Widener Honors Faculty with 2019 Excellence Awards

By Jessica Reyes, Assistant Director of Communications
Faculty in the College of Arts & Sciences receive awards

Widener University’s faculty are leaders in their fields and mentors who empower students to pursue professional success.

This dedication to excellence was showcased at the 2019 Faculty Awards Banquet on Wednesday, Oct. 23. Seven faculty members were honored for their commitment to teaching innovation, research, civic engagement and institutional leadership.

“Widener faculty members are respected leaders in their fields who are intensely committed to the success of their students,” said Provost Andrew A. Workman. “The faculty recognized at the awards banquet represent our university’s commitment to innovative teaching, civic engagement, cutting-edge research, and shared governance. They truly are leaders on and off campus.”

Distinguished University Professor

School of Engineering Professor Mark A. Nicosia was named Distinguished University Professor for a three-year period. This award recognizes individual faculty members of distinction and demonstrates how Widener is committed to recognizing excellence in teaching, scholarship and service.

Engineering professors and dean at faculty awards banquet

Nicosia, who serves as Widener’s faculty chair, excels as an instructor, researcher, and campus leader, and engages students through an approachable, ‘hands-on’ philosophy of teaching.

His research focuses on swallowing disorders, and this work has led to Nicosia joining the board of the International Dysphagia Research Society. He involves and mentors undergraduate students in his internationally recognized research.

Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award

College of Arts & Sciences Associate Professor Alexis Nagengast received the Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award, which recognizes teaching at the highest level. It is endowed by the Philadelphia-based Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation, which supports the promotion of excellence in teaching.

Nagengast is a model teacher-scholar who has integrated superior teaching with productive research. Since arriving at Widener in 2006, she has worked with 36 undergraduate research students who have delivered more than 100 oral and poster presentations at Widener and at various national conferences. There are 20 students listed as co-authors among her peer-reviewed publications,

Using her expertise in genomics and next generation sequencing, she collaborated with Widener biology faculty to create a classroom-based undergraduate research experience incorporating a “big data” genomics project.

Faculty Award for Civic Engagement

College of Arts & Sciences Associate Professor Bretton T. Alvaré received the Faculty Award for Civic Engagement, which recognizes sustained outstanding contributions to Widener’s civic engagement mission through his teaching and research.

Science faculty at the faculty awards banquet

Alvaré presents action research opportunities for students across his anthropology curriculum. He works to move them beyond a mere understanding of social problems to actively helping communities confront important issues. This teaching approach happens across four years of classes involving fieldwork in Chester, as well as in Trinidad and Tobago. Because of Alvaré’s commitment to civic engagement, more than 380 students have completed over 6,800 hours of community service with dozens of organizations.

Outstanding Researcher Award

School of Engineering Associate Professor Anita Singh received the Outstanding Researcher Award for distinction in scholarly work and significant contributions to the profession and the university’s mission through her research.

Singh works in biomedical engineering, seeking a better understanding of nervous system injuries. Her projects investigate interventions using bioengineering scaffolds, passive and active rehabilitation therapies in spinal cord injury animals, and hypothermia for birth-related injuries affecting use of the arm.

She has received research funding from the National Science Foundation and the New Jersey Commission on Spinal Cord Research. She mentors and includes students in her research, and has co-authored publications with them. One of her students won “Best Undergraduate Research Award” at a Biomedical Engineering Society Conference.

Faculty Institutional Leadership Award

College of Arts & Sciences Professor Janine M. Utell received the Faculty Institutional Leadership Award. It recognizes her work leading initiatives that further Widener’s vision, mission and strategic objectives.

Faculty Awards Banquet participants

Utell, who chairs English and Creative Writing, has focused on helping students and faculty develop the skills and dispositions needed for meaningful lives and work. She has been instrumental in serving on key university work groups dedicated to student retention and success.

She currently heads the task force that has re-envisioned the First-Year Experience around a common theme and has been an innovator in the Science Initiative for the Retention of Freshmen.

Fitz Dixon Innovation in Teaching Award

The Fitz Dixon Innovation in Teaching Award is given to an individual or group who have designed, implemented and assessed an innovative or experimental teaching and learning project. The honor was shared by College of Arts & Sciences Professors Stephen R. Madigosky and Beatriz Urraca.

Madigosky and Urraca have developed Coffee Culture and the Environment in Costa Rica as an interdisciplinary course that exposes students to sustainable development through an intercultural collaboration with partners in Costa Rica.

The course, which includes travel to Costa Rica, explores how coffee is entangled with social, environmental, and economic issues, as economies and global climate change evolve. Students learn how their actions in the United States directly impact people in other countries. They develop a global perspective, and are exposed to issues related to sustainable development.

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