FRESNO, Calif. — Dr. Annette Levi, professor of agricultural business, was selected for Fresno State’s 2022 Provost’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, announced Dr. Xuanning Fu, Fresno State’s interim provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.
The Provost’s Awards also honored the following faculty:
- Dr. Steve Blumenshine, professor of biology — Research, Scholarship and Creative Accomplishment Award
- Dr. Amila Becirbegovic, assistant professor of modern and classical languages and literatures — Faculty Service Award
- Dr. Mark Baldis, Department of Kinesiology and Dr. Janine Nkosi, Department of Sociology — Outstanding Lecturer Award
Five 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. Luis Fernando Macías, assistant professor of Chicano and Latin American studies
- Dr. Kimberly Stillmaker, assistant professor of civil and geomatics engineering
- Mai Der Vang, assistant professor of English
- Dr. Ettore Vitali, assistant professor of physics
- Dr. Varaxy Yi Borromeo, assistant professor of educational leadership
The Provost’s Awards were established in 1993 to recognize the outstanding teaching, research and service that is central to the mission of Fresno State.
Honorees provide students with a stimulating environment that fosters learning and affirms the University as an intellectual and cultural leader in the Central Valley.
The awardees will be celebrated during an event at 3 p.m. Thursday, May 12, in the North Gym, Room 118.
Excellence in Teaching
Dr. Annette Levi (agricultural business) has taught in a variety of subject areas for the Department of Agricultural Business since she joined Fresno State in 2008. She integrates work experience and scholarly activities to create professional learning environments for her students. Her biggest impact in the department is integrating high-impact teaching practices into the program. She has worked with the Richter Center to develop a service-learning course to have students engage with local nonprofits. She was assigned an internship course where she developed a list of ag business majors and alumni and sent them notifications about professional opportunities. And Levi organized and offered study abroad programs to China and Chile so students could learn how food grown in those areas get to tables around the world. She later developed service-learning study abroad programs to Africa.
Research, Scholarship and Creative Accomplishment Award
Dr. Steve Blumenshine’s (biology) work is in fish ecology and bioenergetics, aquatic habitat analysis, water quality and watersheds. He has received more than $1.5 million in research funding since 2013, has a strong record of publications in peer-reviewed journals and over 100 presentations in conferences. In 2018, he received the College of Science and Mathematics Outstanding Faculty Research Award and has received two U.S. Fulbright awards, one for research in Germany and the other in Thailand. His approach and success includes the integration of students into his research group and working with external collaborators to increase exposure of applied research and implementation in the classroom. Blumenshine, who started at Fresno State in 2001, was recently appointed director of the California Water Institute Research and Education Division.
Faculty Service Award
Dr. Amila Becirbegovic (modern and classical languages and literatures) is a German language specialist who is one of the lead researchers, translators and writers on the president’s Task Force to Review the Naming of the University Library. She is helping to read documents that are in German to root out secrets and to build empathy and acceptance so we do not live in fear of the past. She is a genocide survivor, having escaped the concentration camps in Bosnia. Her expertise is in how visual media affects the memory of genocide. Becirbegovic has served on many University committees, including as chair of the library subcommittee working to ensure that faculty have a voice in the library’s collections and practices. She serves on the executive committee for the College of Arts and Humanities and was chosen as the college’s honors cohort leader and will design a course around her research on genocide, memory and trauma.
Outstanding Lecturer Award
Dr. Mark Baldis (kinesiology) has been a lecturer in the Department of Kinesiology for more than 21 years teaching in the areas of exercise science, athletic training, general kinesiology and physical education. He has taught full courses in the Department of Physical Therapy and he is routinely a guest instructor in the Departments of Biology, Public Health, and Food Sciences and Nutrition. Bladis has served as the exercise science option coordinator and director of the Human Performance Laboratory for more than 10 years. He is instrumental in guiding and coordinating the exercise science curriculum. He received the College of Health and Human Service’ Faculty Mentor Award and the University’s Campus Advisor’s Network Outstanding Advisor Award. Bladis holds nine professionally-related certifications and/or licensures and has done thousands of hours of professional continuing education. He has incorporated these certifications and training into the courses he teaches creating opportunities for exercise science students to also obtain their own professional certifications.
Dr. Janine Nkosi (sociology) has served as a lecturer since 2011 and has brought transformative energy to education through community-based research and service-learning experiences. She uses her expertise to make an impact on the community while also teaching students the importance of public scholarship for social change. She trains students to survey community members, to analyze their data and to reflect on their own lived experiences. Together, she and her students were instrumental in working with community organizations to investigate evictions and encourage the passage of the Rental Housing Improvement Act in 2017 in the City of Fresno. She is leading a team of student organizers in her courses to advocate for affordable housing policies and tenant protections in Fresno, addressing a housing crisis worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Promising New Faculty
Dr. Luis Fernando Macías (Chicano and Latin American Studies) came to Fresno State in 2017 and has made exemplary achievements in teaching, research and service but also in serving as an advocate for students of color, especially those who are undocumented. He co-chairs the University’s General Education Assessment Subcommittee and serves on curriculum committees for the College of Social Sciences and the Chicano and Latin American Studies department. He participates in the ED Program Graduate Group, is co-chair of the College of Social Science’s International Education Committee and serves on the Honors and Scholarships Committee. Macías has published four peer-reviewed articles and authored a manuscript in the Journal of Higher Education. He received the Provost’s Award for Extraordinary Teaching in Extraordinary Times in 2020 and the College of Social Science Outstanding Teaching Award.
Dr. Kimberly Stillmaker (civil and geomatics engineering), an alumna of the Lyles College of Engineering, joined Fresno State as a tenure track assistant professor in 2016. She teaches a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses in civil engineering and had an influential role in designing and developing a new freshmen introduction to engineering course. Stillmaker invested in learning new ways to teach during the pandemic and has continued to be an effective instructor. Her research is in structural engineering and gender equity in engineering. She is a key contributor in a multi-campus grant of $1.25 million from the National Science Foundation to focus on an intercampus networking and mentoring system and a systemwide faculty advancement dashboard to increase the representation of women in the engineering professoriate.
Mai Der Vang (English) maintains an active writing and publishing portfolio, most recently gaining attention for the release of her second book of poetry titled “Yellow Rain,” which was reviewed by major national publications and is a finalist for two top national poetry awards. She came to Fresno State in 2018 to share her excitement for poetry with a diverse student body. She coordinates the Master of Fine Art’s Philip Levine Prize for Poetry; created and advises Hmong American Ink and Stories, a space for Hmong American students to develop as writers; serves on a number of committees; and partnered with the Laureate Lab Visual Wordist Studio on a project of experimental creative art/poetry-making workshops. She is teaching a new seminar, “Refugee Poetics,” which gives voice to those who have historical displacement.
Dr. Ettore Vitali (physics) joined Fresno State in 2018 and was tasked with setting up a new research program in computational physics. He wasted no time getting started and recruited a talented and motivated group of students. He has supervised independent study courses and chaired master’s thesis commitments and set up plans to develop new courses. In four years, he published eight research papers, three of which were with students. Vitali also created a new teaching method during the pandemic for his computational classes relying on “live programming” where he coded live while students gave suggestions and asked questions in real time making the class feel more like a research team. Vitali was honored in 2020 with the Provost Award for Extraordinary Teaching in Extraordinary Times.
Dr. Varaxy Yi Borromeo (educational leadership) serves as the graduate program coordinator for the Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration program, training higher education and student affairs professionals. She is deeply committed to equity, inclusion and social justice and has dedicated her scholarship and professional service to advance these efforts. Since joining Fresno State in 2018, Yi has published peer reviewed articles, two book chapters, one policy report and has other manuscripts under review and/or in progress. She served as adviser of the Cambodian Student Associate at Fresno State, as chair of the Kremen School of Education and Human Development Educational Equity Committee and as president of the Asian Faculty and Staff Association. She was recently appointed by Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval to co-chair the Anti-racism Task Force.