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May 16, 2017
17-149

Jordan West
Communications Specialist

VSU Honors Faculty at Tenure Reception

VALDOSTA — Valdosta State University recently honored 27 newly tenured faculty members.

The award of tenure constitutes permanent status as a member of the university faculty.

“I congratulate you,” Dr. Richard A. Cavajal, university president, said during the 2016-2017 Faculty Tenure Reception. “This is a big day in the life of this university as we celebrate, and hopefully it is a day that will make this special accomplishment that much more memorable for you. Receiving tenure is a big deal, and we need to do something as an institution to make sure that we all understand how grateful we are for what you have done.”

Dr. Brian L. Gerber, interim provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, explained that in order to receive tenure, faculty members must submit a collection of data recording their teaching, research, and service accomplishments. The portfolio goes through an extensive review process before it is submitted to the president for final review.

Listed are the 2016-2017 faculty members who have received tenure, a few of whom took the opportunity to share what they love most about teaching at VSU and what receiving tenure means to them.

• Dr. Lorna Alvarez-Rivera, Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice
“Tenure, to me, means that Valdosta State University recognizes and appreciates the work I have done during my time here. They value my commitment to teaching, dedication to criminological research, service to the university, and involvement in the larger community. Working at Valdosta State University has been gratifying in a number of ways. I've had the privilege of meeting wonderful people both in and out of the classroom. Faculty, administration, staff, students, and members of the local community have been highly supportive since the day I arrived. Teaching at this demographically diverse university allows for a fun and challenging classroom environment, while the small classroom sizes provide students with a sense of comfort as they share their opinions on sensitive and divisive topics. In the classroom I have the opportunity to spark student interest in a number of criminal justice topics that I am passionate about, such as criminological theory, corrections, immigration, and crime. I'm looking forward to future challenges and helping our students achieve their academic and personal goals.”

• Ms. Sarah Arnett, Department of Communication Arts
“I appreciate that my work is valued as an artist and as an educator. VSU does an excellent job at allowing for versatility and flexibility within its faculty's interests. The arts community in Valdosta is tight-knit and I feel welcome to share my own artistic voice and vision by the students, faculty, and community. Tenure means that I'm permanently part of the Valdosta and Blazer community. This award of tenure gives me a sense of belonging and acknowledgement that my work and voice is of value to the people I work with, the students I teach, and the community I engage with through my presence as an artist.”

• Dr. James Archibald, Department of Curriculum, Leadership, and Technology

• Dr. Eugene Asola, Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education
“I like the challenges of the novelty technology brings with teaching here at VSU and the generation of students from diverse backgrounds. I enjoy the flexibility with which I can work with both face-to-face and online classes commensurate with the support I receive from the department, college, and university as a whole. Honestly, I receive most of the resources I need to do my work successfully. I feel a sense of accomplishment and collegiality but also am conscious of the future and the work ahead of me.”

• Dr. Shaun V. Ault, Department of Mathematics
“The best part of teaching at VSU is the opportunity to work with students from all kinds of backgrounds. The potential for student-led research is also very important to me. I've had the good fortune of getting to work on research projects with some of the most talented students, not only math majors but also physics, chemistry, and computer science majors. Receiving tenure means that my hard work up until now has been validated and appreciated. I will strive to keep up the same, if not better, quality of teaching, research, and service going forward.”

• Dr. Eric W. Chambers, Department of Biology  
“I enjoy interacting with young adults and helping them realize the many opportunities that a college degree can give them in life. I also enjoy mentoring them and playing a role in helping them achieve their academic goals in life. It is a significant milestone in my professional career and signifies that my colleagues at the university respect and admire my efforts in teaching, research, and providing service to the university and to the community at large.”

• Dr. Kendric Coleman, Department of English  
“I consider VSU to be the jewel of Southern Georgia because of its diverse students, which come from all over the United States and the world. Such students make for a dynamic teaching experience in the classroom because of all the cultural engagement that takes places as we learn from each other. Tenure is the ultimate recognition for my commitment to research and teaching in the profession.”

• Dr. Roy Copeland, Department of Management and Healthcare Administration
“I enjoy the opportunity to teach, engage, and mentor young people. It is an amazing opportunity because college professors are provided with an opportunity to influence the future of our state and community.”

• Mr. Tommy J. Crane, Department of Art
“I enjoy that the focus of the university is on teaching and student success. It is an honor to be recognized for the hard work and time put into the process.”

• Dr. Steve Downey, Department of Curriculum, Leadership, and Technology
“I left the corporate world years ago because I was producing reports that in 20 years no one was going to care about or even remember. Teaching allows me to directly and positively affect people's lives in ways that will influence them today, tomorrow, and for another 20 years. The ability to help others attain their goals is very rewarding. Attaining tenure is a validation of my work to date. Tenure is a recognition that, regardless of how nontraditional some of my ideas may seem, my peers recognize the value I bring to my students, department, and campus and find that value worthy of retaining.”

• Dr. Dereth Drake, Department of Physics, Astronomy, and Geosciences
“I really enjoy introducing new majors to the joys of undergraduate research in plasma physics.”  

• Dr. Herb Fiester, Department of Curriculum, Leadership, and Technology

• Jie G. Fowler, Department of Economics and Finance
“I enjoy my work with the students and involvement in student organizations such as the Harley Langdale Jr. College of Business Administration’s Business Student Advisory Council. Receiving tenure is one of the milestones of our academic careers and it is very rewarding to get to this point.”

• Dr. Gary Futrell, Department of Marketing and International Business
“The opportunity to help others is the primary reason that I became a professor. I am a strong believer in living life with a purpose and articulating that purpose in a mission statement. As it relates to teaching, my personal mission is to … learn constantly, share my knowledge and experience, and have a positive impact on others. Consistent with this mission, my teaching philosophy further details my approach to the classroom — the essence of which is that teaching is not just about helping students learn material for a course… it’s [also] about helping the individual become a better professional and person. It is a great honor to know that the institution has faith in me and my work.”

• Dr. Matthew Grant, Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education
“I enjoy watching students in our program grow from undergraduate students to professional teachers. It is amazing the transformation and maturity the students gain through their classroom and practicum experiences. To help them along in this process is satisfying because of the strong relationships you gain as they matriculate through the program and your classes. Tenure is an accomplishment that means you are accepted by your colleagues as part of the team. It allows you more time to dive deeper into your teaching, service, and research because you have established yourself within a community and can select specific opportunities to develop those areas that will help the students and faculty at all levels of the university.”

• Dr. Lee Grimes, Department of Psychology, Counseling, and Family Therapy
“VSU is large enough to bring diversity of experiences and perspectives but small enough for me to frequently encounter colleagues and students. The palm trees are an added bonus. For me, receiving tenure means recognition of my commitment to excellence in my teaching, service, and scholarship.”

• Dr. Jacob Jewusiak, Department of English
“I enjoy teaching the students at VSU. They bring so many different perspectives to the classroom. One of the best experiences as a professor is seeing a student improve over the course of the semester— or his or her academic career. The job offers a powerful reward in seeing hard work result in student success.”

• Dr. Hanae Kanno, Department of Social Work
“I enjoy helping students understand research methods and research terms, complicated theories, constructs, and terminologies clearly ... with a variety of practical and real examples. I like to see the students become more interested in research, increase their social work knowledge, and have more passion about research and social work knowledge. I like leading students as they present their research class projects at professional meetings such as the Graduate Research Symposium and the National Association of Social Workers Conference. I like seeing the students' happiness and growth over their entire course of the Master of Social Work program. After receiving tenure, I will transition my academic career from early career to mid-career and will start being more engaged in administrative work in my department. I will ... have more confidence about my professions in the three areas — teaching, scholarship, and service.”

• Dr. Roger McIntyre, Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice
“I enjoy ... having the ability to impact the lives of students. The satisfaction that one gets from witnessing the transformation of individuals into emerging leaders within society is beyond measure. It is humbling to know that I have filled a very small role in this process of intellectual growth and development.”

• Dr. Mizanur Miah, Department of Social Work
“I enjoy teaching interactive web-based graduate classes. Receiving tenure means stability and long-term commitment.”

• Dr. Michelle Ocasio, Department of Modern and Classical Languages
“I most enjoy the ability to create fully online programs. As long as I follow the curriculum, I can be as creative as I want to be with custom-made movies, avatars, and social media. Tenure means the freedom to focus on the research and projects I really love ... I’m looking forward to serving on committees, presenting papers, and publishing articles that are directly related to my research interests.”

• Dr. Michelle Ritter, School of Nursing
“I enjoy spending time with my talented colleagues, serving on university committees, meeting professors from other disciplines, but most of all, I enjoy interacting with students and educating our future nurses and nurse practitioners. Receiving tenure means a lot to me. Mostly, receiving tenure means that I can continue to educate future nurses and nurse practitioners about health care through evidence-based practice. It makes me proud when I am out in the community and see my prior students providing exceptional patient care. For example, when my father was sick at South Georgia Medical Center, he was cared for by some of my prior nursing students and I knew he would be receiving compassionate and competent health care.”

• Dr. Shaunita Strozier, Department of Early Childhood and Special Education

• Dr. Donald Thieme, Department of Physics, Astronomy, and Geosciences  
“This is very exciting because my wife, Hanae Kanno, is also being promoted at the same time. So this is security for us as a family and also recognition of my role as a scholar and mentor to majors in environmental geosciences. I enjoy the diversity of students on this campus. I love the beauty and architectural theme of the campus itself. I like being close to both the Atlantic Coast and the Gulf of Mexico for fieldwork. Tenure is still important in today’s university so that faculty can think and express themselves freely. Once we have tenure, we are more comfortable taking risks in innovative research or standing up for students who need our support. It also means that our university may expect a great deal from us in terms of continuing professional development and effective teaching.”

• Dr. Grazyna Walczak, Department of Modern and Classical Languages  

• Ms. Kalina Winska, Department of Art
“From the beginning of my employment at VSU, I have been incredibly lucky working with many talented and devoted individuals among students and faculty within the College of the Arts. I am most happy with my students — seeing them grow, mature in their creative approach, and succeed as professionals in the field of art and design, both during their studies and once they graduate from the program at VSU. Receiving tenure means so much to me. If I look back into my early years of studying art, first in Poland and then here in the United States as a Master of Fine Arts student, I would have never thought that achieving this honor ... was at all possible. Receiving tenure is incredibly rewarding to me; it validates my endeavors towards being an inspiring teacher, strong artist, and a good colleague. I am extremely happy to be a part of such a great and supportive environment. Both students and their teachers are fostered to take their skills and knowledge to the next level and thrive as a person.”

• Candace Witherspoon, Department of Accounting
“My favorite part of VSU is the people. The faculty, staff, and students always seem to be smiling and enjoy being part of VSU.”

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