Honors College Recognizes Exceptional Faculty

Honors College Recognizes Exceptional Faculty
Russell Cothren

The Honors College will recognize eight faculty members at the annual Honors College Faculty Reception from 5:30-7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 6, in the Fowler House Conservatory. The awards are offered in four categories:

  • Distinguished Community Leadership Award,
  • Distinguished Research and Teaching Faculty Award,
  • Distinguished Leadership Award and
  • Distinguished Faculty Artistry Award.

"Our faculty work tirelessly to support Honors College students in all their endeavors," said Honors College Dean Lynda Coon. "These eight have dedicated time to develop new courses, mentor honors thesis research and even accompany students on the Camino de Santiago through France and Spain. We are deeply grateful to them and look forward to celebrating their contributions."

Associate Dean Jennie Popp will present a bronze medallion to the award winners, who will be introduced by the deans of their respective colleges. Each winner also will receive $1,000 in academic funding and will be listed on the Faculty Awards page of the Honors College website.

portrait of Sandy Edwards holding reading glasses in hand
Sandy Edwards has led the Inspired seminar course on developing student creativity. Photo by Stephen Ironside.

Distinguished Community Leadership Award
Sandy Edwards
, senior director, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Edwards has taught several courses for the Honors College, beginning in 2019 with the Honors College Forum Museum, taught by the Crystal Bridges' leadership team onsite at the museum. More recently she has led the Inspired Honors College course. Through this discussion-based seminar, Edwards guides students in further developing their special brand of creativity to benefit and enhance their lives. She provides a variety of engagements with some of the community's most noted creatives and develops exercises to help students discover or evolve their unique process. Students leave the class with an understanding of what ignites their creative soul.

portrait of Morten Jensen working in lab with honors student Olga Brazhinka
Morten Jensen in the lab with honors student Olga Brazhkina. Photo by Philip Thomas.

Distinguished Research and Teaching Faculty Award
Morten Jensen, associate professor, biomedical engineering, College of Engineering, and Arkansas Research Alliance Scholar. As a fellow of the American Heart Association, Jensen has directed the Cardiovascular Biomechanics Laboratory since 2015 with a focus on collaborating with clinicians. He has mentored more than 25 engineering and Fulbright honors students, who have participated in clinically relevant research projects with medical devices and procedures. These students have consistently been successful in reaching their postgraduate goals, from admission into medical and graduate studies at high-ranking institutions to relevant jobs with industry or government institutions.

Several students working with Jensen have won research presentation competitions and awards, including the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship. Jensen was also integral in forming the first service-learning senior design course in the College of Engineering, benefiting many Honors College students. In this course, Jensen shares his experiences from industry, including his involvement with startup companies and his membership on the NSF SBIR/STTR medical device proposal evaluation panel. The course also explores topics such as medical device liability and patent litigation.

Jensen has received numerous awards with both national and international recognition for his work. At the U of A, he received the College of Engineering Excellence in Research Dissemination Award as well as the Department of Biomedical Engineering Outstanding Teaching Award in 2017.

portrait of Mark Killenbeck giving a talk
Mark R. Killenbeck has led honors courses on free speech and the Supreme Court. Photo by Russell Cothren.

Mark R. Killenbeck, Wylie H. Davis Distinguished Professor, School of Law. Killenbeck has been at the U of A since 1988, where his primary teaching and research interests are the United States Constitution and Supreme Court, with a special emphasis on the history of the court and Constitution. He is the author of numerous articles published in peer-reviewed journals and is the consulting editor of the Journal of Supreme Court History. Killenbeck was the first individual in the history of the Law School elected to membership in the American Law Institute while serving on the faculty and is now a life member of the institute. He also has a deep interest in affirmative action and diversity and is one of the founders and editors of the website affirmativeactiondebate.org.

Killenbeck has provided a preview of law school for honors students by leading a number of Honors College courses, including Free Speech, Church and State, the Supreme Court and the First Amendment. He will lead a Retro Readings course on Affirmative Action next spring, especially timely given recent rulings by the Supreme Court.

studio portrait of Kelly Ann Way
Kelly Ann Way has guided research on leadership in food policy, hostel development and employee wellness.

Kelly Ann Way, associate professor, hospitality management, assistant director in the School of Human Environmental Sciences, Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences. Way holds a doctorate in human environmental sciences with an emphasis in hospitality education and has been a faculty member at the U of A for 17 years.

Way has taught honors classes and especially enjoys working with honors students on creative research and projects. Over the years she has assisted 21 honors students from two colleges on their research path; she currently mentors six honors students. She has guided honors research on topics such as leadership in food policy, food allergy exploration, hostel development, event development and operations, wine packaging, mental health and wellness of hospitality employees, food waste limitations and employee training.

Way holds certifications in diversity and inclusion from the University of South Florida and serves as a national proctor for the National Restaurant Association's food safety and sanitation program, ServSafe.

professor Michelle Gray helps a student put on an aging simulation suit
Michelle Gray conducts an aging simulation with students. Photo by Philip Thomas.

Distinguished Leadership Award
Michelle Gray, professor, exercise science, College of Education and Health Professions. Gray currently serves as the interim head of the Department for Health, Human Performance and Recreation and director of the Office for Studies on Aging.

Gray has a long history of serving students and the Honors College. She directed the honors program for the College of Education and Health Professions from 2015-2022 and has mentored more than 100 undergraduate student researchers since 2010. She attributes much of her research success to her undergraduate research team and support from the Honors College. 

Her resumé includes mentoring students through the SURF and Honors College Research Grant application processes with a near-perfect funding rate. Her students have presented their research at regional and national conferences and have been co-authors on peer-reviewed publications. As a first-generation college student herself, Gray understands the importance of creating opportunities for students so that they fully realize the benefits of participating in research.

Gray joined the U of A in 2010 as an assistant professor of exercise science. During this time, she has been inducted into the Teaching Academy (2017), awarded Outstanding Service (2018-2019), Overall Faculty (2014-2015 and 2018-2019), Outstanding Service for the Department (2015-2016), Outstanding Service (2018-2019) and Outstanding Mentor/Advisor (2014) to the college and Outstanding Mentor (2015, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2021) from the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards.

studio portrait of professor Raj Rao
Raj Rao has coordinated efforts to increase biomedical student engagement in the Honors College.

Raj Rao, professor, biomedical engineering, College of Engineering. Rao served as head of the Department of Biomedical Engineering from 2016-2022 and coordinated significant departmental efforts to increase Honors College student engagement in biomedical engineering research, study abroad, community engagement, service learning and inclusive leadership opportunities.

Rao's leadership efforts contributed to increased honors student enrollment at the department level (98 students over the past two years), the highest yet percentage (25%) of biomedical engineering students graduating with honors in the College of Engineering, exceptional faculty mentoring in support of research and experiences that resulted in the 2019 departmental gold medal from the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards, 63 research grants for biomedical engineering honors students and increased study abroad opportunities and international partnerships, with more than 50 students participating in programs since 2016. Under Rao's leadership, 34 biomedical engineering students have won or received honorable mentions for nationally competitive awards. Rao has also mentored many honors college students in their efforts to develop innovative biomedical solutions with empathy and inclusion.

As a member of Arkansas Global Changemakers, Rao is also leading collaborative efforts to develop courses and programs where students engage with local and global partners to develop biomedical innovations with potential for broad impact. Rao has been elected as a 2021 Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological engineering (AIMBE) and 2022 Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES).

Jake Hertzog hosting a concert with a student pianist also shown
Jake Hertzog and students perform at the “Evening with Nina Simone” concert at the Honors College. Photo by Russell Cothren.

Distinguished Faculty Artistry Award
Jake Hertzog, assistant professor, guitar, jazz area coordinator, Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. Hertzog is a critically acclaimed guitarist, composer and educator who has recorded nine albums across jazz, rock and classical new music styles. He has toured throughout the U.S., Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and India. Since his arrival at the U of A in 2016 he has hosted several concerts for the Honors College, including a performance by his trio featuring jazz by Dave Brubeck, John Coltrane and original compositions, as well as "An Evening with Nina Simone," in partnership with TheatreSquared. He has advised on a music research honors thesis and has twice been a guest for the Inspired honors course, where he discussed improvisation and bringing a "jazz" approach to any field. Hertzog currently teaches the Honors College course Music and Globalization with Nikola Radan, which highlights connections between music across cultures, economic structures, societies and political movements.

Nikola Radan and Chelsea Hodge play flute in a European city
Nikola Radan and Chelsea Hodge play flute on the Honors Passport Pilgrimage course. Photo by Russell Cothren.

Nikola Radan, instructor, director of the World Music Ensemble, Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. Radan has had the privilege of working at the Honors College with an amazing cohort of students, faculty and staff. In May 2018 he participated in the Honors Passport Pilgrimage course, which followed the Camino de Santiago through France and Spain. He instructed students in medieval music techniques and taught them 13th-century Cantigas de Santa Maria that were composed by Alfonso X of Castile. The ensemble busked in town squares and performed in various spectacular historical locations along the Camino, including Alyscamps, a Roman necropolis in Arles, France, and the Abbey Church of Sainte-Foy in Conques, France. Here on campus and at Subiaco Abbey in Paris, Arkansas, Radan's World Music Ensemble, in partnership with the Schola Cantorum choir directed by Stephen Caldwell, presented "Songs from the Camino," featuring music that medieval pilgrims would have heard performed in churches during their journey. These concerts captured in Europe and Arkansas, together with music composed by Radan using the medieval hurdy-gurdy and santoor, provided a historically accurate and spectacularly rich tapestry of sound for the award-winning film based on the trip, Buen Camino. Radan and the World Music Ensemble also presented an Honors College House Concert, "Il Mediterraneo," that highlighted traditions ranging from the tarantella, flamencos and boleros to the urban blues of Greek rebetikos.

Radan has built several honors courses around creative, non-traditional and appealing topics, including his current seminar Music and Globalization, co-taught with Jake Hertzog. 

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