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LU to honor four with University Merit Awards

Lamar University will honor four faculty members with 2016 University Merit Awards in recognition of outstanding performance in the classroom. Merit Awards will be presented to Ricardo Colon, Rebecca Weinbaum, Ashwini Kucknoor and Evan Wujcik, at the faculty awards ceremony, 1 p.m. April 14 in the University Reception Center, 8th floor of the Mary and John Gray Library.

A university-wide committee selected them from junior faculty members nominated by committees from LU colleges.

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 James Marquart, provost and vice president for academic affairs. Here are profiles of the 2016 Merit Award recipients:

Ricardo Colon

Ricardo Colon, assistant professor of accounting, is in his fourth year of the faculty of the College of Business.  Colon holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Loyola University in New Orleans, a Masters of Accountancy from Tulane University, a Juris Doctorate from Loyola, and a Master’s of Legal Letters from The University of Houston.  A Certified Public Accountant and member of the Texas Bar Association, the American Bar Association, Colon is also certified to practice both law and accountancy in Puerto Rico. He holds membership in the National Society of Hispanic MBAs. 

Before joining the faculty of LU, Colon has held positions at the Inter American University of Puerto Rico and the University of Puerto Rico at Cayey, where he also served as associate dean. 

At LU, Colon has taught two undergraduate courses, a master’s course, and an Honor’s course.  As you might guess, he has received high praise and excellent reviews from his students and colleagues.

“Dr. Colon is a gifted and enthusiastic colleague and teacher. His expertise in the area of tax is of utmost importance to the education of our accounting students,” said department chair Gisele Moss.

Colon serves as faculty advisor for Beta Alpha Psi, the accounting honorary society, and the Association of Latino Professionals in Accounting and Finance. He has   authored or co-authored nine journal articles, and has presented five papers at professional conferences.  He recently received the Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants’ Rising Star Award, given to those age 40 and younger that have demonstrated “exemplary leadership and active involvement in accountancy and their community.”  

Rebecca Weinbaum

Rebecca Weinbaum, assistant professor of counseling and special populations and is in her fifth year of service at Lamar University. Weinbaum earned a Bachelor of Arts in music from The University of Houston, a M.Ed. in counseling from The University of Houston-Victoria, and a Ph.D. in counselor education from Sam Houston State University.  She holds TEA certification in music and school counseling; is a licensed professional counselor and supervisor; and will soon be a Registered Play Therapist.

Before joining Lamar’s faculty, Weinbaum taught middle school, was a school counselor, a private practice counselor and taught at several colleges.

“Rebecca has been an outstanding junior faculty member in the Counseling and Special Populations Department,” said department chair Bill Holmes.

Weinbaum has developed and taught a variety of graduate courses, both online and face-to-face and has co-authored a book and five chapters; has published four articles on teaching and learning; and more than 40 other articles. She is a manuscript reviewer for five journals and an editor for two others. 

Weinbaum has delivered dozens of papers at local, regional and national meetings and workshops of professional associations.  She received a Lamar Research Enhancement Grant and was a co-investigator for a Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Grant on Minority Health and Education. She has been professionally recognized for her work with several Best Paper Awards.   

Ashwini Kucknoor

Now in her fifth year at Lamar University, Ashwini Kucknoor serves as assistant professor of biology in the College of Arts and Sciences. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture and a master’s in plant physiology from the University of Agricultural Sciences in Bangalore, India, and a Ph.D. in molecular biology from The University of Calgary. She served as a post-doctoral research associate at the UT Health Sciences Center in San Antonio and later as a research assistant professor at Washington State University.  She was a National Science Foundation Biology Scholar in 2015 and has received several other academic recognitions and awards.

“Dr. Kucknoor’s stamina and ingenuity strike me as quite remarkable,” said Joe Nordgren, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He credits Kucknoor with developing a cadre of impressive courses and exciting students about learning.

At LU, Kucknoor has taught a full course load while also supervising 13 graduate students, three McNair Scholars, three Undergraduate Research Grant recipients, and a David J. Beck Fellow.

An active member of several professional associations, including the American Society for Microbiology and the American Association of Immunologists, Kucknoor has received two Lamar Research Enhancement Grants, was co-investigator on a $500,000 equipment grant and, with colleagues, and has collected almost $700,000  in external research support including a THECB -Norman Hackerman Advanced Research Progam biomedicine grant.

She has published 10 peer-reviewed journal articles and has several manuscripts in publication review.  She has co-authored a microbiology laboratory manual and has presented 13 papers at professional conferences.  Six of her publications included Lamar student co-authors.

Dean Nordgren summarized the accomplishments of this hard working young faculty member by noting, “As a teacher, scholar, and community service advocate, Dr. Kucknoor exemplifies those characteristics that distinguish Lamar as an aspirational university.”

Evan Wujcik

Evan Wujcik is assistant professor of chemical engineering in the Dan F. Smith Department of Chemical Engineering.  Wujcik has earned baccalaureate degrees in chemical engineering with a biology emphasis and another in applied mathematics, and master’s degrees in chemical engineering and business administration, all from The University of Rhode Island.  He earned a Ph.D. in chemical and biomolecular engineering.  He was also a post-master’s researcher at Rhode Island and he currently serves as director of Lamar’s Materials Engineering and Nanosensor Laboratory.  

At Lamar, Wujcik has taught three undergraduate and six graduate courses, including doctoral courses in nanosensors and nanoenergy, his areas of professional expertise. 

“Dr. Wujcik has been one of the most active faculty members in the department.  He has dedicated a substantial amount of time and effort in undergraduate education and student recruiting.  This includes supervising seven undergraduate researchers and mentoring the 2015 David J. Beck Fellow, Will Shipp,” said department chair T.C. Ho.

Among his many projects, Wujcik developed a summer course in chemistry sponsored by the Texas Workforce Commission’s Governor’s Summer Merit Program.  With a colleague, he also produced and delivered the Lamar Introduction to Engineering (LITE) summer program, sponsored by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.  Both summer programs exposed prospective students to the STEM disciplines.

Wujcik is a member of, and has held leadership roles in, almost a dozen honor societies and professional associations, including Tau Beta Pi, Sigma Xi, Golden Key, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the American Chemical Society, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. He also serves as a manuscript reviewer for several publishers and journals.  

Wujcik has served on seven funded projects worth more than $100,000 and has authored 17 peer-reviewed journal articles. In addition, and with colleagues, he has received a patent, authored a book, produced several book chapters, and delivered eight professional papers. Nearly half of his professional articles and papers include student co-authors.