Four faculty members have been selected for the 2014 University Senate Distinguished Faculty Awards: Shundong Bi, Biology; A.J. Haija, Physics; Kevin Eisensmith, Music; and Sue Rieg, Professional Studies in Education.
Shundong Bi, Department of Biology, Distinguished Faculty Award for Research
Shundong Bi is a paleontologist who is most interested in “mammalian evolution and its implication on the environmental changes over geologic time.”
In 2013, Bi cowrote a fossil study that suggests mammals appeared 50 million years earlier than scientists thought. His research was published in the August 8, 2013, issue of Nature.
Bi has developed an active and productive research program over the past five years, conducting research around the world and engaging students as assistants in the process.
A.J. Haija, Department of Physics, Distinguished Faculty Award for Teaching
Physics may not come easy to all students, but A.J. Haija makes an effort to reach each one—whether it’s flexible office hours that accommodate their schedules, or simply by observing students more closely in class.
“A conscious instructor is constantly scanning faces of students in the classroom, sensing when and where a student might have gotten distracted or lost in the discussion,” Haija said.
His students have noticed his efforts. Reviews on RateMyProfessor.com give Haija an A+, and almost every positive review says Haija is a caring professor who goes out of his way to help his students.
Kevin Eisensmith, Department of Music, Distinguished Faculty Award for Creative Arts
For more than three decades, Kevin Eisensmith has been performing with bands, jazz ensembles, and orchestras across the United States and overseas in countries that include Russia, China, and Great Britain. Closer to home, Eisensmith is principal trumpet for the Altoona Symphony Orchestra, the Keystone Wind Ensemble, and the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra Brass Quintet. He is a former principal trumpet for the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra.
In May 2014, Eisensmith will receive what he refers to as his “greatest recognition to date:” the International Trumpet Guild’s Award of Merit. According to the guild’s website, the award is given to those “who have made substantial contributions to the art of trumpet playing through performance, teaching, publishing, research, composition, and/or support of the goals of The International Trumpet Guild.”
Sue Rieg, Department of Professional Studies in Education, Distinguished Faculty Award for Service
Sue Rieg, who serves as chair of the department, takes a holistic approach to service. When she became chair, she made it her mission to find a way to best serve her students, her faculty, and the teaching profession.
Rieg strives to match faculty teaching with areas of expertise, providing “the best education for our future teachers, school administrators, and higher education faculty to prepare them for the challenges they will face in today’s diverse classrooms.”
The experience Rieg brings from outside of the classroom helps her students to learn the latest educational trends. She is a member of many professional organizations and actively serves the Indiana Area School District.
“Being actively involved in the local school district gives me the opportunity to help children and teachers and also advances my own professional development,” she said.