Our Faculty Shine at the CAS Awards

Drs. Jill Ehnenn, Craig Fischer, and our nominated faculty bring recognition to our English Department at the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) Faculty Awards.

Here are the statements read at the CAS Awards Luncheon, held on Wednesday, October 23, which best describe the awards and the wonderful things said about our distinguished colleagues.

Jill Ehnenn wins the Jimmy Smith Outstanding Service Award

The Jimmy Smith Outstanding Service Award was established in 2003 to recognize the numerous contributions of Dr. Jimmy Smith, a professor in the Department of Mathematics from 1968-2000. This award honors a faculty member who has demonstrated meaningful and significant service to the College, the University, and/or the faculty member’s profession.

This was a particularly difficult year for the committee as “service” may come in many forms and many shapes. Regarding the concept of “service,” what may be understood as an unavoidable necessity to one may signal duty to another…while yet another may consider it an unexpected burden from which they yearn to be free. For some, mentoring undergraduates beyond the classroom is “service.” For others, engaging with community partners is “service.” “Service” can be a burden, a point builder for a merit document, or simply addressing the itch which comes from a sense of duty in helping to oversee the inner-workings of a university. For others, “service” is an unquantifiable and ephemeral set of deeds and actions that permeate and shape an academic environment in which a faculty member may find themselves either frustrated or energized to make a change.

In reviewing the materials for this year’s winner, one might find that all of the above apply. Thankfully, they were and are able to offer their “services” without the need to follow etiquette, conform to oppressive normative principles, or confine themselves to the “department.” Indeed, Dr. Jill Ehnenn, has been a pathbreaking leader across the spectrum of what may constitute service for the college, university, and profession.

Since arriving to Appalachian State in 2001, Dr. Ehnenn has been a force beyond the department, co-founding the LGBT studies minor; organizing the Queer Film Series for 13 years, and serving on the Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies executive committee; Dr. Ehnenn was the co-chair of the University Planning and Priorities Council to help us get to where we are today (or were on the verge of becoming) as an institution and navigated the dark waters of a Faculty Grievance Committee to ensure that we would not remain in the past. Dr. Ehnenn helped to search for and advise a new (finally!) permanent Vice-Provost for Research and chaired the Faculty Senate during a time when the idea of “service” could appear either a futile exercise or even hostile depending on one’s particular outlook in life.  Dr. Ehnenn’s curriculum vita is riddled with desires, burdens, sacrifices, innovations, and everything that we might contemplate as service. It is this myriad of offerings which underwrites our selection of Dr. Jill Ehnenn as this year’s Jimmy Smith Outstanding Service Award Winner and I hope you will join me in celebrating this outstanding faculty member.

Craig Fischer Inducted in the Academy of Outstanding Teachers

In 1988, The College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) instituted the Academy of Outstanding Teachers and the Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award to recognize excellence in teaching. There’s a high bar in the process of selection into the Academy, and inductees are selected from nominations received over the past 5 years. In support of Craig's nomination, a colleague noted:

Craig’s commitment to students is evident in his enthusiasm for developing new courses and assignments. I know of no other faculty member who practically “carried” an entire major, all of our film classes, for two decades by themselves. This matters, because having more “repeat” students than is typical brings unique pedagogical challenges. Craig has not only overcome such challenges by, for example, creating countless new courses and iterations of courses over the years, but due to his love of teaching, has enjoyed doing so.

In his twenty years at App State, he has supervised countless capstone projects and honors theses—every semester, every year. That kind of dedication to students’ intellectual growth and personal development is incredible. And to do so with such generosity is inspiring. It is a testament not only to his energy and work ethic, but to the excitement he solicits in students and their enthusiasm for learning from, and with, him. I’m also inspired by Craig’s curiosity. He has a gob smacking range of expertise, the widest frame of reference of any professor I know at App State, and this is invaluable for students.


I also want to acknowledge the faculty members who were nominated for these competitive awards:

  • Outstanding Staff Award - Jim Burniston
  • The William C. Strickland Outstanding Junior Faculty Award -
    • Sarah Beth Hopton
    • Kyle Stevens
  • Non-Tenure Track Teaching Excellence Award- Katy Abrams
  • CAS Excellence in Engagement Award
    • Katy Abrams
    • Kriss Heicks
    • Susan Weinberg
  • Academy of Outstanding Teachers
    • Katy Abrams
    • Mark Vogel
  • Richard N. Henson Outstanding Adviser Award -
    • Germán Campos-Muñoz
    • Craig Fischer
    • Kristina Groover
    • Donna Lillian
    • Alexander Pitofsky
    • Mark Vogel
    • Jennifer Wilson

Being nominated (sometimes multiple times) is an honor in and of itself and worthy of recognition.

Thank you all, award winners and nominees, for your dedication and committment to teaching and service!

Written and photographed by Leo Flores.

Published: Oct 28, 2019 5:50pm