Faculty Awards

This award recognizes an individual, full-time faculty who demonstrates outstanding teaching effectiveness; scholarly activity; peer respect from fellow colleagues; sincere interest in students; and professional commitment and service to others and the University overall.

This award recognizes three (3) individual, full-time faculty for distinguished teaching effectiveness; professional commitment; demonstrated interest in students; and service to others and the University overall.

Appropriate scholarly and creative work for submission includes (but is not limited to) textbooks, academic books, book chapters, journal articles, poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, juried dance pieces, juried art pieces, published music, set designs, curated online repositories and multimedia materials, and video productions. Those nominated or self-nominated for the Distinguished Scholarly/Creative Activity Awards are required to submit a cover letter that lists and briefly, summarizes pertinent, scholarly document(s) or project(s). The letter must provide evidence that the nominated work was produced or published within the last academic year and that it constitutes scholarly “juried” work evaluated by peers. In addition, it should include mention of other participants (if applicable) and state if the work has been nationally or internationally recognized through previous awards (with documentation of the award(s) or recognition). The cover letter should, if possible, also include the acceptance rates of papers to a journal or acceptance rates of a project to a showing or exhibition. Moreover, the submission should provide evidence of the impact of the work, e.g. an analysis of the bearing and scope of the paper or project within the field of study. The quantity of work published in prominent journals or the prestige of a venue (i.e. gallery, competition) will also be taken into consideration.

This award celebrates outstanding individuals or groups that, engaging with other stakeholders and partners on campus, are working to increase and sustain diversity, inclusion, and equity at SUU.

This award is to recognize an individual, full-time faculty for demonstration of distinguished service to the University and the greater community; a pattern of quality service; a variety of service efforts; efforts having increased the quality of some aspect of the University's mission; and a genuine interest in serving students, colleagues, and the University.

In recognition of the many contributions the staff make to our campus and to the professional community they are involved with, the university has established two new awards for staff:

Classified Staff Distinguished Service Award Professional Staff Distinguished Service Award


  1. Any classified staff under contract with the university.
  2. Minimum of three years contracted employment at SUU.
  3. Recipients of this award are not eligible to receive it again for three years.
  4. Current members of the Staff Association Executive Board are not eligible to receive the award during their term of service.


  1. Has taken advantage of available educational or training opportunities.
  2. Has made extraordinary contributions to the work and learning environment at SUU.
  3. Has given service to the university above and beyond the scope of their position.


  1. Any professional staff under contract with the university.
  2. Minimum of three years contracted employment at SUU.
  3. Recipients of this award are not eligible to receive it again for three years.
  4. Current members of the Staff Association Executive Board are not eligible to receive the award during their term of service.


  1. Has contributed significantly to their profession through scholarly activities or exceptional service to professional associations.
  2. Has taken advantage of available educational or training opportunities.
  3. Has given service to their profession and/or the university above and beyond the scope of their position.

The recipients of these awards will be recognized at commencement, along with the Outstanding Staff Employees, and receive a cash award.

This award recognizes one full-time faculty member for actively promoting cultural and global understanding; fostering empathy among people with different life experiences; and creating opportunities for students’ personal, academic, and professional enrichment in international contexts. The committee welcomes nominations from all SUU faculty, staff, and students.

This individual supports the DEI Strategic Plan by creating and/or implementing curricula and research that address the contributions and impact of diverse voices and perspectives that are often overlooked in dominate culture focused classrooms, &(particularly underrepresented marginalized groups, women, disabled persons, and LGBTQ+).

The University Department Award is presented to one department, unit, or office on campus recognizing their outstanding contributions to the university and a commitment to the students of SUU.
The lifetime achievement award is given to a faculty or staff member who has excelled academically or professionally as well as demonstrated outstanding leadership ability and service to the institution during their career at SUU.

This award is intended to formally recognize the outstanding achievements of faculty and staff at SUU with a particular emphasis in teaching, scholarship, administration, innovation, and public service. The recipient is honored by a Certificate of Excellence presented by the Board of Trustees at a designated event in late spring, along with a cash award.

The award criteria for faculty will be quality teaching and learning, student mentoring and engagement, innovative practices, and other service to the university or the community.

The President's office may follow up with the nominator and nominee to gather additional information in order to provide the Trustees with sufficient material to make their decision. The nominator and/or nominee may submit information beyond what is specifically requested, but it is not expected.

A $2,500 award will be provided to each of the winners in the faculty and staff categories. We hope you will consider nominating candidates who have excelled in serving our students and the university.

The award criteria for staff members will be quality service according to the staff member’s responsibilities, innovative practices, and other service to the university or the community.

2021-22 Award Recipients

Outstanding Educator Award

Peggy Wittwer

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Originally from Kanab, Utah, Assistant Professor of Elementary Education Peggy Wittwer has been a Thunderbird since 1974, and graduated in 1978 with her first bachelor’s degree in business. Nearly a decade later, she returned to SUU to pursue a new career path in education, and with a second degree, worked as a special education and fourth grade teacher for a few years until earning a master’s degree in education here in 1997. She started her career at the University as an adjunct professor and then was hired as a full-time faculty member in 2002. She now has 21 years at the institution under her belt, and has made an indelible mark on teacher education here. Peggy also serves as SUU’s director of Cedar Mountain Science Camp, a residential environmental program for youth primarily in the fourth through sixth grades. Every June, she and her team engage with more than 400 youth campers at the SUU Mountain Center, giving them a hands-on approach to environmental science. She and her colleagues foster an appreciation for the natural world by using the surrounding national parks, state parks, and mountains as their classroom.

When not in the field, Peggy is preparing pre-service student teachers to become caring in-service educators through experiential education. “Learning by doing” is her most prominent teaching philosophy, and her students have a variety of opportunities to learn through hands-on activities. She models different types of teaching approaches to give her students a full arsenal of techniques they can use to succeed, both in student-teaching and upon taking the helm of their own classrooms after graduation. Peggy forges strong connections with her students and goes the extra mile in and out of the classroom. Once her students become colleagues in education, she maintains contact with them and ensures that Learning Lives Forever through her various chat groups that allow her to continue mentoring students long after they leave SUU.

Distinguished Educators

John "Jeb" Branin

Jeb Branin

Jeb Branin is an assistant professor in the Department of Theatre, Dance, and Arts Administration who has taught and nurtured SUU students for 24 years. He has earned degrees from Snow College, Utah State University, and Brigham Young University. He teaches many general education courses for his department, and in the past, taught “English Through the Internet” courses through the MOFET Institute and Talpiot Teacher College in Tel-Aviv, Israel.

Additionally, he designed the “SUU in London” program, taking students and community members to London, England, to study theatre. Jeb carefully constructs his courses using the principles of intentionality, interconnection, and reflection and believes that failure is essential to learning. He provides his students opportunities to fail safely and learn by correcting their mistakes.

Bryan L. Koenig

Bryan L. Koenig

Dr. Bryan Koenig is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and chair of SUU’s Institutional Review Board. He holds degrees from St. John’s University, College of William and Mary and New Mexico State University and has taught at SUU for the past five years. Dr. Koenig’s teaching philosophy is centered on the belief that every student is unique, and structures his courses to provide students opportunities to tailor their work to their interests. He actively engages his students by using a flipped teaching approach, including having class members replicate classic experiments. He continually looks to improve and excels at fostering solid relationships with his students. His wife, Crystal Koenig, is also an SUU faculty member, and their two children are their “tiny T-Birds.”

Iliana Portaro

Iliana Portaro

A proud, first-generation college graduate born in Lima, Peru, and raised in Santa Ana, California, Associate Professor of Spanish Iliana Portaro is committed to reducing barriers to undergraduate completion by incorporating high impact practices such as writing, group work, research, and experiential education into her courses. With degrees in her field from UC Santa Barbara and UC Davis, Dr. Portaro helps students to experience the Spanish language within her classroom and in other contexts that foster their growth as language learners and students of Latin culture. Iliana approaches teaching languages as an ongoing process and aims to provide her students with the tools to be lifelong learners. Admirably, Dr. Portaro continually adapts her teaching strategies to keep her classes relevant and engaging.

Outstanding Educator for Inclusion & Diversity

Brianne Kramer

Brianne Kramer

In her five years at SUU, Brianne Kramer, assistant professor of teacher education, has worked diligently to make her courses and the community an inclusive place for all. Originally from Napoleon, Ohio, she earned
her Ph.D. from the University of Toledo. Dr. Kramer helped to institute a Diversity Professional Learning Community (PLC) here, leading book studies with more than 70 faculty, staff, students, and community members. Brianne served on the SUU Attainment Gaps Committee, participated in AACU Institute for Equitable High Impact Practices, and co-chairs the College of Education EDI Committee. She has recently begun serving on the new University Equity and Inclusion Committee to coordinate, inform, advocate and account for campus-wide initiatives that support the expansion of equity, diversity, and inclusion at SUU.

Distinguished Faculty for Inclusion & Diversity

Laura June Davis


Laura June Davis’ teaching and research focus largely on American history through the 19th century, with an emphasis on the topics of gender, identity, community, and the military. She holds graduate and professional level certificates in women’s studies, university teaching, and academic advising, all of which make her an excellent practitioner of her work as an assistant professor of history and co-director of the Women and Gender Studies program. Her teaching philosophy centers on student engagement, promoting critical thinking, connecting the dots across time, and building connections with her students. She seeks to dissolve the thinking that “history is boring.” Dr. Davis hails from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and has earned degrees from Cornell, Texas A&M, George Mason University, and the University of Georgia.

Distinguished Faculty - Global Engagement

Shobha Hamal Gurung

Shoba Hamal Gurung

Dr. Gurung has been an exceptional contributor to the University’s global engagement and education for nearly 15 years, creating programs and opportunities for students to travel abroad and to learn from and serve the people of her home country of Nepal. As an associate professor of sociology and women & gender studies, Shobha integrates innovative pedagogies that span multiculturalism and global engagement and aims to help her students develop empathy with people from a wide range of life experiences and conditions while becoming conscientious and responsible global citizens. She mentors and advises student clubs with multicultural and international relevance and strives to help international students find their place at the University. Dr. Gurung holds degrees from Tribhuvan University of Nepal and Boston’s Northeastern University.

Distinguished Service

Joshua A. Price

Joshua A. Price

A product of Hillsboro, Oregon, Dr. Josh Price came to SUU eight years ago and has made an indelible impression on the campus community. With a bachelor’s degree in economics from BYU and two master’s
degrees and a Ph.D. in economics, policy analysis, and management from New York’s Cornell University, he uses his extensive knowledge to inspire students by tailoring his courses to their interests. Aside from his work as an associate professor of economics and director of the Health Education Action Lab (HEAL), he volunteers his time to provide color commentary for radio coverage of SUU women’s basketball games and to mentor new football recruits. Josh supports all of his students both inside and outside of the classroom with his knowledge, kindness, and humor.

Distinguished Scholarly/Creative Activity

Please note, in 2015-16, the structure of this award changed from a single Outstanding Scholar Award to three Distinguished Scholarly/Creative Activity Awards

Mark DeBeliso

Mark DeBeliso

A Detroit, Michigan, native, Dr. DeBeliso has been teaching in the Department of Kinesiology and Outdoor Recreation since 2010. When COVID-19 took control of many aspects of day-to-day living, Mark decided to use the control he maintained over his mind, and focus on scholarship. Within the last academic year, he has produced no fewer than 12 peer-reviewed publications, two in press, and seven under review covering several topics from motivators for sports participation to physical and combat performance among female United States Marines. Fully embracing SUU’s student-centered focus, Dr. DeBeliso has involved students in 83 percent of journal publications and 100 percent of his conference presentations. Mark holds degrees in mechanical engineering and biomechanics from Utah State University and Oregon State University, respectively.

Danielle Lydia Sheather

Danielle Lydia Sheather

Professor Sheather is a scholar in creative expression through dance, wherein boundaries between scholarly and creative work are murky, and she loves that it allows her to color outside the lines. In her three years at the University, Danielle developed and wrote the first progressive dance track at SUU, which is also the first program of its kind in the state of Utah. This year, she was invited to present at the world-class community and cultural center 92 Street Y in New York City, was commissioned to create a piece for Flatlands Dance Theatre, and organized SUU’s first student screendance concert, combining film and dance. Originally from Ontario, Canada, Danielle holds degrees in dance performance, choreography, and psychology from University at Buffalo and University of Arizona.

Travis Jody Simkins

Travis SimkinsAs a 2019 addition to SUU’s management, marketing, and hospitality department, Dr. Travis Simkins has had a remarkable and successful academic year, publishing two socially and culturally relevant articles in “A” level peer-reviewed journals, with yet a third article under review. In line with his expertise, one paper focused on the role of social acceptability in new product adoption. The other delved into the impact conflicting laws have on the decision to export stigmatized products. In light of these achievements, Dr. Simkins, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Wyoming, received a nearly $115,000 grant from the Learn and Work in Utah program to develop, teach, and provide resources for an online Project Management Certification course. He hopes to facilitate innovation with his research.

Faculty Honors: Past Recipients

  • 2020-21: Carrie Jo Bucklin, Stephen Engst, Adam E. Lambert
  • 2019-20: Rachel T. Bolus, Laura J. Davis, Hala K. Swearingen
  • 2018-19: Jason F. Kaiser, Kris G. Phillips, Lynn H. White
  • 2017-18: Steve Evans, Dave Lunt, Dezhi Wu
  • 2016-17: John Belk, Kevan Jacobson, Janice Scarinci
  • 2015-16: Tyler Stillman, Jana Lunt, Nathan Werner
  • 2014-15: Todd Mack, Andrew Marvick, Amanda Wilford
  • 2013-14: Kay Andersen, Elise Leahy, Jean Lopour
  • 2012-13: John T. Ault, John R. Taylor, Ellen Treanor
  • 2011-12: Betsey Bancroft, Randle Hart, Lee Wood
  • 2010-11: Desmond Penny, Rachel Smetanka, Virginia Stitt
  • 2009-10: Kyle Bishop, Wynne Summers, Wayne Williams
  • 2008-09: Richard Eissinger, Mark Miller, Mackay Steffensen
  • 2007-08: Robin Calland, Laura Cotts, Kirk Fitzpatrick
  • 2006-07: Kevin Stein, Todd Petersen, Les Jones
  • 2005-06: Steve Barney, Rea Gubler, Larry Ping
  • 2004-05: Carl Franklin, Deb Hill, Linda Marriott
  • 2003-04: Jean Adams, Merlene Ellington, Brian Heuett
  • 2002-03: Helen Chuang, Marty Larkin, Matthew Schmidt
  • 2001-02: Arlene Braithwaite, Gregory Powell, Steve Barney
  • 2000-01: Shauna Mendini, Richard Kimball, Brian Hoover
  • 1999-00: Michael Donovan, Desmond Penny, Terry Schwaner
  • 1998-99: Brent Sorensen, Jory Ty Redd, Gregory Powell
  • 1997-98: Artis Grady, Stan Hatfield, James Vlasich
  • 2020-21: Kholoud Al-Quabbaj
  • 2019-20: Angela E. Pool-Funai
  • 2018-19: Silvia Kozlovska
  • 2017-18: Steve Barney
  • 2016-17: Scott Knowles
  • 2020-21: Mark D. Miller, Todd Robert Petersen, Elaine B. Vickers
  • 2019-20: Andrew Misseldine, Kevin Stein, Corey L. Twitchell
  • 2018-19: James M. Aton, Sangho Bok, Matthew Eddy
  • 2017-18: Kyle Bishop, Bruce Haslem, Scott Lanning
  • 2016-17: Mark DeBeliso, Ravi Roy, Dezhi Wu
  • 2015-16: Danielle Dubrasky, Shobha Gurung, Jon Smith
  • 2020-21: Richard Cozzens
  • 2019-20: Earl F. Mulderink, III
  • 2018-19: Paula Mitchell
  • 2017-18: Briget Eastep
  • 2016-17: Johnny MacLean
  • 2020-21: Lisa Maxwell Arter
  • 2019-20: Scott Munro
  • 2018-19: Jeffrey Orton
  • 2017-18: Nathan Werner
  • 2016-17: Brandon Wiggins
  • 2015-16: Joshua Price
  • 2014-15: Brian Swanson
  • 2013-14: Betsy A. Bancroft
  • 2012-13: Mary Pearson
  • 2011-12: Joe Baker
  • 2010-11: Emily Dean
  • 2009-10: Earl Mulderink
  • 2008-09: Lisa Assante
  • 2007-08: Greg Powell
  • 2006-07: Matthew Schmidt
  • 2005-06: Eric Brown
  • 2004-05: Matthew Barton
  • 2003-04: David Rees
  • 2002-03: Derek Snow
  • 2001-02: Richard Tebbs
  • 2000-01: Joe Baker
  • 1999-00: Susan Harris
  • 1998-99: Gary Giles
  • 1997-98: Robert Behunin
  • 1996-97: John Ault
  • 1995-96: Robert Eves
  • 1994-95: Stephen Adams
  • 1993-94: Joann Bowns
  • 1992-93: James Bowns
  • 1991-92: Michael Donovan
  • 1990-91: Leslie Jones
  • 1989-90: David Lee
  • 1988-89: James Harrison
  • 1987-88: Brent Sorenson
  • 2020-21: Department of Theatre, Dance, & Arts Administration
  • 2019-20: Junice Acosta
  • 2018-19: A.P.E.X. Events - Dr. Lynn Vartan, Director
  • 2017-18: History, Sociology, & Anthropology Department
  • 2016-17: Michelle Orihel
  • 2014-15: Mark DeBeliso
  • 2013-14: Dezhi Wu
  • 2012-13: Peter Sham
  • 2011-12: David Berry
  • 2010-11: Shalini Kesar
  • 2009-10: Jim Aton
  • 2008-09: Gerald Calvasina
  • 2007-08: Todd Petersen
  • 2006-07: Larry Ping
  • 2005-06: James Vlasich
  • 2004-05: S. S. Moorty
  • 2003-04: Gerald Calvasina
  • 2002-03: David Christensen
  • 2001-02: Jon Smith, Helen Chuang
  • 2000-01: Jim Bowns