summer Bridge, Project Upward Bound, Achieve Program and the university’s role in last year’s inaugural Chicago-based SMASH (Summer Math and Science Honors) Academy. 

Greer has been with SIU Carbondale since 2005, starting as a field representative with Student Support Services. After serving as a coordinator for a year, Greer became director in 2008. She was named assistant dean of students in 2019 and serves as student ombudsman. 

A three-degree SIU alumna, Greer earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration and finance, a master’s degree in workforce education and development, and a doctorate in educational administration in higher education. 

In a nomination letter, Jennifer Jones-Hall, dean of students, wrote of Greer’s collaborative work as the Student Support Services director to recruit, hire and train personnel to work with students from diverse backgrounds. A program started in 2013, the AT&T Summer Bridge program, holds an 82 percent first-year retention rate, Jones-Hall wrote. 

Greer “always demonstrates an active commitment to creating a more equitable campus environment through her words and deeds. She embraces diversity and understands how important cultural competency is when working to create environments where students feel valued and included,” wrote Lori Stettler, vice chancellor for student affairs. 

Mackenzie Rosario, a junior in cinema and photography, was part of a two-week Summer Bridge program, which assists incoming college students in the transition from high school. Meeting Greer on the first day of the program made an impression, said Rosario, adding Greer motivates and inspires many people both on- and off-campus. 

“I knew she valued getting every kind of student every resource they need to be successful in college,” Rosario wrote. “While also creating a very positive, productive and loving environment so students can feel heard. This one interaction alone was one of the top reasons of me choosing to attend SIU full time and inspiring me to work toward a bachelor’s degree in film.” 

Julie Virgo to receive Staff Excellence Award 

In the College of Science, Julie Virgo’s personal qualities as business manager make her “an irreplaceable asset” for the college, according to co-workers. 

In his nomination letter, Scott E. Ishman, dean in the college, discusses Virgo’s “exceptional” work, efficiency and professionalism that includes handling administrative responsibilities of the dean as designated; helping prepare administrative reports, contracting and college budgets; supervising non-academic college personnel, training new office staff in the college departments on various platforms, and advising faculty on procurement. 

Her work, which includes ensuring GA contacts are complete or being completed, along with working with faculty and staff, all contribute to student success, Ishman wrote. 

“It’s not as evident as some positions on campus but for Julie the well-being of the students, as well as staff, are always at the forefront for what she does,” he said.

Virgo has worked at SIU since 1994, initially hired as library technical assistant for Morris Library. She also worked as an information systems supervisor for the Student Recreation Center and graduate programs coordinator for the College of Business before moving to her current post in 2012. She earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in Workforce Education and Development from SIU. Virgo also served from 1988-91 as a personnel information systems management specialist in the Illinois Army National Guard. 

Boyd Goodson, acting associate dean and a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, wrote Virgo manages all employment contracts for roughly 200 employees in the college and is “integral to our college’s long-range strategic organizational and budget planning.” 

Goodson also notes that Virgo is the “go-to person” for institutional knowledge for helping navigate the university and has “long been the key to help faculty.” Virgo is a tireless worker who often works late to get things finished. He wrote. 

“Basically, Julie is our college’s ‘field general’ – the person at the front lines of all processes who makes sure that all the things that need to get done, do get done,” he wrote.