Music professor Thomas Loewenheim wins Fresno State’s top teaching award

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  • Dr. Thomas Loewenheim

Music professor Thomas Loewenheim wins Fresno State’s top teaching award

Dr. Lynnette Zelezny, Fresno State’s provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, named music professor Dr. Thomas Loewenheim the recipient of the 2016 Provost’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

The Provost’s Awards also honored the following individuals.

  • Una Mjurka, associate professor of art and design, Faculty Service Award
  • Carmen Caprau, associate professor of mathematics, Research, Scholarship and Creative Accomplishment Award
  • Joseph Ross, assistant professor of biology, Innovation Award

Three faculty members were selected for the Promising New Faculty category of the Provost’s Awards in recognition of their exemplary achievements in teaching, research, creative activities and/or service among non-tenured, tenure-track faculty. The honorees are Dr. Bhupinder Singh, assistant professor of physical therapy; Dr. Aly Tawfik, assistant professor of civil and geomatics engineering; and Dr. Cathy Yun, assistant professor of literacy, early, bilingual and special education.

The honorees were celebrated at an awards reception May 6 at the North Gym (Room 118) on campus.

Excellence in Teaching Award

Dr. Thomas Loewenheim (music) has been at Fresno State since 2007. Under his leadership, the Fresno State Symphony Orchestra has grown from a small ensemble to a full symphony orchestra with a level of artistic achievement rivaling many of the top universities in the nation. In addition to his duties as professor, director of the University Orchestra, and coordinator of chamber music, Loewenheim is also the conductor of the Youth Orchestras of Fresno, host of the International Cello Festival at Fresno State and the music director and conductor for the Fresno Opera and Orchestra Summer Academy.

Faculty Service Award

Dr. Una Mjurka (art) has been at Fresno State since 2006. She is known for her dedication to enrich educational and professional experiences for students and the Central Valley community. In 2007 she founded the Fresno State Ceramics Guild, a student organization that has brought 16 nationally and internationally renowned ceramics artists to the University to lead workshops for students and the public. Mjurka also spearheaded a service project benefiting the Fresno Chaffee Zoo. Working with students, alumni, faculty and staff, she oversaw the creation of two dozen ceramic vessels and light fixtures for the new African Adventure exhibit.

Research, Scholarship or Creative Accomplishment Award

Dr. Carmen Caprau (mathematics) has been at Fresno State since 2007. Since joining the University, she has become one of the most prolific researchers in the history of the department, with 16 research articles published or accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals. Caprau has been invited to give 37 talks at international and national conferences and workshops. Her passion for researching low-dimensional topology and knot theory helped to develop a strong undergraduate research culture. She has secured grants from the National Science Foundation, Simons Foundation and the Mathematical Association of America.

Innovation Award

Dr. Joseph Ross (biology) has been at Fresno State since 2012. When the DISCOVERe tablet initiative launched in 2014, Ross joined the first cohort of faculty and introduced assessment tools to measure its effectiveness in the classroom. He was one of the first instructors to adopt YouTube analytics as an assessment tool to determine when and where students had high engagement, allowing him to adjust instructional materials accordingly. He is currently facilitating course redesign using technology across the CSU system.

Outstanding Lecturer Award

Timothy Baker (business) has taught accounting at Fresno State since 2000. Described by students as “inspirational,” “engaging” and “amazing,” Baker is known for his ability to make complex concepts easy to understand and enjoyable to learn. For the past decade Baker has served as faculty adviser for Beta Alpha Psi, an honor society for accountancy majors. Baker also established and coordinates the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program at Fresno State. Since its launch in 2016, student volunteers have provided free tax preparation for more than 220 low-income individuals and seniors.

Promising New Faculty Awards

Dr. Lisa Bennett (literacy, early, bilingual and special education) has been at Fresno State since 2013. In partnership with University colleagues and local school districts, Bennett is redesigning how teacher preparation is delivered at Fresno State. She had six articles published or accepted in leading peer-reviewed journals, and she helped secure multiple grants. Working with Dr. Cathy Yun, she created faculty and student learning communities designed to improve four-year graduation rates.

Dr. Florence Cassel Sharma (plant science) has been at Fresno State since 2012 teaching and researching irrigation/water management. In 2013, she became the assistant director of research for the Center for Irrigation Technology. Her research focuses on improving irrigation management practices and water use efficiency.  Cassel Sharma has been awarded 12 research grants totaling more than $3 million, and her collaborative research has resulted in 25 publications, 38 conference proceedings and 62 poster presentations at national and international conferences.

Dr. David Lent (biology) has been at Fresno State since 2012. He established an insect neuroscience research program that is internationally competitive. Lent secured a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation in recognition of his achievements as an early-career scientist. He is Fresno State’s first faculty member to receive the award, which comes with the largest research grant to the biology department this year. Overall he has earned more than 12 awards to fund his research and has published three articles in peer-reviewed journals.

Dr. Larissa Mercado-López (women’s studies) has been at Fresno State since 2013. Her accomplishments include creating the “Latinas in Academia Lecture Series: Forging Paths to Graduate School and Beyond,” serving on the Chicano Youth Conference committee, serving as faculty adviser to the People Organized for Women’s Empowerment and Representation and helping to plan the Chicano Latino Commencement celebration. In the classroom she is known for making multifaceted concepts easily accessible and for creating a dynamic and active environment to support student engagement.

Dr. Bhupinder Singh (physical therapy) has been at Fresno State since 2013. He has developed and enhanced multiple courses for the Doctor of Physical Therapy program that integrate hands-on learning experiences. He also mentors several doctoral students. His research focus is on the interaction of obesity and biomechanics. He helped establish the Gait Analysis Movement Evaluation biomechanics lab to advance the field. Singh has published three articles in peer-reviewed journals, with two more under review. Other scholarly activities include presenting at 15 conferences and meetings, as well as securing multiple grants.

Dr. Aly Tawfik (civil and geomatics engineering) has been at Fresno State since 2013. In addition to teaching civil engineering courses, Tawfik developed four new undergraduate and graduate courses in transportation systems and planning. He is also using state-of-the-art tools and technology to redesign several existing classes. His efforts are directly leading to improved student outcomes. His research interests focus on sustainability and the autonomous future of transportation systems. He submitted grant proposals totaling more than $2 million in funding to help students engage in real-life research opportunities.

Dr. Cathy Yun (literacy, early, bilingual and special education) has been at Fresno State since 2013. Yun has two manuscripts accepted and four pending for peer-reviewed journals. She has presented at 10 conferences. Yun received four research grants to explore pre-kindergarten teachers’ pedagogical beliefs and early childhood workforce needs in Fresno County. With Dr. Lisa Bennett, she received several grants to improve liberal studies education. Together they created liberal studies faculty and student learning communities and are working to improve articulation for teacher candidates.