Faculty Senate honors outstanding faculty for achievements during the pandemic

Awards recognize community involvement, mentorship, leadership, lifetime achievement and unit achievement

In a year when the coronavirus pandemic and the many guidelines, restrictions and advisories that accompanied this international health crisis presented them with a new and formidable set of challenges, the  talent and expertise residing in the BGSU instructional corps and support staff was on full display.

When the annual Faculty Excellence Awards were announced recently, some of the most outstanding members of the Bowling Green State University faculty and staff were honored for their achievements and contributions to the learning environment during this most difficult time.

The pandemic forced the cancellation of the official awards ceremony, but not the formal recognition of these outstanding individuals and programs.


Welch earns Community Involvement Award

The Faculty Senate Community Involvement Award was presented to Dr. Philip Welch, associate professor in the Department of Public and Allied Health of the College of Health and Human Services. The honor recognizes a faculty member for outstanding contributions to the community or to other local, state, national or international communities while also recognizing the importance of faculty service and the contribution of community involvement to the education and image of Bowling Green State University.

Welch, who came to BGSU in 2012, has done extensive research on issues that impact individuals in the region, including improving diabetes management in under-served populations, and examining the connections between emotional eating, food insecurity, and life events among older adults in Northwest Ohio. He has also researched the barriers that under-served and uninsured adults in local communities face as they seek to follow optimal nutrition programs.

James D. Watkins, the health commissioner in Williams County, which is located about an hour northwest of campus, has been working with Welch over the past year on a health-based community revitalization project. Watkins cited Welch's ability to assist Williams County as it works to transition Watkins' office into an “academic health department” while helping the Williams County community better understand how public health measures enhance the lives of individuals and the community as a whole.

“His engagement with our department and members of the community has enhanced discussion of health improvement in the community to a new level,” Watkins said about Welch, who also has written extensively for various health journals and publications. “He has a keen interest in reaching the members of our population whose voices are many times not heard.”


Justice receives Faculty Mentor Award

Jacqueline Justice, associate professor of English in the Humanities Department at BGSU Firelands, was honored with the Faculty Mentor Award. This honor recognizes a BGSU faculty member for their outstanding professional support of their colleagues, with a focus on the importance of faculty efforts toward the development of teaching, research and service initiatives among their contemporaries.

Justice served as the professional development coordinator from the fall of 2015 through the spring of 2020, conducted Canvas training for College Credit Plus (CCP) instructors, served as the CCP Teacher Mentor for three years, and has served as the BGSU Learning Community Facilitator for online teaching-related courses.

Justice has put together “Quality Matters” workshops and webinars for more than a decade, served as the professional development coordinator for the Firelands campus, and served on or chaired many committees, including two terms as chair of the Tenure and Promotion Committee.

Dr. Sue Ellen McComas, professor of communication at Firelands, said the work that Justice did as a mentor, her workshops, technical expertise, and her desire to see her colleagues succeed and excel put the Firelands faculty in a better position to deal with the changes brought about by the pandemic.

“Unbeknownst to anyone, Jacquie had been preparing Firelands faculty for a pandemic that would turn teaching and learning upside down,” McComas said.   

In their letter that enthusiastically supported Justice's nomination for this award, three additional colleagues referred to her as a “go-to person on the Firelands campus for technological support related to teaching.”

They relayed how Justice has “supported and mentored” her colleagues  during numerous strategic initiatives. “In essence, Dr. Justice is our in-house 'CFE of one' in all things related to online instruction and use of Canvas,” her colleagues said.


Peña recognized for outstanding leadership

The Faculty Senate Leadership as a Chair/School Director Award was presented to Dr. Susana Peña, director of the School of Cultural and Critical Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. The honor recognizes an individual who, through their leadership, has made a significant contribution to the University, through curricular innovation or new programs, maintenance and enhancement of a department’s or school’s mission, faculty development, community outreach, student-faculty relations, contributions to the campus community or promotion of the University’s core values.

Peña is credited with spearheading the development of the School of Cultural and Critical Studies as several areas of study transitioned from individual units to a coalition. Under her leadership, SCCS has developed a strong reputation on campus and across the larger academic landscape.

In her endorsement, Dr. Rebecca J. Kinney, associate professor of American Culture Studies, said Peña has helped the school grow by “supporting the research, teaching and creative projects of its faculty as a whole” as she brought together American Culture Studies, Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies, Ethnic Studies and Popular Culture.

“My nomination of Dr. Peña is a result of her tireless efforts on behalf of SCCS to bring together a disparate group of units into one cohesive body and creating processes for both the administrative functioning of a new school and the ideological connection of four disparate units,“ Kinney said.

Peña was also honored for her work on new curricular programs and contributions to the campus community, all while she continued to teach and publish her research. She facilitated the development of the Finding Your Voice in Social Justice Learning Community, where students explore the intersections of identities, including race, ethnicity and gender, as well as their social justice interests.


Mruk earns Lifetime Achievement Award

The Faculty Senate Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Dr. Christopher Mruk, professor of psychology in the Department of Natural and Social Sciences at BGSU Firelands.

This honor recognizes senior faculty members and/or administrators for their outstanding contributions to the University that span a period of two decades or longer. The award’s recipients are individuals who are widely acknowledged across campus for exceptional teaching, scholarly and creative work, and service and/or administrative skills. Their work is considered very valuable since it serves to make Bowling Green State University a more vital educational community for students, staff, faculty and administrators.

Mruk, who joined the BGSU faculty in 1984, instructs undergraduate and graduate courses at BGSU, from the introductory psychology classes to those looking at the psychology of abnormal behavior and personality adjustment.

He has played a significant role in curriculum development workshops as a leader or presenter, and shared his expertise in workshops for mental health professionals. He has also written on integrating traditional and nontraditional approaches in psychotherapy, crisis intervention training for police, and managing mentally ill clients who abuse substances.

Mruk has served in an academic advising role to more than 250 undergraduates over the past two decades, attended major national and international conference and written a group of scholarly books, including 2019's "Feeling Good by Doing Good: A Guide to Authentic Self-esteem and Well-being".

While expressing his support for Mruk to receive this honor, Timothy Jurkovac, an associate professor of sociology, cited Mruk for being one of the first faculty members at BGSU to offer fully online courses. Jurkovac lauded Mruk's innovative approach and his work developing those workshops for mental health professionals.   

“Throughout his celebrated career, Dr. Mruk has made an indelible impact in the classroom,” Jurkovac said. “He consistently achieves the highest quantitative student evaluations possible in most of his courses, reflecting the love and admiration he has received from his students over a teaching career that has spanned nearly four decades. While maintaining the highest levels of academic rigor, innovation and creativity in the classroom, his scholarly achievements further reflect an academic career worth celebrating.”

Public and Allied Health earns Unit Recognition Award

The Faculty Senate Unit Recognition Award, which honors an academic or instructional service unit that makes an outstanding contribution to the University while also recognizing the importance of faculty who work together to make a difference in the educational environment at the University, was presented to the Department of Public and Allied Health in the College of Health and Human Service.

The Department of Public and Allied Health (PAH) includes the disciplines of Medical Laboratory Science, Public Health, and Food and Nutrition. Throughout the pandemic, these programs have been heavily involved in the University’s testing response and programs for COVID-19.

Nearly a year ago and early in the pandemic, the department engaged its partnership with Wood County Hospital and had faculty and staff travel to testing facilities at the Ohio Department of Health and Ohio State University. In the fall of 2020, and continuing into the spring semester, this involvement continued with the staffing of COVID-19 testing clinics.    

Dr. Mary-Jon Ludy, chair of the department, wanted to highlight the department-wide contributions of the team as the University grappled with the pandemic. She cited their role in COVID testing, vaccine planning and education, as well as the health department partnerships and research publications. There was also staffing provided for campus-based COVID clinics and flu shot clinics, which have been credited for having made an “immeasurable impact” in protecting the health of the BGSU campus community and beyond.

“Our PAH faculty have also played a critical role in educating the general public and university community about the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ludy said. “This collective effort embodies BGSU’s core values and exemplifies public good in action.”

Jim Ciesla, dean of the College of Health and Human Services, lauded BGSU's collective response to the COVID-19 pandemic and added that the department deserves special recognition for “the remarkable amount of creativity, time, effort and teamwork” its faculty and staff devoted to meeting the challenges of the pandemic.

“The most important part of an effective response to public health emergencies takes place before problems occur. Public health first responders must maintain a high level of preparation and readiness,” he said, alluding to the significant ties the faculty members maintain with numerous health care and public health professionals. Those connections  allowed BGSU to create and implement a COVID-19 testing program.

Media Contact | Michael Bratton | mbratto@bgsu.edu | 419-372-6349

Updated: 04/28/2021 12:23PM