NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Seven Stephen F. Austin State University faculty members recently were selected to receive Teaching Excellence Awards.
SFA’s Teaching Excellence program is an opportunity to recognize outstanding faculty members for their contributions to the university through excellence as teachers. Each of the university’s six colleges selects a member of its faculty to receive an award. One SFA Faculty Senate member from among all colleges also is chosen.
The selection is based on knowledge of subject matter; quality of lectures and assignments; enthusiasm for teaching; interest in and availability to students; sensitivity to the learning environment; effectiveness as a teacher as assessed through student, peer and alumni evaluations; commitment to continuous improvement of their own classroom teaching; and contributions to the quality of teaching within the university through assistance and encouragement of other faculty members.
Nelson Rusche College of Business
Dr. Robert McDermand is a senior lecturer of sports business who joined SFA in 2011 and began teaching full time in 2019.
“I feel honored to be considered for this recognition,” he said. “It is a wonderful and humbling surprise, and I am grateful to those who’ve supported me.”
McDermand teaches management principles, principles of sports business, sports analytics, college sports, and advanced sports management, among other courses. Though he focuses primarily on teaching the management side of sports, he also works to promote a broad understanding of the sports industry to encourage his students to pursue careers in that field.
“I believe strongly in the value that sport plays in today’s robust consumer economy, and the role that well-trained professionals in the sport industry can play in advancing the field and enhancing experiences for fans and athletes,” he said.
McDermand said his goal in teaching is to prepare students to engage in their professional careers with the skills necessary to be successful and to embrace growth and future innovation. They develop these skills through real-life examples and enthusiastic classroom interaction, he added.
“I have established two primary philosophies as an instructor: to get my students to think about sports and sports business as subjects worthy of serious academic consideration, and to make the in-class learning experiences in my sports business and management classes relevant to students by connecting conceptual theories to contemporary examples through case studies, the latter of which has proven to be an effective teaching strategy, and a plan for preparing students for jobs in the sport industry.”
James I. Perkins College of Education
Dr. Sarah Straub is an associate professor of education studies who joined SFA in 2018.
As the Montgomery Professor for Humane Education, she said she “continues working toward providing transformational learning opportunities for her SFA students and the Nacogdoches community.”
“I am extremely committed to undergraduate student research, so I consistently work with my students to publish in peer-reviewed academic journals and present at state and national conferences,” Straub said. “I’ve had the unique joy of working with students who fly drones around Beaumont, create digital content for Active Classroom on the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, publish their Crystal City Internment Camp lessons in the Journal for Social Studies and History Education, and present their work on the national level at conferences, such as the National Association for Multicultural Education Conference and the Critical Questions in Education Conference.”
For her innovative teaching/learning practices that focus on student success, Straub received financial support from the SFA President’s Innovation Fund for a six-week study-away trip. During the road and camping trip, students visited well-known locations across the country for their course on teaching social studies.
Outside SFA, Straub, along with former SFA assistant professor Dr. Tonya Jeffery, was awarded the Texas Parks and Wildlife Community Outdoor Outreach Program grant. This allowed her to take nearly 100 middle school students for overnight adventures to East Texas state parks.
“Learning never ends, and the best learning comes from authentic and excited engagement with students,” she said.
Micky Elliott College of Fine Arts
Dr. Richard Berry, tenor, is a professor of music who joined SFA in 1987.
He teaches voice and voice pedagogy as well as directs the Opera Theater at SFA, including such shows as “A Little Night Music,” “Albert Herring” and “The Consul.”
Berry has performed as a soloist with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, San Antonio Symphony Orchestra, San Antonio Chamber Orchestra, Denver Chamber Orchestra and Orchestra of Santa Fe, among others. He also has performed with many noted conductors, including Roger Cantrell, Jurgen de Lemos, Margaret Hillis and Robert Shaw.
Over nearly 20 years at SFA, he served as dean of the Elliott College of Fine Arts, dean of the graduate school, associate provost, and provost and vice president for academic affairs before returning full time to teaching in January 2018.
“Upon returning to teaching, I quickly remembered why I began working in higher education in the first place,” Berry said. “There is tremendous gratification in regular, daily contact with students and in witnessing firsthand the more immediate impact of one’s work.”
Berry said his Teaching Excellence Award recognition is icing on the cake for his favorite job of his career.
“I believe that the building of student community by working as a musician with student musicians is the most important job,” he said. “Among all the titles I have held in my career, the one I most treasure has always been, and remains, professor of music.”
Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture
Dr. Stephanie Jones is an associate professor of agriculture who joined SFA in 2016.
She teaches courses on horsemanship, animal breeding, equine production and management, animal behavior and welfare, and companion animals.
“I discovered my passion for teaching while holding study groups in my undergraduate studies, and I am honored to be able to utilize that passion to teach at SFA,” Jones said.
Her personal teaching style incorporates innovative, active learning methods to teach practical course material that students may encounter in their post-graduate careers.
“I believe that my enthusiasm for teaching stimulates an interest in my students for the subject and has led to several of those students seeking advanced degrees post-graduation,” Jones said.
She credits several benefits SFA provides for helping her be a better teacher.
“I enjoy the small class sizing at SFA because it allows me to know the students in my classes and labs personally,” Jones said. “I also have the opportunity at SFA to practice what I teach, which I believe proves the validity of the information provided in my lectures.”
Seeing a student learn the processes involved in equine reproduction and then follow the development of the fetus leading to witnessing the birth of the foal is one example of this validation, Jones said.
“When students tell me that they are excited to enroll in a course that I teach, I find a sense of pride in their enthusiasm,” she said. “When SFA alums contact me to say they used some information, technique or experience gained from a course or lab that I taught, I feel that I am a successful teacher.”
College of Liberal and Applied Arts
Dr. Aaron Coy Moulton is an assistant professor of Latin American history who joined SFA in 2017.
He specializes in dictatorial regimes, intelligence and transnational networks in the greater Caribbean and enjoys sharing his award-winning research with students in a wide range of classes.
From “Southerners who sought to conquer parts of Latin America in order to spread slavery” to “a U.S. fruit company employing public relations experts and lawyers to lobby congresspersons to overthrow a democratic government in Central America” to “a Dominican dictator who sent 500-year-old Catholic artifacts to schmooze a Boston congressman” to “how the CIA recruited leading Mexican politicians as assets during the Cold War,” Moulton has engaged SFA students in the twists and turns of history.
“Teaching at SFA allows me to use my interdisciplinary training to help students go deeper into history with thorough primary research in archives, oral histories, digital depositories and more,” he said.
To explore more recent history, Moulton created a history and video games course that featured experts sharing their stories with students about how one of the most influential technologies is shaping modern life. For example, a U.S. Air Force veteran discussed how video games have reshaped drone technologies and even the recruitment of pilots who are no longer trained in cockpits but by using hand-held controllers and joysticks.
Moulton is finishing his first manuscript, “Caribbean Blood Pacts: The Guatemalan Revolution and the Origins of the Caribbean Basin’s Cold War, 1944-1954.”
College of Sciences and Mathematics
Dr. Jeremy Becnel is a professor of computer science who joined SFA in 2006.
“I am humbled and thrilled to have won the Teaching Excellence Award at SFA,” he said. “Teaching is a part of my profession that I truly love, and it’s an honor to have my hard work and dedication recognized.”
Becnel said he enjoys seeing his students grasp complex concepts and being there to support them when they need it.
“I love demonstrating to students how computer science and technology can be used to improve people’s lives all over the world,” he said.
Growing up in the small rural town of Kraemer, Louisiana, Becnel said he never expected to be a university professor until he was inspired by his own professors at Nicholls State University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science.
After earning his doctoral degree from Louisiana State University in 2006, Becnel wanted to “pay it forward.”
“I knew that there was nothing I wanted to do more than provide the same education and opportunities that were afforded to me,” he said. “After visiting the wonderful people of SFA, I knew that this was the ideal place to begin my journey as an educator.”
Becnel said he shares this award with the many colleagues who have helped him develop into a better educator during his 15 years at SFA.
“I’ve had the privilege of working alongside talented colleagues, and I’ve learned a great deal from my interactions with them and my students,” he said. “This award truly reflects the collective effort and dedication of the entire SFA community.”
Faculty Senate Representative
Jennifer Malmberg is the advisor for the theatre education program who joined SFA in 2018.
“I firmly believe that we are all lifelong learners, that the worlds of education and techniques are constantly changing, and we should be open to learning them throughout our career,” she said.
As a teacher of future teachers, Malmberg has developed curriculum for multiple new theatre education courses while serving as instructor for a wide range of School of Theatre and Dance courses.
“I work to enable my students to feel power in their understanding and to lay bricks every year on the foundation of their career so they can become the best educators they can be,” she said. “I do this by understanding that my students are humans first, with needs that begin outside the classroom before they ever come to us.”
In addition to advising more than 50 theatre certification students each year and coordinating internship opportunities, Malmberg hosts several digital workshops that draw professional educators and administrators from across the country to teach and network with students. She also hosts a Theatre Education Job Fair and University Interscholastic League One-Act Play clinics.
During summer, she serves as the camp director for SFA’s School of Theatre and Dance High School Summer Theatre Workshop. She also mentors theatre education students in their role as directors for the Junior Jacks Theatre Camp, a day camp for East Texas children.
SFA’s Faculty Senate comprises volunteer, elected faculty members who represent each college proportionally and advocate for the best interests of university faculty at SFA.