Outstanding BSU Faculty Honored at 2019 Fall Opening Convocation

Winners of Ball State University’s Outstanding Faculty Awards celebrate with President Geoffrey S. Mearns and Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Susana Rivera-Mills. Photo providedWinners of Ball State University’s Outstanding Faculty Awards celebrate with President Geoffrey S. Mearns and Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Susana Rivera-Mills. Photo provided

By: Ball State Marketing and Communications—

Muncie, IN — A leading expert in environmental health, especially on the relationship between air pollution and health, and a writer who focuses on the intimacies of family life were among the 2019 Outstanding Faculty Award winners, announced at the Fall Opening Convocation on August 16.

Every year, Ball State bestows awards to recognize faculty who have made outstanding contributions to the University community. The 2019 winners are:

Outstanding Research Award: Dr. Maoyong Fan, professor of economics, has made significant contributions in economics and public health and has greatly influenced economic and health researchers and policy makers. In less than 10 years, he has 23 peer-reviewed articles published in highly ranked academic journals, numerous finished projects currently under review in academic journals, and additional projects in various stages. He was awarded a best paper in 2016 from the China Health Policy and Management Society. He also studies labor economics, providing important background for debates on guest worker programs and immigration policy reforms.

Outstanding Creative Endeavor Award: Jill C. Christman, professor of English, writes creative nonfiction about personal relationships, the intimacies of family life, and the travails of emerging from a traumatic past to build a healthy life. Her essays have appeared in many of America’s top journals, including: Creative Nonfiction, River Teeth, Fourth Genre, and Brevity, all of which accept fewer than 1% of submissions. She has also published two books, including “Darkroom: A Family Exposure,” which won the 2001 Association of Writers and Writing Programs Award in Creative Nonfiction. Respected anthologies, classroom readers, and textbooks have also published her work.

Outstanding Faculty Award: Dr. Jackie R. Grutsch McKinney, director of the Writing Center and professor of English, published three peer-reviewed, award-winning books, transformed the Writing Center, reinvigorated the English department’s writing program, and received glowing evaluations for her innovative teaching, all while diligently serving the department, college, University, and profession. Each of her three books has won the International Writing Centers Association’s Best Book Award, and she has been invited to deliver the keynote address at several major national and international conferences. As director of the Writing Center, she has designed and implemented programs, including the Digital Writing Studio, Dissertation and Thesis Boot Camps, and Faculty Breakfast Clubs, among many others.

Outstanding Junior Faculty Award: Dr. Emily R. Rutter, assistant professor of English, is a creative, transformative teacher, an award-winning and productive scholar, and an engaged member of both the University and Muncie communities. She has had two monographs published from prestigious academic presses and is working on a third. Her work ranges from examining African-American music and poetry to the Literal Representations of Baseball behind the Color Line. She was instrumental in re-establishing the African American studies minor at Ball State, and continues in a leadership role in the program.

Outstanding Diversity Advocate Award: Dr. Patricia L. Lang, professor of chemistry, has mentored aspiring scientists. One of her nominators said, “Dr. Lang always took the time to meet with me, whether to review data, prepare for presentations, or to help advise me on my future career goals. While often being the only, or one of few, underrepresented students in many of my science and math classes carried its share of challenges, she has consistently remained a supportive figure who has believed in me and my abilities, even at times when I doubted them myself.”

Outstanding Advisor Award: Barry D. Umansky, professor of telecommunications, advises WCRD Radio and Ball State’s Pre-Law Interest Group. He became the faculty advisor for the more than 100 students who volunteer for the Ball State student-run FM station WCRD in 2004. A past student wrote, “Students, his collegiate peers, and industry professionals alike know that Barry consistently puts student experiences at the center of his career. Barry propels students to put their best foot forward, and he mentors them to excel at the highest standard.”

Outstanding Faculty Service Award: Dr. Tarek Mahfouz, associate dean of the R. Wayne Estopinal College of Architecture and Planning and professor of construction management, has served as chair of the University Senate and chair of the Faculty Council. Besides the enormous time commitment that both of these roles demanded, his reputation as a skilled, diplomatic, and collaborative leader have characterized his terms in these positions and many others that have brought about changes in policy, improved procedures, and has helped Ball State improve complex systems such as curriculum and budget.

Outstanding Administrator: Laura L. Helms, interim dean of University College, has dedicated her entire professional career to University College. Through her years of varied experience, she has helped to mold and shape the structure and programs of the Learning Center, Academic Advising, and University College. She challenges and empowers University College personnel to model this service and deliver high-quality programs, but she also provides support and guidance as needed.

Outstanding Teaching Award: Dr. Mellisa K. Holtzman, professor of sociology, has a teaching philosophy grounded in a dedication to transforming her students, both of their sociological knowledge and a broader set of skills that they can take with them throughout their lives.

In addition to multiple recognitions from students on behalf of their student organizations, she has receiving accolades for teaching from various organizations. One student wrote, “Hands down one of the hardest classes I have ever taken, but I would take it again.”

Lawhead Award in General Education: Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani, associate chair and professor of health science, teaching personal health and principles of community health. One student wrote: “Dr. Khubchandani meets every criteria a great professor should. He is kind, intelligent, generous, engaging, thoughtful, and enthusiastic. He is always sharing his passion for public health, and that passion inspires each student he interacts with. He is an engaging teacher who encourages his students to think beyond the surface, and takes every opportunity present to create a learning moment.”

Excellence in Teaching Award: Dr. Kristin N. Cipollone, assistant professor of elementary education, and Amy L. Leitze, lecturer of elementary education, were among eight finalists (chosen from 249 nominees by students) invited to submit a proposal on making an existing course more innovative with an emphasis on improved student engagement. Dr. Cipollone will enhance EDEL 244 Early and Elementary Education for Social Justice. The student experience will be augmented to assist in translating knowledge of social inequities into action. Ms. Leitze’s course, EDRD 430 Assessment and Intervention in Elementary Schools, will be enhanced by incorporating differentiated online modules and vlogs to provide more effective feedback to students.

Rawlings Outstanding Distance Education Teaching Award: Dr. Jennifer A. Palilonis, George and Frances Ball Distinguished Professor of Multimedia Journalism, is committed to providing a high-quality educational experience, on-campus and her low-residency program in emerging media design and development. Her students are successfully collaborating on large projects thanks to the structure and accountability built into her courses. Students note that she always makes learning enjoyable by including real-life stories, relatable examples, hands-on activities, short videos, and innovative guest speakers.


About Ball State

Founded in 1918 and located in Muncie, Ball State is one of Indiana’s premier universities and an economic driver for the state. Ball State’s nearly 22,000 students come from all over Indiana, the nation, and the world, and its 780-acre campus is large enough to accommodate premier facilities and 19 NCAA Division I sports but small enough to ensure the friendliness, personal attention, and access that are the hallmarks of the University.