Tarleton honors faculty, staff for outstanding achievements, service


STEPHENVILLE (April 23, 2019) — Tarleton State University recognized seven faculty and four staff members for their achievements and service Monday night at its annual Faculty and Staff Awards Banquet.

Honorees are selected for their impact on Tarleton students and the community through excellence, innovation, scholarship and service.

Tarleton State University presented its 2019 Faculty and Staff Awards to this year’s recipients during a banquet on April 22 at the Barry B.Thompson Student Center ballrooms. Pictured are (top image, l-r) Tarleton President F. Dominic Dottavio, Dr. Sharon Tiffany Bowers, Dr. David Frazier, Dr. Dustin Edwards, Dr. Syed Hussain Jafri, Dr. T. Wayne Schwertner, Dr. Donald McGahan, Dr. Christopher Higgins and Dr. Karen Murray, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs. The university’s staff awards were also presented to (bottom image, l-r) Mark Eakin, Kim Hart, Lacie Harris and Ashlee Rather.

This year’s faculty recipients:

Dr. Dustin Edwards, Outstanding Junior Faculty Award

Recognizes excellence in teaching, scholarly or creative activities, and service by a faculty member beginning an academic career.

An assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences in the College of Science and Technology, Edwards demonstrates the three pillars of the faculty role: teaching, research and service. His research has included pioneering work in the identification of novel bacteriophages as part of Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Phage Discovery Program. He has mentored 58 students in various research projects, leading to 33 presentations at local, regional and national conferences and generating 14 student awards. Edwards also has received research support for seven grants and has served as supporting mentor for nine locally-funded student grants. He has developed new curriculum and consistently receives high marks as an instructor. He has an excellent service record, contributing his time to several university committees and councils, including the Institutional Review Board, Faculty Senate and Faculty-Student Research Advisory Board.

Dr. Sharon Tiffany Bowers, Engaged Faculty Award

Honors faculty members who encourage students in civic learning, community-based research and reciprocal community partnerships.

Bowers, professor with the School of Kinesiology’s Department of Sport Science in the College of Education, is the epitome of an engaged faculty member. A tireless advocate of physical education, she strives to embed real-world and service learning opportunities into curriculum for her students. Bowers has partnered with Erath County homeschool students to provide a “best practice” physical education experience, involving kinesiology students to create lesson plans and teach sessions. She has coordinated with Stephenville ISD to engage Tarleton students in Special Olympics activities, where they served on the planning committee, event facilitators and athlete buddies. She serves in the Engaged Scholar’s Academy at Tarleton, which seeks to increase transformative learning experiences and community partnerships. One colleague commented that she is “a leader in our school and within her department, modeling the fundamentally hands-on aspect of kinesiology and our focus on improving the human condition.”

Dr. Christopher Higgins, Barry B. Thompson Service Award

Recognizes service to students, the university community and contributions to student-faculty interactions outside the classroom.

Higgins, an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, has been instrumental in the development of the university’s Timberlake Biological Field Station near Goldthwaite. He was named principal investigator for a National Science Foundation grant that provides support for student research projects at the site, and was achieved certification for the site through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to teach aquatic science and provide field experiences for ecology. Higgins has led students in Service Day projects at the field station where they rebuilt, painted and cleaned various facilities. More than 270 students have utilized the resources of the Timberlake Biological Field Station for their outdoor educational experiences through Higgin’s tireless work.

Dr. Donald McGahan, Jack and Louise Arthur Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching

Honors effective and dedicated faculty who exemplify excellence in university teaching.

McGahan, associate professor in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, has made a positive and lasting impact on the students and faculty in the Department of Wildlife, Sustainability and Ecosystem Sciences (WSES). His dedication to becoming the most effective educator possible is evidenced through his completion of numerous self-study professional development programs for teaching and his use of advanced educational technology in the classroom. McGahan’s positive attitude is contagious, with several students mentioning his tendency to go above and beyond. One student used phrases such as “instrumental in my academic success,” “unwavering support,” “constantly trying new methods of instruction,” “made me feel comfortable and welcomed,” and “a treasure in my life that I miss now.” McGahan has been called a caring professor who has a personal interest in the success of all those he teaches.

Dr. T. Wayne Schwertner, Faculty Excellence in Scholarship Award

Given annually to one faculty member for exemplary performance in scholarship through research, writing, collaborative scholarly efforts and professional presentations.

“As a scholar, Dr. Schwertner excels in every category of this award”, says one colleague. Since coming to Tarleton, he has authored 11 peer-reviewed publications and two book chapters. He, along with his students, have given 58 presentations at more than 30 conferences and symposia in the U.S., Japan, Brazil, Canada and Poland. An associate professor in the WSES Department, he has authored or co-authored grant proposals totaling more than $3.9 million, receiving some $1.8 million in research funding. Schwertner has integrated undergraduate and graduate student mentorship into his research program, involving 28 students. One former student wrote, “Without Dr. Schwertner’s support and encouragement, I would not be where I am today. The opportunities he provided allowed me to grow not only as a research but as an individual as well.”

Dr. David Frazier, Faculty Excellence in Student Success Award

Honors faculty who enhance opportunities for students to engage meaningfully in the academic experience.

An associate professor in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Resources, Frazier has worked tirelessly over the last seven years to ensure that every student he teaches ranks among the elite agricultural science teachers across the nation. Throughout his time at Tarleton he has worked with nearly 300 agricultural science clinical teachers. He has helped organize and develop the largest leadership development event for FFA students in the nation and oversees the National FFA Officer Candidate Preparatory Academy. Frazier incorporates applied learning experiences into his courses, allowing maximum alignment with the standards of the agricultural education profession. He has served on more than 50 graduate student committees, chairing 25 of them. One student wrote “Dr. Frazier isn’t the kind of professor that believes his job is only teaching during class hours, he’s the kind of professor that genuinely cares about his students all of the time.”

Dr. Syed Hussain Jafri, Texas A&M University System’s Regents Professor

Honors individuals at the rank of professor or equivalent whose distinguished performance in teaching, research and service is exemplary. The designation of Regents Professor is the highest Systemwide honor and it also carries with it significant responsibilities.

A professor in the Department of Accounting, Finance and Economics within the College of Business Administration, Jafri has been consistently active in his profession for nearly 35 years and continuously seeks new and innovative ways to help his students think critically through problems to find connections to everyday life. Through his research, Jafri has contributed to identifying and proposing solutions to the economic problems facing society, which over the years have varied from local economic development, environmental issues and climate change, to health care. To date, he has received 18 research grants from both internal and external agencies worth more than $227,000. He has 21 publications in international, national and regional journals, and has made 35 presentations at national and international conferences. Jafri’s mission to generate interest in economics and, more importantly, to provide a forum for students to learn, discuss and analyze economic issues in an informal setting, led to the establishment of two student organizations at Tarleton — the Tarleton Economics Society and a local chapter of the Omicron Delta Epsilon, an international honor society in economics.

This year’s staff recipients:

Mark Eakin, Horizon Award

Recognizes a staff member who volunteers time or resources to the betterment of the community, building and maintaining relationships that extend Tarleton’s reputation and impact.

Eakin, head rodeo coach for the Office of Rodeo Activities in the Division of Student Affairs, has been with Tarleton since 2008, but his history with the university dates back to the late ’90s as a winning member of the Tarleton Rodeo Team. He is a true leader that serves Tarleton and the community with pride. Tarleton Rodeo is involved with multiple events throughout the year to help the community. Some of these activities include coordinating ropings, kids’ day for Chamberlin Elementary and presenting the facility for the State of Texas 4-H Roping. Eakin has also implemented a Leadership Council for the rodeo team. This has made a huge impact of the students allowing them to gain skills and knowledge that can be used long after graduating from Tarleton. His peers state, “Mark is always there and willing to do what is needed,” making him an outstanding choice for the Horizon Award.

Kim Hart, Impact Award

Honors a staff member who displays outstanding and exemplary problem solving, resourcefulness and innovation to reduce university costs, improve safety or increase efficiencies.

Hart serves as administrative assistant for the university’s Agricultural Center (College Farm) within the Division of Academic Affairs. Since joining the Tarleton staff in 2017, she has done an outstanding job in a short time, identifying a potential significant loss in revenue to the Agricultural Center. She discovered that a cattle buyer was not paying promptly and attempting non-payment, and coordinated efforts in gathering data and records to present to University General Counsel and the State Comptroller. Timing was very tight for collecting and compiling the data that was needed, which Hart successfully accomplished. This year was the first ever audit of the Ag Center and Hart was able to locate, track, compile and facilitate all the necessary documentation for all categories, including risk management, business reports, money management, inventory management and compliance records for the many enterprises at the farm. A colleague commented that, “Kim is indispensable in our efforts to bring the Agricultural Center to a new standard. She positively influences all around her to be better at what they do, and she helps all to be their best selves.”

Ashlee Rather, Enhancing the Student Experience Award

Recognizes a staff member whose role does not involve teaching, but who still directly and significantly contributes to the student development experience through student-focused initiatives.

Rather, a senior academic advising specialist for the Office of Academic Advising within the Division of Enrollment Management was selected as this year’s recipient for her initiative. She is a knowledgeable and caring advisor who has gone above and beyond to help students. Rather was among the first to embrace the new advising platform called the Student Success Collaborative (SSC). Her SSC efforts include scheduling online appointments as well as launching notification and retention campaigns. According to the current tracking system used in the Academic Advising Center, Rather reached 897 students during the last three-month period. She is one of the top three busiest academic advisors, possessing a strong work ethic, exemplary student-focused initiative and a spirit of intentional inclusion. A colleague stated, “Ashlee is a compassionate leader and has helped to spearhead new technology and is significantly enhancing the student experience at Tarleton.” Her peers say, “Ashlee readily jumps in and agrees to help, somehow managing to add yet another task to her already heavy workload.”

Lacie Harris, Quality Service Award

Honors a staff member who “goes the extra mile,” demonstrating outstanding dedication to Tarleton and their position, while maintaining a positive attitude and demonstrating exemplary service.

Harris, grant administrator for the associate dean of research in the Division of Academic Affairs, started her career at Tarleton in 2009, but began her relationship with the university as a student receiving both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She was chosen as the Quality Service Award recipient for her passion and outstanding execution of her work as a grant specialist. Her peers commented, “She always maintains a positive attitude and goes the extra mile as it becomes evident in every task.” Another colleague wrote, “In my opinion, Lacie represents the ideal Tarleton employee — one that completes her work with a true passion and eye for high-quality products, strong customer service, and a heart of compassion for others and their needs.”

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