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ODU Honors Nominees for Virginia Outstanding Faculty Awards

Old Dominion honored its nominees for the 2014 Virginia Outstanding Faculty Awards at a luncheon Jan. 13 in Webb Center. Administered by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) and funded by a grant from the Dominion Foundation, the awards program will announce the statewide winners on Jan. 23.

The Outstanding Faculty Awards are the commonwealth's highest honor for faculty at Virginia's public and private colleges and universities. These awards recognize superior accomplishments in teaching, research and public service.

At the luncheon on Monday, President John R. Broderick recognized ODU's nominees for their outstanding work; each received a plaque and an account of $500 to support their scholarship. Chandra de Silva, vice provost for faculty and program development, heads up the annual nomination process for the university.

ODU's nine nominees are: Sheri Colberg-Ochs, Gail Dodge, John Ford, Michelle Kelley, Richard Landers, Sylvain Marsillac, Michael Pearson, Carolyn Rutledge and Thomas Socha.

Excerpts from the "Personal Statement" section of the faculty members' nomination packets are reprinted below.

Sheri Colberg-Ochs

Professor of Human Movement Sciences

"Since I arrived at ODU, I have been striving for excellence in teaching, discovery, integration of knowledge and service. Initially I thought that my greatest strength was my scholarly activity and research, for which I have consistently been given an 'outstanding' rating, and my innumerable professional, community and university service activities have merited similar high evaluations. While my teaching has always been considered 'very good' to 'excellent,' despite the difficulty of the hard-core science courses I teach compared to the others in my diverse department (Human Movement Sciences) and college (Education) against which my teaching is evaluated, it has always felt like my weakest link. However, I now know that my ability to be an effective educator, both at ODU and on a broader scale, is truly my greatest accomplishment."

Gail Dodge

Professor of Physics

"Given the importance of increasing the number of U.S. students pursuing technical careers, I strongly believe that we must not accept the status quo in which women and minorities are underrepresented in physics and other STEM fields. For me, that means doing everything I can to mentor and encourage women in physics at ODU, including hosting women in physics dinners and taking an interest in the lives and dreams of all the students. As has been noted many times, anything that improves the climate for women improves the climate for all students in the department. Most students need encouragement and support to be successful and reach their full potential. Providing that encouragement and seeing the result is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job."

John Ford

Professor of Marketing and International Business

"Every aspect of my teaching, service and scholarship relies upon my ability to provide something of practical value to my students and my community. Having entered academia from the business world, I have seen a need for enhanced relevance in research. I have been concerned that business education has shied away from its obligation to help the student to be successful in the 'real world' and have worked to keep coursework practical. The job for the professor, as I see it, is to focus on managerial implications and relevance in his or her research so that both practitioners and academicians can benefit from the work. I also feel strongly that all of my students should be as well prepared for their careers as they can be, whether they are heading to academic institutions as faculty members or they are becoming business leaders. I want my students to be successful, so my job is to prepare them for what they will encounter and to offer them the tools, as well as the knowledge, that they will need in order to be successful."

Michelle Kelley

Professor of Psychology

"For the past several years, I have received nearly $3 million in support from the National Institute of Drug Abuse to develop, provide and test treatments for substance-abusing parents that may have secondary benefits for children in their homes. Because many parents with substance use disorders problems are reluctant to allow their children to receive mental health treatment, finding treatments for parents that spill over into the family unit is another way to impact children affected by a parent's addiction and may have the greatest potential for benefitting the most number of children. I have attempted to apply my work to formulate strategies and ease the challenges faced by families and children. My desire is to immerse my students in understanding psychology as fully as possible. I believe each of these research experiences has made me a better teacher, every research project has been an opportunity to immerse ODU students in the same types of opportunities I experienced and to nurture student understanding of how research can be used to help discover solutions to real-world problems."

Richard Landers

Assistant Professor of Psychology

"I am both a psychologist and a computer programmer - and as I've discovered, that is a very unusual combination. With that expertise, in my research, my teaching and my service, I seek to bridge these two perspectives in a way that no one else can. I want to understand how people use new technologies, how they learn and grow with these technologies, and how technologies can help them in ways that they don't yet even realize. These objectives guide everything I do in pursuit of excellence in teaching, discovery, integration and service. My passion for careful research design and practical application directly speaks to my approach to teaching and integration. My graduate students are themselves preparing to save the world through technology and learning research, whether as academics or organizational consultants. To help them do so, I teach graduate courses with interdisciplinary content - and it has been particularly rewarding to hear from my graduate students completing internships that they have become the 'go to' people for support when the psychologists need to talk to the technologists."

Sylvain Marsillac

Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

"The Earth is dying! Not virtually or figuratively, but literally dying. Humanity is consuming the Earth's resources faster than they can be replenished. The consequences of these actions are felt in the price fluctuations and the geo-political tensions that resource ownership creates, and in the after-effects of their consumption: the substantial change in the world's climate. This unsustainable path can only be altered through education, research and communication in the field of renewable energies. That's where I see my role, as a renewable energy educator, researcher, and communicator. For me, research and teaching feed each other. Each time I discover something new in my research, I want to teach it to someone who then will ask me a question that will incite me to do more research. And I want to share that research with society at large to encourage engineers (and future engineering students) to consider photovoltaics. Meanwhile, I'll continue to develop methods of using PV energy as a reliable source of energy, so that my students and future generations will have a better Earth to love and live in. To paraphrase John Lennon: You may say that I am dreamer, but I will make sure that I am not the only one!"

Michael Pearson

Professor of English

"Much of my work is characterized as 'creative nonfiction,' a genre that compels an integration of experience and imagination. I must attend to the facts; I cannot make things up. Creativity, however, comes from a culling and shaping of experience, from an artful organization of the truths into Truth. No writer of creative nonfiction can stay home and dream. He or she has to venture out into the world, bring back firsthand knowledge, and through craft make it into a story that will mean something to readers. Contact with the world is not just a slogan for the nonfiction writer: it must be a habit of being that informs every aspect of his/her vocation. Experiences can open us to literature, but literature also teaches us how to engage with the world. My overarching mission is to bring literature and writing to Hampton Roads and to the commonwealth."

Carolyn Rutledge

Associate Professor of Nursing

"The United States is facing an overwhelming health care crisis that affects each and every citizen. The greatest impact occurs to those in the rural and underserved regions of our country. All too often, these individuals are faced with limited access to providers, often resulting in poor health outcomes. Our rural citizens suffer to a much greater extent from chronic illness such as diabetes, hypertension and kidney failure; childhood obesity resulting in diseases previously only found in adults; and infant mortality and morbidity. This is a travesty especially in a country that spends more money than any other nation on health care. In fact, the health status of our citizens is rated as the poorest among industrialized nations. My mission as an educator, scholar and clinician is to address this crisis."

Thomas Socha

Professor of Communication

"In the age of information, all messages - great and small - matter. But from that deluge of messages that matter, one truth clearly emerges: family messages matter most. Today, now that family communication is a firmly established field of study, most will take this statement for granted. But when I began my work in this area, I found it necessary to demonstrate the very real significance of everyday communication in explaining family functioning, especially as it related to the more established psychological and sociological theories. In many ways, we were blazing new trails. But they were important trails - trails that we were convinced would lead to a deeper understanding of the human experience."

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