The Charger Blog

Faculty Members Honored for their Dedication to Students

Five professors received awards recognizing their exemplary research, their service to the University, and their commitment to creating life-changing learning opportunities for their students.

May 11, 2018

By Kellie McLaughlin, Office of Marketing & Communications

(L-R) Provost Dan May, Thomas Reynolds, Glenn McGee, Virginia Maxwell, Melissa Whitson, Rachel Torello, Michael Collura, and President Steve Kaplan

Each spring, awards are given to exceptional members of the University of New Haven faculty who excel in leadership, creativity, education, and research. Faculty members are nominated by their colleagues or students, and a committee of faculty members reviews the nominees and votes to select the winners. The winners are honored in the company of their peers at an awards ceremony, followed by a dinner reception where a faculty member delivers his or her last lecture.

Melissa Whitson headshot
Melissa Whitson
Excellence in Research/Creative Activity

The Excellence in Research/Creative Activity Award was given to Melissa Whitson, an associate professor of psychology. The award honors a full-time faculty member who has demonstrated superior creativity and/or success in his or her research or works of art over the last year.

"Melissa is a role model for involving students in her research, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels," wrote the colleague who nominated her. "This involvement has resulted in publications, conference presentations, and community-based program evaluation work. I know several of the graduate students who she has engaged in her research, and they have all praised her mentorship skills."

Glenn McGee headshot
Glenn McGee
Excellence in Leadership and Service

Glenn McGee, a professor of management, was the recipient of the Excellence in Leadership and Service Award. The award honors a full-time faculty member for outstanding leadership and service to the University community or to his or her profession.

A colleague wrote, "Glenn is regularly described as the best Faculty Senate chair in the University’s history, and while I think that is true, it barely scratches the surface of the service he has given the University during the past three years. Virtually any faculty member hired since 2013 has a story to tell about how Glenn helped them connect to someone or a group of people that resulted in a new program or publication, or just in a good time at the University."

Rachel Torello headshot
Rachel Torello
Excellence in Experiential Education

The Excellence in Experiential Education Award was given to Rachel Torello, a lecturer in psychology. The award honors a faculty member who demonstrates outstanding experiential teaching techniques or who has been a champion of experiential education for the academic community.

"Dr. Torello is a clinical psychologist, and often uses her own experiences in the field to help relate a topic she is teaching in class to real-world scenarios," a student wrote. "Dr. Torello uses this teaching style exceptionally well. In her courses, I personally found myself more engaged in the material because of the assimilation of her work experiences into her teaching."

Michael Collura headshot
Michael Collura
Excellence in Teaching, Full-Time Faculty

The Excellence in Teaching, Full-Time Faculty Award was given to Michael Collura, professor of chemistry and chemical engineering, and chair of the engineering and applied science education department. The award honors a full-time faculty member who embodies the principles of excellence in teaching.

A colleague wrote, "Michael is an exceptional teacher. His classes are student centered, he prioritizes prompt and authentic feedback to the students, and he leads and mentors other faculty in how to be effective teachers. He is meticulous in how the classes are instructed. Student engagement is a priority, concepts are practical, theory is linked to application, and he reinforces concepts while emphasizing professional skills such as communication and proper formatting."

Thomas Reynolds headshot
Thomas Reynolds
Excellence in Teaching, Part-Time Faculty or Practitioner in Residence

Thomas Reynolds, a practitioner in residence in political science, was the recipient of the Excellence in Teaching, Part-Time Faculty or Practitioner in Residence Award. The award honors an adjunct faculty member or practitioner in residence who embodies the principles of excellence in teaching.

A student wrote, "Professor Reynolds manages to instill a sense of drive and willingness to contribute in class in a way I've never seen in political science before. Even in his core classes that students only take to fill a requirement, they are quickly mesmerized by his unique teaching style and innate enthusiasm. I learned more in one semester of his class than I did in four years of political science classes in high school and instilled in me a passion for political science that I hadn't felt in years."

Virginia Maxwell headshot
Virginia Maxwell
2018 Last Lecturer

The 2018 Last Lecture was presented by forensic science associate professor and assistant dean Virginia Maxwell. President Steve Kaplan selects the faculty member to deliver the last lecture, and that person’s identity is revealed just before the talk.

A "last lecture" challenges top academics to think deeply about what matters to them and to give a hypothetical "final talk" in which they discuss the wisdom they would try to impart to the world if they knew it was their last chance. Dr. Maxwell gave a moving lecture advocating for the humane treatment of farm animals. She reminded the audience that cheap food from factory farms comes to us at a great cost.

"Remember, cheap meat, eggs, and dairy aren’t as cheap as we might think," Dr. Maxwell said. "The full price is being paid elsewhere by the farmers, the environment, and most of all by the animals themselves who live in horrendous conditions with almost no quality of life."

The last lecture series is modeled after a presentation made in 2007 by Carnegie Mellon University professor Randy Pausch, who delivered his "last lecture," titled "Really Achieving Your Childhood, a Dreams," a month after he received a prognosis that the pancreatic cancer, with which he had been diagnosed a year earlier, was terminal. He died ten months after giving the lecture. His talk became the basis for a New York Times bestseller.