Elon faculty and staff recognized for excellence at 2024 awards luncheon

These four awards recognize members of the Elon community for excellence in teaching, scholarship, civic engagement and mentoring.

Elon University recognized the excellence of faculty and staff in their service to the university and the community at its annual awards luncheon on Tuesday, May 14.

Elon faculty and staff members gathered in Alumni Gym for the event, which also included recognition of employees for years-of-service milestones and special recognitions of faculty and staff members who are retiring this academic year.

The celebration came as Elon prepares to conclude the academic year, with exams for undergraduates beginning on Wednesday, May 15, and undergraduate commencement on Friday, May 24.

“Today is the day we honor and recognize the living out of our mission, the close of another successful academic year,” President Connie Ledoux Book said. “And without you, the faculty and staff, that would not be possible. So, this is the day when we pause to appreciate one another.”

Honored with awards from the university this year were Professor of Physical Therapy Education Charity Johansson, Associate Professor of Physical Therapy Education Srikant Vallabhajosula, Professor of Sociology Tom Arcaro and Associate Professor of Sport Management Shaina Dabbs.

Daniels-Danieley Award for Excellence in Teaching

Professor of Physical Therapy Education Charity Johansson

In recognition of her teaching excellence, her dedicated approach to mentorship and her commitment to her students, Professor of Physical Therapy Education Charity Johansson has been recognized with the Daniels-Daniely Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Professor Charity Johansson was named the recipient of the Daniels-Danieley Award for Excellence in Teaching at the Faculty and Staff Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024.

Her students, her colleagues and her peers in the field raise Johansson up as the consummate teacher who embodies the transformative potential of teaching by ensuring that her students see and acknowledge the humanity of those they will care for. A colleague noted in support of her nomination for this award that “every single one of our over 1,000 physical therapy graduates has directly benefited from learning important foundational psychosocial and patient care information from Dr. Johansson, and, by extension, thousands of patients have benefited as well.”

In her remarks after receiving the award, Johansson recounted Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote “The years teach much which the day never knows.”

“This is indeed an honor,” Johansson said. “We do this every day and hope that we have have a positive effect. It’s truly my privilege to be doing this day after day with such amazing colleagues. Thank you.”

Johansson initially joined the faculty in the Department of Physical Therapy Education as an adjunct professor and in June 1999 was named an associate professor of physical therapy education. She was promoted to full professor in 2005 and is serving as interim department chair and program director for the Department of Physical Therapy Education.

A colleague noted that Johansson’s educational preparation, clinical experience, including her certification in geriatric physical therapy, and all of her life experiences inform and enrich her teaching. “As a result, Charity is someone who naturally thinks deeply about what she does and is consistently nourishing a life-long passion for teaching and learning,” the colleague wrote in support of her nomination.

During her nearly 25 years as a faculty member at Elon, Johansson has taught a wide range of courses within the curriculum including Psychosocial Aspects of Illness and Wellness, Foundations of Mobility, Geriatrics and Clinical Reasoning and Therapeutic Exercise. A former student notes that her “dynamic teaching style encouraged reasoning, careful contemplation, reflection and caring in the classroom, all traits critical to success as a physical therapist.” Her passion for students and for physical therapy are evident in all that she does, the alum wrote.

A number of former students and colleagues offered examples of her compassion and support during challenging times, and her ability to identify a person’s strengths and to deliver encouragement as they focus on areas they can improve. “It is this combination of kindness and reverence juxtaposed with an endless pursuit of excellence that makes Dr. Johansson so unique,” a former student said.

Johansson received the Excellence in Teaching Award from the Dr. Jo Watts Williams School of Education in 2003 and the Distinguished Educator Award from the American Physical Therapy Association Section for Geratics in 2005. In 2012 she was featured in Elon’s President’s Report, which highlights faculty achievement, and received the Excellence in Scholarship Award from the School of Health Sciences in 2014. She began serving as university parliamentarian in 2010.

Johansson graduated from Wake Forest University with a bachelor’s degree in French and received a master’s degree in physical therapy from the Stanford University School of Medicine. She received her doctorate in adult and higher education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Johansson is the 52nd recipient of the award established by President Emeritus J. Earl Danieley ’46 and his wife, Verona Daniels Danieley, in honor of their parents.

Distinguished Scholar Award

Associate Professor of Physical Therapy Education Srikant Vallabhajosula

For his significant and impactful scholarly contributions in the field of physical therapy, Associate Professor of Physical Therapy Education Srikant Vallabhajosula has been honored with the 2024 Distinguished Scholar Award.

Srikant Vallabhajosula was the recipient of the Distinguished Scholar Award at the Faculty and Staff Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024.

Vallabhajosula’s primary area of scholarship is in the area of biomechanics of human postural control and movement, which he explains is built on the central theme of investigating ways to improve quality of life. That can mean lowering the risk of falls by improving balance for populations such as older adults or those with Parkinson’s disease, or lowering the risk of re-injury for individuals with chronic ankle instability, such as performing artists.

Among his scholarly accomplishments include 59 peer-reviewed publications, one book chapter, 243 national or international peer-reviewed conference presentations and securing 25 grants. During Vallabhajosula’s tenure at Elon, his efforts have results in his students being first authors on eight publications and making 112 conference presentations. Overall, 16 of his students in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program and two undergraduate students he has mentored have received 21 awards, scholarships and grants for their research endeavors.

“I truly believe that my scholarship has been both productive and stellar and has resulted in numerous original contributions,” Vallabhajosula wrote in support of his nomination. “More than enhancing my scholarship productivity, I am thrilled and gratified about the positive impact that my work has had on our students, colleagues, community and discipline. … I truly believe I have put Elon on a path to national recognition for research and scholarship within the fields of physical therapy and biomechanics.”

Vallabhajosula has regularly collaborated with colleagues within the Department of Physical Therapy Education as well as within other disciplines, and has had multiple collaborations with the Elon BrainCARE Research Institute and its focus on the effects of concussions, particularly on student-athletes. He serves as the research coordinator for the Department of Physical Therapy Education.

“He has a tremendous willingness to assist in a project in any way he can, even if it’s not his own original research project,” one colleague wrote in support of his nomination.

Upon receiving the award, Vallabhajosula said he learned a valuable lesson during his post-doctoral work related to collaborations. “To be successful in research, especially in collaborations, you need to put your ego aside and that has helped me quite a lot,” he said. “I have colleagues in my department and outside my department who have allowed me to work with them and contribute my ideas to them, and that has helped me flourish.”

Another colleague noted how Vallabhajosula demonstrated leadership during a collaborative project by promoting student ownership of research from inception to publication. “His mentorship enabled these students to evolve into proficient research scholars adept at every phase of the research process, starting from the research question, hands-on training with techniques like virtual and mixed reality devices, several lab tests and user studies (even during weekends), and multiple posters, abstracts and research presentations,” the colleague wrote. “His exceptional dedication to student mentorship, propensity for fostering cross-disciplinary collaboration and encouragement of research and grant writing make him a valuable asset to our Elon community.”

As a researcher, Vallabhajosula is regularly engaged with the surrounding community. He has conducted more than 25 research projects that involve Elon and surrounding community members since joining the university and people from the community regularly participate in research studies and interact with his students. His scholarship has been used to secure grants from the Parkinson’s Foundation and the Lung Cancer Institute of North Carolina, which demonstrates how he has leveraged his research to benefit local individuals. “These research projects often provide academically, professionally and culturally enriching experiences for both our students and community members while also providing feedback on the health status of community members,” Vallabhajosula wrote.

Vallabhajosula joined the faculty at Elon in July 2012 following postdoctoral work at the Nebraska Biomechanics Core Facility in the School of Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Osmania University in Hyderabad, India, a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Cincinnati and a doctorate in applied physiology and kinesiology from the University of Florida.

Vallabhajosula is the 25th recipient of the Distinguished Scholar Award, which recognizes a faculty member whose research has earned peer commendation and respect and who has made significant contributions to his or her field of study.

Periclean Award for Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility

Tom Arcaro, professor of sociology

For being what one colleague described as “a fierce advocate for justice and the creation of a peaceful and egalitarian world,” Professor of Sociology Tom Arcaro has been honored with the Periclean Award for Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility.

Tom Arcaro was the recipient of the Periclean Award for Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility at the Faculty and Staff Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024.

“The thread that runs through his teaching, mentorship and scholarship is deep concern for oppressed populations and efforts to dismantle systems of oppression that reproduce global inequalities and generate humanitarian crises,” a colleague wrote about Arcaro in support of his nomination for this recognition.

Arcaro is the founding director of Project Pericles, which got its start at Elon in 2002 when the university became one of 10 universities to accept a challenge from the Eugene Lang Foundation to provide a learning experience that would “instill in students an abiding sense of social responsibility and civic concern.” A centerpiece of Project Pericles is the Periclean Scholars program, a three-year, cohort-based learning experience for students that focuses on forming mutually beneficial partnerships locally and abroad.

Upon receiving the award, Arcaro recalled sitting in the office of President Emeritus Leo M. Lambert and discussing how Elon might create what would become the Periclean Scholars program. “I remember what I discussed with him, and what I said is that I would like to create a program where students walk off the stage at graduation and instead of asking ‘How can I make a living with this degree?’ they ask, ‘How can I make the world a better place with this degree?'” Arcaro said. “I think the Periclean Scholars program has lived out that discussion with Dr. Lambert and I have been humbled by the number of faculty who have become part of that program and humbled by all of the students, all of the community if Periclean Scholars, who have devoted their academic careers to making the world a more just place.”

Throughout his nearly 40-year career at Elon, Arcaro has demonstrated a commitment to social justice causes through his involvement with OXFAM, improving health care systems in Jamkhed, India, as vice president of Jamkhed International-North America and as a pro bono consultant for REACH, a local humanitarian nongovernment organization in Kurdistan.

He has been active in his commitment to public education by crafting opinion columns that have been published internationally and domestically in a wide range of topics that often serve to shine the spotlight on oppressed peoples and help increase understanding about their struggles. He has been the executive producer of 15 short documentary films during his time at Elon including “Understanding War: The People of Alamance County Ask Questions about Iraq” (2004), “Testing Positive” (2006), “On Our Own” (2007), “My Name is Anita” (2010), “Health for All” (2012) and “The Omega Project” (2017).

“Dr. Arcaro has shared with me generously his time and wisdom on how to be a better teacher-scholar-mentor and inspired me to include civic engagement and social responsibility in my work,” one colleague wrote. “Dr. Arcaro is an outstanding role model and servant leader for our students and colleagues.”

As a scholar, Arcaro has focused much of his time during the past decade on the study of humanitarian aid workers and has been committed to lifting up their voices. In 2016, he published “Aid Worker Voices,” which drew from surveys of and interviews with a broad swath of aid workers around the globe and followed that work in 2022 with “Hearing Voices: Dispatches from the Margins of the Humanitarian Sector.”

“Over the nearly four decades that I have known Tom,” one colleague wrote, “we have had hundreds of conversations in our offices about his ideas about incorporating the goals of civic engagement and social responsibility into all his courses. This is his passion.”

Arcaro received a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University and a master’s degree and doctorate from Purdue University. He joined the faculty at Elon in 1985.

Arcaro is the 22nd recipient of the Periclean Award for Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility, which is given each year to a member of Elon’s faculty or staff whose community service exemplifies the ideals of Project Pericles.

Steven and Patricia House Excellence in Mentoring Award

Shaina Dabbs, associate professor of sport management and director of the Women Influencers in Sport Program

For her devotion to mentoring and her support for students in multiple areas including undergraduate research, student organizations and internships, Associate Professor of Sport Management Shaina Dabbs has been honored with the Steven and Patricia House Excellence in Mentoring Award.

Shaina Dabbs was the recipient of the Steven and Patricia House Excellence in Mentoring Award at the Faculty and Staff Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024.

“My students give me more than I could every give them,” Dabbs said upon receiving the award. “I think about our alums and I think about our current students and my soul, my bucket, is filled because I’m passionate about seeing them succeed and seeing them grow. I’ll turn over every rock and stone to make sure that they have the opportunity to do that.”

The director of the Women Influencers in Sport (WINS) Program, Dabbs has been an impactful adviser and mentor to female students within the Elon University community. She developed WINS in 2018 as a comprehensive resource for female students to gain the business skills, knowledge, networks and confidence necessary for their roles as future leaders. Membership has grown to 73 students across majors, with 40 alumnae mentors across industry sectors providing one-on-one mentorship to WINS members. This year, the program has paired 35 first-year students and sophomores with peer mentors in their junior or senior year.

The annual WINS forum brings prominent professionals in the sport industry to campus to share their expertise and career experiences, with participants gaining valuable networking opportunities. On average, 200 participants attend the WINS Forum’s panel discussions, mock interviews and resume workshops.

“I am continually inspired by Shaina Dabbs’s unwavering dedication and exceptional mentorship within our Women Influencers in Sport Program,” one colleague wrote in support of her nomination for the award. “Her commitment to nurturing our students has not only fostered invaluable networking opportunities but has also cultivated strong connections with alumni mentors and facilitated access to internships and job opportunities. Shaina’s remarkable role as a mentor epitomizes the transformative impact faculty can have on shaping the future leaders of our industry.”

A former student wrote that Dabbs had “put Elon on the map” as it relates to sport management programs “because she created an innovative, inclusive group on campus that addresses the current issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Dabbs has been an active mentor to students pursuing research, with those students going on to present their research at conferences and be recognized for their scholarship. “Her mentoring prioritizes quality over quantity, and she gives personalized attention to each mentee,” a colleague wrote. “Most of these research experiences are at least two semesters, with many lasting even longer, which ensures that students become adept at critical and analytical thinking, problem-solving, evidence-based writing and communication.”

One Elon almuna wrote that Dabbs has continued to be a mentor and “pillar of support” as she has progressed in her professional career. “It is through these opportunities provided and innovated by Dr. Dabbs that I am starting my career in professional sports with a foundation of strong relationships and the confidence to succeed,” the alumna wrote.

Dabbs received a bachelor’s degree from N.C. State University, a master’s degree from Georgia State University and her doctorate from The Ohio State University. She has been a member of the faculty at Elon since 2015.

Dabbs is the fifth recipient of the Steven and Patricia House Excellence in Mentoring Award. The award is supported by a gift from Executive Vice President Steven House and his wife, Patricia, to celebrate excellence in student mentoring, one of the markers of quality that has fueled Elon’s reputation as the national leader in engaged, experiential learning.