Mar. 29, 2012Vol. 42, Issue 5

Professional Achievement Honors Reward Excellence in Teaching and Scholarship

Four faculty members have been selected by the CSU, Chico Faculty Recognition and Support Committee to receive 2011–2012 Professional Achievement Honors. This year's recipients are Leslie Atkins, Science Education and Physics; Sherrow Pinder, Political Science and Multicultural and Gender Studies; Emilyn Sheffield, Recreation, Hospitality, and Parks Management; and Erik Wasinger, Chemistry. Eric Bartelink was also honored as the Outstanding Research Mentor.

 Information from their PAH nomination forms tells an inspiring story of success as teacher/scholars.

Leslie Atkins

Leslie AtkinsLeslie Atkins, Science Education and Physics, has become well known for her work on learning science by doing science. She likens traditional science teaching to training soccer players by making them read the rulebook and listen to lectures on strategy. She argues that athletes are trained predominantly by actually getting out on the field. She views this methodology as one that creates better skills and has pioneered the technique of teaching science by getting the students “out on the field” and really doing science.

Atkins emphasizes scientific debate as central to science learning. These debates are informed by experiments conducted by her students as well as by their readings and assignments. It is remarkable and delightful to stop by her classroom filled with future elementary school teachers and hear a discussion not unlike a debate at a scientific conference.

Without Aktins’s outstanding efforts, the Department of Science Education would not have been able to revitalize science courses for future elementary teachers. Her work has earned her widespread recognition and frequent invitations to speak and lead workshops at conferences throughout the country. In addition, she has presented at  conferences worldwide. Atkins’s grants have secured funding to provide not only much-needed equipment but also opportunities for her students to pursue authentic scientific inquiry and debate.

She is a transformative educational leader with a drive for innovation. Merely reading her record of professional achievement through grants and conference activities won't reveal her leadership role in the department. She is respected and admired by her departmental colleagues and has made a strong effort to promote and support their professional goals.

Sherrow Pinder

Sherrow PinderSherrow Pinder, Political Science and Multicultural and Gender Studies, received her PhD in 2003 from the New School for Social Research, and in 2008 was a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University. Since receiving her PhD, she has distinguished herself nationally and internationally as an erudite and important scholar.

She is the author of three books whose topics include a critical examination of welfare to workfare policy (From Welfare to Workfare: How Capitalist States Create a Pool of Unskilled Cheap Labor, 2007), determinants of American and cultural identity, especially among ethnic groups (The Politics of Race and Ethnicity in the United States: Americanization, De-Americanization, and Racialized Ethnic Groups, 2010), and American multicultural studies (Whiteness and Racialized Ethnic Groups in the United States: The Politics of Remembering, forthcoming 2011).

In 2011, The Politics of Race and Ethnicity in the United States was nominated for two prestigious awards: the Ralph Bunche Award given to “the best scholarly work in political science that explores the phenomenon of ethnic and cultural pluralism,” and the C. Wright Mills Award for the book that “best exemplifies outstanding social science research” that, among other criteria, “critically addresses an issue of contemporary public importance.” The book was also recognized in the Times Higher Education magazine and in Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews in 2010. Her forthcoming book explores continued discrimination toward racialized ethnic groups. 

Pinder has distinguished herself as an important voice in issues concerning discrimination, race, and identity. She continues to be a productive and highly valued member of the CSU, Chico faculty.

Emilyn Sheffield

Emily SheffieldEmilyn Sheffield, Recreation, Hospitality, and Parks Management, is a hard-working professor who puts in countless hours to improve the educational experience for students at CSU, Chico. The grant money she has brought in provides opportunities for students to become more prepared to serve the North State and beyond. She has obtained $1.5 million in external support since 1997 for various public land projects focused on community engagement, strategic planning, or branding and identity

The development of the Field School is a shining example of her hard work. Almost every weekend and most breaks, we have groups of students going out into the field to work with parks, recreation departments, hotels, and meeting events. This experience gives our students greater exposure to possible career choices and employers more exposure to our students. Companies and agencies are becoming more aware of this program and are anxious to participate. Grants are coming in to support this program, and soon the Field School will be self-supporting.

Sheffield has a passion for preserving the beauty of America, which was recognized by the National Scenic Byways in 2011. She was honored by the organization with their America's Byways National Leadership Award, given to someone who has demonstrated sustained leadership in connecting urban people with some of America’s most scenic areas. The Field School she has developed reflects this passion, which she has passed onto her students.

Erik Wasinger

Erik wasingerIn just a few minutes conversation with Erik Wasinger, Chemistry, one quickly realizes that he does not separate the success of his scholarly achievements in his discipline from his success as a teacher.

Wasinger is a spectroscopist, working primarily with chemical and biochemical systems involving metals. The nature of the research is intensely interdisciplinary. From 2009 to 2011, he had six peer-reviewed publications in journals, including Science, the Proceedings of National Academy of Science, and the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

The ability to successfully characterize these chemical and biochemical systems requires a source of intense X-ray radiation that can only be generated at national facilities like the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL). Wasinger's successful beam-time proposals have enabled him to continue to conduct these studies with CSU, Chico undergraduate research students at SSRL. These students have some of the most unique research experiences of any undergraduate students in the CSU system, collaborating with scientists from some of the finest research institutions in North America and using one of the most sophisticated instruments on the planet.

Since 2009, Wasinger has garnered funds in excess of $200,000 to support this research. A unique funding source has come out of the relationship he has established with research scientists at British Petroleum (BP). Wasinger consults from CSU, Chico, visits the BP site in Illinois, and conducts experiments using the synchrotron radiation source at Argonne National Labs in Illinois. He has taken three students to Illinois to work on these experiments, and one of them gave a presentation of her research to BP scientists. One result of Wasinger’s collaborations with BP was a $35,000 donation of specialty glassware now used in campus labs.

Wasinger has become a dynamic classroom instructor, established a high-quality undergraduate research program, continued collaborations with scientists at premier research universities, and expanded his expertise to include new projects with scientists in an industrial setting. Because of his work and the work of his undergraduate research students, our understanding of important chemical and biochemical catalytic systems has increased tremendously.