“This year’s honorees represent the diversity of disciplines which comprise the Eberly College,” said Gregory Dunaway, dean of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. “Their efforts in teaching, research and outreach exemplify our values as an arts and sciences college: curiosity, critical thinking and respect. Through their respective contributions, they are supporting WVU’s land-grant mission and uplifting not just our students but the wider community as well.”
Outstanding Teacher Award
Professor of Philosophy David Cerbone has been teaching philosophy for more than 30 years, 22 of those at WVU. He was hired in 1998 to teach courses in continental philosophy, which includes numerous schools of philosophy with European origins such as phenomenology and existentialism. These courses are typically taught by just one professor at U.S. universities because most philosophy departments focus on analytical philosophy, which emphasizes logic and precise arguments.
“This can be a lonely endeavor. It can be hard to be the only professor students can look to for guidance with texts from the continental tradition,” Cerbone said. “But, it is also a great opportunity to introduce students to ideas that maybe shake up how they think about what they’ve learned in their other philosophy courses.’
Although Cerbone’s courses can contribute to a students’ completion of the philosophy major or minor, none are required for the major or minor. A student can easily complete the major without setting foot in his classroom. For this reason, it is a point of pride for him for students who take his introductory course to return for more advanced courses.
“It’s gratifying to have students come back for more, especially when no one is making them do so,” Cerbone said.
Many of Cerbone’s students have gone on to pursue advanced degrees in philosophy as well as disciplines like English, U.S. history, law and medicine.
“I am proud to have attracted strong and serious students,” Cerbone said. “I like to think that maybe I made them just a bit stronger and more dedicated.”
Scott Myers is the Peggy Rardin McConnell Teaching Chair of Communication Studies. He is an instructional communication researcher who focuses on the role communication plays in the instructor-student relationship, both in and out of the cl assroom.
“I encourage students to participate actively in the communication process that occurs in the classroom,” Myers said. “Using this philosophy as a guide, my goal is to provide students with a way in which they can establish effective communication relationships with me and with others.”
Myers has committed his career to creating opportunities for undergraduate students to develop their public speaking and presentational skills. In 2015, Myers created the McConnell Chair Ambassadors Program, supported by funding from his named professorship. In this program, Communication Studies students spend an academic year refining their strengths in speaking and presentation, analytical thinking and creative research while learning about positive communication strategies.
“Working in groups, the students select a positive communication behavior and conduct research on that behavior. This project requires each group to develop sophistication in the research process, as they had to complete all the steps associated with designing, conducting and reporting a quantitative study,” Myers said. “In the spring, they present their finished projects at the Central States Communication Association’s Undergraduate Research Honors Conference and the WVU Undergraduate Spring Symposium.”
Outstanding Researcher Award
Jessica Hoover is an associate professor of chemistry. Since joining WVU in 2012, her work has focused on developing and understanding new reactions using transition metal catalysts from the first row of the periodic table.
Her research team recently created an experiment to improve the creation of new medicines. The study was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a top chemistry-focused journal, in 2018.
To continue refining the method, Hoover received a four-year, $1.2 million award and a three-year, $450,000 award, both from the National Institutes of Health. She is investigating heteroarenes, an important class of substructures found in many biologically active molecules used in FDA-approved drugs.
“A fundamental understanding of the trends and limitations in these and other coupling reactions of heteroarenes would allow synthetic methods to be adapted for the construction of pharmaceutically relevant structures,” Hoover said. “We’d really like medicinal chemists to have new choices for efficient and predictable reactions so that they can very logically design improved synthetic routes to some of these targets.”
When she’s not discovering new reactions and creating experiences, Hoover shares the beauty of chemistry with her students and the public. She was named one of WVU’s 2020 recipients of the Distinction in Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award. She is also a founding member of the Community Engagement in Science Through Art program.
Associate Professor of History Tamba M’bayo is one of few English-speaking African historians in the world who specialize in the colonial and postcolonial histories of French-speaking West Africa.
M’bayo’s early research focused on African intermediaries who served as mediators, cultural brokers and producers of knowledge during the colonial period, leading to his first book, “Muslim Interpreters in Colonial Senegal, 1850-1920: Mediations of Knowledge and Power in the Lower and Middle Senegal River Valley.” Published in 2016, this study explored the complex, and often contradictory, roles indigenous interpreters played in shaping relations of power between French colonizers and colonized Africans in France’s foremost West African colony.
Since then, M’Bayo shifted his focus to his home country, Sierra Leone. He is studying the Ebola virus disease epidemic that afflicted Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone from 2013 to 2015.
“As a historian with both field and archival research experience in Senegal, it intrigued me that most studies on the Ebola outbreak paid little attention to Sierra Leone’s long history of encounters with disease epidemics,” M’Bayo said.
His 2018 article in the Journal of West African History, “Ebola, Poverty, Economic Inequity and Social Injustice in Sierra Leone,” featured interviews with 28 Ebola survivors in Sierra Leone in 2016. This work, along with his ongoing archival research at the archival research at the Sierra Leone National Archives as a Fulbright U.S. Scholar, support his forthcoming second book, “From ‘Whiteman’s Grave’ to Ebola: Sierra Leone’s History of Epidemics, 1787-2015.”
“This book provides a lens through which to examine the cultural, social, political, economic and environmental dynamics that describe disease eruptions in Sierra Leone,” M’bayo said. “As scholars today generally acknowledge interdisciplinary research as a key mode of knowledge production, the study is not restricted to a single disciplinary perspective. By bridging the gap between disciplinary backgrounds and approaches, the book brings together insights from a wide range of scholarship for a better understanding of real-world problems—in this case, epidemics, a worldwide public concern.”
Professor of Child Clinical Psychology Cheryl McNeil has extensive clinical and research experience related to childhood disruptive behavior problems and parent-child interactions. Her research explores disruptive behavior disorders of children, assessment methods for behavior problems among children and treatment outcomes, including Parent-Child Interaction Therapy.
McNeil is one of only 15 certified PCIT Master Trainers in the world and is a nationally renowned authority on PCIT. Her trainings have reached more than 1,000 therapists across the U.S. and in 12 countries, working to expand access to the therapy.
“My research career has been dedicated to the implementation, measurement and
evaluation of one of the strongest evidence-based treatments for child behavior management in the field of clinical child psychology, PCIT. PCIT has proven to have one of the highest effect sizes of any mental health intervention for children and families,” McNeil said. “Yet, many communities in the U.S., and even more communities overseas, still do not have access to trained PCIT therapists. A primary concern for my PCIT work has been to develop new ways to disseminate the program especially in my home state of West Virginia.”
McNeil has published several books and approximately 100 peer-reviewed chapters and articles. She has also created instructional videos and treatment programs that can be implemented in classroom environments and are used by Head Start teachers, dentists, foster parent training groups and by those working to help reduce child obesity.
Outstanding Service Award
This year’s Eberly College Outstanding Service Award Recipient is Zachariah Fowler.
Fowler is a service assistant professor in the Department of Biology and director of WVU’s Core Arboretum. In these roles, he is the sole person responsible for managing and maintaining the arboretum as a resource for research, teaching and service for the University and the community. He maintains the arboretum’s 90 acres and three miles of trails as a free public greenspace with the help of many volunteers who accumulated more than 1,500 volunteer hours in 2019.
Since arriving at WVU in 2015, Fowler has expanded an annual cycle of ongoing outreach activities at the arboretum and beyond. These range from Wildflower Walks, Bird Walks and Pawpaw Parties in the spring to the Nature Connection Series and Moth Nights in the summer to the Pawpaw Parties in the fall. Through his outreach efforts, Fowler interacted with more than 3,000 people at more than 50 events in 2019.
“I interact with everyone from preschoolers to retirees,” Fowler said. “The outreach that I do tends to be in the area of nature education, so it also serves to elevate the University’s image within the community of WV naturalists. Many people have had a positive interaction with WVU because of their experiences at the arboretum.”
Fowler also serves as a nature expert in the community. He teaches classes for WVU’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, the West Virginia Master Naturalist Program, West Virginia Wildflower Pilgrimage and WVU’s Merit Badge University event with the Boy Scouts of America.