Lamar University has honored four faculty members with University Merit Awards in recognition of outstanding performance in the classroom. The 2010 award recipients are assistant professors Richard Gachot, interior design; Sandra Richardson, professional pedagogy and mathematics; Thomas Thompson, finance; and Qiang Xu, chemical engineering.
A university-wide committee selected them from candidates – all junior faculty members – nominated by committees from LU colleges. Lamar officials presented the awards during a reception and program April 21 in the University Reception Center of the Mary and John Gray Library. Kenneth Rivers, professor of French, was honored as the 2010 University Professor.
While scholarship and service to the university and community are an important consideration in granting the Merit Awards, the most important criteria for selection are classroom performance and interaction with students, said Stephen Doblin, provost and vice president for academic affairs. Here are profiles of the Merit Award recipients:
Richard Gachot is program director of interior design in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, now completing his sixth year in Lamar’s College of Education and Human Development. Gachot earned a bachelor of science degree from Denison University in Columbus, Ohio, a master of architecture from Columbia University and a master of arts in architectural history from the University of Texas, where he is now completing his doctor of philosophy in architectural history. In addition, he studied in Paris at the Sorbonne and the Paris School of Architecture.
“New course technologies, oral histories, case studies, computer imaging and a relentless emphasis on creativity have contributed greatly to his instructional successes,” Doblin said. “Of particular significance is his commitment to student research and study-abroad.”
With funding from a Lamar Research Enhancement Grant, Doblin said, Gachot has guided several undergraduate research projects and, as a mentor in the McNair Scholars program, supervised an undergraduate student in the design of a “green” concept car. On the graduate level, he has directed, supervised and coached many students, including a thesis student scheduled to graduate in May. He has organized and led study-abroad trips to New York and Paris, emphasizing architecture and design.
“Richard is a dedicated teacher who tirelessly works toward program improvement,” said his department chair, Amy Shows. I admire his ability to get students involved in meaningful projects . . . and study abroad.”
“Mr. Gachot’s expertise is greatly respected by his students, and he has developed or redesigned most of the interior design courses,” said Hollis Lowery-Moore, dean of the College of Education and Human Development.
Gachot has worked “diligently and collaboratively” to improve Lamar’s interior design program, Doblin said, and has spearheaded the program’s efforts to receive Council of Interior Design accreditation. He is an active and productive scholar whose resume includes a book in press, a book chapter, other publications and many professional lectures and exhibitions. Active in professional organizations and campus committees, he has immersed himself off campus in the Beaumont Main Street and Envision Beaumont programs.
Sandra Richardson teaches mathematics in the College of Arts and Sciences and professional pedagogy in the College of Education and Human Development – disciplines joined by her professional interest in math education. Richardson earned a bachelor of science from Dillard University and a master of arts and Ph.D. from Purdue University. Now in her fifth year at Lamar, she was the 2009 recipient of the State Advisor of the Year award given by the Texas State Teachers Association.
“Dr. Richardson’s courses are considered by all to be extremely well designed, and she has set high standards for students in the master’s programs,” said Vicki Farrow, chair of the Department of Professional Pedagogy. “She maintains the same high standards in her undergraduate courses.”
As student comments and course evaluations attest, Doblin said, she is a popular and highly skilled classroom instructor. She is “genuinely concerned about the students’ education,” one student wrote. Another said Richardson “challenged me in the way few professors have ever challenged me.”
Richardson developed a new capstone course in mathematics for those seeking secondary teacher certification, Doblin said, as well as two courses in Lamar’s Academic Partnership program that enables educators to study online and earn master’s degrees in administration and teacher leadership. Richardson founded and directed the Lamar Achievement in Mathematics Program Enrichment Camp for talented high school-aged students from under-represented groups and co-chairs Mathfest and the Celebration of Teaching. Richardson also serves as faculty sponsor of the Lamar University Mathematics Club, Phi Mu Epsilon and Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.
Richardson has established a solid research foundation, Doblin said. She has published peer-refereed journals and research grant reports and has delivered national and international presentations. She has successfully authored or co-authored 12 grants totaling almost $1.3 million.
She holds memberships in an array of professional societies and associations, said Doblin, “Her record of committee and council service is lengthy and includes numerous leadership roles.” She has been a faculty senator, a mentor for the Honors Council and the Texas Academy of Leadership in the Humanities and chair of the University Admissions Committee.
“Dr. Richardson’s strengths include preparedness, high expectations for all students, accessibility to her students and professionalism,” Lowery-Moore said. “Dr. Richardson plays an important role in recruiting more teachers because of her teaching strengths and enthusiasm for her subject.”
Thomas Thompson, now in his fourth year at Lamar, earned a bachelor of business administration degree from the University of Texas at Austin, a master of science in administration from George Washington University and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Arlington. His areas of professional expertise include investments, security analysis and portfolio management.
Thompson employs an active teaching style that emphasizes student participation and online activities, Doblin said. He stresses social, environmental and ethical issues through the use of case analyses such as Enron and WorldCom, and he challenges his students to evaluate the financial implications surrounding local issues. Much of his research is tied to the classroom. Using statistical models he developed, students analyze stock performance and company valuation in different sectors.
“Dr. Thompson is a very good classroom instructor,” said his department chair, Jimmy Moss. “He is knowledgeable in the subject matter and is fair with his students. He gets good evaluations, and I have heard excellent comments about his classes.”
Thompson serves as faculty advisor to Lamar’s Finance Association and has been recognized by Lamar students for outstanding advising. He is best known for leading Lamar’s Student Managed Investment Fund, a $250,000 portfolio held by the Lamar University Foundation. Under his eye, students manage this fund and acquire the experience of professional money managers.
Active in many professional associations and academies, Thompson reviews manuscripts for several journals and has chaired a number of meetings. He is author or co-author of six peer-refereed journals, including five last year, and has delivered 15 papers at professional conferences. At Lamar, he chairs the University Scholarship Committee and serves on the Faculty Senate.
Thompson “has impressed us as a good teacher and excellent researcher, with service that far exceeds the expectations of an assistant professor,” said Henry Venta, dean of the College of Business.
Qiang Xu, now in his fifth year at Lamar, earned bachelor’s degrees in environmental engineering and chemical engineering, as well as a master’s degree and a Ph.D., both in chemical engineering, all from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. He was unable to attend the ceremony because he is participating in a National Science Foundation panel that is reviewing grant proposals. T.C. Ho, chair of the Dan F. Smith Department of Chemical Engineering, accepted the award on his behalf.
Xu’s research activity “has been exceptional,” said Jack Hopper, dean of the College of Engineering. “He has a publication record which is extremely impressive. His performance in the classroom has received very strong student endorsement, and his commitment to service is significant not only at Lamar but at the national level.”
Xu is a “workhorse” in his department, Doblin said, having taught 15 courses – including 11 graduate courses – during his short tenure at Lamar. He uses a variety of innovative techniques in his courses, including software demonstrations, online materials, group projects and his own research. He supervises a post-doctoral student, five Ph.D. students, a doctoral engineering student and several master’s students. His department is the first at Lamar to offer the Ph.D.
To redesign and enhance the engineering curriculum, he has sought and received external funding for several sources. Xu has served as principal or co-principal investigator on 18 funded projects, resulting in more than $1 million from the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Defense and leading petrochemical companies.
“Without question, he is well on his way to a distinguished research career,” Doblin said.
In addition to being an outstanding researcher, Ho said, “Dr. Xu has been an excellent and well-liked classroom instructor. He receives favorable comments from students due to his knowledge of materials and his concern for their education.”
Xu is active in Lamar’s American Institute of Chemical Engineering student chapter and the Chinese Student Association. He is a member of numerous engineering and science organizations and has served as chair at many of their meetings.
Thu, April 22, 2010
by Brian Sattler