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LU honors three with University Merit Awards

Lamar University has honored three faculty members with 2015 University Merit Awards in recognition of outstanding performance in the classroom. Award recipients are assistant professors Komal Karani, marketing; John McCollough, economics; Millicent Musyoka, deaf studies/deaf education.

A university-wide committee selected them from junior faculty members nominated by committees from LU colleges. Lamar officials presented the awards at a reception and program April 8 in the University Reception Center of the Mary and John Gray Library.

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 Stephen Doblin, provost and vice president for academic affairs. Here are profiles of the 2015 Merit Award recipients:

Komal Karani is assistant professor of marketing and is in her sixth year of service to the College of Business.  She received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Rajasthan in India, a M.B.A. in marketing from ML Sukhadia University in India and a Ph.D. in marketing from Drexel University.  At Lamar, Karani has taught two undergraduate and three M.B.A. courses and has received wide praise and excellent reviews from her students and colleagues. 

“The student responses to her classes have been extremely positive, and a significant reason for this is her approachable personality,” said K.C. Sen, chair for the department of management and marketing.   “Dr. Karani is one of the most well-liked and highly-ranked classroom instructors in the department.  Her students often mention her knowledge of course material, charisma, communication skills, novel use of technology, fairness and the extra effort she puts in her classes; both face-to-face and online.”

Karani is powerfully committed to helping her students understand the problems and opportunities facing small businesses, Sen said.  Working with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), she imbeds her students in local businesses so they can experience, first-hand, the challenges of today’s small business world.  Her student evaluation scores have risen steadily and dramatically since 2008 and, most recently, hit a 4.7 on a five-point favorability scale.  Karani has acquired and polished her skills by attending local and national workshops on teaching effectiveness. In addition, she has employed instant survey techniques in her classes and collaborated with the Career and Testing Center and SBDC to enhance her courses.  Her engagement with students reaches far beyond the classroom as she sponsors three student organizations and advises hundreds of majors. 

Karani holds membership in six professional organizations, including the American Marketing Association and the Academy of Marketing Sciences.  She has attended numerous professional conferences, workshops, and meetings, and has presented 11 proceedings papers, two of which were recognized with Best Paper awards.   

She has co-authored five refereed journal articles and has four manuscripts in preparation or under review. In addition, she has presented 27 papers or posters at regional and national conferences.  On the service front, she has served on five college or university committees, plus she has volunteered with Beaumont Independent School District and Junior Achievement.  

Henry Venta, dean of the College of Business, summarizes her passion for instructional excellence by writing, “Dr. Karani’s course evaluations, as well as comments on her teaching from students, are some of the best within the department and college.”

John McCollough, also from the College of Business, is assistant professor of economics and is in his third year of service to Lamar University. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Penn State University, followed by a MBA from Widener University and a Ph.D. from Temple University.  Prior to his Lamar appointment, McCollough taught for 11 years at four universities in the northeast.

“I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that Dr. McCollough’s constructive influence has been very directly felt in all areas of teaching, research and service,” said Larry Allen, chair for the department of economics and finance.

McCollough has taught five courses in economics, one at the graduate level, and is constantly striving to improve learning outcomes in each class he teaches, Allen said. To this end, he has employed a variety of innovative strategies such as “low stakes” extra credit questions, test-retest evaluations, games and in-class group work.  Flattering student evaluation scores and comments lend support to these innovations and advance his reputation for teaching excellence.  He is “instructionally nimble and flexible,” as he teaches face-to-face, on-line, through distance education’s interactive network and at a local high school.

McCollough is faculty advisor to Beta Gamma Sigma, the Business Honor Society.  On the professional front, he holds membership in a variety of regional and national organizations and has presented 15 papers at various meetings.  In addition, he has organized and chaired two conference sessions and served often as a session discussant and manuscript reviewer. He has authored a dozen peer-refereed articles.  

Venta captures the completeness of his accomplishments by writing, “John is always willing to step outside his comfort zone to help the department and college.  He is well-liked by students and admired by his colleagues.” 

Millicent Musyoka serves as assistant professor of deaf studies/deaf education in the College of Fine Arts and Communication.  She earned a Bachelor of Arts, with honors, from Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya, and then worked in the field of deaf education for five years.  Later, she received a Master of Arts and a Ph.D. from Gallaudet University in Washington D.C.  Both advanced degrees were in deaf education. 

“Students find that she is extremely collaborative and works with them to understand the challenging concepts and culture of working with the deaf and hearing impaired,” writes Russ Schultz, dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication. 

In less than three years, Musyoka has taught 10 different courses, including two doctoral courses and five master’s courses.  She is a student of pedagogy and employs a variety of novel and exciting classroom techniques to enrich student learning, including active and collaborative teaching, flipped classrooms, peer instruction and primary research on teaching effectiveness.  She participates in student groups and organizations, both on and off campus, and has served on two dissertation committees. 

She is an active member of several professional associations and has served as a manuscript reviewer, judge, panelist, paper and poster presenter.  She is currently involved with colleagues and students in research projects on deaf children, American Sign Language, cross-cultural approaches to deaf education and teacher experiences with deaf students.

She received a Lamar Research Enhancement Grant and peer recognition by the American Education Research Association.  Musyoka has published six peer-reviewed articles and has several manuscripts ready for publication review.  In her spare time, she is active in departmental, college and university committee work and community projects. 

Schultz summarized her accomplishments by saying, “Dr. Musyoka actively serves her department, college, and university through outstanding research and also serves her discipline through work on professional associations and local boards.”