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Three at WMU lauded for teaching excellence

by John Greenhoe

Sept. 12, 2011 | WMU News

KALAMAZOO--Enthusiasm and attention to individual student needs are shared traits among the recipients of the Western Michigan University 2011-12 Distinguished Teaching Awards.

Dr. Donald F. Cooney, associate professor of social work; Dr. Karen M. Lancendorfer, associate professor of marketing and advertising; and Dr. Maureen Mickus, associate professor of occupational therapy, will be honored during WMU's Academic Convocation at 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16, in the Dalton Center Recital Hall.

The annual event will include WMU President John M. Dunn's State of the University address along with the presentation of other campuswide awards honoring this year's Distinguished Faculty Scholar, Emerging Scholar and the recipients of the Distinguished Service and Make a Difference awards.

The Distinguished Teaching Award is the highest honor given by the University to recognize faculty members for their work with students and was initiated in 2006. Cooney, Lancendorfer and Mickus join 11 other faculty members who have been honored since the start of the award program. A similar program, the WMU Alumni Association Teaching Excellence Award, was conducted between 1966 and 2001 and honored 131 faculty members.

Photo of Dr. Donald F. Cooney, WMU.
Dr. Donald F. Cooney

There is no faculty member at Western Michigan University who better embodies community involvement than Cooney, say his supporters, and his actions encourage students to fully engage in civic life. He is noted for an accessible and empowering teaching style that fosters student interaction and engagement. As one student noted in a letter supporting his nomination, "my ideas do not seem small" to Cooney.

Students appreciate his passion for teaching courses on the history of race and culture, social welfare, community practice and social practice. Another student said that Cooney not only teaches "with a passion for his career and his students, he lives with a passion for helping all people of the world."

A member of the WMU faculty since 1977, Cooney has served as a member of the Kalamazoo City Commission for 14 years and is noted for his vocal advocacy for quality-of-life issues in the community. He is also a global activist, having traveled as far as Nicaragua and the Middle East to advocate for human rights. Cooney earned bachelors and master's degrees from Mary Immaculate College and Seminary, a master's degree from Fordham University and a Ph.D. from Bryn Mawr College.

Photo of Dr. Karen M. Lancendorfer, WMU.
Dr. Karen M. Lancendorfer

Frequently praised for her boundless enthusiasm for the marketing and advertising fields, Lancendorfer's supporters praised her for bringing a wealth of real-world experience to her teaching endeavors. She relishes the role of student mentor, encourager and confidant and is complimented and respected for the "contagiously high" academic performance standards that she establishes for her students.

Noted for leading interactive classroom discussions filled with current and relevant information from the business sector, Lancendorfer has been applauded for her caring, direct involvement that leads to student personal and professional growth, and in a number of cases, employment opportunities.

"Professors like Dr. Lancendorfer give WMU a wonderful reputation for having faculty that truly care, on every level," one student remarked.

Prior to her academic career, Lancendorfer spent nearly two decades working professionally in advertising and marketing, representing companies such as Century 21 and Brogan & Partners. Her research interests focus on political advertising, mobile marketing, corporate image and branding in higher education. A faculty member since 2005, Lancendorfer earned her undergraduate degree at Eastern Michigan University and went on to earn both master's and doctoral degrees at Michigan State University.

Photo of Dr. Maureen Mickus, WMU.
Dr. Maureen Mickus

Bringing diverse interests in aging issues and cultural competency to her teaching, Mickus is known for her ability to bring life to topics that some would consider mundane. She is also noted for her strong focus on accommodating the unique learning needs of her students and her outreach in particular to students who are struggling to be successful.

A gerontologist, Mickus was cited by those who nominated here for her zeal in her field of study, with one student noting "her passion causes even the most pediatric-focused student to think geriatrics might be a better path for them." Her devotion to her students extends far beyond the classroom, with Mickus creating and participating in culturally-rich experiences such as Mesa Española, a group created for College of Health and Human Services students wishing to learn Spanish, as well as a study abroad program in Ireland for occupational therapy students.

A WMU faculty member since 2006, Mickus earned her bachelor's degree from Kalamazoo College before completing a master of science in gerontology at the University of Southern California. Mickus, who earned her doctoral degree from Northwestern University, has areas of expertise that include aging and health policy, mental health, dementia, and loneliness.

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