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Chico State

Recognizing Faculty Excellence

Portrait of Wallace Leese.
Jason Halley / University Photographer

Meet the recipients of the 2016–17 Outstanding Faculty Awards

Outstanding Professor

Portrait of Wallace Leese.

For 38 years, Wallace Leese has been making accountants out of CSU, Chico accounting students. Leese’s high expectations yield exceptional results, as many of his former students—and current accountants—look back fondly on their time under his tutelage.

For many students, Leese is the most challenging accounting professor they’ll have, and it springs from his undeniable commitment to quality and passion for preparation. He emphasizes learning and critical thinking in lieu of memorization, laying the groundwork for his students to pass the Certified Management Account certification exam, as well as preparing them for future employment. His availability to help students often extends outside his regular office hours.

Leese’s concern with his students’ performance moves beyond the classroom. He regularly maintains contact with on-campus accounting tutors, ensuring the cohesion between what he and the tutors taught remains intact. Leese also regularly attends meetings between the CSU, Chico Department of Accounting and local employers so he can structure his classes to focus on what’s relevant in today’s accounting world.

As a result, CSU, Chico Executive Director for University Development Kristine Mazzei notes that “after visiting hundreds of College of Business alumni for over two years, I can say with certainty that I hear successful accountants most often reference [Leese’s] classes, commitment to quality, and high expectations as central to their professional achievements.”

Leese holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Niagara University, and earned his master’s degree and PhD in accounting from Arizona State University.

Outstanding Academic Advisor

Celina Phillips advises a student.

Celina Phillips discovered her place in agriculture. As an academic advisor, she’s committed to helping students discover their own places.

Now in her 12th year of teaching at CSU, Chico’s College of Agriculture, Phillips has taught a wide variety of courses in animal science, agriculture, and plant science. But it’s her work as an academic advisor that sets her apart. She mindfully makes herself available for her students and infuses humor into a relaxed style to cultivate a welcoming atmosphere and help put her students at ease.

Dave Daley, associate dean of the College of Agriculture, says Phillips was a natural for this recognition, adding that the professor combines a true “open-door, how can I help you” spirit with her engaging, supportive, and encouraging nature.

“In a nutshell, she enjoys helping others and watching them grow and succeed,” Daley said. “She truly sees academic advising as more than advising,” Daley said.

For Phillips, advising also means helping to plan internships, reviewing resumes, and connecting students with her industry contacts.

Phillips is a proud CSU, Chico alum, having earned her bachelor’s degree in agriculture. She also holds a master’s degree from the University of Florida in animal science and a PhD in animal nutrition from Oklahoma State University.

Outstanding Research Mentor

Brian Brazeal teaches in his anthropology "Language and Culture" (ANTH 304) class.

Within the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences is the Department of Anthropology and its Advanced Laboratory for Visual Anthropology. Heading up that program is Brian Brazeal, a professor of anthropology. Since 2009, Brazeal has steered his students, both undergraduate and graduate, to produce professional-quality anthropological documentaries, some of which air on PBS stations across Northern California.

Brazeal, a self-taught production specialist, spends much of the early part of the semester teaching his students the different aspects of filmmaking, as well as the mistakes they’re likely to make. Using professional-grade production equipment, Brazeal encourages his undergraduate students to select their own topics and pairs his graduate students with faculty members that may need an extra set of experienced hands.

The collaborative nature of Brazeal’s film production classes brings out the best in his students, and he feels that if students are given the facilities, equipment, and mentoring they need, they’re capable of producing professional-quality work.

Brazeal estimates he’s been to about 35 countries and recently finished his own documentary on the international emerald trade, having shot footage in Colombia, Brazil, Zambia, Israel, India, and New York.

Brazeal holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Reed College, and earned his master’s degree and PhD in anthropology from the University of Chicago.

Outstanding Faculty Service

Matt Thomas teaches his "American Government: National/State/Local" (POLS 155P) class.

In today’s increasingly chaotic and contentious political climate, CSU, Chico political science professor Matthew Thomas serves as a voice of calm and reason for his students. In fact, it’s Thomas’ devotion to his students, as well as serving the CSU, Chico campus and his community, that makes him such a well-respected asset to the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences.

Despite teaching a full slate of classes, Thomas enthusiastically makes time to mentor younger professors, serves on multiple campus and community safety committees, and helps cultivate a healthy learning environment. When Thomas isn’t producing prolifically for publications, he serves as a trusted manuscript reviewer for many peer-reviewed journals.

Thomas was invited to speak at the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences Faculty Colloquium last month, and presented a lecture titled, “Reforming New Orleans: The Contentious Politics of Change in the Big Easy,” a continuation of his research into New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina.

Throughout all of this, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences Associate Dean Ryan Patten said, “Thomas always finds a way to give back and serve CSU, Chico.”

Thomas holds a bachelor’s degree from St. Joseph’s University in politics, and earned both his master’s degree and PhD in government and politics from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Outstanding Lecturer

Ellie Ertle teaches in her "American Government: National/State/Local" (POLS 155) class.

Civic engagement is one of Ellie Ertle’s passions, and it’s one she passes along to her political science students in fun and engaging ways.

Ertle has lectured in CSU, Chico’s Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice since 1999, and employs a “semi-flipped” teaching approach, using project-based learning, and communities of practice in class to engage students in social learning experiences. These projects regularly bear wonderful fruit, as students take full advantage of their opportunities to shine.

Illustrating her dedication to providing platforms for student civil engagement, Ertle was the University’s director of civic engagement from 2013–2016.

Since 2009, she has been the faculty coordinator for Town Hall Meeting program, which gives students the chance to actively participate in civic and democratic conversations about real world policy issues.

Ertle incorporates a strong civic and public component in all of her classes, because she feels civic engagement is critical for the development of lifelong learners and democratically engaged students. Additionally, Ertle helped develop the Political Science U-Course, a team-taught and project-based course.

Ertle holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of San Francisco, a master’s degree in political science from CSU, Chico, and is currently working on a PhD in educational leadership at the University of California, Davis.

Outstanding Teacher

Nick Lynch teaches his "Accounting Ethics" (ACCT 558) class.

To say that passing the Uniform CPA (Certified Public Accountant) Examination is challenging is a true understatement. To prepare his students for the test’s rigors, accounting professor Nicholas Lynch does far more than just teach the textbook.

Lynch believes that student engagement is equally as important as a sound understanding of the concepts that drive the numbers involved in comprehending accounting. Combine the two, and you’re describing the type of learning found in Lynch’s classroom.

In order to keep students engaged in his classes, Lynch writes conceptual notes and work problems on his whiteboard, which the students transcribe.

Additionally, he peppers in current events that could affect their work, as well as includes tidbits from one of his current research projects, of which there seems to be no shortage: In 2016 alone, Lynch has had five publications in peer-reviewed journals.

Lynch’s students have called him a role model and a mentor, and Department of Accounting Chair Tim Kizirian added that the department is “very lucky” to have him on staff. “Chico State students deserve the best,” Kizirian said. “And with Professor Lynch, they got it.”

Lynch holds a bachelor’s degree in accountancy from Villanova University, a master’s degree in accountancy from Bryant University, and a PhD in accountancy from Mississippi State University.