The Charger Blog

University Honors Faculty Members' Excellence and Dedication to Student Success

The University community celebrated the commitment of its outstanding faculty members, recognizing 10 educators for all they do for their students, their fields, and for the Charger community.

June 2, 2023

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications


At the end of each academic year, the University community gathers to celebrate the excellence of faculty members and mark their achievements both in and out of the classroom. This year, 10 outstanding faculty members were recognized for their remarkable contributions to the University community and to their fields in a variety of areas, including leadership, research, and overall excellence in teaching.

As part of the event, a faculty member also delivers a "last lecture," during which a faculty member delivers a hypothetical "final talk" about a topic that is very meaningful for them. A University tradition for nearly two decades, the event has honored more than 150 dedicated educators.

This year's last lecture was delivered by Prof. Diane Smith, a distinguished lecturer in the University's Communication, Film and Media Studies Department. A New York Times bestselling author, Emmy Award-winning journalist, and documentary producer, she is president of her own media company.

Steven H. Kaplan, Ph.D., who will end his distinguished tenure of leading the University at the end of the fiscal year in June, created the event when he began serving as president nearly 20 years ago. He says he has always considered the event a "highlight" of the academic year.

"Each of you, our incredibly devoted faculty members, are truly the lifeblood of our University," he said. "Gifted scholars and passionate educators, you dedicate your lives to our students, fueling their passions and, in countless cases, helping them accomplish more than they ever could have imagined. Your talents and your commitment to the University and our students continue to shine brightly."

Excellence in Experiential Education
Melissa Whitson
Melissa Whitson, Ph.D.

Melissa Whitson, Ph.D., professor and coordinator of the University's graduate program in community psychology, received the Excellence in Experiential Education award. It recognizes a faculty member who demonstrates excellence in incorporating high-impact practices into courses or in faculty-mentored student-learning opportunities, such as by creating meaningful internship experiences or faculty-mentored research projects.

"Dr. Whitson cares so much about her students," one of her students stated in a testimonial. "She truly wants everyone to succeed and her passion for social justice makes that easy. We are able to get excited about the topics and learn better because of it."

Excellence in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Accessibility, and Belonging
Yevgeniya Rivers
Yevgeniya Rivers, M.S., M.A.

Yevgeniya Rivers, M.S., M.A. was recognized for Excellence in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Accessibility, and Belonging. A senior lecturer and director of the University's Math Zone, Prof. Rivers was lauded for demonstrating a commitment to promoting DEIAB across the University.

"I have had the pleasure of working with Prof. Rivers since she became the director of the Math Zone," commented a colleague. "She has always kept an open mind and has been very willing to assist with accessibility efforts to enable students with disabilities to be academically successful and feel a sense of belonging on campus. Prof. Rivers has continuously shown herself to be other-centered and diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility and belonging focused."

Leadership in Service
Kento Yasuhara
Kento Yasuhara, Ph.D.

Kento Yasuhara, Ph.D., received the Leadership in Service award posthumously. Dr. Yasuhara, an associate professor of psychology, passed away last winter following a brief illness. The University community celebrated his outstanding leadership and service to the University and to his profession.

Alexandria Guzmán, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of psychology and sociology, accepted the award on his behalf.

"He often provided help in things other folks did not think about," recalled a colleague. "One notable example: He helped create a manual for parents taking their kids to Prato. His mentoring mantra seemed to be, 'let me see what this person needs, and how can I help them.'"

Added a former student, "Dr. Yasuhara was a great leader, mentor, role model, and friend."

Excellence in Online Teaching Pedagogy
Claire Glynn
Claire Glynn

Claire Glynn, Ph.D., director of the online Graduate Certificate in Forensic Genetic Genealogy and an associate professor of forensic science, earned the Excellence in Online Teaching Pedagogy award. It honors a faculty member who has demonstrated the ability to build community and student engagement in an online class and who applies high-impact practices into the course, as well as the use of technology and/or multimedia tools.

"Dr. Glynn has excelled in developing a community of scholars in her online environment with a level of engagement that would make most on-ground professors envious," noted a colleague. "She has achieved this through careful module design and creative assignments that force students to think critically in this emerging field. Doing this with cohorts filled with professionals with advanced degrees and precious little time to devote to studies is remarkable because the conversations are both organic and passionate."

Excellence in Recruiting, Advising, or Retention
Gazi Duman
Gazi Duman, Ph.D.

Gazi Duman, Ph.D., received the Excellence in Recruiting, Advising, or Retention award. Assistant professor, chair of Economics & Business Analytics, and coordinator of the University's graduate program in business analytics, Dr. Duman was recognized for developing and implementing proactive and impactful retention initiatives, promoting career preparation and developmental goals for students, and for consistently participating in recruitment activities.

"Dr. Duman has advised or supervised every student who has been through the program since he joined the Pompea College of Business at the University of New Haven," noted a faculty colleague. "He has positively affected hundreds of students through his hard work and dedication."

Excellence in Sponsored Programs
Lorenzo Boyd, Ph.D.
Lorenzo Boyd, Ph.D.

Lorenzo Boyd, Ph.D., the inaugural holder of the Stewart Professorship in Criminal Justice and Community Policing, earned the Excellence in Sponsored Programs award. It recognizes faculty for their commitment to attracting external funding or business/community support through grants, contracts, cooperation agreements, as well as for developing supportive relationships with businesses or other organizations that benefit students. The award also honors Dr. Boyd's dedication to promoting student engagement and high-impact practices.

"Dr. Boyd recently hosted a colloquium session for us on his sponsored research and provided tips and tricks for getting involved in similar opportunities as young scholars/academics," noted a student. "The esteem and success with which Dr. Boyd engages in sponsored research and allows for student collaboration is also evident in his newest grant with the National De-escalation Training Center to work with the University's Center on Advanced Policing to open a regional center."

"Dr. Boyd has been instrumental in the University receiving grant awards totaling well over one million dollars," added a colleague. "These sponsored projects will make a significant contribution to the community toward improving public safety and advancing social justice."

Excellence in Research or Creative Activity
Karl Minges
Karl Minges, Ph.D., MPH

Karl Minges, Ph.D., MPH, was recognized with the Excellence in Research or Creative Activity award, which honors a full-time faculty member who has outstanding current research, scholarship, or creative activity and who also demonstrates excellence in mentoring others in research, scholarship, or creative activity. Assistant professor, chair of the Department of Population Health and Leadership, and director of the Master of Public Health program, Dr. Minges was the first National Institutes of Health grant recipient in University history. He has attracted nearly $3 million in grant funding and authored more than five dozen peer-reviewed publications in leading journals.

"He has in-depth knowledge on research, exemplary skills, and a willingness to make remarkable contributions to society through research in areas that has limited prior research, along with a deep dedication to the University and students," stated one of Dr. Minges's students.

Added another, "It is inspiring to see his unrelenting pursuit in improving the health and life of others through his research work."

Excellence in Teaching by Part-Time Instructors
Nicole Cossette
Prof. Nicole Cossette

Prof. Nicole Cossette, an adjunct professor of psychology, received the Excellence in Teaching by Part-Time Instructors award. It honors an adjunct faculty member or practitioner in residence who embodies the principles of excellence in teaching and demonstrates pedagogy that embodies evidenced-based best practices and innovative teaching approaches and/or mentoring students.

"She is a safe zone, a safe person, for anyone and everyone," recalls a student. "Professor Cossette frequently checked on her students' mental health throughout the semester. This would include talking to students one-on-one about their stressors and discussing our feelings toward class, workload, and the semester. Multiple times during the Fall 2022 semester, I needed guidance from a teacher, and Professor Cossette stepped up to the plate."

Excellence in Teaching by Lecturer Faculty
Robert Harvey, M.S.
Robert Harvey, M.S.

Robert Harvey, M.S., a lecturer in the University's Chemistry & Chemical Engineering Department, earned the Excellence in Teaching by Lecturer Faculty award. It recognizes a lecturer who embodies the principles of excellence in teaching and demonstrates pedagogy that embodies evidenced-based best practices and innovative teaching approaches and/or mentoring students.

"Professor Harvey is a great teacher," praised a student. "He makes an effort to make the class easy and interesting. He takes the time to explain in detail every subject, making sure every single person in the class understands. He is always willing to help, you can see in his teaching the love for what he does."

Excellence in Teaching by Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty
Nadiye Erdil, Ph.D.
Nadiye Erdil, Ph.D.

Nadiye Erdil, Ph.D., associate professor of industrial and systems engineering, received the award for Excellence in Teaching by Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty. It recognizes a full-time faculty member who embodies the principles of excellence in teaching and demonstrates pedagogy that embodies evidence-based best practices, innovative teaching approaches, and/or pedagogy that embodies effective mentoring of students.

Describing an industrial engineering course that Dr. Erdil taught during which she brought her class to the Makerspace, a colleague recalled, "At the end of the whole activity, there was reflection and debriefing. It was incredible to see how much the students had learned, how much they had internalized and realized. Yes, the students could have learned from descriptions and reading but it was evident that 'experiencing it' they would not forget the topics/concepts/methodologies."

"She is very precise and clear about each and every topic she teaches in the class," added a student. "I like the way she teaches in the class and makes the class interactive."