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Widener Honors Faculty for Teaching Innovation and Research

Dr. Ismail Kul (left) and Dr. Amy Franzini garnered top honors at the 2015 Faculty Awards Banquet.

Widener University on May 6 honored the top faculty in the areas of teaching innovation and research at its annual Faculty Awards Banquet. Dr. Amy Franzini, associate professor of communication studies; and Dr. Ismail Kul, professor of chemistry, garnered top honors at the event coordinated by the Office of Teaching, Learning and Assessment.

“Widener is a special place because of our faculty, and I congratulate our colleagues nominated tonight for what you do to create such a rich and robust academic environment,” said Widener President James T. Harris III.

Franzini, who also serves as director and chair of the communication studies, received the Fitz Dixon Innovation in Teaching Award, which recognizes a faculty member who has designed and implemented an innovative or experimental teaching/learning project. Justin Sitron, associate professor of human sexuality, was honored as a nominee.

Franzini’s teaching innovation involves the communication studies senior capstone experience. The two-semester course experience integrates knowledge and competencies from previous courses and engages students in a meaningful community-based project.

Students work in groups and individually to address the needs of an actual client using what they have learned in their program. What distinguishes the capstone experience is how it integrates high-impact practices including writing intensive assignments, collaborative assignments and projects, undergraduate research, diversity/global learning, service learning, community-based learning and capstone experiences.

Franzini’s teaching and research interests are focused on teaching communication theory and research, research in children, parents and the media. She earned her doctor in philosophy in mass media and communication at Temple University, a master of arts in broadcasting, telecommunications and mass media from Temple, and a bachelor of arts in communication from Elizabethtown College. She began teaching at Widener in 2001.

Kul received the Outstanding Researcher Award which recognizes a faculty member who is acknowledged nationally for his/her research and scholarship, quality of scholarly work, contribution to the profession/discipline and contribution to promoting the university’s mission and vision. Dr. Kerri Anne Crowne Brannen, associate professor of business administration; Dr. Linda Houser, associate professor of social work; and Dr. Mark Nicosia, professor of engineering, were honored as nominees.

Kul’s research contributes to efforts to advance basic science and address climate change issues. His research focuses on alternative refrigerants, flammability studies of partially fluorinated hydrocarbons, thermophysical properties of ionic liquids and mixtures, and thermodynamic behaviors of medicinally valuable compounds.

An engaged researcher, Kul has collaborated on projects, papers and presentations with international researchers, fellow Widener faculty members, colleagues at other U.S. institutions and with his students. He has mentored several students in undergraduate research and publication, contributing to their success and professional recognitions.

He has published 19 manuscripts in eight prestigious peer-reviewed publications including the Journal of Physical Chemistry B. He has also given more than 50 research presentations at the national and international levels, and is the co-inventor of two U.S. patents related to alternative refrigerant replacements to R-22.

Kul earned a doctor of philosophy and master’s of science in physical chemistry from Clemson University and a bachelor of science in chemistry from Ege University in Turkey. He joined the Widener chemistry faculty in 2004.

Applications for the awards were reviewed by external academic leaders Dr. Christopher Metress, associate provost for academics at Samford University; Dr. David Fite, interim provost and chief academic officer at Redlands University; and Sara B. Varhus, vice president for academic affairs at Nazareth College.  

WidenerUniversity is a private, metropolitan university that connects curricula to social issues through civic engagement. Dynamic teaching, active scholarship, personal attention, leadership development and experiential learning are key components of the Widener experience. A comprehensive doctorate-granting university, Widener comprises eight schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences, professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associate’s, baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university’s campuses in Chester, Exton, and Harrisburg, Pa., and Wilmington, Del., serve some 6,000 students. Widener is proud to be a tobacco-free university. Visit the university website,