After a yearlong pause on in-person events, six dedicated faculty members added bronze medallions to their academic regalia and assembled in the Convocation Center for Cal U’s 192nd Commencement. The 2020 and 2021 recipients of the Presidential Distinguished Merit Awards, among the University’s highest academic honors, each received a scholarship for a student in their discipline.
Dr. Louise Nicholson
PRESIDENTIAL DISTINGUISHED MERIT AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN TEACHING 2020 RECIPIENT
Genetics expert Dr. Louise Nicholson creates and revises course content to keep students up to date on recent discoveries and new methods in her discipline.
An associate professor in the Department of Biology, Geology and Environmental Sciences, she has developed and taught an upper-level specialty biology course, two special-topics courses for the Honors Program, and two upper-level courses for the new Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology.
Nicholson has supervised more than 60 undergraduate research students, 30 of whom have presented their work at regional and national conferences, and 15 of whom have secured grants to support their work.
Dr. Sheri Boyle
PRESIDENTIAL DISTINGUISHED MERIT AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN SERVICE 2020 RECIPIENT
Dr. Sheri Boyle, of the Department of Health and Human Service Professions, directs the Bachelor of Social Work program.
Her University service includes organizing monthly symposiums on issues such as poverty, addiction and cultural diversity. She has obtained grants that prepare social work students to address mental and behavioral healthcare needs in rural and medically underserved communities, and to build careers related to drug addiction policy, prevention and recovery. Both grants offer graduate students $10,000 stipends.
In her community, Boyle works with Open Your Heart to a Senior and the Blackburn Center, both in Greensburg, Pa. student research and to network with industry professionals as a means of introducing students to potential careers.
Dr. Kimberly Vanderlaan
PRESIDENTIAL DISTINGUISHED MERIT AWARD FOR SCHOLARSHIP 2020 RECIPIENT
An associate professor in the Department of Media, Culture and Performance, Dr. Kimberly Vanderlaan is a specialist in 19th-, 20th- and 21st-century American literature.
She has been co-editor of Beyond Nebraska: Willa Cather’s Pittsburgh and Cather Studies Volume 13, and she reviewed Willa Cather and the Arts (ed. Guy Reynolds) for American Literary Realism.
Vanderlaan also serves on a three-member national committee that selects participants for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program in the Netherlands. The ETA fellowship is part of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program; fellows facilitate cultural exchange through classroom interactions and extracurricular activities while teaching English.
Dr. Daniel Harris
PRESIDENTIAL DISTINGUISHED MERIT AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN TEACHING 2021 RECIPIENT
In addition to demonstrated excellence as a classroom instructor, Dr. Daniel Harris, an associate professor in the Department of Biology, Geology and Environmental Sciences, has developed new elective classes and lab offerings to make Cal U geology students more competitive in the current job market.
Harris also gives geology presentations at public schools, organizes science workshops for children and recruits high school students for Cal U’s geology program.
His regular attendance at meetings of professional geologists often becomes an occasion to present joint faculty-student research and to network with industry professionals as a means of introducing students to potential careers.
Dr. Kimberly Woznack
PRESIDENTIAL DISTINGUISHED MERIT AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN SERVICE 2021 RECIPIENT
Dr. Kimberly Woznack, a chemistry professor in the Department of Mathematics and Physical Sciences, finds service opportunities within her discipline, the University and the State System.
She holds national-level leadership roles in the American Chemical Society and the Women Chemists Committee, and she received a fellowship from the National Science Foundation to participate in a research project to improve chemistry education.
An advocate for gender equity in STEM, Woznack advises the student Chemistry Club, serves on the advisory board for the women’s studies program at Cal U, and is active with the PASSHE Women’s Consortium.
PRESIDENTIAL DISTINGUISHED MERIT AWARD FOR SCHOLARSHIP 2021 RECIPIENT
An associate professor in the Department of Humanities, Todd Pinkham is a prolific artist whose recent work – a mural that covers an 85- by 14-foot overpass at the boat launch in Fredericktown, Pa. – required an extensive review of historical photographs and interviews with local residents.
The mural, commissioned by the Mon River Towns community revitalization program, features images of Fredericktown’s former car ferry and other riverside scenes.
Pinkham also participates as an invited artist at the annual Burning Man International Art Festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert and exhibits his work at galleries in the greater Pittsburgh area.