Excellence Awards

Each year, the University at Albany honors special members of its community with Excellence Awards denoting exceptional contributions to the life of the campus. Twenty-one faculty and staff members received this tribute in 2007.


Excellence in Teaching (Full Time)

Lotfi SayahiLotfi Sayahi, Languages, Literatures & Cultures

Professor Lotfi Sayahi joined the faculty in Languages, Literatures, and Cultures in 1999 and was promoted to associate professor in 2006. His research interests include sociolinguistics, contact linguistics, and language variation and change. In addition to his native language of Arabic, he has "near-native" fluency in Spanish, French, and English, as well as "good reading knowledge" of Catalan, Galician, Italian, and Portuguese. Sayahi has drawn on this versatility in offering no fewer than 17 different courses over the past eight years, covering a wide range of topics including aspects of linguistics never before offered at UAlbany. His student course ratings are consistently among the best in his department, and he is credited for boosting the student satisfaction ranking of the Spanish program to one of the highest at the campus. As Director of Spanish Language Instruction and Supervisor of Teaching Assistants, Sayahi is committed to introductory-level instruction and the quality of the undergraduate learning experience. For more advanced language instruction and the study of linguistics, he places a strong emphasis on learning practical skills, such as preparing and presenting papers, learning the linguistic field tools, and data collection and analysis. He is faculty adviser for the UAlbany chapter of the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society, and through this organization he has helped students obtain grants for summer coursework and research overseas.

Kevin WilliamsKevin Williams, Psychology

Professor Kevin Williams has been teaching at UAlbany for two decades. He is currently the Department of Psychology's graduate director as well as area head for both the industrial-organizational doctoral program and the social-personality doctoral program. For 11 years he served as the department's director of undergraduate advising. Since joining the faculty, Williams has taught 12 different courses, ranging in size from small doctoral seminars to large lecture courses with more than 200 students. Each semester he also works with 10-20 undergraduate and graduate students on independent study and guided research projects. To date he has served as chair of 20 completed Ph.D. committees and as a member of another 25. Williams is a nationally recognized scholar on motivation and human performance, and he uses that expertise in his approach to teaching, mentoring, and advising. He seeks to get students actively engaged in the learning process, to instill a sense of ownership over their learning, to inspire confidence in their ability to learn, and to demonstrate the utility in what they are asked to learn. His passion for his subject, his love of teaching, and his devotion for students are all reflected in the abundant, positive testimonials and commentary in his nomination dossier.

Alissa Pollitz WordenAlissa Pollitz Worden, Criminal Justice

Professor Alissa Pollitz Worden received her Ph.D. in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1987, and joined the UAlbany School of Criminal Justice in 1990, following an initial academic appointment at Michigan State University. She was promoted to associate professor in 1996. In her nomination, Worden's dean emphasized that the case is not just based on classroom performance, which is outstanding, but also on extraordinary dedication to teaching and student learning and to students. Worden has played a leadership role in curriculum development at the undergraduate and graduate levels, has been a strong mentor for doctoral students, and has been at the forefront of the school's plan for evaluating outcomes of student learning. Worden regularly teaches the required research methods course for master's and doctoral students, in addition to an undergraduate course on American criminal courts, as well as the basic introductory course. In addition, she has developed a popular doctoral seminar on college and university teaching. And this year she began, in response to a student request, an informal seminar for students doing dissertations. Worden's student course evaluations are consistently among the highest in the school. She is especially respected for her enthusiasm for her subject matter, her accessibility, her concern for students, and her preparation.


Excellence in Teaching (Part Time)

Robert McEvoyRobert McEvoy, Public Administration and Policy

Robert McEvoy has been teaching courses for the Department of Public Administration and Policy since 1979. His experience as a village, city, and county manager since 1970, including his service as chief executive officer for Schenectady County for 22 years, help to make him an irreplaceable teacher of local government in the department's master's programs. McEvoy's numerical student course evaluations are outstanding, placing him the top 10 percent of the full-time faculty in Public Administration. But his contributions in the classroom are only part of the excellence he brings to Rockefeller College. He serves as a deeply committed mentor for every student expressing interest in careers in local government. Students adore him, both for the wisdom of his counsel and for the time he unstintingly gives to them. After receiving their master's degrees, they all are placed around the country in positions in local government that McEvoy has helped them find through his extensive network of friends and professional contacts. He is a central member and leader of the International County Managers Association, managing editor of the Journal of County Administration, and executive director of the New York State City/County Management Association.

Dan WhiteDan White, Anthropology

Daniel White graduated from UAlbany in 1992 with a bachelor's degree in human biology. Subsequently, he earned a master's degree and began doctoral studies in anthropology. During his graduate education, while serving as a full-time academic adviser in the Advisement Services Center, he began teaching on a part-time basis for the Department of Anthropology. For more than a decade, he has taught introductory courses on human evolution, primatology, and physical anthropology, as well as upper-level undergraduate courses on human paleontology, human growth and development, and human brain evolution. His teaching has been especially important to the interdisciplinary human biology program, one of the fastest growing majors at UAlbany. Student comments and peer testimony in White's nomination dossier speak glowingly to his effectiveness and impact as an instructor. He is innovative and imaginative, teaches with subtle humor and a friendly manner, and strongly encourages students to think critically. He recently completed his Ph.D. in anthropology and was appointed to a new professional post as assistant to the chair of the department. In addition to further part-time teaching, White is preparing manuscripts based on his dissertation results, and is involved in other interdisciplinary research projects that draw on his expertise.


Excellence in Teaching (Teaching Assistant)

Jannette SwansonJannette Swanson, Sociology

Jannette Swanson is a sixth-year doctoral student in the Department of Sociology. An instructor for the department since the summer of 2004, she has prepared and taught five different undergraduate courses, including lower-division general education courses and upper-division courses for majors. Her student course evaluations are consistently among the highest in Sociology, indeed comparable to members of the full-time faculty who have received the Excellence in Teaching Award. In January 2006, Swanson's capabilities and commitment prompted the department to invite her on short notice to develop and teach an upper-level course on a topic of her choosing in the Spring 2006 semester, following a professor's sudden unexpected illness. She organized a new course on Sports and Sociology, which was so successful that it has been offered each semester since. In addition to her classroom teaching, Swanson has been an active member of the Sociology Department's Teaching Committee. She has assisted in offering several professional development workshops, including a recent session on technology for teaching and learning. Last spring, she was the co-recipient of the Paul Meadows Excellence in Teaching Award, presented annually to graduate student instructors for outstanding teaching in Sociology.


Excellence in Research

Cheryl Frye

Cheryl Frye, Psychology

Cheryl Frye, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology, adjunct professor of biology, and a member of the Center for Neuroscience Research. Frye's ground-breaking research focuses on determining how steroid hormones (estrogen, progesterone, and androgens) work in the brain to influence behavior. She has emerged as a nationally and internationally recognized leader in her field. To date she has published 163 papers in high-quality peer-reviewed journals. She has been repeatedly invited to contribute to journals in her field, to interdisciplinary top-tier journals, and to participate in collaborative training of medical scientists and practitioners. She is routinely asked to give talks at national and international venues. Frye has competed successfully for more than $2 million in research grants from sources such as the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Mental Health and the Department of Defense-Breast Cancer Research Program. Importantly, Frye mentors undergraduate students at UAlbany, including many who are first authors and co-authors on papers. In fact, she was recognized by the Society for Neuroscience-Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience in 2003 as Educator of the Year for her efforts in ensuring that students are afforded the opportunity to present their research at conferences and to hear from other leaders in the field.

David Wills

David Wills, Languages, Literatures & Cultures

David Wills, Ph.D., is a professor of French Studies in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures and holds a joint appointment in the Department of English. Wills is internationally known for his scholarly work in the humanities, especially for his work on deconstruction. His 1995 book, Prosthesis, has been translated into French, Serbo-Croatian and (in part) German. One eminent scholar described the book as being, "simultaneously an original piece of philosophical theory on the concept and history of the prosthesis, and a fascinating, autobiographical fiction of exceptional vigor and literary quality." Wills conceives of deconstruction as an interdisciplinary practice. His research engages the visual arts, particularly film and architecture, as well as philosophy and literature. The question of technology and its relationship to contemporary experience is a recurrent theme in his writing, and one that inspired the interdisciplinary "Book Ends" conference he organized at UAlbany in Spring 2000. Wills has published 54 articles in the U.S., France, England, Australia, Japan, and Germany. He has also been invited to lecture on numerous occasions at some of the world's most prestigious institutions.

Jonathan WolpawJonathan Wolpaw, Biomedical Science

Jonathan Wolpaw is a professor of biomedical sciences in the School of Public Health. He is also a research physician at Wadsworth Center and chief of the Laboratory of Nervous System Disorders. He has been a central figure in the field of brain-computer interface (BCI) research and technology since its beginnings in the late 1980s. Working with a team of researchers, Wolpaw has shown that people, including those with severe motor disabilities, can learn to control sensor motor rhythms via scalp-recorded EEG or brain wave activity, and can use that control to move a computer cursor in one or two dimensions to select letters or icons on a computer screen, or even to move a robotic arm. Wolpaw has published more than 43 peer-reviewed journal articles on BCI, and a total of nearly 200 publications in other fields of neurobiology. Wolpaw's funding totals more than $7 million from the National Institutes of Health, IBM, the New York State Science and Technology Foundation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Whitaker Foundation, the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association, the ALS Hope Foundation and the James S. McDonnell Foundation. Most recently, Wolpaw was honored by the American Paraplegia Society Jayanthi Charitable Foundation for his work in learning and memory in the spinal cord.

Kehe ZhuKehe Zhu, Mathematics and Statistics

Kehe Zhu, Ph.D., is a professor of Mathematics and Statistics. He conducts research on operator-related function theory in the field of calculus. His most important and influential work to date has been in the generalization of the classical one variable operator theory to the setting of several complex variables. This development is of fundamental importance to mathematics because it has impact on operator theory, and potential applications to other areas of mathematics, such as differential geometry. Internationally recognized for his work, Zhu has published 75 peer-reviewed journal articles, including 51 of which he is sole author. He has also written six books, which are highly regarded and used as texts for graduate courses in the U.S. and abroad. His nominator states: "Zhu's output is particularly impressive since the number of publications by a researcher in pure mathematics is typically smaller than for one in applied mathematics, statistics, or the physical sciences." Zhu has received National Science Foundation support for his work, no small feat for a pure mathematician, an area where the success rate of proposals is very low.


Excellence in Academic Service

Diane DewarDiane Dewar, Health Policy, Management and Behavior

Diane Dewar received her Ph.D. in economics from UAlbany in 1993, and joined the School of Public Health in 1994 as an assistant professor of health policy and management. In 2002, she received continuing appointment and was promoted to associate professor. Throughout her association with Albany, Dewar has been centrally involved in governance and the broader service mission of the institution, at levels of time and commitment that are extraordinary, particularly for a relatively junior faculty member. For the University, she has served on the Council on Promotions and Continuing Appointment, on the Council on Research, and is currently serving as University Senate Chair, a role that also requires ex-officio participation on numerous ad hoc task forces and committees. For her school, she has served as chair of the school-wide council and on numerous school and departmental committees. In addition, Dewar is co-director of her department's Health Policy and Management curriculum track. It is not simply the quantity and levels of service that impressed the selection committee, but the quality of that service as documented in many testimonials from colleagues and peers who praised Dewar for her deep commitment to academic excellence, integrity, and equity. She is described, repeatedly, as one of the best citizens of our campus and of the numerous professional associations to which she has contributed.

Jeryl MumpowerJeryl Mumpower, Public Administration and Policy

It is hard to imagine anyone at the University at Albany more deserving of the Excellence Award for Academic Service than Jeryl L. Mumpower, Ph.D. Over more than two decades at the University, Professor Mumpower has selflessly participated in an amazing range of leadership roles and service activities that have benefited the institution and his profession in untold ways. During one five-year period, while serving as associate provost, he took on no fewer than four other administrative roles – as interim director of the University Art Museum, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, interim dean of the School of Public Health, and interim director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. He has also served at various times as dean of Graduate Studies, interim vice president for Research, and, most recently, as interim provost. While in all of these assignments, Mumpower maintained his professorial activities in teaching, research, publishing, and serving on numerous journal editorial boards. One of his nominators noted that "None of these interim administrative roles were part of Jeryl's long-term professional aspirations; he served in these ways to help his University. He served whenever he was asked. And it is obvious that he served superbly so he was repeatedly asked."

David WagnerDavid Wagner, Sociology

David Wagner has been a member of the Department of Sociology since 1985. For more than two decades, he has repeatedly demonstrated an exemplary commitment to professionalism and collegiality as an engaged citizen of his academy and profession. He has served on nearly every committee of his department, including four terms on the Undergraduate Committee and multiple terms on the Research Committee. He has served on the College Council, and on the Dean's Task Force on the Quality of Academic Life. And for his profession, Wagner has served as a reviewer and on the editorial board of several sociology journals, on numerous committees of the American Sociological Association, and as president of the New York State Sociological Association. But perhaps the centerpiece of Wagner's service contribution is his unstinting commitment to governance, particularly to the councils and committees concerned with developing the University's research infrastructure and undergraduate program. His nomination dossier is replete with extensive commentary praising Wagner's leadership and impact on institutional policies and practices concerned with research incentives, research integrity, human-subjects compliance regulation, the libraries, and information systems and computing. He is also commended for his contribution to the Provost's Assessment Advisory Committee and the Provost's Blue Ribbon Panel on Writing. All these involvements are especially impressive in the context of Wagner's sustained activity as a scholar and his performance as a teacher, for which he received the excellence award in 2004.


Excellence in Librarianship

Sharona WachsSharona Wachs, University Libraries

Sharona Wachs is an associate librarian who has served as a monographic cataloger in the University Libraries since 1989. In 1995, she assumed an additional responsibility as the bibliographer for Judaic Studies. Cataloging is an essential component of librarianship. Properly catalogued materials, in all formats, enable researchers to locate relevant resources efficiently. In this function, Wachs is widely and highly respected among her peers, often the authority others turn to for advice and the resolution of complex problems. She has become the sole trainer for new cataloging staff. As the Judaic Studies bibliographer, Wachs selects materials and advises faculty and students interested in Judaic scholarship. One faculty member describes her as "one of the great assets to the intellectual life of the Judaic Studies Department and the University as a whole." Her commitment to excellence is further reflected in her scholarship and her service to the University Libraries, the University, and the Capital Region Jewish community. She is a wonderful ambassador for the institution in all these many contexts.


Excellence in Professional Service (Full Time)

Christopher FernandoChristopher Fernando, Student Services

Christopher Fernando serves as coordinator of Student Support Services for Project Excel, a federally-funded program for students who are first-generation college students, come from low-income households, and/or are disabled. A role model to the students he serves, Fernando earned both his bachelor's degree in biology and his doctoral degree in educational psychology at the University at Albany, the latter while working full-time. A consummate professional, he also reaches out beyond his role as coordinator to assist students of color, meeting with them periodically to offer them any support they need, be it supplementary advisement or personal counseling, and making them aware of available student services, internships, and scholarships. Fernando is truly a respected and model citizen of the University, who avails himself to serve all University constituents in varying capacities. In his fifth year as coordinator, Fernando has helped countless numbers of Student Support Services students, as well as non-program students who seek his assistance. In addition to performing superbly in fulfilling his professional duties and responsibilities, he has served on numerous search and campus committees, with the same zeal, commitment, and care.

Thomas GebhardtThomas Gebhardt, University Police Department

As Director of Personal Safety and Off-Campus Affairs, Thomas Gebhardt has served as an outstanding University citizen and equally outstanding member of the community, truly exemplifying the highest level of professional achievement. After earning both a B.A. and an M.A. from UAlbany, he began his career here in 1978, working in Residential Life. Over the years he served in roles of increasing responsibility with marked distinction through 1995, when he assumed his current title. Gebhardt has also distinguished himself and the University by his outstanding leadership on the Committee on University and Community Relations. As committee chair since 1990, Gebhardt has forged a trusted bond with residents, officials, and business owners in Albany. This bond provides a basic foundation for all University-community engagement. To many residents who have seen him going door-to-door or participating at innumerable meetings, he is the face of the University, one of a concerned, reliable partner. It is common to hear his excellent efforts praised by residents and leaders alike. His dedication, professionalism, and innovative ideas have helped the University and countless numbers of students to act as good citizens in our host community. As one measure of the high community regard in which he is held, Gebhardt was honored with the 2000 Outstanding Public Official of the Year award from Albany's Neighborhood Resource Center.

JoAnne MalatestaJoAnne Malatesta, Criminal Justice

As Assistant to the Dean for Student Services, JoAnne Malatesta has demonstrated an amazing dedication to students and has had a tremendous impact on the undergraduate program in the School of Criminal Justice. The location of the school on the University's downtown campus creates a challenge for building connections with the undergraduate student population, which is housed predominantly on Albany's uptown main campus. Yet the individual attention that Malatesta provides, and her dedication to enhancing the college experience, have fostered a sense of community that never existed previously among criminal justice majors. Her efforts in helping the school establish an internship program and in getting a student organization and an honor society underway have also been critical in strengthening the program. Malatesta's initiative, creativity, innovation, and positive outlook make working with her a pleasure for all the faculty and staff, and make her a fine representative of the school across the University and in the community. In addition to fulfilling her job responsibilities, often beyond the call of duty, Malatesta is pursuing a doctorate in criminal justice, and also sits on and actively contributes to several University-level committees.


Excellence in Professional Service (Part Time)

Wren PanzellaWren Panzella, Art Museum

Wren Panzella has served as collections manager at the University Art Museum since 1997. She is responsible for the care, preservation, and installation of more than 3,000 works of art, which make up the UAlbany Fine Arts Collection. This is a core museum role, central to the institution's standing in the field, and an important contribution in terms of the safekeeping of this significant educational asset. Panzella and her staff continuously work to document and maintain accurate records of the collection, as well as to upgrade and create new installations of works from the collection in University facilities. Her efforts create a positive impact on the campus, benefiting all who work, study, and visit. Wren's talents and skill are evident everywhere, but most recently and abundantly in the new University Hall, where she transformed the interior atrium space and the surrounding corridors, adding color, warmth, and visual interest and stimulation. The works are grouped in interesting and illuminating ways that give the entire exhibition a sense of program and coherence. The overall presentation enhances the environment in ways that are satisfying to working occupants and visitors, a truly wonderful and inspiring outcome.


Excellence in Support Service

Mary CampneyMary Campney, Professional Development Program

Mary Campney has been working with the Professional Development Program (PDP) since 1989. She currently serves as senior administrative assistant for the program's executive staff. Throughout her association with the PDP she has demonstrated a high degree of skill and competence in dealing with sponsors, vendors, University staff, trainees, students, and peers. She is responsible for preparing more than two dozen PDP proposals and quarterly reports for the program's primary sponsors. She also coordinates all major PDP functions. One recent major event provides a clear demonstration of Campney's superior performance and outstanding quality: her role in coordinating the program's move last fall from the downtown campus to the University Administration Building. The entire effort took more than a year to plan and execute and involved moving more than 120 staff and their equipment and materials. Campney was fully engaged in all phases of the project and made sure that deadlines were met in a timely fashion.

Barbara RitterBarbara Ritter, Office of Research Compliance

Barbara Ritter was initially appointed to the University's Research Compliance Office in 2000, as a Secretary II. In the years following, both the breadth and scope of her duties expanded, prompting a promotion, in 2004, to compliance administrative assistant. Barbara holds a B.S. degree in business education and has more than 20 years of administrative and secretarial experience. In her expanded support role, she has become conversant with all the technical terms related to research protocols and with applicable research compliance regulations for research involving human subjects, animals, and biohazardous materials. She is in many ways the public face of the Compliance Office, responding to questions from students and faculty, and providing guidance to those who are new or unfamiliar with the University's review and approval requirements and procedures. She handles confidential information with consummate professionalism and judgment. One of her nominators wrote: "Barbara makes all of our 'customers' feel important as well as satisfied with the service that they receive."

Matthew Van DeusenMatthew Van Deusen, Maintenance, Downtown Campus

Matthew Van Deusen has served as a maintenance worker on the University's downtown campus since 2002. His many responsibilities include the maintenance of lighting in all offices and public areas, maintaining filters in fan and air-conditioning units (more than 300 on the downtown campus), repairing minor electrical problems and window shades, and a broad range of general maintenance services. He is widely known and admired for being technically sound and proficient at what he does. He performs his duties superbly, and has a wonderful positive attitude and enthusiasm. His standards are high, combining excellent customer service along with good sense, experience, and skill. Whatever needs to be done, he finds the best way to do it. Van Deusen anticipates problems and champions preventive maintenance. He cares very deeply about the University and the people who work on the downtown campus. One of the many testimonials in his nomination dossier concluded: "Matt is so thoughtful about responding to our needs that we feel like we are getting special service – except that we know everyone on the downtown campus gets that same special treatment."


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