Awards were bestowed on five University of Mary Washington professors last week at the Fall 2023 Faculty Meeting. Professors of biology, education, environmental science, math and sociology were praised for their commitment to their fields, support of students and contributions to UMW and the surrounding community.
Professor of Biology Lynn Lewis received the third annual Board of Visitors (BOV) Faculty Leadership Award, designated for a faculty member who advances UMW’s mission by spearheading a major institutional initiative or program.
A microbiologist and current member of Mary Washington’s Public Health Advisory Working Group, Lewis joined the Coronavirus Task Force in May 2020, becoming an integral contributor to the University’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Her insight and expertise have been critical to virtually every aspect of the institution’s response,” said BOV Rector Devon Cushman ’93, who presented the award to Lewis. “As our resident virologist, she provided much-needed insight on a host of complex issues.”
Lewis’ dedication to the UMW community was ever-present, said UMW Chief of Staff Jeffrey McClurken ’94, as the task force balanced safety, pedagogy and mental health with governmental regulations and scientific reality. “We would not have come through the pandemic as well as we did without her service, her wit and her wisdom.”
Lewis, who arrived at Mary Washington as an assistant professor in 1989, has served as Teaching Innovation Program director and as a department chair. She is a prior recipient of the Mary W. Pinschmidt award, presented by the senior class to the faculty member they will most likely remember as having the greatest impact on their lives.
One nominator summed her up this way: “[She] embodies what being a member of the UMW community is all about … people, relationships and a deep care for one another.”
Assistant Professor of Environmental Sciences Tyler Frankel won the Alumni Association Outstanding Young Faculty Award, for those who’ve taught full time at the University of Mary Washington for two to five years.
When he arrived at UMW in 2018, he hit the ground running, establishing a strong research program involving students and mentoring their research, and leading to dozens of abstracts. Frankel has expanded departmental offerings by adding courses like Advanced Ecotoxicology, and he has developed lab activities focused on current environmental issues such as the threat of microplastics and the promise of sustainable agriculture.
In his time at Mary Washington, he also has secured multiple external grants, published articles and won a Jepson Fellowship. Nominators described Frankel as “indispensable to our environmental science programs.”
Professor of Education Teresa Coffman received the Graduate Faculty Award presented to a distinguished member of UMW’s graduate program.
Coffman, who joined Mary Washington in 2004, works with students across the post-baccalaureate initial licensure pathways and in the advanced programs. She teaches core education courses, mentors master’s-level research projects and supervises field-based internships. Within the College of Education, she has developed numerous courses in curriculum, instruction and classroom management. She has written many articles and book chapters, as well as three books, reflecting best practices in educational technology. Most recently, she co-authored a fourth text, scheduled for publication next month, on the future of higher education post-pandemic.
Named the Virginia Society for Education’s 2014 Innovative Educator of the Year, Coffman supports the educational technology community throughout the commonwealth. She completed a recent course on immersive technologies and will share this knowledge with her First-Year Seminar students in the “So You Think You Want to Be a Teacher?” course this fall. At UMW, she founded the EdTech Conference to support practicing teachers in local K-12 schools and helped establish the College of Education Makerspace in Seacobeck Hall.
A nominator described her as dedicated and committed to providing students with high quality instruction to prepare them for their own classrooms.
Professor of Sociology Leslie Martin received the J. Christopher “Topher” Bill Outstanding Faculty Service Award for those who have taught at UMW at least seven years and held significant service roles in their departments, colleges and community. The award was established in 2003 in honor of the late Topher Bill, longtime Mary Washington psychology professor.
Deeply committed to Mary Washington’s institutional values of diversity, equity and inclusion, Martin directed the Center for Community Engagement, creating the Civic Action Plan, launching a Community Advisory Committee and coordinating volunteers to provide free lunches for Fredericksburg students during the pandemic. She also has overseen the Gwen Hale Resource Center, which provides needed staples to UMW students with food insecurity.
Martin has served on the Strategic Reallocation Taskforce and numerous committees, and as chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. Said a nominator: Her “continued commitment to our core values and unwavering service throughout her career have undoubtedly made us a better institution.”
Professor of Mathematics Suzanne Sumner received the Grellet C. Simpson Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. The honor recognizes full-time faculty members, who – like Simpson, UMW’s fourth president – place an emphasis on quality teaching and the liberal arts.
From designing upper-level courses in differential equations and chaotic dynamical systems to hosting informal problem-solving sessions, Sumner supports students every step of the way.
“Watching a master teacher bring the story of numbers and mathematics to life through vivid lectures and active learning assignments … informed my own teaching and made me a better instructor,” said a nominator.
A founding organizer of the Race and Revolution FSEM course, she developed assignments such as “For what issue would you get on the bus?” asking students to design and enact plans to support their causes.
Sumner is a proponent of sharing best practices with colleagues and directed UMW’s Teaching Innovation Program before the Teaching Center was formed. She collaborates with College of Education colleagues on K-12 teacher outreach grants. In addition, she chairs the Virginia Scholars Award program for Delta Kappa Gamma, providing awards for graduating education students at every college in the commonwealth.
University of Mary Washington Provost Tim O’Donnell opened the meeting, during which 10 new faculty members – from art and art history to political science and international affairs – were welcomed onboard.