WMU News

Nine garner arts and sciences faculty awards

Feb. 19, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- Nine Western Michigan University faculty members are the first to be recognized for their research, creative activities, teaching and service in a new award program of WMU's College of Arts and Sciences.

The recipients received their awards, which included a certificate and $500 to be used for travel or research costs, during the "State of the College Address" given by Dr. Elise Jorgens, dean of the college, late last month at the Fetzer Center. Three awards each in the categories of teaching achievement, research and creative activity, and professional community service were awarded. The nine winners were chosen from 18 nominations made by other members of the college's faculty.

The winners of the Teaching Achievement awards are:

Dr. Dwayne Channell, professor of mathematics, who was honored for being a curriculum innovator and outstanding teacher dedicated to the preparation of professional mathematics educators. One nominator wrote that Channell and WMU's mathematics education program are highly regarded across the state, stating that "other universities want to have programs like ours, and much of this success and high regard is due to Dwayne Channell." Channell, a faculty member at WMU since 1979, has received a number of grants for his efforts to reform math education.

Dr. Jil C. Larson, associate professor of English, who was cited for not only being an accomplished teacher, but also for her efforts as a mentor and advisor to students. One nominator wrote that Larson's work "reflects how seriously she takes the tenets of her own critical method, which emphasizes the ethical dimension of literature." Larson, who joined the WMU faculty in 1992, is the author of "Ethics and Narrative in the English Novel, 1880-1914" and is the former managing editor of the journal Victorian Studies.

Dr. Peter Renstrom, professor of political science, who received the award for his work in preparing students in the department's public law concentration for professional roles in government and law. One nominator noted that Renstrom "has been a truly exceptional teacher, advisor and mentor to generations of undergraduate and graduate students in public law and political science." Renstrom, who has been at WMU since 1969, is the author of ten books on constitutional law.

The recipients of the Research and Creative Activity awards are:

Dr. Arthur W. Helweg, professor of anthropology, who has been credited for contributing significantly to the knowledge in his discipline. The editor of the "Discovering the Peoples of Michigan" series published by the Michigan State University Press, Helweg is leading an effort to explore and document the many different ethnic groups within the state. The series, which already has six published texts, is expected to include 30 volumes. He is the co-author of the series' introductory volume, "Ethnicity in Michigan." In addition, Helweg has extensively studied India's Sikh community and it's immigrants as they adapt to the new lives in North America. A three-time Fulbright Award winner, he is the author of "An Immigrant Success Story: East Indians in America." Helweg has been a member of WMU's faculty since 1972.

Dr. Michelle Kominz, an associate professor of geosciences, who has been called one of the college's most prolific researchers and a well-known expert in off-shore drilling. Described as "one of the world's top scientists in her research area," Kominz has nearly 40 articles to her credit. One nominator indicated "some of her publications have changed the way science is done in her research area." Kominz joined the WMU faculty in 1997.

Dr. M. Scot Tanner, professor of political science, who is a renowned expert on China. A sought-after lecturer, Tanner has made presentations at Harvard, Stanford, Columbia and George Washington universities as well as for the RAND Corporation and Amnesty International. His research has received attention from other scholars, the United States government, international human rights organizations and major media that cover China. One nominator described Tanner's work as focusing on questions of how China can "build political and legal institutions that are more humane and less repressive, that are more accountable to the public and show greater respect for the rule of law and human rights." Tanner has been a WMU faculty member since 1990.

The recipients of the Professional Community Service awards are:

Dr. Linda L. Borish, associate professor of history, who has served as a resource on local and national levels for her discipline, including serving as president and vice president of the Great Lakes American Studies Association. In addition, she held a leadership role in the planning of the annual American Studies Association meeting in Detroit and helped to plan the Central Region NEH Humanities Center at Ohio University. Borish also has been instrumental in establishing an internship for WMU honors students with the Susan. G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. One nominator wrote that Borish, who came to WMU in 1997, is "one of those rare academics who puts a charming personality and a splendid mind in the service of deeply felt social and professional obligation."

Dr. William B. Harrison III, professor of geosciences, who was recognized for his contributions in the field of petroleum geology and geosciences. Harrison is the director of the Michigan Basin Core Research Laboratory at WMU and has been working on a project aimed at retrieving oil from abandoned Michigan oil fields using alternative drilling techniques. A member of the WMU faculty since 1973, Harrison is described by one of his nominators as "an invaluable resource for oil exploration in Michigan." He has been recognized for his contributions to the Eastern Section of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, including receiving that organization's Certificate of Merit and Distinguished Service Award. He recently received an honorary doctorate from the University of Latvia in Riga for his contributions to that university's students, faculty and departmental development.

Dr. George Robeck, professor of communication, who has lent his expertise to a variety of organizations on and off campus. Robeck came to the University in 1968 and has served for 25 years as a faculty advisor and member of the board of directors for the Western Herald, WMU's student newspaper. In addition, he has been the Department of Communication's internship coordinator for 22 years and an advisor for the student Public Relations Organization for two decades. One nominator wrote that when Robeck "agrees to help, he's there for the long haul." Beyond the University, Robeck's contributions include work with the Kalamazoo Humane Society and Intercom, an association for communication professionals in Southwest Michigan. Intercom awarded Robeck a lifetime achievement award in 1995 and the Tony Griffin Golden Word Award in 2001.

Media contact: Marie Lee, 269 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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