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College of Arts, Letters & Education
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Cheney, WA 99004
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2016-2017 Dean's Excellence Award Winners

Celebrating excellence in student contributions and achievements and faculty inspiration and student mentorship, the Dean's Excellence Award is presented to the outstanding graduating senior in a college department and their faculty sponsor/mentor. These are the nominations, written by a faculty member, for the Dean's Student Excellence Award recipients for 2016-17:

Art: Student Janee Combs with Faculty Mentor Professor Emerita Barbara Miller

It is my great pleasure to present to you Janee Combs as the recipient of the Dean's Award for Excellence in Art.  Janee was a student of mine as she prepared her major in Art History.  I tend to think of her as my very own protégé, but I have discovered that many of the faculty worked closely with her-Greg Du Monthier in Sculpture, Nancy Hathaway in the Gallery of Art, Lisa Nappa in Ceramics-and they all claim her!  Thus, Janee has a minor in Studio Art, also a minor in History, in addition to her major in Art History. For her senior thesis, Janee wrote a beautiful paper entitled "Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz:  The Shaping of an American Woman Artist," in which she explored the personal and professional relationship between these 2 pioneers of modernism in America during the 20s and 30s and after.  Stieglitz was a famous photographer who also created a gallery in New York -291-where he showed the European modern artists of the early 20th century and also the work of Georgia O'Keeffe, whom he later married.  Janee sorts out the impact of Stiegtlitz's curatorship upon O'Keeffe's fame, exploring how he helped to shape her perception by her viewing audience. But of course, it is not only I who thinks Janee's scholarship is brilliant.  Her overall GPA is a 3.97, which means she will be graduating Summa Cum Laude on Saturday. Janee's future plans include study abroad this summer in Germany in order to cement her study of the German language and to see more art in the original.  She intends to attend graduate school in Art History in order to prepare for a career in museum curatorship.  She also tells me, with a wink, that teaching could be a possibility.  We in the Art Department congratulate Janee on her fine record of accomplishments, wish her Bon Voyage this summer and Alles Güte in the years ahead. 

Education: Student Teresa James with Faculty Mentor Assistant Professor Gus Nollmeyer

Teresa James best demonstrates excellence through her desire to excel in all aspects of teaching.  Teresa seeks to be the best teacher to her students through a commitment to research and study of the material she is teaching.  Her students are excited to have her lead a lesson.  She has created several new transitions in her placement classroom.  Her goal has always been to see what the students know and to have them share what they know. Teresa continues to be a leader in the Education Department.  Teresa not only strives to improve her teaching, but seeks to assist those around her. Many education students have come to me and told me of how beneficial Teresa has been to them.  They have told me that Teresa has helped them solve their problems and grow.  During classes Teresa has stepped up to lead groups and clarify issues.

Education: Student Emily Steltenpohl with Faculty Mentor Assistant Professor Gus Nollmeyer

It has been my honor to work with Emily since she entered the Education program in the Fall of 2014. It didn't take long for her professionalism and academic excellence to come to my attention. When I think of Emily as a student, I think of her dedication to excellence; this makes her a wonderful collaborator. Those peers lucky enough to work with her on projects soon realize she is both dependable and intelligent. As her teacher, I was impressed by how efficient and diligent she was in learning new and challenging content. As she transitions from student to teacher, Emily's future students will be truly blessed. Even though she is a new teacher, Emily is already demonstrating the effective strengths of her seasoned colleagues. She is highly organized, energetic, and professional. When asked, her field supervisor said of her, "Emily is one of the finest kindergarten teachers I've had the pleasure to supervise. You would not be able to tell the candidate from the mentor if you were to walk into the classroom during student teaching." In short, it is the "Emilys" of the world make our job as teachers such a joy. It is also the "Emilys" of the world who make profound and lasting impacts in the lives of children for many years to come. Emily, it is my pleasure to nominate you for the Dean's Student Excellence Award.

English: Student Jessica Gaynor with Faculty Mentor Assistant Professor Sean Agriss

Jessica Gaynor has maintained a 4.0 GPA and is graduating summa cum laude. Based on her experiences in the secondary English education program, Ms. Gaynor developed four student and community-centered core beliefs that are the foundation of her teaching-high expectations, persistence, risk-taking, and resilience to enact change. Ms. Gaynor demonstrated distinguished excellence as a student, student teacher, and early career professional at Garry Middle School where she used the knowledge she gained in her secondary English education program to create meaningful learning for students consistent with current English language arts practices. The administration at Garry Middle School recognized Ms. Gaynor as an exceptional teacher-leader and provided her the opportunity to lead professional development for both administrators and teachers. This included demonstrating progressive teaching methodologies, incorporating curriculum geared toward supporting traditionally underrepresented groups in transitioning from high school to college, and leading sessions on the use of restorative management practices in the classroom. Ms. Gaynor's cooperating teacher at Garry Middle School writes, "Jessica effectively performed every task with enthusiasm, diligence, and expertise, as she worked consistently to ensure that EVERY student experienced success...I look forward to moving from a supervisory role with Jessica to a collaborative, collegial role." Consistent with this assessment, having Jessica as a colleague in the field of secondary English education makes teaching and learning a better experience for all those fortunate enough to work with her.

English: Student Stephanie Welzig with Faculty Mentor Professor Anthony Flinn

Stephanie Welzig is a superb student. Ms. Welzig shows maturity of insights and mastery of content in complex assignments. She often far exceeds the efforts of other students, by developing arguments using a theoretical lens or by developing assignments in more depth and length than is needed for the grade. Ms. Welzig shows genuine interest in expanding her understanding of the subject at hand, whatever it may be. She always participates in class discussions with an interest in hearing others' insights and with a desire for dialogue. Stephanie Welzig is a true leader in the classroom and will be beyond it.

Modern Languages & Literatures: Student Jamie Carroll with Faculty Mentor Professor Florian Preisig

Jamie is an incredible learner. Starting French at EWU at the 201 level, she showed such capacity for foreign language acquisition, and developed such an acute understanding of grammar that today she can narrate a car accident in full detail with the best grammar, style, and humor; she can discuss with ease the philosophy of Camus; and she can write a letter to her deadbeat landlord in French (why not?) about her flooded basement. Jamie's compositions are among the best written and most creative I've ever seen. Her performance is all the more striking when you know that, as she was progressing towards her double major in French and English Education, she held down multiple jobs, drove daily to Idaho during her student teaching, lost her car in that commute, and dealt with the aforementioned flooded basement, among other complications. And all along she thrived academically, despite those issues, and never lost her optimism and humor. Chapeau bas!

Modern Languages & Literatures: Student Cassandra Fairfield with Faculty Mentor Associate Professor Natalia Ruiz-Rubio

Cassandra is a double major in Spanish and Children's Studies. She is an outstanding student with excellent interpersonal skills, strong empathy, and clear personal and professional goals. Cassandra is planning to attend graduate school in Applied Behavior Analysis. In the future, she wants to work as a Bilingual Behavior Analyst. Through her research and professional experiences, she has learned the need from Spanish-speaking Behavior Analysts and Therapists to communicate with Hispanic families as well as children receiving treatment. In the past 3 years, Cassandra Fairfield has demonstrated her commitment to children's through her extensive experience as an assistant teacher in Spokane, Cheney and Spangle. She is also a Behavior Therapist working with children with autism and other developmental disabilities. Cassandra is the ideal student that every faculty dreams of having in class: curious, responsible, and active in her learning experience. As a student in the Spanish program, she took advantage of all the learning opportunities available. She spent one quarter abroad; she strengthened her presentational skills, her proficiency in Spanish, and her ability to recognize cultural difference and adapt to different points of view. In other words, Cassandra is an excellent ambassador of the Spanish program curriculum. She has demonstrated a linguistic and cultural competence that will help her in her future career as a health provider and she has embraced life enrichment goals to continue learning from different Hispanic communities.

Music: Student Benjamin Dysart with Faculty Mentor Professor Michael Waldrop

Ben Dysart has been a Music Education Major since the Fall of 2012, with a concentration in percussion.  He will be graduating in 2017 with the distinction of Magna Cum Laude. Mr. Dysart has been a valuable contributor in nearly every ensemble in the Music Department.   He was a section leader for the drumline and principal percussion for the Wind Symphony in this Academic Year 2016-2017.  He was also the drummer in EWU's top jazz band in the Spring of 2016-2017, as well as a member of Code Red, performing for our many athletic events.  During the summer, he served as percussion instructor for Jazz camp. Mr. Dysart has been a diligent and successful academic throughout his career at EWU.  He has demonstrated leadership qualities of responsibility, reliability and integrity.  Mr. Dysart has excelled in musicianship, teaching, and percussion performance.

Physical Education, Health & Recreation: Student Alex Johnson with Faculty Mentor Senior Lecturer Nathaniel Lawton

Alex Johnson embodies what a professional in the Fitness industry should be. His drive to improve his skill set is obvious in the numerous certifications he has obtained during his undergraduate career, but his passion to add to his knowledge base is what truly sets him apart from his peers.  He is a leader in the classroom. His fellow students look to him to set the tone for classes, and he gives his time freely to help anyone who asks. Alex is already a highly proficient strength and conditioning coach, and has shared his skills as a volunteer within the greater Spokane community. He is one of the only practitioners of the Conjugate Training method in the Spokane area. Rather than resting on his laurels, Alex is a sponge for knowledge. It is a rare thing for a student with such a strong skill set to be completely open to new ideas, but this describes Alex perfectly. His thoughtful and creative ideas constantly challenge me to be better in every interaction we have. He has found the perfect balance of scholarship and practical application, and I expect big things from him in the years to come.

Physical Education, Health & Recreation: Student Tracy Pendarvis with Faculty Mentors Assistant Professor Emily Messina and Professor Matthew Chase

Tracy Pendarvis, a long-time military wife and mom, left a career as a bailiff in order to pursue her degree in Therapeutic Recreation at Eastern Washington University - giving up a regular paycheck and necessities such as health insurance in order to pursue her passion with Veteran's Affairs.  Tracy's performance as an undergraduate includes a nomination for the Huston Award with a 3.54 GPA and Cum Laude graduation status. Tracy brought patience, perspective, and experience to the classroom environment, which is a significant benefit of the older, returning student to the undergraduate experience. I truly enjoyed having Tracy in classes all through the senior sequence. Equally impressive, Tracy serves as a peer mentor for the Spokane Veteran's Forum, a non-profit organization that provides mentoring, educational, therapeutic, and life enhancing services to military veterans referred from regional Veterans Enhanced Therapeutic Courts (VET Court). Not only has she been involved with the Veteran's Forum for years, but her dedication to this organization has been unwavering since starting our program. She has found ways to link our curriculum, our students, and faculty back to the forum - giving her classmates and teachers valuable experiences as well. I believe Tracy is deserving of recognition from the dean for her efforts, commitment, and passion, not only to her education, but also to the Veteran's population here in the Inland Northwest.

Theatre & Film: Student Annie Michaelis with Faculty Mentor Assistant Professor Elisha Miranda 

Annie entered EWU in advance standing because she was a running start student in high school.  Consistently throughout her tenure as a film major she has been a student who will not only do the required reading, but the recommended reading too.  When there is a screenwriting deadline, she'll have rewritten her script draft twice before it's actually due.  When Film Faculty was thinking about who to recommend for this award, we all supported her nomination. There has never been a deadline in my classes missed and her attendance has been perfect.  Annie like many of our students also works a side job to pay for school, participates in service to the department and the community.  Always willing to lend a hand, she served as one of the senior mentors to the juniors in both screenwriting and editing.  Like anything Annie does she took on her mentor role with commitment, thoughtfulness and shared her knowledge of filmmaking like a future professor.  Every year, we graduate a new class of students and then we adjust to new cadre of majors. Though I'll be excited about the new seniors.  I will miss Annie - her smile, her compassionate soul and her incredible talent - but I'll rest assured that wherever Annie is she will be paving her path and building an inclusive world with her pen, camera and spirit.

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