Blake Wood
Publish Date

The University of Illinois Springfield held a faculty honors reception on April 29, 2024. Chancellor Janet Gooch and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost Brandon Schwab presided over the ceremony.

Chancellor Gooch posing with Tiffany Nielson who is holding an award.

The Pearson Faculty Award for outstanding teaching was presented to Tiffany Nielson, chair and associate professor of counseling and social work. The award recognizes a faculty member whose performance exemplifies UIS’ commitment to excellence in teaching and who stands among the very best teachers on campus. Such a teacher both informs and inspires students, giving them the knowledge and values with which they may become productive and enlightened citizens. The award was established by a gift from Emmet and Mary Pearson, longtime benefactors of the campus.

Nielson teaches a diverse assortment of courses in marriage, couple and family counseling. She is highly praised by her students for the energy and creativity she brings into the classroom. Assessments of her teaching speak to the impressive ways she crafts structured, supportive classroom environments in which students are consistently inspired to do their best work. Nielson’s students also attest to the high volume of individualized feedback and extensive mentorship she provides. A faculty colleague praises Nielson as a “role model” for other faculty, who “supports all students becoming better-enlightened citizens and serving the greater community.” In addition to her many contributions to the curriculum in marriage, couple and family counseling at UIS, Nielson has demonstrated a commitment to innovative teaching pedagogies. She inspires her students to achieve academic excellence and supports them in achieving their professional goals.

Chancellor Gooch posing with Jason Piscia who is holding an award.

The Spencer Faculty Service Award was given to Jason Piscia, director of the Public Affairs Reporting (PAR) Program and an assistant professor in the School of Communication and Media. Honoring Robert Spencer, founding president of Sangamon State University, this award recognizes faculty who best exemplify the ideal of the “professor-citizen” through public service and service to the academic community.

Piscia came to UIS in 2019 to lead the highly successful PAR program. He has already made a significant impact with 31 service activities across multiple levels since joining UIS. Piscia has engaged in service focusing on the promotion of journalism’s role in a democratic society, informing others on current student journalism and educating the public on current governmental issues. 

As an educator, Piscia’s activities have included serving as president of the Vidette Publications Board to help manage the vision for Illinois State University’s student newspaper; promoting public affairs reporting by guest lecturing at UIS and Illinois State University; serving as a faculty reviewer for the Elmhurst University student newspaper and coordinating an interview session with Gov. Pritzker for his PAR students. In service to his profession, Piscia has served as the recording secretary for the Illinois News Broadcasters Association (INBA), appeared as a guest on Capitol View, helped judge the 2023 Illinois Press Association awards and served on the planning committee for INBA Spring Convention. Finally, Piscia has woven service into his scholarly activities: presenting at the Illinois College Press Association convention, securing a grant from the Illinois Press Foundation and being a panelist at the National Association of Black Journalists Chicago Chapter Academy.

Chancellor Gooch, Serkan Karadas holding an award and Burks Oakley II.

Serkan Karadas, assistant professor of accounting, economics and finance, was honored with the Burks Oakley II Distinguished Online Teaching Award. The award was presented by Burks Oakley II, who helped launch UIS’ online programs. The Oakley Award recognizes UIS faculty members whose performance exemplifies the institution’s commitment to excellence in online teaching.

Karadas came to UIS in the Spring of 2021 and has taught 22 online courses, two remote courses and five blended courses. He has demonstrated exemplary skill in online teaching, particularly in leveraging experiential learning methodologies. Karadas has consistently demonstrated a commitment to investing in student success by integrating innovative teaching techniques that actively engage students in their learning journey. He meticulously designs assignments for students utilizing a combination of handouts and video lectures, fostering a guided problem-solving process. In his online investment class, he employs gamification and team projects to effectively engage students, further enhancing their learning experience. 

Karadas actively engages in both the online teaching community and his professional networks. Presently, he serves as the faculty advisor to the Student Managed Investment Fund, fostering student involvement in initiatives such as the Northwestern Mutual competition. Since 2022, he has contributed his expertise to the UIS Center for Online Learning, Research and Service (COLRS) advisory board and previously served as COLRS fellow. Karadas showcased his innovative teaching methodologies at the Center for Faculty Excellence in 2023.

Chancellor Gooch and Devin Hunter who is holding an award

The Faculty Engagement Award was presented to Devin Hunter, associate professor of history. The award recognizes faculty leadership and teaching that creates fruitful engagement and collaboration within the community, building connections between their classrooms and the broader communities. Since joining UIS in 2015, Hunter has spearheaded collaborative efforts with external communities, securing $376,000 in grants for projects such as The Mythic Mississippi Project, THINK, Journeys to Justice and the Abraham Lincoln Home National Historic Site Symposium. His research focuses on community identity and activism, exemplified in his forthcoming publication, “A Cosmos in the City,” which explores the formation of cultural identities in 1960s and 1970s Uptown Chicago. Hunter's teaching methodology emphasizes practical engagement, as his students collaborate with local organizations on digitization projects, historical research and expanding the recognition of underrepresented histories in the National Register of Historic Places.

Chancellor Gooch Sara Lupita Olivares who is holding a award.

The Early Career Scholarship Award was presented to Sara Lupita Olivares, assistant professor of English. The award recognizes leadership, accomplishments and excellence in scholarship activities of pre-tenure faculty. This includes traditional notions of the scholarship of discovery, as well as the scholarship of application and integration. Lupita Olivares came to UIS in 2022 and teaches courses in creative writing, poetry and world literature. Just prior to her arrival, her poetry collection “Migratory Sound,” published by the University of Arkansas Press, won the CantoMundo Poetry Prize, a highly prestigious award showcasing the work of a poet who exemplifies aesthetic innovation within the Latinx community. Since coming to UIS, Olivares’ second collection of poems was a finalist for the National Poetry Series. Olivares has achieved consistent recognition at national and international levels of creative scholarship, and she intentionally integrates this scholarship into her teaching and mentoring students at UIS.

The recipient of the Faculty Award for Diversity and Inclusion was presented to Lan Dong, a professor of English. The award recognizes faculty leadership, accomplishments and excellence in professional activities that contribute to the institutional mission of increasing diversity, equity and inclusion, counteracting inequality and inopportunity, and contributing to struggles for inclusion of minority, marginalized and/or historically under-represented groups. Dong has done extensive and distinguished work in diversity and inclusion in her teaching, scholarship and service. Her nominator described her as a “leader in advancing equity across the university.” Included in her significant, high-impact work was her pioneering of the first cluster hire of underrepresented faculty at UIS. This provided a productive model about how such hires could be conducted and brought a talented group of teacher-scholars to UIS, who are enriching our university community and serving as valuable role models to our students. 

Chancellor Gooch and John Transue who is holding an award

John Transue, an associate professor in the School of Politics and International Affairs, earned the Scholarly Impact Award. The award recognizes leadership, accomplishments and excellence in scholarship activities of tenured faculty. This includes traditional notions of the scholarship of discovery, as well as the scholarship of application and integration. Transue came to UIS in 2007 and has had seven peer-reviewed written publications, four media articles and 23 peer-reviewed presentations published since that time. Google Scholar credits Transue with 2,112 citations of his scholarly work, with 595 since 2019 and highlighting his current scholarly work. Transue’s h-index score of seven illustrates his work has been highly cited compared to similar works. The h-index is a common method of measuring a researcher’s productivity and impact based on the number of papers and citations published. Overall, Transue’s total publications rank in the 86th percentile.

Tenure, promotions and sabbaticals announced

Faculty recommended for tenure include:

  • Noah Reynolds, School of Integrated Sciences, Sustainability and Public Health

Recommended for promotion to full professor were:

  • Hinda Seif, sociology/anthropology

Faculty members nominated for emeritus status were:

  • Kathy DeBarr, School of Integrated Sciences, Sustainability and Public Health

Sabbatical leaves have been recommended for:

  • Kristi Barnwell, history
  • Michael Burlingame, history
  • Cheng-Chia “Brian” Chen, School of Integrated Sciences, Sustainability and Public Health
  • Ahmad Juma’h, accounting, economics and finance
  • Amy McEuen, School of Integrated Sciences, Sustainability and Public Health
  • Hanfu Mi, School of Education
  • John Transue, School of Politics and International Affairs
  • Mohammed Mohi Uddin, accounting, economics and finance
  • Yun Zhao, School of Integrated Sciences, Sustainability and Public Health

All promotion, tenure, sabbatical leave and emerita/emeritus status recommendations are subject to approval by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.