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UIndy Celebrates Faculty and Staff with 2023 Achievement Awards

2023 Faculty and Staff Achievement Awards Recipients

by Troi Watts

Today the University of Indianapolis announced the recipients of this year’s Faculty and Staff Achievement Awards. Congratulations to the following faculty and staff for being recognized for their achievements and successes from the 2022-23 academic year:

The Outstanding Faculty Award

The Outstanding Faculty Award recognizes a faculty member who has demonstrated exemplary integration of teaching, scholarship, and service.

Dr. Katie Boucher, Program Director and Associate Professor, College of Education and Behavioral Sciences

Dr. Katie Boucher's headshot.

Not only does Dr. Katie Boucher support UIndy and her students through her exemplary teaching methods, but also through her mentorship as the Associate Director of the Ron and Laura Strain Honors College and leadership as the Program Director of Undergraduate Psychology. Dr. Boucher goes above and beyond for her students, and the impact of her dedication is evident in the many students who have gone on to earn admission to some of the top psychology programs in the nation to pursue terminal degrees. 

Dr. Boucher’s nominator said, “Dr. Boucher’s passion for her discipline inspires her students to become lifelong learners and critical thinkers. Her commitment to academic excellence, innovative research, and unwavering dedication to her students make her an outstanding candidate for the Outstanding Faculty Award. In addition, her positive impact on the lives of her students and her contribution to the university community is truly exemplary.”

The Institutional Leadership Award

The Institutional Leadership Award recognizes a faculty member who demonstrates exceptional leadership by advancing a program, committee, task force or other group to achieve goals of importance to UIndy.

Dr. Kara Cecil, Assistant Professor, Kinesiology, Health & Sport Sciences

Kara Cecil

During the 2022-23 academic year, Dr. Kara Cecil served in a critical leadership role as the co-chair of the General Education Curriculum Committee’s (GECC) subcommittee  to explore revising the University’s core curriculum. Dr. Cecil dedicated herself wholly to the task, investing a significant amount of time and energy to ensure the University moved forward in the best way possible.

Dr. Cecil’s nominator said, “Higher education has a reputation of not being quick enough to make decisions and act when change needs to occur. It can be challenging for faculty members involved in faculty governance to lead faculty colleagues through a process of proposing changes. Despite the fact the process was often uncomfortable, Dr. Kara Cecil was able to lead this committee through this process to complete the task that was laid out for them. For this reason, she is deserving of the Institutional Leadership Award.”

The Outstanding Scholar Awards

The Outstanding Scholar Awards recognize faculty members whose scholarly work has received substantial external recognition.

Dr. Cameron Powden, Assistant Professor, Athletic Training

Dr. Cameron Powden

In the past year alone, Dr. Cameron Powden has seen great success in his scholarly endeavors. He co-authored four peer-reviewed publications with colleagues from multiple other institutions, all four of which were published in some of the nation’s top sports medicine publications. In addition to his own scholarly work, Dr. Powden mentors his students in developing class assignment case studies for submission and presentation at regional and national athletic training professional conferences.

Dr. Powden’s nominator said, “Dr. Powden has demonstrated outstanding performance in the area of scholarship, and does so in a way that advances the scholarly work of his colleagues and students. I am proud to nominate Dr. Cameron Powden for the UIndy Outstanding Scholar Award.”

Dr. Kevin Gribbins, Professor, Biology

Dr. Kevin Gribbins

Over the course of his career thus far, Dr. Kevin Gribbins’ has written close to 100 publications and presentations, three book chapters, and multiple published digital photographs and micrographs. In addition, he has 131 published presentations and abstracts with students. Since joining UIndy, Dr. Gribbins has expanded his scholarly efforts to the supervision of undergraduate students in independent research projects. 

Dr. Gribbins’ nominator said, “Probably one of Dr. Gribbins’ strongest qualities as a teacher is his ability to transcend his teaching from the classroom to the real world. Dr. Gribbins’ students have presented their work at professional conferences such as the Indiana Academy of Sciences. In the last year alone, he has published three research articles and had a student awarded a coveted Sigma Xi grant. Most impressively, some of his research students will serve as co-authors on peer-reviewed scientific publications. Helping to author scientific publications is something that not many Universities of any size can say they can give their students the opportunity to do.”

The Teaching in the Core Award

The Teaching in the Core Award recognizes a faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in teaching core coursework for undergraduate students.

Dr. James Willis, Assistant Professor of Practice, Philosophy & Religion

Dr. James Willis

Per academic year, Dr. James Willis teaches anywhere from 250 to over 300 students in his religion courses, due in part to the fact that the majority of his courses fulfill a general education requirement. In recognition of his work, Dr. Willis was invited to participate in a seminar hosted by Interfaith America and the Council of Independent Colleges in the Summer of 2022. With the knowledge he gained at this seminar, Dr. Willis returned and created a new First-Year Seminar (FYS): Interfaith Perspectives on Love and Death. 

Dr. Willis’ nominator said, “To be an excellent teacher in a general education course is one thing; but to consistently create valuable, new course offerings that appeal to a general (education) audience is quite another. Dr. Willis continues to do both in no small measure due to his attentiveness to trends in student learning, on-going assessment, willingness to take risks in developing new courses/content, and willingness to be a co-collaborator with his students.”

The Emerging Scholar Awards

The Emerging Scholar Awards recognize faculty members who are new to higher education and within the first 4 years of service. The individual must have demonstrated significant progress toward implementation of a successful scholarly agenda.

Dr. Abigail Richard, Assistant Professor, School of Business

Dr. Abigail Richard

Not only has Dr. Abigail Richard earned by-lines in some of the nation’s top research publications, but she has also collaborated with her fellow faculty in the School of Business to re-design the curriculum for the master’s program in data analytics. 

Dr. Richard’s nominator said, “The criteria for the award states the nominee ‘must have demonstrated significant progress toward implementation of a successful scholarly agenda.’ I believe that in the two years she has been a part of the faculty she has not only met but surpassed that bar. Dr. Richard has also been active in multiple research projects with students and other colleagues across several disciplines on campus.”

Tracy Johnson, Assistant Professor, School of Education

Tracy Johnson

A highly talented and motivated scholar, Tracy Johnson has dedicated her scholarly work to improving literacy education. Johnson’s work will help lead efforts to improve literacy education in Indiana’s K-12 schools on behalf of the University’s elementary education program.

Johnson’s nominator said, “One of Tracy’s most notable qualities is her exceptional ability to focus research on reading practices that form new findings and generate novel insights. In addition, her work in emerging literacy highlights significant research gaps and proposes innovative solutions. Tracy’s work in early literacy has already garnered national attention, with her recent publication in the Literacy Research Instruction Journal receiving widespread acclaim. Furthermore, Tracy’s academic achievements are complemented by her outstanding leadership and collaborative skills. They actively contribute to our department’s research community, consistently engaging in intellectual discussions and providing valuable feedback to fellow scholars.”

The Connecting Expertise with Action Award

The Connecting Expertise with Action Award recognizes a faculty member or team of faculty members who has successfully pursued work across disciplinary lines in the areas of scholarship, program development, curricula, service, or coursework.

Dr. John Somers, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, School of Education

Dr. John Somers

In his 22 years at UIndy, Dr. John Somers has served in a number of capacities and led several significant changes within the School of Education. Dr. Somers was responsible for the implementation of a special education graduate program that would address the high demand for special education teachers in Indiana. Additionally, Dr. Somers has dedicated his time to empowering his fellow faculty members as co-chair of the University promotion and tenure committee. 

Dr. Somers’ nominator said, “Dr. Somers is constantly looking for ways to meet demand, and he uses his vast expertise to do so very thoughtfully and in ways that sustain our programs now and in the future.”

The Education for Service Award

The Education for Service Award recognizes a faculty member who best represents the UIndy motto, ‘education for service,’ in teaching or scholarly work.

Dr. Toni Morris, Associate Professor, School of Nursing

Dr. Toni Morris

Dr. Toni Morris uses her extensive experience in operating room nursing to establish and provide additional learning opportunities for UIndy nursing students outside of the typical curriculum. Outside of her classroom instruction, Dr. Morris also steps up to support the entire UIndy community, including the on-campus vaccination clinics during the pandemic. Most recently, Dr. Morris is responsible for the launch of a new biennial event, the White Coat Ceremony, to welcome new students into the profession of nursing. 

Dr. Morris’ nominator said, “The dedication displayed by Dr. Morris will ultimately prepare our students to provide the highest possible care in the perioperative setting and will give all students a sense of pride and accomplishment as they start their clinical journey in school.”

The Emerging Leader Award

The Emerging Leader Award is presented to a staff member with fewer than two years of service at UIndy who has made a unique, significant contribution not only to embracing the spirit of the university, but also providing superb service and fostering interdepartmental relationships. An emerging leader shows signs of strength, integrity and continuous improvement professionally and personally.

Riley Childers, International Student Advisor, Center for Global Engagement

Riley Childers

Since joining the Center for Global Engagement as an Administrative Assistant in July 2022, Riley Childers has enthusiastically done all she can to support the students, staff, all departments within the CGE, and partners across campus. Childers has learned countless new programs and software, managed new projects with a fresh perspective, and proven herself to be a confident and capable leader. It is for this dedication and support that Childers was recently announced as a new International Student Advisor. 

Childers’ nominator said, “Riley Childers has kept the spirit of high quality, personalized, care, service, and advocacy for all our students in the forefront as she helped with the organization and implementation of a wide variety of programs and events: virtual international student pre-departure orientations, new international student reception during welcome week, updating the study abroad websites, hiring, onboarding, and supervising several student assistants, Celebration of Flags ceremony, etc. She has helped create and foster a cross-departmental sense of community and collaboration with Student Affairs, Professional Edge, Advising, Admission, Accounting… The list is endless. She continues to learn and grow and shares her excellent communication, organization, and creative skills with the entire CGE team and the wider UIndy community.”

The Enhancing the Student Experience Awards

The Enhancing the Student Experience Awards are presented to individuals who have demonstrated outstanding achievement in inspiring students through innovative practice fueled by enthusiasm. Nominees should exemplify extraordinary efforts to increase student success and promote a positive, healthy and impactful learning experience.

Colleen Hepner, Admissions Counselor and Operations Specialist, College of Health Sciences

Colleen Hepner

As an admissions counselor for the College of Health Sciences, Colleen Hepner has gone above and beyond to support CHS’ programs and students. Despite juggling multiple programs at once, Hepner is attentive and organized to ensure that prospective students feel informed and supported throughout their application process.

Hepner’s nominator said, “Colleen Hepner consistently works hard to give students the best experience while applying to our programs. She has an incredible ability of providing faculty and potential students a positive experience during the process of applying.”

Robbie Williford, Associate Dean of Judicial Affairs & Residence Life, Student Affairs

Robbie Williford

During his three years as part of the Residence Life team at UIndy, Robbie Williford has helped to build and strengthen the Living-Learning Community (LLC) program and worked collaboratively with departments across campus to increase student engagement. Williford has gone above and beyond to support UIndy’s students, investing his own time, gifts, and talents to provide a voice to students both on and off campus. 

Williford’s nominator said, “Robbie Williford is a leader, innovative changemaker, and someone who deserves to be recognized for their efforts to enhance the UIndy student experience.”

The Unsung Hero Award

The Unsung Hero Award recognizes a staff member who is dedicated not only to executing their job, but also to helping others and filling in where needed, performing tasks at a quality level, actively solving problems and demonstrating dependability, responsibility and perseverance-all without fanfare. The recipient of this award takes initiatives to solve problems and improve work situations without being prompted and is an invaluable team member.

Robin Pierle, Administrative Assistant, Kinesiology, Health Sciences & Athletic Training

Robin Pierle

As the administrative assistant for the KHSS department, Robin Pierle has stepped up to fulfill a number of responsibilities, ensuring the department continues to run smoothly and efficiently. Despite the heavy workload, Pierle always has a positive attitude. 

Pierle’s nominator said, “Robin Pierle is always the most up-beat and supportive of all those around her. She is truly the kind of person who makes the environment around her better for everyone.”

The Spirit of UIndy Award

The Spirit of UIndy Award recognizes a staff member who goes beyond simply taking pride in the university, but encompasses what it means to truly live in the example of UIndy’s mission. The recipient of this award is a shining example of excellence, positivity, loyalty, teamwork, creativity and cooperation, serving as the beating heart of the institution, acting with integrity, respect and compassion, and always looking out for the welfare and well being of others.

Rhonda Helterbrand, Program Support Specialist, School of Education

Rhonda Helterbrand

The Teaching in Transition program was made possible thanks to the hardwork and dedication of Rhonda Helterbrand. Helterbrand always takes the needs of the School of Education’s students, faculty and staff into consideration. She is proactive and creative in filling the needs of the department. 

Helterbrand’s nominator said, “Rhonda Helterbrand is an amazing thought partner with extensive institutional and programmatic knowledge. One conversation with Rhonda and you feel empowered to go ahead and make things happen! This is a result of her own drive and ambition to ensure the UIndy School of Education is a place where students, staff, and faculty feel taken care of.”

The Collaborative Spirit Award

The Collaborative Spirit Award recognizes a team or department that has demonstrated successful collaboration. Whether it is creating a project, solving an issue that resulted in improvements, planning a new program or initiative, offering a service, or streamlining a process, nominated groups are examples of the positive effects of true teamwork.

Institutional Research: Abigail Hale, Senior Financial Business Analyst; Greg Smith, Coordinator for Enrollment Reporting.

Abigail Hale and Greg Smith

The Institutional Research team, made up of Abigail Hale and Greg Smith, has undertaken several new project responsibilities to support the University, in addition to their existing underloads. These projects, including First Destination Reporting on graduate outcomes, retention tracking, and more, have allowed them to collaborate with a variety of on campus partners. 

Hale and Smith’s nominator said, “As a result of Abigail’s and Greg’s availability and willingness to collaborate, new teams have been formed to address institutional needs. Each time that I reach out to Abigail and Greg, their response is “how can I help?” followed by a product or data set that surpasses my initial requests.”

The Beyond UIndy Award

The Beyond UIndy Award recognizes a staff member who has made significant efforts to improve the UIndy community, as well as their own. The recipient of this award is a leader within larger communities, working toward social justice, societal change, and service of others with humility and compassion.

Becky Fee, Project Assistant, Center for Aging & Community 

Rebecka "Becky" Fee

Becky Fee has led numerous efforts to educate both the UIndy community and the community at large about those living with dementia and to improve the quality of life for such people. Fee serves as a Dementia Friends Indiana Champion where she has presented to and trained nearly 500 others to become “Dementia Friends.” Additionally, Fee voluntarily coordinates the Memory Cafes held at UIndy, in partnership with the Department of Music and UIndy chapter of Glamour Gals. 

Fee’s nominator said, “Becky Fee’s work as a Dementia Friends Indiana Champion is entirely voluntary. It is not part of her job responsibilities and often she does presentations outside of normal working hours. In addition, there would not be Memory Cafes at UIndy without Becky’s passionate efforts to keep them going.”

Congratulations to all of this year’s Faculty and Staff Achievement Award winners!