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ETSU presents 2014 Distinguished Faculty Awards

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JOHNSON CITY (August 22, 2014) – Three East Tennessee State University faculty members were recognized today with Distinguished Faculty Awards in the areas of teaching, research and service. The awards, which are the highest honors given by ETSU to faculty members, were presented during the annual Faculty Convocation ceremony.

Dr. Alison L. Barton, an associate professor in the Clemmer College of Education’s Department of Teaching and Learning, is the 2014 recipient of the ETSU Distinguished Faculty Award in Teaching .

Barton joined the ETSU faculty in 2005 and teaches courses in developmental psychology, educational psychology and human development and learning. She is the coordinator of the education foundations program as well as the Honors-in-Discipline program for the Department of Teaching and Learning.

One nominator described Barton’s classroom and online teaching models as exhibiting “best practices in pedagogy.”

“She bases her teaching decisions on empirical evidence and implements that evidence consistently in her classroom,” the nominator wrote. “Dr. Barton’s courses are known to be challenging and demanding, but I believe her students would say that she is fair, supportive, available, innovative, and inspiring.  (She) makes certain that her courses are well-developed and organized in a way that is intended to engage and encourage her students throughout the course.”

The nominator added that Barton provides a number of workshop sessions through the Office of eLearning for faculty regarding best practices in online education.

Another nominator wrote, “Dr. Barton continuously seeks ways to motivate her students and help them succeed in her courses.  She appreciates that learning involves not just knowledge, comprehension and recall, but also emotions and attitudes, and she engages students at every level.”

An ETSU faculty member described how Barton was one of seven ETSU faculty selected as an INtopFORM fellow, and that for her project she, along with Dr. Patrick Brown from the College of Public Health, developed a course, “Teaching for Learning in Higher Education,” which helps faculty learn to implement student-centered, active learning strategies in their classrooms.

“I took the course the first semester it was offered and had the privilege of experiencing first-hand what it is like to be a student in her class,” another faculty member wrote.  “She combined theory and practice with the best practices of andragogy (teaching strategies for adults).  Because of that course, I made a number of immediate changes to my own courses and have multiple ideas for things I want to implement in future courses.”

 “Dr. Barton is one of the most challenging instructors that I have encountered at ETSU, but this is really only the greatest of compliments,” a student wrote.  “(Her) class is in no way too difficult, but rather challenges students past their perceived comfort zone and into the zone of proximal development, where the most concrete and lasting learning occur.”

Another student added how Barton “challenges her students to use their critical thinking skills while encouraging (them) to ‘step outside the mold.’  Her incredible wit and sense of humor make her teaching particularly enjoyable.”

Barton graduated with honors from the University of Kentucky with a B.A. degree in psychology, and she was awarded her M.A. in clinical psychology and her Ph.D. degree in school psychology from Northern Illinois University.

The ETSU Distinguished Faculty Award in Research was presented to Dr. Richard Kortum, an associate professor in ETSU’s Department of Philosophy and Humanities, within the College of Arts and Sciences.

The main focus of Kortum’s research is the Biluut Petroglyph Complex in western Mongolia, which he discovered in 2004 while exploring with a local guide.

Kortum found lively images, along with 3,000-year-old Bronze Age burial mounds, stone circles and squares, enormous standing stones, and carved stone men from the Turkic era, some 1,400 years ago. The site is recognized as one of the largest, densest and most important concentrations of rock art and ritual stone structures in Inner Asia.

After completing documentation of the rock art, Kortum will begin writing two scholarly books about his findings.

A graduate of Duke University with a B.A. degree in philosophy, Kortum spent a year at Queen’s College in Cambridge, England, later returning to Oxford University to study for his doctorate with Sir Michael Dummett, the school’s Wykeham Professor of Logic.

Kortum, who joined the ETSU faculty in 1999, amassed $700,000 in research grants over the past 15 years, and produced significant work in fields as diverse as international education, sport literature, anthropology and archaeology. His recent book, “Varieties of Tone,” deals with the fine shades of linguistic meaning that have proven difficult to account for through the leading theories of meaning.

In addition, Kortum spent a year in Azerbaijan as a U.S. Fulbright Senior Scholar. The American ambassador to Azerbaijan writes, “In all my experience as a senior U.S. diplomat, I have not seen a Fulbright scholar take such an active and helpful role in the development of the country to which he or she was assigned.”

Letters of support for Kortum arrived from around the world and across the nation, from government officials, colleagues and former students. All praised his ability to bring together people of many backgrounds and specialties to conduct research productively together.

One letter of support notes, “Richard is an individual, with a capital ‘I.’ He is a true renaissance man with talents far and wide: his early basketball career, pioneering education reform in Azerbaijan, writing on the philosophy of sports, his music, pottery making, and many other enterprises, serious and esoteric.”

Another letter calls Kortum “a good role model to students of what an educated man really is,” and adds, “Richard’s prolific interdisciplinary career represents the value of a team effort, and the model for how university faculty should be collaborating. This is the future in higher education.”

The ETSU Distinguished Faculty Award in Service was presented to Dr. Martha M. Michieka, associate professor in the Department of Literature and Language.  A native of Kenya, Michieka holds a Ph.D. in English Language and Linguistics, with an emphasis on English as a Second Language, from Purdue University. Michieka joined the ETSU faculty in 2006.

Nominators pointed out that she is always “on call” for students and constantly advises them.  “Whether it is working with our international students, working on diversity issues, helping students prepare for a medical missions trip, or giving her time in local schools, she embodies the ETSU value that ‘people come first,’” wrote one nominator.

Michieka serves as instructor and counselor for the Pathfinder Club at the Johnson City Seventh-Day Adventist Church. In that capacity, she has helped cook for and feed the homeless at Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church. And she has organized church youth to do yard-cleaning and visitations for the elderly, as well as canned food collections for area food pantries.

Working with the Office of International Programs at ETSU, Michieka helped establish an exchange agreement with Kenya’s Kisii University in 2012.  Through the exchange, retired books from ETSU’s Sherrod Library are regularly donated to the newly constructed library at Kisii. That exchange grew out of a visit by a Kenyan delegation to ETSU, coordinated by Michieka.

Michieka speaks often about Kenyan culture in area schools, sharing lessons about her native language, Kiswahili, and tastes of her native cuisine. She has led several workshops at national and international professional conferences.

In addition to her teaching and research, Michieka’s advising responsibilities at ETSU are demanding. “As Assistant Chair for Undergraduate Studies, she is required to chair the Undergraduate Committee, advise a large amount of undergraduates, meet with students who wish to change their major to English, lead a yearly Composition Workshop, and compile and analyze data for the university’s Academic Quality Initiative,” according to one nominator.

Faculty members in her department note with appreciation that Michieka has served on eight departmental search committees. “She has been on virtually every other department committee as well,” wrote a colleague. Michieka was instrumental in the creation of a new minor in linguistics at ETSU.

In 2011 Michieka served as a member of the steering committee for a major conference on diversity hosted by ETSU, and in 2013, she helped organize the university’s Black Faculty and Staff Association Heritage Dinner.

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