The University of Central Oklahoma recognized and awarded faculty and staff for their substantial contributions to the Central community at its annual Fall Forum on Aug. 16.

This event serves as an opportunity to celebrate the successes of the past year as well as set the vision for the upcoming year.

Before a full house in the Nigh University Center, UCO President Don Betz praised Central’s faculty and staff for personifying the vision and values that engage and connect the university to the community, students and a common future.

“From local to global, you confirmed that the world is our classroom, and that you are the motivated and insightful mentors of the moment,” Betz said.

“You vitalize the unique culture of learning, leading and serving here at Central that directly benefits our highly diverse student body, the OKC Metro, and beyond.”

Several awards were presented to faculty and staff at the Fall Forum.

Recipients of the Provost’s Faculty Merit Credit Awards, presented in the categories of research and teaching, are:

• Jicheng Fu, Ph.D., associate professor of computer science, $4,000 for research;

•  Li, Ph.D., professor of history and geography, $2,000 for research;

• Jeanetta Sims, Ph.D., associate professor of marketing, $2,000 for research; and

• Mohammad Hossan, Ph.D., assistant professor of engineering and physics, $2,000 for teaching.

The Making a Difference Award is given to a randomly selected faculty or staff member who has donated to the university within the past calendar year. The recipient gets to choose a reserved parking spot anywhere on campus. The 2016 recipient is Nora Contreras, project director for Student Support Services.

The Vanderford Faculty Awards are given to faculty to honor outstanding work. Recipients receive $1,000 and a plaque funded by the estate of Central alumni Austin and Cleo Patra Vanderford. The 2016 recipients are:

• Lindsey Churchill, Ph.D., assistant professor of history and geography, for engagement;

• Kanika Bhargava, Ph.D., assistant professor of human environmental sciences, for engagement;

• Jessica Sheetz-Nguyen, Ph.D., assistant dean of the College of Liberal Arts, for research;

• David Chapman, associate professor of finance, for initiative;

• Maurice Haff, instructor of management, for initiative; and

• Keith White, Ph.D., professor of music, for initiative.

The Neely Excellence in Teaching Award, funded by Central graduate J. Gail Neely, M.D., in honor of his parents, El Roy C. Neely and Lucile Hawker Neely, recognizes faculty for a hunger for knowledge and support of education. Recipients receive $1,000.

The 2016 Neely Award recipients are Linda Rittner, Ph.D., associate professor of educational sciences, foundations and research, and Joselina Cheng, D.B.A., associate professor of information systems and operations management.

The Herbert S. Dordick Award for an Outstanding Mentor is given to a faculty or staff member for mentoring students in their freshman year. Established in 1998, the award honors Herbert S. Dordick, Ph.D., beloved mentor of Robert Epstein, Ph.D., UCO professor of management. The award includes $500. The 2016 Dordick Award recipient is Laura Bolf-Beliveau, Ph.D., associate professor of English.

The Merrill Lynch Modeling the Way Award is given to three members of the UCO community who consistently lead by example and live the mission, values and goals of the university. Each recipient is awarded a $1,000 check and a Waterford crystal memento, funded by Merrill Lynch.

The 2016 Modeling the Way recipients are Bryan Mitschell, recording engineer and production services director for the music department, April Haulman, Ph.D., professor of curriculum and instruction, and Bryan Duke, Ph.D., assistant dean and professor for the College of Education and Professional Studies.

The Citizen’s Bank Leadership and Civic Engagement Award is given to a faculty or staff member who leads by example and is involved in the community. Each recipient receives $1,000 and an engraved clock. This year’s recipient is Mary Carver, Ph.D., assistant professor and chair of the Department of Mass Communication.

The Exceptional Performance Award is given to staff members that reflect the innovative, passionate and student-centered focus that Central embraces. Each recipient receives $1,250 and a plaque. This year’s recipients are Annamaria Martucci, administrative assistant for the College of Liberal Arts; Elaine Martindale, clinical supervisor for the Speech and Hearing Clinic; Georgia Fiering, director of the CHK|Central Boathouse; Patrick Foster, supervisor at the physical plant and Craig Beuchaw, art director at University Communications.

The Exceptional Group/Unit Service Award is a new award given to a group or unit that passionately reflects the innovative and student-centered focus of Central. The 2016 recipient is the Latino Faculty and Staff Association.

The MidFirst Bank Presidential Award in Applied Leadership is given to an individual with outstanding contributions to the goals, objectives and high standards of professionalism of UCO. Recipients are awarded $2,500 and recognition on a plaque. The 2016 recipient is Bucky Dodd, Ph.D., executive director of the Center for eLearning and Connected Environments.

For more information about the University of Central Oklahoma, visit


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