Four University of Arkansas – Fort Smith faculty members were honored for their services to the institution during the Annual Faculty Appreciation Day, which took place virtually April 9.
Honorees were Rebecca Cheek of Alma, recipient of the Luella M. Krehbiel Adjunct Teaching Excellence Award; Dr. Kristin Tardif of Fort Smith, recipient of the Excellence to the University, to the Profession, and the Community Service Award; Dr. Shelli Henehan of Fort Smith, recipient of the Excellence in Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities Award; and Dr. Nicki Stancil, recipient of the Lucille Speakman Master Teacher Award. Each recipient received accolades at the event, a commemorative plaque, and $2,500
Rebecca Cheek has served as an adjunct faculty member in the College of Business and College of Applied Science and Technology for 3.5 years. The Luella M. Krehbiel Adjunct Teaching Excellence Award is presented to an adjunct professor who fully and actively engages students in the learning process; demonstrates attention to active learning, writing, and critical thinking skills; conducts classroom assessments in a timely, appropriate manner; uses class time effectively; matches instruction techniques to student learning needs and interests; demonstrates knowledge of their subject matter; displays active interaction with students.
“When I read the letter I was in a state of shock, I was very grateful to have just been nominated but to have been selected for the award was a moment of honor,” said Cheek. “The responsibility of instilling knowledge is one I take seriously, especially during these changing times of a global pandemic. It is important to me to show compassion and understanding for every single student who enters my classroom whether it be the virtual classroom or the physical classroom.”
“I am just as excited every day as I was on my very first day of teaching because I get to help the students navigate through their college journey. The classes I have a privilege to teach relate to real-life decisions and I understand the importance the course material is to each individual student.”
As an alumna of UAFS, Cheek said she was excited to have the opportunity to become an adjunct instructor. “Some of the very best memories I have during my college journey are sitting in the College of Business learning from my professors. I am extremely grateful to the College of Business and Dr. Latisha Settlage for the opportunity to teach in the college where I have so many fond memories. I am also grateful to the College of Applied Science and Technology and Professor Bracken for giving me an opportunity to teach classes for them over the past semesters as well.”
Dr. Kristin Tardif is an associate professor and lead faculty of the organizational leadership and office management technology programs in the College of Applied Science and Technology. The Excellence to the University, to the Profession, and to the Community Service Award is presented to faculty who demonstrate outstanding community service both in the faculty member's professional area and in support of community improvement; and outstanding service to the University through committees, recruitment, clubs, and data-gathering, etc.
Dr. Tardif has been working full time in higher education for 10 years and was a guest lecturer for 10 years prior to that while working in the industry.
“I was very happy and shocked to receive this award,” said Tardif. “I know how many of our faculty give their time to the college and to the community, so I am in good company.”
As an educator, Dr. Tardif aims to be fair, honest, and true to herself, and to see that her students are successful throughout their college careers, but also in gaining employment. “Embracing our vulnerabilities builds trust with our students, and when they trust us, they will listen to us and grow,” she said. “I hope to teach my students to be self-aware, raise their emotional intelligence, and higher-order thinking to give them the skill set to be great leaders so that they, in turn, will inspire others to be great leaders.”
Dr. Shelli Henehan is a professor in the UAFS School of Education at UAFS, coordinator of assessment, and director of Early Childhood Education.
The nominees for the Excellence in Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities Award are expected to demonstrate outstanding research in education and/ or the candidate's teaching field; outstanding scholarship; and outstanding creative activities both in and out of the classroom.
Henehan is a lifelong native of Fort Smith, and an alumna of UAFS, who has been teaching since 1988, teaching fourth grade, preschool, WATC high school students, adult learners, and traditional college students over the course of her career.
“When I opened the award letter from Provost Georgia Hale, I was elated, and honored that the awards committee saw value in the qualitative research I have completed with my research partner, Dr. Micki Voelkel, as well as the early childhood education grants and curricula that have been developed in my time at UAFS,” Henehan said. “I feel so strongly that children birth-five deserve the highest quality of care and education, and absolutely love that our program at UAFS provides professional development for early childhood educators statewide!”
“Being selected for this award means that others truly see the importance of education in empowering learners. I have loved education my entire life, and get the greatest satisfaction in sharing educational opportunities with others.”
Henehan said she aims to bring her students empowerment through education at every level, “I truly believe in the transforming power of education to help the learners achieve more than they ever dreamed possible,” she said. She also hopes to build lasting relationships and mentorships with her students, and encourage them to build those relationships with others as they continue their careers.
“I aim to use my expertise as an encouragement to my students. I am an educator, while also a lifelong learner, a wife, a mother, and still a daughter to my aging mother – I understand the time constraints of life, and feel that I can encourage my students to persevere through many struggles. While pursuing my doctoral degree, I had my fourth and fifth children in my forties – believe me, I do relate to the struggles of our nontraditional learners who attend classes while raising families!“
Dr. Nicki Stancil is an assistant professor of Media Communication in the College of Communications, Languages, Arts, and Social Sciences. She began teaching at UAFS in the fall of 2015 and has taught in some capacity since 2007 at Kent State University, Bowling Green State University, and Owens Community College.
The Lucille Speakman Master Teacher Award recognizes the contributions made to the University of Arkansas Fort Smith by full-time faculty. Selection is based upon demonstrated teaching effectiveness, outstanding job performance, service to the institution beyond teaching responsibilities, service to the community, and participation in professional growth and development activities.
When Dr. Stancil opened her letter of recognition she was overjoyed. “ My jaw dropped and I immediately burst into tears,” she said. “It felt like such an amazing confirmation that what I do matters at UAFS. It was even more meaningful knowing that this was an award given to me by other faculty members from around campus.”
Dr. Stancil is known throughout campus as a professor who is “real” with her students, who leads and teaches with compassion, love, intersectionality, and student-centeredness. “I try to be as open with my students as possible to help them feel comfortable in my classrooms and allow for open and honest communication. I also use that to attempt to cut down on intimidation or ivory tower syndrome students may feel as they enter higher education.”
“I spend a lot of time modernizing and contextualizing my courses to meet the needs of my students and/or what’s going on around them (current events, popular media, popular social media trends, etc.)” Stancil explained. “I also put a lot of work into helping my students feel like they have a home in Media Comm and building comradery with one another, and hope to get back to doing more events once vaccinations spread more widely and we can gather on campus again.”
“This just feels really, really good. Teaching is my passion, I absolutely love my job and love my students. And after the last year or so, it’s fantastic to be recognized for that while living in a real-life version of the ‘It’s Fine’ fire dog meme.”