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Widener University faculty honored at annual banquet

Janine Utell, Widener English, Widener faculty

Dr. Janine Utell, professor of English, was one of three faculty members who received the Distinguished University Professor Award.

Widener University honored its top faculty in the areas of teaching innovation, research, civic engagement and institutional leadership at its annual Faculty Awards banquet on Oct. 26.

"It was an honor to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of Widener's faculty," said Provost Dr. Dale Scalise-Smith. "At Widener, we value civic engagement, innovation in teaching, outstanding research and institutional leadership. The Widener community is a more vibrant place and students are better off because of the contributions of these outstanding faculty members."

Applications for the awards were reviewed by a panel of external academic leaders.

Three faculty members – Dr. Lori Simons, Dr. Janine Utell and Dr. Virginia Brabender – were awarded the Distinguished University Professor Award, an honor that demonstrates to the broader community that the university is committed to recognizing excellence in teaching, scholarship and service throughout a faculty member's career. The term for a Distinguished University Professorship is three years.

The Widener University Faculty Award for Civic Engagement

Dr. Nancy Blank, professor of criminal justice, received the Faculty Award for Civic Engagement. Blank has cultivated deep and long lasting relationships with community leaders and community based organizations. Blank's active engagement in the Youth Court project and the Community Literacy Collaborative has had a tremendous impact on Widener students, as well as on the youth that the programs serve. She embeds service-learning into her criminal justice classes to enable her students to critically examine complex inequalities and conditions that lead to disparities. She shares her expertise to affect change in the criminal justice system by making learning and literacy a priority. This work is deeply embedded in Blank's extensive scholarship, her academic citizenship, and her teaching. Civic engagement is the foundation of her outstanding work as a faculty member at Widener. Blank lives in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania.

The Widener University Award for Faculty Institutional Leadership

Dr. Brent Satterly, associate professor of social work, is the recipient of the Widener University Award for Faculty Institutional Leadership. Satterly has pursued an approach to institutional leadership that includes student centered engagement, faculty pedagogical support and scholarship, and involvement in faculty governance. He has been a faculty advisor to student clubs and service initiatives and has led a number of admissions efforts. He has served as a pedagogical faculty fellow to mentor faculty in high-impact practices, and he has also served in a number of major faculty governance leadership roles. Satterly lives in Westmont, New Jersey.

The Fitz Dixon Innovation in Teaching Award

Dr. Beth Latshaw, associate professor of sociology, was awarded the Fitz Dixon Innovation in Teaching Award. Latshaw developed two simulations designed to help students understand the challenges faced by victims of domestic violence and poverty. These simulations focus on collaboration and diversity. After completing these activities, students have demonstrated an increase in empathy. The results from these high-impact practices were presented to the Eastern Sociological Society and published in Teaching Sociology so that these simulations can be used by faculty in other disciplines and at other universities. Latshaw lives in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.

The Widener University Outstanding Researcher Award

Dr. Ning Wang, professor of education, received the Outstanding Researcher Award. Wang's research is focused on the development and validation of interdisciplinary assessment instruments and application of research methods to the assessment of educational practices. One assessment instrument is the Widener Emotional Learning Scale that is used to measure the development of emotional competence in college students. She has excelled in all aspects of scholarship in educational research as demonstrated by an extremely strong publication record, successful grants from the National Science Foundation and the Lindback Foundation, a fellowship award from the National Center for Educational Statistics, and numerous professional activities and honors. These achievements have resulted in a well-deserved national and international reputation in scholarship, demonstrating her outstanding research ability. Wang's current research focusing on practical applications of Rasch analysis, which is an advanced statistical technique for measuring traits, abilities, and aptitudes on objective assessments, has consistently been deemed both contemporary and highly relevant by her peers in the educational measurement field. Wang lives in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

The Widener University Distinguished University Professor Award

The Distinguished University Professor Award was given to two faculty members in the College of Arts and Sciences and one in the School of Human Service Professions.

The first recipient, Dr. Lori Simons, professor of psychology, was a pioneer in service learning at Widener University. Her work has been widely recognized at the college and university levels and includes the Widener University Faculty Award for Civic Engagement, the Arts and Sciences Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the Clarence R. Moll Professor of the Year Award. Simons' extensive scholarship and academic citizenship includes work in the development, refinement, and training of faculty for service learning courses, the development and management of the practicum/internship model for the psychology major, and using assessment to improve student learning. Simons lives in Malvern, Pennsylvania.

The second recipient, Dr. Janine Utell, professor of English, is distinguished as an educator, a scholar, and an academic citizen. Her teaching has been recognized by the College of Arts & Sciences Excellence in Teaching Award and the Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching. Her scholarship includes a wide range of books, peer-reviewed articles, and public scholarship in the field of modernist studies and in the scholarship of teaching. As a leader on campus, she has been a champion of assessment and faculty development at all levels of the university. Utell lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The third recipient, Dr. Virginia Brabender, professor of clinical psychology, is an innovative, collaborative, and superlative teacher and mentor. She exemplifies excellence in her clinical, teaching, research, and service roles. Brabender's scholarly research has focused broadly on personality assessment, group psychotherapy, and issues related to diversity such as non-traditional families and issues facing women within the clinical psychology profession. Brabender's scholarly work is impressive, and its quality, high-profile nature, and impact have been consistent over time. Brabender has published seven books, and she has had more than 40 peer reviewed publications over her academic career. Brabender lives in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.

Photos of the award-winning faculty members and the banquet are available on Flickr.

Widener University 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 seven schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences, professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associate, baccalaureate, master's and doctoral degrees. Visit the university website,