Faculty Awards Recognition 2020

About Faculty Awards 2020

We recognize the recipients of four of our prestigious faculty awards each spring: the Burks Oakley II Distinguished Online Teaching Award, the Faculty Excellence Award, the Pearson Faculty Award, and the Spencer Faculty Service Award. The fifth prestigious faculty award, the University Scholars Award, will be presented in the fall in conjunction with our Faculty Scholarship Recognition.

Thank-You: Campus Sabbatical & Awards Committee

Thanks to the members of our Campus Sabbatical & Awards Committee (CSAC) for all of their hard work this year.

  • Carrie Switzer, CSAC Chair
  • Denise Bockmier-Sommers
  • Roya Gholami

Burks Oakley II Distinguished Online Teaching Award

This award is funded through the generosity of Burks Oakley II, who played a very significant role in the development of online education at UIS. Burks continues to serve as a Research Professor in the Center for Online Learning, Research, and Service after having had a distinguished career in the College of Engineering at Urbana-Champaign.  Accordingly, the Oakley Award recognizes UIS faculty members whose performance exemplifies the institution’s commitment to excellence in online teaching.

Congratulations to Dr. Donna Bussell, the winner of this year’s Oakley Award!Donna Bussell head and shoulders photo

Dr. Bussell came to UIS in 2005, and she has taught many online courses in the Department of English & Modern Languages. Professor Bussell places high emphases on organization, communication, creating a welcoming atmosphere for students, and engagement through discussion forums in her online courses. In addition, she exemplifies qualities of an instructor who is student-centered. The use of course components that engage students to content, students to students, and students to faculty are a hallmark of her pedagogy. Her communication and personal engagement in the courses are reflected in the student evaluations and comments from students.

Faculty Excellence Award

The Faculty Excellence Award recognizes mid- and late-career colleagues who best exemplify the ideal of the teacher-scholar and whom the faculty recognizes as role models, based on sustained accomplishments in teaching and scholarship at the University of Illinois Springfield. The award is funded through the generosity of Wilbur and Margaret Wepner.

Heather Bailey head and shoulders photo with red sweater.

Congratulations to Dr. Heather Bailey, winner of this year’s Faculty Excellence Award!

Dr. Bailey came to UIS in 2002, and since that time has taught 21 different lower division, upper division, and graduate classes for the Department of History and Capital Scholars Honors Program. Dr. Kosmetatou, a colleague who has observed her teaching, describes Dr. Bailey as an enthusiastic teacher with the highest standards who incorporates her scholarship into her courses. Dr. Bailey is further described as having vast knowledge that enables her to move seamlessly between disciplines. In addition, she sometimes translates primary source material into English so that students will be able to access this valuable information. A graduate student, Sabrina Miller, describes Dr. Bailey as having a passion for History that helped to foster “the intellectual phoenix” in her.

Dr. Bailey also has an active research program that has produced two books of which she is the sole author: The Public Image of Eastern Orthodoxy: France and Russia, 1848-1870 (2020) and Orthodoxy, Modernity, and Authenticity: The Reception of Ernest Renan’s “Life of Jesus” in Russia (2008). Since 2017, she has completed five sole authored, peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters. Since 2002, she has given 14 sole authored, peer-reviewed presentations at national conferences and an international presentation in France. In addition, Dr. Bailey has reviewed numerous books and manuscripts. She is currently providing service to her profession as an Executive Board member for the Association for the Study of Eastern Christian History and Culture, and she has engaged the Springfield community through presentations at the Springfield Art Association and German-American Club.

Pearson Faculty Award

The Pearson Faculty Award is made possible through a generous gift from Dr. Emmet F. Pearson and his wife, Mary.

The award recognizes a faculty member whose performance exemplifies our commitment to excellence in teaching and who stands among the very best teachers at the University of Illinois at Springfield.  Such a teacher both informs and inspires students, giving them the knowledge and values with which they may become productive and enlightened citizens. Faculty members who receive the Pearson Award are role models for other faculty on campus.  Their expertise contributes significantly to the curriculum of the campus and reflects sound and current scholarship.

Congratulations to Dr. Atul Agarwal, winner of this year’s Pearson Faculty Award.Atul Agarwal head and shoulders photo

Dr. Agarwal joined UIS in 2009. Since then, he has taught many undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the Operations Management and Management Information Systems areas. He has excellent teaching evaluation ratings that are above department, college, and university percentages. Students describe Dr. Agarwal as being “very responsive” and “one of the best professors I’ve had…at UIS.” His teaching philosophy is well articulated and rests on five pillars of educational excellence to: create a learner-centered environment, encourage active learning, create “learned” vs. “high grade” individuals, encourage learning with fun, and integrate new knowledge from scholarly work into student learning. He also applies great teaching innovation in his classes through his creation of class simulations that encourage experiential learning.

Dr. Agarwal represents the ideal of the teacher-scholar model on our campus and commitment to excellence in teaching.

Spencer Faculty Service Award

The Spencer Faculty Service Award is named for Robert C. Spencer, the founding President of Sangamon State University, who established the expectation that public service and service to the academic community would be highly valued by the faculty of this institution. He emphasized that education for good citizenship was integral to a liberal arts education, and challenged the new campus and its faculty to make a difference in society.  He sought to foster a highly participatory campus, which would model the virtues of democratic community, with faculty members contributing actively to its development.  His vision remains a reality at the University of Illinois at Springfield, with our commitment to liberal education and to ideals for the best of engaged citizenship.  Thus, to honor Dr. Spencer’s vision, this award recognizes a faculty member who exemplifies the “professor-citizen” by establishing a cumulative record of significant accomplishment in service.

Tena Helton head and shoulders photo

Congratulations to Dr. Tena Helton, the 2020 Spencer Faculty Service Award!

Dr. Helton joined UIS in 2005, and over the subsequent 15 years she has completed a record of exceptional service at all levels of the university. Dr. Helton has held numerous leadership roles in the Department of English & Modern Languages that include chairing the department for seven years, chairing eight search committees, being the director of first-year writing for seven years, and director of graduate studies for four years. She has served the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences on the Executive Committee, Academic Advising Council, and as Dean’s Fellow. At the university level, Dr. Helton has chaired the General Education Council and General Education Review Committee. She has also served two terms on the Campus Senate and been a member of the Graduate Council and Tenure Review Committee. At the University of Illinois System level, Dr. Helton has represented UIS on the Arts & Humanities Steering Committee. The review committee noted the numerous committees that Dr. Helton has chaired and the important, time-consuming committees of which she has been a member.

Dr. Helton is also an active participant in her professional discipline. She was a member of the MLA Committee for the Status of Graduate Students in the Profession for three years and since 2006, she has been a moderator or presider at four conferences. Dr. Helton has provided service to the community as a discussion leader or panelist at the Vachel Lindsay Association, Decatur Public Library, Chatham Public Library, and the Sangamo Club. In addition, she has been a moderator and scorer at several of the Rochester High/Junior High Scholastic Bowls and been a coach for the First Lego League numerous times.

Because Dr. Helton has substantial and sustained service in leadership positions at all academic and professional levels, she is a true professor-citizen and a role model for UIS faculty.

Congratulations to our faculty award recipients!

Return to Faculty Honors Celebration 2020 page to select another recognition category