“This year’s Eberly College outstanding faculty award recipients represent vastly different disciplines, but they all share deep dedication to our research, teaching and service missions,” said Gregory Dunaway, dean of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. “All of our recipients are worthy of these awards, and we are proud to have them serving our students.”
Outstanding Teacher Award
Manal AlNatour is an associate professor of Arabic studies in the Department of World Languages, Literatures and Linguistics. She was recruited to WVU in 2012 to build the Arabic Studies Program. This initiative coincided with a period of considerable national hostility toward the Muslim community and immigrants from the Arabic-speaking world.
As a result, AlNatour’s task has gone above and beyond creating a new curriculum. She has sought, through her program development and courses, to have an impact not only on the WVU campus but also in the Morgantown community. In addition to leading the Arabic Conversation Table, hosting Arabic tutoring sessions and advising two student organizations, she teaches Arabic in public schools and at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and trains instructors at the Islamic School of Morgantown.
“Throughout the past years, I have demonstrated my commitment to the educational mission and the institutional aspirations of diversity and multiculturalism of WVU, not only in a classroom setting, but also in University and local communities,” AlNatour said.
Before AlNatour’s appointment, beginning Arabic language courses were taught only occasionally at WVU, and the number of interested students was small. Since then, AlNatour single-handedly built the Arabic Studies Program and its minor from the ground up. Its students have annually received highly competitive, prestigious national and international scholarships, including the Critical Language and Gilman scholarships. Out of seven Boren Scholarships received by WVU students in 2016, three were awarded to Arabic Studies students.
“Under her leadership, WVU’s Arabic Studies Program has expanded students’ visions of the world and provided them with the intellectual tools necessary for thinking critically about social issues and communicating with people from a multitude of cultures and countries,” said Amy Thompson, chair of the Department of World Languages, Literatures and Linguistics. “The wide variety of courses in the program, its nationally recognized students and its service to – and strong bond with – the University make it a catalyst for effective change that enables students to grow to their fullest potential as advocates of an all-inclusive multiculturalism.”
Geoff Georgi is an associate professor in the Department of Philosophy. One of his teaching goals has been to increase the discussion of logic and language in WVU’s philosophy courses. For Georgi, sharing his passion for and understanding of logic and the philosophy of language is about helping his students be better people and better citizens.
“I view teaching not only as an opportunity to share my love of logic and philosophy with students, but also as a way to help students develop tools for careful and critical reflection on their beliefs, values and the myriad of claims on their attention in our information-saturated world,” Georgi said.
To support these goals, Georgi has added two new courses to the WVU catalog: Philosophy 312 (“Philosophy of Language”) and Philosophy 360 (“Truth, Proof and Possibility).
"Georgi is a gifted and dedicated professor. It is an honor to work with and learn from him. He impresses me in so many ways, but I think what most impresses me is his capacity to listen carefully to his students with self-confidence, patience and generosity,” said Sharon Ryan, chair of the Department of Philosophy. “He meets each one of his students at their level of philosophical competence and elevates them far beyond where he found them. His energy and passion for philosophy and teaching are an inspiration for all of his students and colleagues. "
Dana Huebert Lima is a teaching associate professor in the Department of Biology . Since arriving at WVU in 2012, she has taught more than 3,400 students, adapting her teaching content and methods to meet the needs of her students and department learning goals.
“Her courses are innovative in that the interdisciplinary connections between biology and other fields are explicit and valued,” said Richard Thomas, chair of the Department of Biology. “She is also student-focused, and students know that she cares about their success and well-being in and out of the classroom.”
The unique aspect of Lima’s teaching is the liberal arts perspective she brings to biology at a Research 1 university. Her teaching of molecular biology is interdisciplinary, drawing on information from social science, humanities and other STEM disciplines to underscore the value and impact of the scientific field.
“My teaching is founded in the idea that students will appreciate science as a way of knowing about the world and apply scientific tools to address social issues,” Lima said. “Ultimately, students will understand how knowledge of biology is generated and fits into historical and current scientific and social contexts.”
Joshua Osbourn is a teaching associate professor in the C. Eugene Bennett Department of Chemistry. He teaches organic chemistry, which by its nature is difficult and often has a negative stigma associated with it. Many students regard organic chemistry as one of the most difficult courses in college and are even terrified of it. But Osbourn has strived to erase that stigma since he began teaching at WVU in 2012.
“Osbourn aims to inspire students to excel in his courses, not just get through them,” said Gregory Dudley, chair of the Department of Chemistry. “Organic chemistry poses unique challenges, and he is committed to helping students rise to meet them. He works tirelessly to promote student success.”
As an educator, it’s Osbourn’s adaptability that sets him apart. He recently identified that some students were regularly struggling on the multiple-choice portion of his exams while excelling on the free-response section. To help them, he found ways to prompt in-class discussions about strategies for taking multiple-choice exams, including developing more than 100 problem-solving videos students can access online. And whenever a struggling student emails for advice, his top priority is encouraging them to meet with him in-person.
“I want students to realize that I do care about their success. By knowing that I am rooting for them and keeping my eye on them, sometimes it is just enough to spark the student to give the additional effort necessary to succeed,” Osbourn said. “I do not want a single student to feel as if he or she is lost in a sea of others. Despite having hundreds of students each semester, I make individual time for every single student who requests it of me, and I will never turn a student away.”
Outstanding Researcher Award
Steven Kinsey is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology. He is a biomedical researcher with specialized training in behavioral neuroscience, immunology and pharmacology. His current research interests are on the effects of stress and endogenous cannabinoids on pain and emotionality, including work on stress, inflammation, emotionality and neuropathic and inflammatory pain models, evidenced by a publication record in a broad range of journals.
Since coming to WVU in 2011, Kinsey has published over 28 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters on cannabinoid effects on pain and addiction. He has served as the principal investigator on three projects from the National Institutes of Health and one West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute grant, totaling more than $700,000 in awards. He is also a co-mentor on two NIH fellowships for WVU graduate students.
“My lab is collaborative, and I am highly invested in training the next generation of researchers,” Kinsey said. “In addition to my graduate students, I have mentored over 36 undergraduate students, some of whom are coauthors on my papers and many more who have completed Honors College theses under my supervision.”
The ultimate goal of Kinsey’s empirical work is to identify targets for the development of new pharmacological treatments for inflammatory and emotional disorders in humans.
“Given the problems West Virginia has encountered in battling the opioid epidemic, Kinsey’s work is at the forefront of discovering how endocannabinoids, these naturally occurring compounds that exist in our bodies, can assist in treating various debilitating pain conditions,” said Kevin Larkin, chair of the Department of Psychology.
Tudor Stanescu is an associate professor of condensed matter theory in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. His research interests are driven by experimental observations that challenge the standard paradigms of transport, magnetism or superconductivity and by those aimed at creating and probing novel, unconventional phases and quantum states.
“Many of these materials have the potential to be used in industry and are actively studied to develop new functionalities and improved capabilities in areas like the design and construction of electronic devices and quantum computing,” Stanescu said.
His book, “Topological Quantum Matter and Quantum Computation,” is considered essential reading for introducing graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the field.
“Stanescu’s work in topological materials is at the forefront of condensed matter research. His work is attracting international attention, and his collaborations with experimentalists here at WVU have the potential to move WVU into a leadership role in this important research area,” said Earl Scime, chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. “We look forward to great things from Stanescu’s ongoing and truly outstanding research.”
Michele McArdle Stephens is an assistant professor in the Department of History and an affiliated faculty member in WVU’s Native American Studies and Latin American Studies programs. Her research is focused on the impact of external factors on human populations in Latin America with a special focus on Mexico during the 19th and 20th centuries. These broad themes are the basis for her first book, “In the Lands of Fire and Sun: Resistance an Accommodation in the Huichol Sierra, 1723-1930.”
“I am especially interested in how indigenous communities reacted to various externalities, such as missionaries attempts at conversion, encroachment by non-indigenous outsiders in a variety of ways and the political and social impulses of the Mexican state to modernize in part by targeting communities for assimilation,” Stephens said. “My examination of the Huichols adds to existing literature that examines popular Mexicans' reactions to changing political structures in the colonial, early national and republican periods of Mexican history using an ethnic lens.”
In 2017, she spent three months in Frankfurt, Germany, as a guest fellow at the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History drafting what will eventually become the introduction for her second book.
“Stephens is a prolific researcher,” said Kate Staples, associate chair of the Department of History. “It is clear that her passion lies in making the history of modern Mexico accessible to scholarly and popular audiences alike.
Outstanding Service Award
Renée Nicholson is a teaching assistant professor in the Programs for Multi- and Interdisciplinary Studies. Her academic, creative and teaching interests are shaped around narrative medicine.
“Modern medicine is often viewed by healthcare practitioners, patients and other stakeholders as being too focused on technology and the treatment of acute ailments at the expense of overall patient wellness,” Nicholson said. “Practitioners and patients often feel that the system is intensely stressful, impersonal and lacking in empathic connection.”
Nicholson is trying to change the narrative through projects focusing on quality of life for patients receiving care at WVU’s Cancer Institute and Positive Health Clinic . She uses expressive writing as a narrative medicine intervention to help patients discover and explore meaning as they experience life-threatening or chronic illness.
“This is a field that challenges traditional notions of patient care and has the potential to dramatically change the way healthcare is provided in West Virginia,” said Evan Widders, coordinator of the Programs for Multi- and Interdisciplinary Studies. “Nicholson’s work in the medical humanities and narrative medicine has meaningfully contributed to the lives of students, patients and the community, constituting both effective outreach and public service. Her narratives are wonderful to read and are a powerful example of how academic work can form the basis for meaningful public service to the community.”
Kathryn Williamson is a teaching assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and director of the WVU Planetarium. Since arriving at WVU in 2016, she has quickly developed a successful outreach program with the planetarium that complements her Astronomy 106 course, “Descriptive Astronomy.”
“Williamson is one of a new cadre of faculty within the Department of Physics and Astronomy whose duties include critical teaching and service responsibilities,” Scime said. “Her service impact has become statewide in just a few short years, and we are fortunate to have someone with such passion for teaching and service in our department. Her successes are a model for all faculty at a land-grant institution like WVU.”
In 2017, Williamson organized “Celebrating Einstein,” a major event on the WVU calendar featuring public lectures, planetarium shows, orchestra performances and a danced lecture to celebrate the centennial of Einstein’s theory of general relativity, all while engaging the local community.
Later that year, she organized an event to highlight the Great American Solar Eclipse with a campus-wide viewing party, complete with eclipse glasses. With support from a WVU Community Engagement Grant, she also collaborated with the Green Bank Observatory, West Virginia Space Grant Consortium and WVU Extension Service to send more than 30,000 eclipse glasses to 290 schools across West Virginia along with a curriculum.
“Through these activities, the eclipse project engaged over 50,000 students,” Williamson said. “It was an outstanding way to extend WVU’s reach and service to our state.”
Recipients of the Eberly College’s faculty awards are listed on a plaque in Woodburn Hall and are awarded $1,500 to pursue professional development opportunities. The Outstanding Teacher Award recipients also serve as the College’s nominees for the WVU Foundation Award for Outstanding Teaching, which are announced in April.