Six members of the California State University, Chico faculty were recently honored with the 2017–18 Outstanding Faculty Awards, chosen by the University’s Faculty Recognition and Support Committee.
The awards, which are among the highest at the University, celebrate faculty excellence in the categories of Outstanding Professor, Teacher, Academic Advisor, Research Mentor, Faculty Service and Lecturer. All six recipients learned of their awards during surprise visits from University President Gayle E. Hutchinson and her Cabinet.
“Through their teaching, scholarly and creative activities, service, and dedication, recipients of these awards have positively influenced thousands of students and the University community as a whole,” President Hutchinson said. “I believe it is important to honor and acknowledge this outstanding work.”
As a professor and chair of the Department of Civil Engineering, Steffen Mehl has done his part to help elevate his team to the highest level possible. And he represented it brilliantly during a recent crisis that made national headlines.
During the Oroville Dam spillway’s failure last February, Mehl expertly addressed the topics of fluid mechanics and hydraulics, catapulting CSU, Chico into reports from local, state and national media outlets. While his acumen helped shed a positive light on the University’s engineering department and faculty experts, his true passion lies in teaching his students.
“In the classroom, during office hours, in the lab—I simply love working with students,” Mehl said.
He is a prolific publisher, as well, with eight peer-reviewed journal articles and 17 professional presentations to his credit since 2015. He’s also been recognized nationally, receiving the coveted American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Sacramento Section Faculty Advisory of the Year Award in 2014 and 2016. Closer to home, Mehl continues to connect the two parts of teaching he finds most rewarding: working with students and water resources.
“I feel fortunate that at Chico State I get to combine these two by teaching courses in fluid mechanics and hydraulics and doing water-related research,” said Mehl, who has been a faculty member since 2007.
Mehl holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental resources engineering from Humboldt State. He also earned a master’s degree and a PhD in civil engineering from the University of Colorado, Boulder.
In a world that’s often overwhelmed with information (and misinformation), it can be difficult for college students to think critically. So for Jason Nice, an associate professor in CSU, Chico’s Department of History, his career-long challenge in every course during every day is to teach his students how to think, read, and write like historians without sacrificing necessary and accurate historical content.This means teaching his students to learn what has happened in the past, as well as how to locate facts and to communicate evidence-based arguments.
“I consider it an awesome responsibility to convey these skills to a generation of students and teachers, employees and employers,” said Nice, who was hired at Chico State in 2007.
While it can sometimes feel near impossible to do, Nice believes that finding and communicating information in an age of mass misinformation are essential transferable skills in the 21st century. To teach this, he blends multiple approaches in online, hybrid and traditional modes of instruction.
“He teaches students how to think, read and write like historians by engaging in active learning without sacrificing historical content,” said Stephen Lewis, chair of the history department.
Nice holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was a first-generation student. He also earned a PhD in history from the University of York (United Kingdom).
Outstanding Academic Adviser
One can only predict what the history books will say about this time in United States and world history. But for those teaching about it, like assistant professor Najm Yousefi, there’s no shortage of real-life lessons so far in the early 21st century.
Yousefi teaches Middle Eastern and Islamic history from a humanist point of view and, as adviser and coordinator of the University’s Middle Eastern studies minor, he dedicates countless hours to advising his students to navigate their studies. The most significant payoff for his commitment “is when my students have an ‘aha moment,’ when they discover on their own the common human element in history and religion, when they combat preconceived notions about non-Western cultures and stop seeing the world as ‘the West and the rest,’” he said.
Additionally, Yousefi is faculty advisor to two student organizations, Creativity and Adaptive Leadership in the Middle East and North Africa (CALMENA) and the Chico State chapter of UNICEF. He joined the faculty in 2012.
Yousefi holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Shahid Beheshti University (formerly National University of Iran) in Tehran. He earned a master’s degree in economic policy management from Columbia University, as well as a PhD in science and technology studies with a concentration in the history of science at Virginia Tech.
Outstanding Research Mentor
Kasey DeAtley isn’t satisfied until her students in the College of Agriculture finish what they’ve started. And often, the finished product is astounding success.
That success starts in the classroom, where DeAtley supervises and guides her students through their research projects and academic inquiries, which can range from hypothesis development and experimental design to data collection and analysis—the results of which are presented at campus, regional and national meetings.
“Teaching them from the ground up how to ask a question, develop a hypothesis, design an experiment, and collect, analyze, and present the data is one of the things I love most about my position,” she said.
DeAtley’s students’ accomplishments have run the gamut during her five years on the CSU, Chico campus. And she finds satisfaction in all of them. The larger accomplishments, like a national Academic Quadrathlon or Rangeland Cup team win, complement foundation-building victories, such as when a student correctly answers a question during lecture, invests time studying and does well on an exam, or prepares a research project and presents it at a national conference. As a research mentor, DeAtley has larger and more significant accomplishments in mind for her students.
“My job isn’t done until they are employed,” she said.
DeAtley is a proud CSU, Chico alum, holding a bachelor’s degree in agriculture. She also earned a master’s degree in animal science and her PhD in reproductive physiology and genetics from New Mexico State University.
Outstanding Faculty Service
As associate professor in the Department of Media Arts, Design and Technology, Chiara Ferrari is busy these days. Her classes focus primarily on media criticism, and her passion revolves around students learning how to love and find new meanings in what they watch.
“Student involvement and curiosity is something that really makes me appreciate teaching,” Ferrari said.
Since joining the CSU, Chico faculty in 2007, Ferrari has also demonstrated an exemplary commitment to service, as she chairs the Educational Policies and Procedures Committee as a member of the University’s Academic Senate. In addition, she is the curriculum chair for the College of Communication and Education, the chair of the Faculty Development Advisory Board, and the coordinator for the Quality for Learning and Teaching Program. She also serves on the WASC Accreditation Steering Committee, the General Education Curriculum Advisory Board, and coordinates the GE Pathway in Ethics, Justice, and Policy.
“Chiara always steps up to lead,” said her department chair, Jennifer Meadows.
Knowing her involvement in committees directly impacts students is Ferrari’s greatest satisfaction.
“I am most satisfied when I realize that the work done ‘in the background’ can significantly improve students’ educational experience, learning and well-being,” she said.
Ferrari holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Università di Genova, Italy. She earned her master’s degree in media arts from the University of Arizona and her PhD in cinema and media studies from UCLA in 2007.
As part of one of the country’s finest and most accomplished construction management departments, Alan Bond sees the opportunity to teach as a privilege and a chance to make a difference in the lives of others. He accomplishes this by preparing his students for professional development, as well as growth in their personal lives.
“My teaching philosophy is to provide my students with opportunities to better themselves inside and outside the classroom,” Bond said on this well-rounded approach to teaching. “Ultimately it is about giving them confidence to succeed in any endeavor they choose to put their passion toward.”
Now in his eighth year on campus, Bond uses his experience as a model of how to prepare his students for the next step in their development. His first job out of college was a commercial public works building contractor, where he worked his way up through the ranks “wearing every ‘hat’ that I could find,” during his 24-year tenure, Bond said.
The strategies he employs to help prepare his students include explaining his high expectations for their learning “early and often,” encouraging and supporting them to develop time management skills, and making himself available to his students inside and outside of the classroom.
Bond is a proud CSU, Chico alum, holding a bachelor’s degree in construction management and master’s degree in business.