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Celebrating excellent faculty

April 24, 2019

Join your colleagues in congratulating the newly named Board of Trustees Professor; Presidential Teaching Professor; Presidential Research, Scholarship and Artistry Professors; Presidential Engagement Professor; and the Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and Instruction Award recipients at an event held in their honor on Thursday, April 25, from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Altgeld Auditorium. A reception will be held beginning at 3 p.m. followed by a recognition ceremony at 3:45 p.m.

Board of Trustees Professor

Kathleen McFadden

Kathleen McFadden

When Dr. Kathleen McFadden co-authored a study on the best way to board a plane, and showed how the findings could save airlines $200 million per year, the industry took note.

The FAA and the NTSB invited McFadden to Washington D.C. to brief them on her premier research after she studied the link between drunk driving convictions and pilot flying performance.

And when she developed strategies for improving quality and reducing errors in the healthcare field, she got the attention of medical professionals and earned prestigious awards for her research.
Her innovative ideas not only attracted attention from leaders in industry worldwide, but also from media outlets, including the Discovery Channel, ABC 7 and more.

In all she’s published 39 articles, and given more than 100 managerial talks and conference presentations worldwide on such research, bringing international attention to the work that the Dean’s Distinguished Professor is doing in the Department of Operations Management and Information Systems at NIU.

Now McFadden, who came to NIU in 1993, will have an even wider audience for her work, as she is awarded NIU’s 2019 Board of Trustees Professorships.

It is an honor she is thankful for, and comes for something she is passionate about.

“I am passionate about consistently providing high-quality contributions to the field because my work improves safety for airline passengers and outcomes for patients, thereby transcending traditional business concerns,” she said.

She has that same passion when guiding her students at NIU, and lends her expertise by inviting in industry experts in, encouraging students to conduct plant tours and caring about their development, all while setting the highest of standards in her classes.

“She provides real world examples and cases in her classes to generate students’ interest to study and to explore, stimulate their growth, and inspire students to be the best they can be,” Department Chair Dr. Chang Liu said.

Presidential Teaching Professor

Laurence Lurio

Laurence Lurio

Dr. Laurence Lurio knows physics can be hard to grasp for many, so you’ll often see him doing in-class experiments, grabbing tools to demonstrate ideas and following up with students to ensure they understand the concepts.

During one class, he tried to take a difficult example from the textbook, and do an in-class demonstration on the concept for students to visualize.

He got out a Geiger counter and some potassium chloride salt to measure the fraction of radioactive potassium.

But when he set up the demo in advance, he realized there was a mistake in expected number of Geiger counter clicks. It was actually 10 too small. A mistake you would only find from doing the actual experiment.

So, he corrected the information, demonstrated the idea for students and now also has an acknowledgement in a bestselling textbook, which now has the correct information.

That in-class experiment is just one of the ways the Physics professor and department chair goes out of his way to achieve understanding and meaningful learning no matter what level of Physics someone is at.

His efforts to help students, earned him an NIU Presidential Teaching Professorship for 2019.
Lurio says he is honored.

“I want every student who comes into my class fall in love with physics. Winning the presidential teaching professorship is, maybe, an indication that I haven’t completely failed in this crazy task. “

Former student Evan Reeves, who earned a master in Physics under Lurio and now teaches, said it is a well-deserved honor.

“He has an uncanny skill for taking complex topics and explaining them in simple, down-to-earth terms without losing any of the technical rigor,” Reeves said. “I still have trouble at times finding a way to connect with my students. When I am at a loss, I think back to the excitement I felt in one of Dr. Lurio’s class for inspiration.”

Presidential Research, Artistry and Scholarship Professorships

Tao Xu

Tao Xu

Professor Tao Xu’s research on nanomaterials is so well recognized nationally and internationally, that he’s one of the most coveted and invited speakers at renowned institutes and universities around the world.

His continually evolving research in his field is frequently highlighted on cover pages and publications in his discipline, drawing international attention to his works at NIU.

Closer to home, he’s put NIU on the map as the center of innovative research in the field of material science, attracting more than a million dollars in grant funds from prestigious organizations such as the National Science Foundation.

For his work, he’s earned countless awards, including the esteemed CAREER award from NSF, R&D 100 award and NIU’s Excellence in Innovation Award.

The professor in NIU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry now is adding another honor to the list – a prestigious Presidential Research, Artistry and Scholarship Professorship.

Colleagues in his field say the honor is well deserved.

“Professor Xu has demonstrated striking intelligence and creativity, gigantic momentum and energetic ambition in pursuing forefront challenges in his field,” said Dr. Yi Liu, staff scientist and facility director at the Berkeley National Laboratory in California. “He is never satisfied with his current achievements and keeps pursuing more grand challenges in science.

“He has enormous potential to achieve a greater level of global impact in his field and to bring up the reputation of the university,” Liu said.

Xu also is helping to shepherd future brilliant minds at NIU.

With his guidance, all of his PhD. Graduates have gone on to prestigious postdoctoral positions in national labs such as Argonne or Sandia, or to jobs in leading industrial corporations, such as Apple and Alcoa.

He credits those students many others he’s encountered since he began at NIU in 2006 as he receives this honor.

“This award is also a recognition to all the undergraduate and graduate students who have worked in my group and contributed to my research projects over the years; a reflection of the continuous support from my colleagues, collaborators, my department, college of LAS and NIU; and an encouragement for me to pursue more challenging world-class research together with my students,” Xu said.

Jeffrey Einboden

Jeffrey Einboden

Professor Jeffrey Einboden lets people into a literary world that many never knew existed.

His research explores Middle Eastern influences within the works of iconic Western authors, and delves into the reception of Western literature in the Middle East.

By analyzing various translations of beloved Western works into Middle Eastern languages – Arabic, Persian, Hebrew, Einboden has helped shed light on reactions and perceptions others could only imagine before.

Einboden’s work has impacted many scholars, from those specializing in Islamic studies at UCLA, to those analyzing western canon in Glasgow, Scotland.

And it has enriched students far and wide, from classrooms right here on campus at NIU, to those at other prestigious universities across the country who use his compiled works for their research.
There has been much praise, along with prominent awards and grants, for Einboden, who joined NIU’s English Department in 2006.

He has earned national and international acclaim for his works, including his four books, supported by yearlong Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies.

And now, Einboden is the winner of one of NIU’s Prestigious Presidential Research, scholarship and Artistry Professorships.

“To be awarded this Professorship is tremendously meaningful, not only to me, but to my entire family, whose love has been my scholarship’s most constant support,” Einboden said. “I am immensely grateful to countless colleagues here at NIU, as well as to a host of national and international peers across multiple fields, who have vitally encouraged my research over the past two decades. And, to receive the wonderful news from President Freeman herself, who visited my office in-person, is a moment and an honor I will never forget.”

Einboden’s colleagues say there is no one more deserving than him, given the impact he’s had on the field.

“I could not imagine a scholar more qualified for such an honor, or more deserving. I have learned more from Professor Einboden’s work than I have from the work of any other literary scholar writing today,” said Shelley Fisher Fishkin, Director of American Studies at Stanford University.

Professor Asma Sayeed, Director of Islamic Studies at UCLA agrees. Sayeed teaches a class with more than 200 students each semester who heavily rely on Einboden’s works for their research.
Having his translations and knowledge is a benefit, especially in today’s climate, Sayeed said.
“This is particularly important in this historical moment and in this challenging political climate when it is vital to impart careful research and nuanced scholarship about Islam and Muslims, especially in the context of American history,” Sayeed said.

“Professor Einboden is, without a doubt, among the most productive, creative and rigorous scholars working across the field of Islamic Studies, Religious studies and comparative literature,” Sayeed said. “He is truly a path-breaking innovative researcher and deserves this highest accolade.”

Presidential Engagement Professor

Leila Porter

Leila Porter

Dr. Leila Porter has spent the past 20 years forging partnerships in Bolivia to help protect the Amazonian rain forest, and the species that live there.

Along the way, she has also trained a new generation of American and Bolivian primatologists and conservation biologists, including many of her own anthropology students at NIU campus to help carry on this work.

Porter first started working in Bolivia in 1997, when she set up a new research site to compare the behavior and ecology of monkeys for her doctoral dissertation.

At that time, she also set a goal of protecting the research area, helping to ensure the survival of the primates, birds, plants and reptiles living there.

Her years of work paid off last year, when the field site, now named the Tahuamanu Biological Field Station, was formally recognized by the Bolivian government as a regional conservation area.
Over the years, she has used her work in her classrooms, and also expanded NIU learning beyond the classroom, having students develop conservation plans for primates and other species, and also helping some students travel to Bolivia to pursue their own passions in the area of conservation.
For her work, Porter earned the honor of a 2019 NIU Presidential Engagement Professorship, an award that honoring professors with outstanding records of community engagement.

“As a faculty member at NIU I have had the opportunity to collaborate with many Bolivian colleagues, and to facilitate student research projects in Bolivia. With the Presidential Engagement Professorship award, I can further my goal of establishing an international network of faculty and students working to protect endangered primates and other wildlife in the Bolivian tropics,” Porter said.

Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching

Myoung Jung

Myoung Jung

Many NIU early childhood education candidates come to the program enthused about having their own classrooms one day, but feeling a little nervous when they realize that means they will have to teach math concepts to their students.

That’s where Dr. Myong Jung in the Department of Special and Early Education comes in. Jung is one of the recipients of this year’s NIU Presidential Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching awards.
Students said he more than deserves the honor, praising him for helping as they pursue their dreams of becoming teachers.

His passion for math and science is unmistakable, they said, as is his passion for teaching. He comes into his classes enthused, yet patient with his students. He brings in hands-on manipulatives so his students can see how their future students will learn, and gives real-life examples of what they might encounter. And he leaves his own students feeling better prepared to teach math one day, even if they didn’t think it was their strong suit.

“His patience in teaching helped me and my peers become more confident in our math skills, especially when it applies to teaching and learning math,” student Myiesha Hunt said. “When it came to math, he helped me find my way back to loving and enjoying math again.

“His overall love for what he does makes learning a thousand times better. When I finally embark on my teaching career and have a class of my own, Dr. Jung will always be remembered with every lesson I teach. I will always remember his wisdom and his wit, and I will strive to install that same love of math to my students. If I am half the teacher that he is my students will be very lucky.”

Timothy Ryan

Timothy Ryan

The rugs in Dr. Timothy Ryan’s office are worn thin from his students constantly stopping in, seeking expertise from the welcoming, yet relentlessly challenging Associate English Professor.

Ryan, who came to NIU in 2007, has an open door policy, and it seems his light is always on, letting students know he is there to help with papers, give advice and lend guidance when they need it.
He never gives them the easy way out, though, but encourages his students to dig deeper to improve their writing and face their academic challenges, which often include his intimidating writing assignments, and relentlessly honest critiques of those assignments.

Tony Blanco, a 41-year-old English major, said he was ready to give up. He was worried about the complex writing guidelines in Ryan’s class, and lacked confidence in himself. The stress of having a full-time job, mortgage and family at home didn’t help.

He was overwhelmed, and considered dropping the class. He didn’t tell Ryan his thoughts of dropping out, but instead emailed him mentioning his struggles with the class essay.

Ryan responded with encouragement, praising Blanco for his effort and giving him confidence. Ultimately, after many revisions, Blanco earned and A on the paper, and in the class, and learned about himself through Ryan’s compassion and intuitive instruction.

“Dr. Ryan believed in me when I didn’t’ believe in myself,” Blanco said. “He did what he does best – read between the lines of what I was saying and drawing out the best of me.
“Dr. Ryan is out here changing lives. He is out here making a difference by showing students they are smarter, more creative and talented than they think they are,” Blanco said
These qualities and sentiments, echoed by many of Ryan’s students over the years, helped him earn the 2019 NIU President’s Excellence in Undergraduate Instruction award.

Kate Cady

Kate Cady

No two sessions are ever the same in Dr. Kate Cady’s communications classrooms.

Through some of her classes are in giant lecture halls filled with new students each semester, to many her class feels more like a small coffee shop, where thought-provoking discussions, openness, patience and unparalleled learning are expected for everyone.

On the first day each semester, she presents students with a survey on values and policies.
She asks them to rank what they value in the classroom, such as courtesy, diversity, professionalism and positivity. Cady also asks their thoughts on cell phone usage, and eating in the classroom, and how strictly those policies should be enforced.

The results give the students a say in their learning experience, and it tailors the class to what they desire, and what will best help them learn.

She then welcomes them to break into debates and discussions on pertinent topics, no matter how controversial, inspiring them to learn and defend their views.

“She takes the values and policies chosen by the students and morphs her curriculum to reflect those results, creating a unique classroom experience for everyone involved,” student Alec Heaton said. “I have never seen such flexibility in an instructor and such skill is something to be truly appreciated.”

For many years, Cady’s teaching style has earned her excellence in undergraduate education awards from her department.

Now, she’s earned an NIU Presidential Excellence in Undergraduate Education award.

Student Alexis Marckess, can’t think of any instructor more deserving, saying Cady gave her a joy for learning that made her excited to go class each week.

“I can never put into words how inspiring and driven Dr. Kate Cady is,” she said. “I never thought a professor could motivate me to attend at three hour long night course in the middle of a DeKalb winter.

Excellence in Undergraduate Instruction

Mary Landeros

Mary Landeros

Many students come to Dr. Mary Landeros Introduction to Sociology class thinking they are just taking a boring lecture class.

Instead, they end up raving about her class discussions and her compelling narratives, and often choosing to pursue sociology as a career.

They are drawn to how much Landeros genuinely cares for her students, learning each of their names, and ensuring they are on the right track in their class and their overall academic pursuits. They turn to her when they need letters of recommendation, get help from her when they are falling behind, and approach her as they consider how to specialize in the field, realizing that she knows them well and can help lend expert advise.

To honor her commitment to her students, Landers is the recipient of the 2019 Presidential Excellence in Undergraduate Instruction award.

The prestigious award honors some of the most non-tenured track instructors on campus.
Student Adam Reedy, a senior majoring in sociology, helped to nominate her for the award, writing that she has had a profound impact on his academic career at NIU and his dedication to the field.
“Dr. Landeros has taught me so much in regards to sociology and effective instructing,” Senior Sociology Major Adam Reedy said. “I believe I have retained more information from her than any other teacher I’ve had.

“In my experience, Mary Landeros has proven to be an understanding, thoughtful, comprehensive and often humorous instructor. She is the most deserving professor at NIU to be recognized and receive an award for education.”