Auburn announces university’s top teaching, research and outreach award winners

Published: October 12, 2021
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In recognition of life-changing research, outreach, instruction and creative scholarship, Auburn University’s Office of the Provost will present several faculty members with the university’s highest honors at the Faculty Awards ceremony Tuesday, Nov. 9.

“It’s always an honor to recognize the outstanding talents and contributions of our faculty,” said Provost Bill Hardgrave. “The teaching, research and outreach that our faculty do on a daily basis has a remarkable impact on our more than 30,000 students, our state and the entire world. We are excited to celebrate their hard work.”

Below is the full list of faculty and staff award winners:

Alumni Undergraduate Teaching Excellence Awards
The Alumni Undergraduate Teaching Excellence Awards recognize the outstanding teaching of undergraduates from nominations made by department heads, deans, alumni and students. A committee of retired faculty selects the recipients. 

Jonathan Seifried, instructor, School of Communication and Journalism, College of Liberal Arts

Seifried has spent more than 15 years in the classroom at Auburn. The public speaking program at Auburn has very rigorous instructor guidelines to guarantee consistency across sections, and Seifried has worked to abide by those guidelines while infusing his personality into his classrooms. A testament to Seifried’s teaching excellence is the result of his mentoring and coaching of the Spring 2021 Public Speaking Competition winner. In addition, Seifried has completed the Biggio Center’s EASL, or Engaged Active Student Learning Academy, to learn about pedagogy and available technology and innovative ways to integrate it into classroom activities and lectures. He also has thought about teaching from the lens of assessment and recently participated in the Office of Academic Insight’s Meta-Assessment Institute.

Keven Yost, Synovus Fellow and associate professor, Department of Finance, Harbert College of Business
Yost has been out in front, leading by being among the finest examples of ingenuity in academic practicum and technology integration. While at Auburn, Yost has developed and implemented several new courses, including a Chartered Financial Analyst course that prepares students for the CFA Level I exam and a Mergers and Acquisitions course that provides a strategic analysis of corporate restructuring decisions. He also has succeeded in obtaining the CFA Institute’s University Recognition Designation, which elevates the reputation of Auburn’s finance program and Harbert College of Business as a whole. Yost’s unparalleled drive and leadership have not gone unnoticed by his peers, practitioners that recruit at Auburn, nor by his students. From his recognition as the Finance Department Outstanding Teacher in 2013 to the Harbert College MBA Programs Outstanding Faculty award in 2018, Yost has rarely gone a year without acknowledgment of his unrelenting pursuit of excellence.

Auburn University Award for Excellence in Faculty Outreach
The Award for Excellence in Faculty Outreach honors the engagement of exemplary faculty members and demonstrates the tremendous impact Outreach has on the community, state, nation and beyond. 

Adit Singh, Godbold Endowed Chair Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Samuel Ginn College of Engineering
For the past four decades, Singh has used his expertise to train engineers in integrated circuit design and testing. His initial effort is focused on updating practicing engineers on new subjects, but as the semiconductor technology changed, he presented advanced new research ideas that had significant commercial potential. Companies such as IBM, Intel, National Semiconductor and Qualcomm have benefited from his in-house tutorials and conference presentations, outreach and engaged continuing education and training. Thousands of engineers throughout Asia, Europe and the U.S. have attended Singh's tutorials. The reach of his effort is truly global, and his research, scholarship and training reputation is such that he is the only scholar expert to be invited every year since 2005 to offer a tutorial at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' International Test Conference.

Creative Research and Scholarship Awards
The Creative Research and Scholarship Awards recognize faculty members who have distinguished themselves through research, scholarly works and creative contributions. This award recognizes two categories: sciences, medical sciences, engineering and agriculture; and fine arts, liberal arts, architecture and design, business and social and human sciences. 

Sciences, Biomedical Sciences, Engineering and Agriculture
Dongye Zhao, Auburn Alumni Engineering Council Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Samuel Ginn College of Engineering
Highly regarded and respected for his innovative work in the field of environmental remediation, Zhao holds seven U.S. patents, including several for nanotechnologies he has developed for the treatment and decontamination of soil and groundwater. During his 20 years at Auburn, his more than 450 scholarly works have been cited more than 14,000 times, and he has led or co-led more than 40 projects with external funding totaling almost $9 million. Zhao has served as a major professor for more than 25 doctoral students and more than 25 Master of Science students. He is the current editor of two major international journals and has delivered 124 invited seminars and keynote presentations nationally and internationally.

Fine Arts, Liberal Arts, Architecture & Design, Business, Social and Human Sciences 
Giovanna Summerfield, professor and associate dean for Educational Affairs, Department of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures, College of Liberal Arts
Fluent in six languages, Summerfield is recognized for her wide-ranging scholarship focused on Sicily and the Mediterranean, anti-mafia initiatives, women’s studies, Italian cinema and religious movements and literature in the long 18th century in France and Italy. In addition, Summerfield is a published poet and short novel author. During her 17 years at Auburn, she has served as professor of Italian and French, associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and an ambassador in the Office of Sustainability’s Peer Network. 

Departmental Award for Excellence in Education
Created in 2013, the Departmental Award for Excellence in Education recognizes the efforts of departmental faculty for their commitment to improving education at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. On behalf of the Office of the Provost, the Biggio Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning and the University Senate Teaching Effectiveness Committee administer this award. 

School of Accountancy, Harbert College of Business 
The Teaching Effectiveness Committee selected the School of Accountancy for its three-year plan to elevate the Auburn experience for accounting students, helping it “Soar to New Heights.” The school plans to build upon the department’s successes and promote the Auburn experience for accounting students, faculty and alumni/stakeholders by pursuing three target initiatives. These initiatives are embedding global programs into the undergraduate curriculum, fostering pedagogical innovation and bringing students and alumni professionals together in a collaborative learning environment to create essential networking opportunities.

Distinguished Graduate Faculty Lectureship
The Distinguished Graduate Faculty Lectureship Award recognizes a faculty member based on excellence in research. It is co-sponsored by the Auburn Alumni Association and the Graduate School.

Fai Foster Dai, professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Samuel Ginn College of Engineering
A prolific researcher and inventor, Dai currently holds the distinction of serving as the Godbold Endowed Chair Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. In this role, he provides leadership through his creative research endeavors and graduate student mentoring. He has received many accolades for his scholarly accomplishments and contributions, including being recognized as a prestigious Fellow in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Throughout his impressive career as an educator, researcher, scholar and inventor, Dai has exhibited a unique capacity to identify critical problems in his field and develop new technologies and associated intellectual property in several areas of electrical and computer engineering application. Dai’s scholarly research and inventions and their translation into commercial practice serve as examples of his impact in the broader arena of innovation. Impressively, he has also instilled this spirit of innovation into other faculty and graduate students that he has worked with throughout his career. 

Gerald and Emily Leischuck Endowed Presidential Awards for Excellence in Teaching
Gerald and Emily Leischuck, 1964 graduates and retired Auburn University administrators created the Endowed Presidential Awards for Excellence in Teaching in 2005. This award recognizes two full-time, tenured faculty members who have demonstrated effective and innovative teaching methods, along with a continued commitment to student success through advising and mentoring. 

Jennifer Robinson, professor and director of the Cognitive and Behavioral Sciences Program, Department of Psychological Sciences, College of Liberal Arts
As professor and director of the Cognitive and Behavioral Sciences Program, Robinson’s research primarily involves using high field functional magnetic resonance imaging and psychophysiological techniques to investigate the interplay of emotions and cognition. Managing one of the only labs in the world that uniquely captures the interplay of the autonomic and central nervous systems, Robinson offers undergraduate students opportunities for hands-on training and experience that ensures they are competitive candidates for graduate programs. As a result, Robinson maintains a 100% success rate of placing graduates from her lab in graduate schools or industries of their choosing. An advocate of active learning strategies, Robinson has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to innovative pedagogy, including implementing flipped classrooms and interactive online instruction.

Paul Holley, professor and director of the Center for Construction Innovation and Collaboration, McWhorter School of Building Science, College of Architecture, Design and Construction
A faculty member at Auburn since 2000, Holley has established a teaching philosophy that effectively translates his knowledge of and experiences within the construction industry into practical learning opportunities for students. Through coaching competition teams, leading study abroad opportunities, providing career and job market counseling and various other endeavors, Holley provides students with a fundamental understanding of the discipline and consistently seeks creative ways to connect professional applications and rationale. In addition to his experience in the construction management industry, Holley fosters a classroom culture where students are challenged and motivated to succeed and transition from the professional academic program to the construction industry. With an emphasis on leveraging new approaches to media, technology and world awareness, Holley remains committed to integrating new ideas and techniques into his teaching and, as a result, has been selected as the recipient of the college’s Outstanding Teaching Award a record five times.

President’s Outstanding Collaborative Units Award
Created in 2011, the award recognizes existing faculty collaborations among two or more departments, divisions, offices or programs within the university. To be considered, the work of the collaborative units must have advanced the excellence, impact and reputation of representing units and the university as a whole. 

COVID-19 Vaccination Initiative, Kimberly Braxton-Lloyd (lead representative), associate dean for Clinical Affairs and Outreach, Harrison School of Pharmacy
A mark of institutional success, Auburn’s “COVID-19 Vaccination Initiative” brought multiple campus units together to achieve the ambitious goal of delivering COVID-19 vaccinations to Auburn University students, employees, dependents, first responders and other community members and supporting vaccine education. The level of institutional planning and unprecedented cooperation between these units, including more than 20 individuals, resulted in exemplary outreach and service to our campus and community stakeholders. This collaboration played an integral role in advancing the health and safety of the Auburn Family and was a critical step in the university’s COVID-19 response.

Provost Award for Faculty Excellence in Undergraduate Research Mentoring
Established in 2012, this award recognizes faculty who demonstrate a strong commitment to undergraduate research, whose efforts support Auburn students interested in careers in research and creative works and who have shown outstanding services to students. 

Gretchen Oliver, professor, School of Kinesiology, College of Education
By providing leadership and meaningful research experiences for undergraduate students seeking graduate education and careers in sports medicine and other health professions, Oliver is widely recognized for her focus on helping students to develop analytical and problem-solving skills and to build perseverance in overcoming challenges. During the past six years, Oliver has managed an impressive number of undergraduate students with high-quality research experiences (more than 70 student researchers) and propels them to future success in graduate and professional schools. Oliver has successfully integrated research in the sports medicine and movement laboratory and provided critical entry points for undergraduate researchers, demonstrating the importance of undergraduate research as a high-impact practice. These opportunities ensure students feel part of a research team and allow them to build credentials and expertise. In addition, the number of co-authored peer-reviewed student publications (23), presentations (82) and achievements before and after graduation speak to Oliver’s sustained efforts to provide high-quality mentoring of students throughout the research process. 

More information about the awards, including a list of previous winners, is available on the Faculty Awards website at http://ocm.auburn.edu/faculty_awards/.  

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.