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Memorial to honour exceptional faculty and staff at special ceremony

Dec. 7, 2012

Dr. Gary Kachanoski, Memorial's president, has announced the university’s outstanding educators, researchers and staff members for 2012.

The recipients of the president’s awards for teaching, research, exemplary service and exceptional community service will be honoured at an event on Monday, Dec. 10, at 5 p.m. at Innovation Hall, Bruneau Centre, on Memorial’s St. John’s campus.

At the event, Dr. Kachanoski will recognize five employees for exemplary service, four faculty members for distinguished and outstanding teaching, four for research, one for graduate and postgraduate student supervision and one will be recognized for exceptional community service.

This year the range of awards for teaching excellence has been expanded. The President’s Awards for Distinguished Teaching have been presented since 1988. However, one of the outcomes of the extensive consultations around Memorial’s new Teaching and Learning Framework is the need to better recognize the importance of teaching and student mentoring throughout the university.

Following on a recommendation in the framework, the university created three new teaching awards to be added to the suite of President’s Awards that are presented annually.

The new awards include two President’s Awards for Outstanding Teaching, one open to faculty members with five to 10 years of service to the university and another for lecturers and instructional staff with a minimum of five course sections taught; and the President’s Award for Outstanding Graduate and Postgraduate Student Supervision, open to faculty members with a minimum of five years of supervisory responsibilities who have made exemplary efforts to foster success in the research and scholarship of their graduate or postgraduate students and to advance students' success in their profession.

“Here at Memorial the key to our success is our people and that’s why we think it’s so important to celebrate our achievements and acknowledge excellence,” said Dr. Kachanoski. “We are building a reputation as one of the best, most distinguished public universities in Canada, and we have each of our award recipients – dedicated teachers, researchers and employees – to thank for our contributing growth and development.”

Memorial began its annual presentation of the University Research Professor designations and the Awards for Outstanding Research in 1984, and the Distinguished Teaching Awards in 1988, as ways of singling out particularly distinguished contributions within its academic community. Exemplary Service Awards were introduced in 1995 and the Exceptional Community Service Award was first awarded in 2008.

2012 Recipients

Dr. Alistair Bath, Department of Geography, Faculty of Arts, and John Tucker, School of Maritime Studies, Marine Institute, will be presented President’s Awards for Distinguished Teaching which recognizes teaching excellence in the university community.  

The President’s Award for Outstanding Teaching (Faculty) will be presented to Dr. Jim Connor, John Clinch Professor of Medical Humanities and History of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine. 

Dr. Helene Staveley, Department of English, Faculty of Arts, will receive the President’s Award for Outstanding Teaching (Lecturers and Instructional Staff).

Dr. David Schneider, Department of Ocean Sciences, Faculty of Science, will receive the President’s Award for Outstanding Graduate and Postgraduate Student Supervision.

Each recipient of a teaching award receives a $5,000 grant.

Dr. Raymond Poirier, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, and Dr. Proton Rahman, Discipline of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, will be named University Research Professors. University Research Professor is a designation above the rank of professor. The title is the most prestigious award the university gives for research, and goes to a faculty member who has demonstrated a consistently high level of scholarship and whose research is of a truly international stature. The designation carries with it a $4,000 research grant (each year for five years) and a reduced teaching schedule.

Dr. Sean McGrath, Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts, and Dr. Mani Larijani, Division of BioMedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, will receive the President’s Award for Outstanding Research. The President’s Award for Outstanding Research recognizes researchers who have made outstanding contributions to their scholarly disciplines.

Dr. Marguerite MacKenzie, Department of Linguistics, Faculty of Arts, will be awarded the President’s Award for Exceptional Community Service. It is presented each year in recognition of employees (faculty or staff) who have demonstrated outstanding community service. The inaugural award was presented in 2007.

Five Memorial employees will receive the President’s Awards for Exemplary Service: Lynn Cadigan, Alumni Affairs and Development; Andrew Kim, School of Graduate Studies; Phyllis McCann, Office of the Registrar; Roxanne Preston, Office of Student Recruitment; and Kimberley Thornhill, Marketing and Business Development, Marine Institute.

The President’s Award for Exemplary Service is presented each year to recognize employees who have demonstrated outstanding service and/or who have made significant contributions to the university community beyond that normally expected for their positions. All non-academic staff of Memorial University and its separately incorporated entities are eligible to be nominated.

The President’s Award for Exceptional Community Service and the President’s Award for Exemplary Service each carry a $1,000 award.

Biographies of the recipients follow below:

President’s Awards for Distinguished Teaching

Dr. Alistair Bath, Department of Geography, Faculty of Arts

Dr. Bath has been with the Department of Geography since 1999, teaching primarily in the area of resource management and research techniques. Dr. Bath is a world leader in human dimensions in the field of wildlife management and works globally on wildlife and protected area issues, integrating these experiences into his classroom.

His goal in teaching is to not only increase awareness about environmental issues, but also to inspire students to act on their increased knowledge.

Students speak of his passion for the environment, as well as his accessibility and high level of concern for his class, and appreciate his open door policy. 

John Tucker, School of Maritime Studies, Marine Institute

John Tucker worked with the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science before joining the Marine Institute in 1999, teaching courses in mechanical engineering. It was teaching distance courses where he found his niche, delivering math-based materials which many students can find challenging using traditional distance delivery models. 

Over the years, he has developed tools and teaching methods for use in his distance, blended and in-class courses. 

His teaching strength lies in his ability to optimize student learning opportunities by developing customized educational tools and corresponding teaching methods. Students and colleagues characterize his teaching using two words – responsive and innovative. 

His teaching tools include digital video, electronic quizzing and animation software. 

President’s Award for Outstanding Teaching (Faculty) 

Dr. Jim Connor, Discipline of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine

Dr. Connor joined the Faculty of Medicine at Memorial in 2004 and is currently the John Clinch Professor of Medical Humanities and History of Medicine, cross-appointed to the Department of History. 

Dr. Connor pursues authentic learning experiences that are truly interdisciplinary. His experience in medical school informs his history classes, making them realistic; his historical background adds depth, context and intellectual meaning to the immediacy of medical education.

As an instructor in medicine and a historically-oriented humanities scholar, Dr. Connor empowers his students to be critical thinkers and active learners, and to acquire essential skills for physicians in their roles as medical expert, communicator, scholar and professional.

President’s Award for Outstanding Teaching (Lecturers and Instructional Staff)

Dr. Helene Staveley, Department of English, Faculty of Arts

A graduate of the PhD program at Memorial, Dr. Staveley loves teaching literature because she sees it as a rigorous but playful profession. She describes the classroom as a space that is as magical as any playing field, where her goal is to provide students with the skills and strategies for playing expertly with literature.

As a critically reflective teacher, much of Dr. Staveley’s success in teaching stems from her ability to adapt and improve. She is constantly looking for ways to make course material memorable and provocative for her students, helping them to see how reading, writing and thinking can help them connect with life and experience.

President’s Award for Outstanding Graduate and Postgraduate Student Supervision

Dr. David Schneider, Department of Ocean Sciences, Faculty of Science

Dr. Schneider joined the Ocean Sciences Centre at Memorial in 1984, and is now one of the university’s senior scholars. His 28-year track record in graduate supervision includes 42 graduate students, including 34 master’s and eight doctoral students, in addition to serving on the committee of 57 other graduate students.

He gives individual graduate students personal attention and is a master of the delicate art of providing productive feedback on student work. Indeed he has become known for his uncanny ability to identify and rescue students and to get them back on track. 

His students describe him as supportive, caring and loyal. 

University Research Professors

Dr. Raymond Poirier, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science

Dr. Poirier is a leading international authority in computational chemistry and fundamental studies of reaction mechanisms. His work is centered on the development of his own software package, MUNgauss, one of the very few internationally-used quantum chemistry program systems. 

Throughout his career, Dr. Poirier has been intimately involved in furthering the understanding of chemistry through the development of theory and computational chemistry software. 

Dr. Poirier has a very strong publication record, including 114 original research papers in peer-reviewed journals, a book, two book chapters and numerous conference presentations. His publications have been cited more than 1,800 times. 

Dr. Proton Rahman, Discipline of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine

A professor of medicine in the Division of Rheumatology and a staff rheumatologist at Eastern Health, Dr. Rahman is internationally renowned for his research related to the genetics of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. 

He has pioneered the development of the Newfoundland Genealogical Database. This software allows researchers to study the genetic component of disease through a robust database of family pedigrees spanning from the late 1700s to the mid-1900s. 

Dr. Rahman has an exemplary publication record. In total, he has published more than 150 articles and nine book chapters. He has been awarded more than $15 million in peer-reviewed funding as a principal investigator on a variety of projects.

President’s Award for Outstanding Research

Dr. Sean McGrath, Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts

Dr. McGrath is an associate professor in the Department of Philosophy whose areas of specialization include metaphysics, psychoanalysis and phenomenology (or the philosophical study of the structures of subjective experience and consciousness).

Dr. McGrath is probably best known for his study of German philosophy, particularly the philosopher Martin Heidegger, who is widely recognized as one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century. 

Since graduating from the University of Toronto in 2002, he has launched an international journal, which he edits, published four books, 28 journal articles and book chapters and given 58 conference papers and invited lectures throughout North America and Europe.

Dr. Mani Larijani, Division of BioMedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine

Dr. Mani Larijani is an assistant professor of immunology and infectious diseases and oncology in the Division of Biomedical Sciences in the Faculty of Medicine. His research focuses on DNA-mutating processes which modify human and viral genomes. These processes are involved in immune responses and the evolution of viruses and cancers, particularly very aggressive leukemia and lymphomas. 

Research in Dr. Larijani's lab involves understanding the molecular mechanisms of these DNA-mutating enzymes, how their activity is regulated inside cells and, finally, how they impact diseases such as immunodeficiencies, AIDS and cancer.

His work has been published in journals such as Nature, Molecular Cellular Biology, Immunogenetics and Retrovirology

President’s Award for Exceptional Community Service

Dr. Marguerite MacKenzie, Department of Linguistics, Faculty of Arts

Dr. MacKenzie has a long association with Aboriginal groups in Newfoundland and Labrador. She helped establish the Indian and Inuit Support Group, later the Native People’s Support Group, and in 1983, she aided in the establishment of the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre Association, or SJNFCA. 

Dr. MacKenzie frequently comes to the aid of Aboriginal people with medical, legal and educational problems in St. John’s.

She was also instrumental in establishing the Teacher Education Program in Labrador.

Dr. MacKenzie has taken on a leadership role in the preservation of the Innu-Aimun language and regularly taught pro-bono courses in Innu grammar and spelling for Innu students.

President’s Awards for Exemplary Service

Lynn Cadigan, Alumni Affairs and Development

Since arriving at Memorial in 2008, Ms. Cadigan has been involved in hosting almost 20,000 alumni through various events, sent almost four million emails and garnered more than $600,000 in sponsorships. Her leadership role in Reunion 2012, the first all-years, all-faculties, all-campus reunion, helped co-ordinate more than 75 events on three campuses and a number of satellite events with the help of more than 150 volunteers, many of whom she recruited. Proactive in building productive relationships and partnerships, she has travelled tirelessly to enhance alumni connections. She knows how to keep her eye on the prize, build a team, show leadership and appreciation and get results.

Andrew Kim, School of Graduate Studies

Since joining Memorial in 2007, Mr. Kim has gone well beyond the usual duties of the office. He was instrumental in Memorial receiving the first-ever Canadian Association for Graduate Studies Award and he established the first Canadian chapter of a large professional association, based at Memorial. He has shaped international recruitment goals, partnerships and developed relationships with nations not yet approached by Memorial. 

His diligence, creativity, attention to detail and intelligence enhance the workplace. He aspires to provide the best service unit on campus by improving efficiencies in our systems and responding to requests promptly and with agility.

Phyllis McCann, Office of the Registrar

Phyllis McCann has worked with Memorial for more than 20 years and has always provided exemplary service. With her outstanding commitment to service, she enhances the quality of life for students, colleagues and visitors. She has been instrumental in developing new programs and services and making significant improvements to existing programs and services – all to enhance the student experience. She advances Memorial’s reputation through membership, listserv discussion and her conference participation and involvement within the Atlantic Association of Registrars and Admissions Officers (where she served as treasurer) and the Association of Registrars of the Universities and Colleges of Canada. 

Roxanne Preston, Office of Student Recruitment

Roxanne Preston has been with Memorial since 1985. In her most recent role with Student Recruitment, she fosters positive relationships with prospective and current students and with their influencers. With an extensive advisory background, computer skills and analytical prowess, Ms. Preston has a positive impact on the development of outreach programs and policies aimed at attracting the best and brightest to Memorial. Roxanne is a hard-working manager who pays close attention to detail and leads by example. She is respectful and accessible. She is a true, selfless leader. During her various positions within Memorial, Ms. Preston has taught undergraduate business courses more than 50 times with the Faculty of Business Administration.

Kimberley Thornhill, Marketing and Business Development, Marine Institute

Kim Thornhill has been doing exceptional work at Memorial since she joined in 1999. She continuously surpasses expectations and is instrumental in the Marine Institute’s success and advancement on a local, national and international stage. She leads all collaborative changes in developing major promotion and marketing campaigns, works on a number of active committees and focuses on advancing the reputation of the Marine Institute as a destination of choice through events and tours. She demonstrates continuous commitment to outstanding service and has improved engagement with the broader community. She shows vision, is positive, shares success and makes extra efforts daily. 

Oct. 13, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Arts and Administration building
Oct. 13, 11 a.m.-12 p.m.
Health Sciences Centre Library, Computer Lab B
Oct. 13, 7:30-9 p.m.
Oct. 13, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Oct. 13, 7-8:30 p.m.
Memorial University Botanical Garden, 306 Mount Scio Rd., St. John's