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Three LU faculty members earn 2011 University Merit Awards

Lamar University has honored three faculty members with 2011 University Merit Awards in recognition of outstanding performance in the classroom. Award recipients are assistant professors Chiung-Fang Chang, sociology, and James Curry and Xinyu Liu, industrial engineering.

A university-wide committee selected them from candidates – all junior faculty members – nominated by committees from LU colleges. Lamar officials presented the awards at a reception and program April 20 in the University Reception Center of the Mary and John Gray Library. Peggy Doerschuk, professor of computer science, was honored as the 2011 University Professor.

While scholarship and service to the university and community are an important consideration in granting the Merit Awards, the most important criteria for selection are classroom performance and interaction with students, said Dr. Stephen Doblin, provost and vice president for academic affairs. Here are profiles of the 2011 Merit Award recipients:

Chiung-Fang Chang, who is sociology program director, is completing her fourth year at Lamar. Chang received a bachelor of arts from Fu-Jen Catholic University in Taipei, a master of arts from San Diego State University and a doctor of philosophy from Texas A&M University. Chang, who teaches 11 undergraduate courses, endeavors to engage her students in the classroom, but the lessons do not end at the bell, Doblin said. She has supervised 16 undergraduate research projects, the majority of which have resulted in presentations at professional conferences. Two McNair Scholars have worked under her guidance, sharing their research with peers. As her department chair, Li-chen Ma, notes, “Dr. Chang encourages her students to extend their learning to professional environments, travels with them and supports them in their efforts.”

New courses and pedagogies, distance education, hands-on research and an emphasis on interaction with students – in and out of the classroom – have contributed greatly to her popularity and instructional successes, Doblin said. Chang sponsors Lamar’s chapter of Alpha Kappa Delta International Sociology Honor Society.

One former student wrote: “I feel a truly great professor is one who is knowledgeable, professional and available . . . Dr. Chang has all of these qualities.” Another added: “Dr. Chang is a shining example of a knowledgeable educator with a clear passion for teaching and guiding students.”

Chang is an active and productive researcher, with most of her scholarly work focusing on demography. Her resume includes a book and another under contract; a co-edited book; book chapters; articles and other publications. She has delivered 28 papers and is active in professional circles. She belongs to a number of professional organizations and serves as journal editor, board member, officer and conference leader for several.
“Dr. Chang is an excellent teacher and active and productive scholar,” said Brenda Nichols, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “She prepares her courses with meticulous care and with attention to detail and clarity in a highly demanding and difficult subject. [She] is a vibrant and vital part of reaching out to students and stimulating interest in sociology.”

James Curry, also in his fourth year at Lamar, earned bachelor of science and master of science degrees from the University of Texas and Ph.D. from Texas A&M University. He has taught four undergraduate and five graduate courses. Operations research and simulation are his areas of academic expertise. One of his students wrote: “Dr. Curry is a good teacher who is always willing to help students even with areas and issues not related to class materials.”

“Dr. Curry has displayed a deep concern, not only for his students’ education, but also for their careers,” Doblin said. “He helps them develop resumes, adds career exploration assignments to his courses, writes numerous recommendation letters and eagerly presents the field of industrial engineering to prospective students.” Curry is advisor to a dozen Army Logistics Leadership Center graduate students. The center is based in Texarkana, and Lamar’s partnership with the Army has grown and thrived because of Curry’s leadership, Doblin said. He has served as research advisor to four master’s and doctoral students and has supervised three seniors with their undergraduate design projects.

He developed and taught distance-education courses using two-way video, another based on Blackboard technologies and another with Adobe Connect. He and his colleagues have submitted numerous proposals to agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), Army and Texas Hazardous Waste Research Center. He is principal or co-principal investigator on six projects totaling more than $400,000.

Curry has authored 13 research articles, proceedings publications and symposia papers. He is a member of professional societies and associations serving campus and community. He developed and maintained the department’s Web site; served as its library representative; has worked on ABET accreditation efforts and projects; and has recruited prospective engineering students.

“Dr. Curry has performed at a meritorious level in each of the areas of academic measurement,” said Jack Hopper, dean of the College of Engineering. His teaching is excellent, his research is high quality and consistent, and his service is enthusiastic and productive.”

Xinyu Liu, a colleague of Curry in the industrial engineering department, is completing his third year at Lamar, specializing in quality improvement, statistical assessment and manufacturing processes. Liu earned bachelor’s and master’s degree from Tsinghua University in Beijing and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, all in mechanical engineering.

Liu has taught nine courses, four at the graduate level. He developed one of them and redesigned two others. His lectures are captured and presented online, and he uses simulation strategies, two-way interactive video and group assignments to strengthen his courses. He has directed three doctoral field studies, served on three master’s committees and mentored three senior undergraduates in their design project.

One former student wrote: “Dr. Liu is inspiring to me. His complete mastery of and fluency in the subject matter is obvious, but he is also a good teacher.” Another added: “Dr. Liu is a great teacher, extremely involved, always there when help is needed.”

Liu serves as faculty advisor to Lamar’s Institute of Industrial Engineers-Student Chapter and on the Industrial Engineering Advisory Council. He led students through the Six Sigma Green Belt Training Certificate program and accompanied two teams of student researchers to St. Mary’s University for an Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE) paper competition, which they won.

Liu is a member of IIE, American Society of Mechanical Engineers and Society of Manufacturing Engineers. He served as an NSF Foundation panel reviewer, on the editorial board of an international journal, as manuscript reviewer for six journals and as symposia organizer for several professional conferences. He has written and submitted 10 research proposals. Three have been funded, and two NSF proposals are under review. He is the author or co-author of 22 peer-referred journal articles and has presented papers in China, Korea, Turkey and Mexico.

“(Dr. Liu) has impressed us as a good teacher and productive researcher,” Hopper said. “His research with Schlumberger has led to the development of the micro-manufacturing and metrology lab in industrial engineering, (and) our students have benefitted greatly from the lab.”