WSU DAESA announces 2020 division awards to faculty, staff, and students

A shiny award resting on a stack of books.

The Washington State University Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement (DAESA) honored outstanding faculty, staff, and students for their contributions throughout academic year 2019-20 to its programs that promote student, teaching, and learning success and excellence university wide.

University Common Requirements (UCORE)

Closeup of Kate Watts
Kate Watts

The Richard G. Law Excellence Award for Undergraduate Teaching is presented to Kate M. Watts, senior instructor and assistant director of composition in the Dept. of English in the College of Arts and Sciences. First made in 2013, this annual award commemorates the high value WSU places on the faculty who teach University Common Requirements (UCORE) general education courses across disciplines at the university.

Watts is commended for her commitment to and success with collective problem-solving, her focus on equipping students with the skills necessary for effective engagement as citizens and employees, her mentorship of colleagues in the delivery of English 101, and her deployment of innovative and student-centered pedagogy. Selection committee members noted that she is active and intentional in her professional development and that of her colleagues.

Closeup of James Montgomery Bledsoe
James Montgomery Bledsoe

The University Common Requirements (UCORE) Ambassador Award is presented to James Montgomery Bledsoe, major exploration advisor and newly appointed career development coordinator for the College of Arts and Sciences. As UCORE leadership works to improve curriculum, processes, and communication, it has sought to engage more directly with faculty, advising, and student partners. Through that engagement, these partners offer meaningful contributions to this continual process of improvement.

Bledsoe’s approach to advising aligns well with UCORE’s mission to help students acquire broad knowledge and transferable skills to complement their major programs of study. He regularly emphasizes student ownership over learning, especially the recognition that transferable skills connect across a wide range of disciplines and courses and the benefits of intentionality and forethought when registering for courses. His practical, engaged approach to advising has informed recent improvements to UCORE’s ongoing communications with advisors university wide.

Distinguished Scholarships Program

Closeup of Bill Davis
Bill Davis

The Distinguished Scholarships Ambassador Award is presented to William “Bill” B. Davis, associate professor in the School for Molecular Biosciences (SMB) and associate dean for undergraduate education in the College of Veterinary Medicine.  Each year up to 100 students from all majors and years consider applying for prestigious, nationally competitive awards to enhance their education and expand their personal and professional horizons; faculty and staff make valuable contributions to applicants throughout the process and greatly enhance the work of the Distinguished Scholarships Program.

Davis has served on the Distinguished Scholarships Endorsement Committee for several years and, through his role with SMB’s Students Targeted toward Advanced Research Studies (STARS) program, he has consistently provided key recommendation letters on behalf of applicants. This year, Davis also served on the Fulbright Review Committee, offered insightful feedback to applicants, participated in a preparatory mock interview for our Marshall candidate, and helped students concisely write and speak about their goals.

Office of Academic Engagement

Closeup of Kelly Demand
Kelly Demand

The Office of Academic Engagement (OAE) Staff Excellence Award is presented to Kelly Demand, project director for Invest in Cougs and Crimson Community Grants programs. The award heralds the OAE team member whose exceptional contributions over the past year have advanced student success, and who exemplifies the characteristic spirit of its community.

Demand proved to be instrumental in securing the BECU partnership through her leadership of OAE’s college affordability programs, completed the process of becoming WSU Pullman’s only accredited financial counselor, and managed WSU’s largest emergency grant aid program—the Crimson Community Grants—when COVID19 disrupted spring semester.  This summer, she will complete her M.A. in English focusing on the rhetoric of financial literacy.

First-Year Experience

Closeup of Nazua Idris
Nazua Idris

The Learning Communities Excellence Award is presented to Nazua Idris, a Ph.D. student in the Dept. of English. This award recognizes DAESA’s First-Year Focus faculty who made collaborative and significant efforts to help entering freshmen make meaningful connections with their peers and faculty, and with the new ideas and experiences they encounter.

Idris was innovative in creating a sense of community despite challenges. Rather than teaching an ENGL 101 section in First-Year Focus with students from a single residence hall, her class included freshman, sophomore, and junior students living in a variety of halls as well as off campus. She nimbly relocated out-of-class activities to be accessible to all. This, coupled with a commitment to student success, led her to report that her class was “the most active and successful in terms of my own experience as an instructor and my students’ success.”

Closeup of Marcella Pattinson
Marcella Pattinson

The Common Reading Excellence Award is presented to Marcela Pattinson, assistant director of Community Relations and Outreach and Undocumented Initiatives in Multicultural Student Services. This award recognizes exceptional efforts surrounding use of the year’s shared text to create dialogue within and beyond classrooms on topics raised in the book.

Pattinson was pivotal in making connections between two of the Common Reading Program’s featured guest speakers—Carlos Gil and Luis Cortes Romero—with student groups. She also created and hosted viewing parties for the “Undocumented Tales” YouTube series, and arranged for the director of the series, Armando Ibanez, to join the final session digitally. Pattinson also sponsored workshops that increased campus awareness of the issues of immigration and undocumented people.

Emeritus Society

The WSU Emeritus Society Excellence in Undergraduate Research Award is presented in five categories by the titular organization of retired faculty who are dedicated to the continued advancement of the university, community, and state. These awards encourage students to strive for scholarly excellence in five categories. The recipients are listed as follows by award category:

Physical Sciences and Mathematics: Krista Brutman for her research titled, “A Computational Cross-bridge Model to Help Explain the Frequency-dependent Stiffness Response of Ca2+-activated Human Myocardial Strips.” The mathematics and German major in the Honors College combines mathematical and computational biology research to better understand the processes that cause force production in cardiac muscles. Her mentor is Bertrand Tanner in the Dept. of Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Biosciences: Sydney Almgren for her research titled, “Combining Mutant and Transgenic Genes in Arabidopsis Plants.” The environmental and ecosystem sciences major in the Honors College works to generate a combination of mutant and transgenic genes by crossing mutant and transgenic Arabidopsis plants and analyze the seed oil phenotype. This could help develop plants to be used as aquaculture feeds containing oils to improve production of fish and the quality of their meat for human consumption. Her mentor is Philip Bates of the Institute of Biological Chemistry.

Engineering and Applied Sciences: Adam Szymanski for his research titled, “Scalable Swarm Computing: Self-charging Nodes for Collective Operation.” The computer science and management information systems major works to test a scalable protocol to support peer-to-peer communication between members of a swarm of movable small, lower-power devices, and to incorporate small solar panels to enable self-charging of each device for indefinite operation. His mentor is Andrew O’Fallon in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture.

Humanities, Arts, and Creative Activities: Lucas Blevins for his research titled, “Hood (Eastwinds) for Wind Ensemble.” The music composition major created this original musical work to represent the natural landscape and wildlife of Corbett, Oreg., an area known for waterfalls and forests. A premiere performance by that local high school’s symphonic band was postponed when classes were cancelled due to COVID-19. Blevins is mentored by Greg Yasinitsky, Regents Professor in the School of Music in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Social, Economic, and Behavioral Sciences: Rachel Nelson for her research titled, “Teaching the Teacher: Suicide Prevention Education Policies for School Educators and Staff.” The neuroscience and psychology major in the Honors College deals with documenting the status of state-level teacher training across the U.S. regarding suicide prevention in light of legislation. Her mentor is Janessa Graves in the College of Nursing.

Transfer Clearinghouse

The two students receiving the Transfer Clearinghouse Ambassador Award are Kelly Ngigi and Skylar Hamilton, transfer student ambassadors for Multicultural Student Services (MSS). The WSU Transfer Clearinghouse depends on student helpers during efforts such as National Transfer Student Week events, a variety of workshops, and even visits to the center’s UNIV 304 Transfer Student Seminar course.

Ngigi is a psychology major who transferred to WSU from Highline College in 2017. She is an undergraduate research scholar with the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program at the university. As an MSS ambassador, she helps students transferring to WSU through the transition into their new academic and social community.

Hamilton is an interior design major who transferred to WSU from the College of Southern Nevada. She encourages transfer students to get involved and use campus resources. She, herself, has had part-time jobs, participated in the Leadership Program, volunteered, used recreation facilities, and became an officer in a departmental organization. She enjoys the sense of community at WSU.

Academic Success and Career Center

The Academic Success and Career Center (ASCC) presents the WSU Student Employee of the Year Award to Noah Sanchez, communications assistant working for Cougs Rise in the Office of Academic Engagement (OAE). The construction management major from Wenatchee quickly also went on to win the statewide title in a program hosted by the National Student Employment Association.

In a letter recommending him for the WSU title, Sanchez received praise for excellence in the areas of communication, use of digital technology, problem solving, professionalism and work ethic, intercultural fluency, career management, leadership, and teamwork. Originally hired to handle OAE social media, he has made many and varied contributions. One that is particularly noteworthy is the launch of CougCast, a podcast series on a wide variety of student-centric topics.

ASCC also announces that 10 student tutors have achieved through the College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA) their Level I certification. They obtained more than 10 hours of training through a UNIV 497 course and accumulated over 25 hours of active tutoring. The students, in alphabetical order by last name and their major(s), are:

  • Patrix Asuncion, data analytics
  • Marciela Saunders Bibbins, social studies
  • Kace Cottam, computer science
  • Dylan Deblasio, economic sciences and finance
  • Noah Icrink, neuroscience
  • Bailee Kelty, civil engineering
  • Ronald Lam, zoology
  • Darby Miller, genetics and cell biology
  • Morgan Palmerton, accounting and finance
  • Kaylyn Thompson, biology

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