Throughout fall 2020, Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences, recognized faculty for excellence in teaching, mentoring, scholarship, service and leadership, and inaugurated its staff excellence award.

“We are very lucky to have so many talented and generous colleagues in the College,” said Gabie Smith, dean of Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences, in announcing the awards. “We have a huge number of excellent teachers, mentors and scholars, and I’ve been so incredibly impressed with their creativity and dedication as they’ve had to make significant adjustments to almost every aspect of their teaching and mentoring this year.”

Excellence in Mentoring

Jen Hamel, associate professor of biology

Through ongoing mentorship and support of undergraduates, Hamel provides an exceptional example of the power of mentoring relationships intrinsic to the College. Her approach is deeply and critically reflective of mentoring itself, as she continues disciplinary research and contributes to scholarly literature on the mentoring of undergraduate research students. Hamel’s collaborations with undergraduates result in co-authored journal publications and presentations for professional conferences. She also has extended her mentorship to students in living-learning communities and works with other faculty to extend mentoring in Elon College even further.

“Her intentionality in considering the educational and developmental needs of each individual student is noteworthy,” Smith said. “Furthermore, she is very attentive to creating opportunities for students who may not have benefitted from mentoring otherwise.”

Excellence in Service & Leadership

Buffie Longmire-Avital, associate professor of psychology and coordinator of African & African-American Studies at Elon

Longmire-Avital has extended her disciplinary expertise to influence both departmental and institutional strategic work around diversity, equity and inclusion. In addition to leading the African & African-American Studies at Elon program, Longmire-Avital has served on committees and task forces to develop and refine curriculum, to deepen academic connections across academic programs and residence life, and to celebrate student identities and accomplishments. Longmire-Avital also mentors colleagues in these areas, strengthening the College and Elon University.

“She consistently brings authenticity and passion for racial equity and social justice into her leadership roles and service activities,” Smith said. “She provides critical and valuable service and leadership to her department, to Elon College and to the university while demonstrating excellence in teaching, mentoring and scholarship.”

Excellence in Teaching

Patti Burns, senior lecturer in French in the Department of World Languages and Cultures

Burns is an innovator in the classroom and a model for how to integrate new modes of teaching into courses. She applies flipped-classroom pedagogies, creates newly developed resources for students, and creatively uses film and interactive media to support language learning and the study of cultures. Burns extensively participates in pedagogical workshops and teaching conferences through Elon’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning and national and international disciplinary organizations.

“Her ongoing dedication to continuing to develop as a teacher and mentor is a truly impressive attribute,” Smith said. “She brings innovative approaches to each of her courses.”

Michael Carignan, professor of history

Carignan is known both for the quality of undergraduate teaching and for the mentorship he provides to fellow faculty as they’ve developed as teachers and mentors. He has taught disciplinary courses at every level within the Department of History and Geography, from introductory courses to senior capstone seminars. Carignan is deeply engaged with the Honors Program, the Elon Core Curriculum and study abroad experiences.

“He has a reputation for being a challenging instructor and also is distinguished by enhancing engagement and success in the learning process through his responsiveness to student needs,” Smith said.

Excellence in Scholarship

Scott Wolter, associate professor of engineering in the Department of Physics

Wolter’s scholarship has resulted in prestigious grant awards, ongoing research opportunities for Elon undergraduates, 10 peer-reviewed articles in the last three years and a patent for sensors with biomedical applications. His work has twice been awarded competitive Department of Homeland Security ALERT (Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats) grants to support his work on the development of an X-ray imaging system and technology for airport security applications. He is part of a team that received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded Sanitation Technology Cluster at Duke University.

“While these are all incredibly impressive indicators of his scholarly activity and productivity, I believe the most significant outcomes of his research program are evidenced in the deep mentoring opportunities he’s providing for undergraduate students,” Smith said. “He is a model teacher-scholar.”

Ryan Johnson, assistant professor of philosophy

In his three years at Elon, Johnson has written two books, “Deleuze, A Stoic,” and the co-authored “Nietzsche and Epicurus: Nature, Health and Ethics,” both published in 2020. He has also published numerous book chapters and many peer reviewed articles, co-edited two volumes, and given multiple invited talks and numerous conference presentations. He was awarded the North Carolina Philosophical Society’s Non-tenured Faculty Essay Prize. In spring 2020, Johnson was a recipient of the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend Grant to further his research of three American philosophers’ interpretations of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s writings.

“Though he is at an earlier stage in his career at Elon, his scholarly productivity is equally impressive,” Smith said.

Staff Excellence

Paul Weller, senior science lab manager and instructor in the Department of Chemistry

Weller is the first recipient of the College’s Staff Excellence Award. His contributions have enhanced the chemistry program’s curriculum and experiential learning opportunities, and he worked with faculty to develop a plan that engages majors in developing writing skills to share complex scientific knowledge with broader audiences. Chemistry colleagues nominated Weller with glowing testimonials about his impact on the lives of current and former students.

“He is frequently described as serious: serious about completing his responsibilities, serious about mentoring students and student workers, and serious about building a safe and welcoming community for students and colleagues alike,” Smith said. “It is clear that Paul is the heart of the department.”