Six Tarleton faculty recognized with university-wide teaching, service awards

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STEPHENVILLE (April 28, 2017) — Six faculty members have been recognized for their achievements and service to Tarleton State University and its students with the presentation of the 2017 Faculty Awards.

The university’s Division of Academic Affairs announced this year’s recipients: Dr. Jason Sharp, Steven Gerhardt, Paula McKeehan, Dr. Russell Pfau, Penny Wright and Dr. Trinette Jones.

Recipients of the six awards—Jack & Louise Arthur Excellence in Teaching, Faculty Excellence in Student Success, Engaged Faculty, Faculty Excellence in Scholarship, Barry B. Thompson Service and Outstanding Junior Faculty—were recognized during a recent banquet held in their honor, along with the four honorees receiving this year’s university-wide staff awards.

Each award winner received a crystal trophy, a $1,500 prize and an additional day of paid leave.

The Barry B. Thompson Service Award annually recognizes outstanding service to students, the campus community, and significant contributions to student-faculty interactions outside the classroom. Created in 1997, the award is named for the former Tarleton president and Texas A&M University System chancellor. Thompson was widely known for his “open door” policy and high level of commitment to students during his almost 10 years as president.

The Jack & Louise Arthur Excellence in Teaching Award honors effective and dedicated teaching at Tarleton. This prestigious award, instituted in 1983 as the “Distinguished Service Award,” was renamed in 1989 in honor of education patrons Jack and Louise Arthur.

The Faculty Excellence in Scholarship Award, established in 2003, recognizes exemplary performance in scholarly or creative activities, including published or presented research. authored books, journal articles, monographs or book chapters; scholarly research paper presentations, collaborative research involving faculty and/or student colleagues; state, national or international-level seminars, workshops or comparable creative activities; and shows, recitals, recordings or musical performances, or lighting, set or costume design.

The Faculty Excellence in Student Success Award, established in 2012, rewards extraordinary efforts to increase student success, including: enhancing opportunities for students to engage meaningfully in the academic experience; providing extraordinary support for student academic achievement; encouraging students to realize personal growth and individual potential; providing students with opportunities for additional academic support outside of class; engaging in professional development with the goal of improving student success; redesigning courses to create highly effective instruction; developing Applied Learning Experiences for students; exemplary service as a Faculty Partner; and advising students “above and beyond” the typical scheduling of classes.

The Engaged Faculty Award is given in recognition of exemplary engaged scholarship and leadership by a faculty member. Each nominee should exhibit exemplary engaged scholarship in one, or more, of the following areas: students’ civic learning, community-based research, reciprocal community partnerships, service-learning and civic engagement, and contributions to the public good.

The Outstanding Junior Faculty Award is given in recognition of demonstrated excellence in teaching, scholarly or creative activities, and service by a faculty member beginning an academic career. The award is given on the basis of cumulative achievement since joining the faculty at Tarleton. Eligibility criteria includes full-time faculty in a junior status who have been at Tarleton for no more than five years, in faculty role no more than seven years, and outstanding achievement in teaching, research/creative endeavor, and service at the junior faculty level.


Tarleton State University honored six recipients of this year’s Faculty Awards during a dinner and awards banquet on April 18. Pictured (l-r) are Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Karen Murray, Dr. Jason Sharp, Dr. Russell Pfau, Penny Wright, Paula McKeehan, Dr. Trinette Jones, Steven Gerhardt and Tarleton President F. Dominic Dottavio.

University-wide faculty award recipients are:

Ms. Penny Wright – Barry B. Thompson Service Award
Kind, caring and a positive role-model are a few of the words used to describe Penny Wright, assistant professor in kinesiology and recipient of the 2017 Barry B. Thompson Service Award. Her commitment and service to Tarleton for more than 40 years is a testament to her dedication. Wright’s students praise her love for Tarleton people, as well as her heart-felt interest in the well-being of each of her students. Wright has served in numerous service-related roles at the institution, including director of the Texan Stars dance team, sponsor of the Cross Timbers Sprint Triathlon, and advisor to Tau Phi Epsilon. Her colleagues rave about her caring smile, her upbeat personality and the joy she brings to the department and College of Education. Penny consistently goes beyond her normal duties to ensure each student succeeds.

Dr. Jason Sharp – Jack & Louise Arthur Excellence in Teaching Award
Dr. Jason Sharp, associate professor of computer information systems, received the Jack & Louise Arthur Excellence in Teaching Award. Colleagues describe Sharp as a dedicated teacher and scholar who touches the lives of Tarleton students both directly and indirectly with his classroom and online presence. Sharp’s commitment to engage students in often difficult subject matter is further evidence of his excellent teaching skills. Creative, passionate and enthusiastic are a few of the phrases used by Sharp’s students to describe his involvement in both online and face-to-face instructional environments. He continues to develop his craft, seeking to continually improve and add innovative practices to his teaching. Sharp served as a Faculty Fellow in the Center for Instructional Innovation, researching and publishing on innovative educational topics, including the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Dr. Russell Pfau – Faculty Excellence in Scholarship Award
Dr. Russell Pfau, professor in biological sciences, is the Faculty Excellence in Scholarship Award recipient. Pfau has been the author or co-author of 19 peer-reviewed articles, presented at numerous scholarly gatherings, and mentored more than 40 undergraduate and 10 graduate students in conducting research and developing skills needed to succeed in their chosen field of study. His research program provides students with opportunities to work with contemporary molecular methods that place them at the forefront of the field. Pfau received external funding through a Texas Parks & Wildlife Section 6 grant to study the genetic diversity of the state’s threatened Texas kangaroo rat (Dipodomys elator). This important work is critical for the development of management strategies to protect the species from extinction. Research from Pfau’s laboratory is well respected by prominent state and federal agencies as well as researchers at other institutions across the country.

Mr. Steven Gerhardt – Faculty Excellence in Student Success Award
Outstanding, engaged and dedicated are all words used to describe Steven Gerhardt, assistant professor in management. As recipient of the Faculty Excellence in Student Success Award, Gerhardt exemplifies active engagement in student success. He is a dedicated educator who is actively engaged in service to students. Gerhardt is involved with many organizations on campus, and his many service activities with students tie directly to student success. He serves as a faculty mentor for ROTC and directs a business plan competition for students within the College of Business Administration. Gerhardt’s students cite this competition, as well as his direction and guidance, as positive influences on their college careers. He is a tireless advocate for students and supports student success in all areas of life.

Ms. Paula McKeehan – Engaged Faculty Award
The Engaged Faculty Award recipient is Paula McKeehan, assistant professor in wildlife, sustainability & ecosystem sciences. McKeehan has been described as creative and innovative in engaging students, faculty and the community in developing projects and outreach programs for the health and well-being of others. McKeehan designed and developed Tarleton’s Sustainable Teaching Garden, which encourages students, faculty and staff to take a direct role in food production, with the goal of increasing healthy eating. Her students regularly serve the campus and larger community by assisting the Erath County 4-H to provide food and nutrition workshops. She partners with other community groups, such as Erath County AgriLife Extension, to provide a Learn, Grow, Eat, Go program to all third grade students within the Dublin ISD. McKeehan has worked diligently for the common good of the Tarleton campus and greater Erath County community.

Dr. Trinette Jones – Outstanding Junior Faculty Award
The Outstanding Junior Faculty Award recipient is Dr. Trinette Jones, assistant professor for animal science & veterinary technology. Her colleagues describe her as an asset to the department and a bright star with a promising future at Tarleton. She is an active participant in research, serving on nine graduate student committees and publishing four peer-reviewed articles in the past two years. Jones played an instrumental role in developing the Equine Certificate Program, as well as leading the First Year Seminar courses for the department. In the process of enhancing the Tarleton equine program, Jones chaired a committee that engaged leaders in the Texas equine industry to enrich the university program. Jones has demonstrated a commitment to the three pillars of the faculty role: teaching, research and service.

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