Presidential Distinguished Professors

The Weber State University designation of Presidential Distinguished Professors recognizes and rewards faculty members who have displayed an incredible dedication to teaching and education.

Faculty members are nominated by current or past WSU colleagues, administrators and/or students. Nominees are screened and evaluated by a selected group of senior faculty and academic administrators appointed by the provost. The finalists are recommended by the president of the university to the Board of Trustees for approval.

Each professor receives a cash prize of $16,000, payable over four years, which may be used to further professional academic goals. Honorees also will retain the Presidential Distinguished Professor title throughout their tenure with the university. Upon retirement from WSU, "Emeritus" will be added to the end of the title.

Funding for the annual recognition program was made possible by a generous gift from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous. The program was established as a way to recognize outstanding WSU faculty members who demonstrate the highest quality of teaching, scholarship, research and community service.

2011 Presidential Distinguished Professors



Dr. Brooke S. Arkush is a professor of Anthropology. He holds a baccalaureate degree from Humboldt State University and graduate degrees from the University of California, Riverside.  Dr. Arkush teaches the lion’s share of the archaeology curriculum offered by the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. He also directs the WSU Archaeological Technician Program, which includes a summer field school that gives students hands-on experience in documenting and recovering archaeological data; understanding regional, natural and cultural history; and interpreting the archaeological record of prehistoric foragers through a lens of ecological theory.   The focus of Dr. Arkush’s research activity concerns the prehistory, proto-history and colonial history of western North America, especially regarding communal big-game hunting, ancient settlements, subsistence systems and Native American cultural continuity and change after contact with European settlers. That effort has resulted in the publication of some 24 articles, book chapters and monographs highlighting Dr. Arkush’s personal research and his collaborative work with students, as well as dozens of professional presentations to local, regional and national audiences.   Dr. Arkush’s public service experience includes serving on the editorial boards of two scholarly publication series and acting as a manuscript referee for several different professional journals. He is an active member of the Society for American Archaeology, the Society for California Archaeology, the Great Basin Anthropological Association, the Rocky Mountain Anthropological Association and the Utah Professional Archaeological Council.  He is also professional advisor to the local chapter of the Utah Statewide Archaeological Society.  Previous honors and awards include the 1995 Dello Dayton Award for his accomplishments in teaching, research and service; being selected as Endowed Professor of the WSU College of Social and Behavioral Sciences from 1996 to 1999; the 2004 George and Beth Lowe Innovative Teaching Award; and the 2006 Gwen S. Williams Award of Excellence for his research efforts.


Dr. Judy Elsley is a professor of English. She holds a baccalaureate degree from Bristol University in England, a master degree from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and a doctorate from the University of Arizona. Since joining Weber State in 1990, Dr. Elsley has earned a distinguished reputation in the areas of teaching, campus leadership and scholarship.   Dr. Elsley’s dedication to student success and her exceptional teaching skills are clearly evidenced by an unbroken record of outstanding student evaluations. She has also garnered several awards for teaching excellence, including the John S. Hinckley Award in 2009, the Nye/Cortez Distinguished Professor Award in 2003 and the President’s Award for Exemplary Teaching in 1993.   Dr. Elsley has played an invaluable role in the development and enhancement of institutional programs throughout her career at Weber State University. She served as director of the Writing Across the Curriculum Committee from 1992 to 1995; co-coordinator of the First-Year Experience Program from 1995 to 2000; coordinator of the Bachelor of Integrated Studies Program from 2000 to 2007; and is currently director of the WSU Honors Program.   Dr. Elsley has used her expertise in narrative writing to create a substantial body of work exploring the topics of quilts in literature and society as well as writing personal essays. She has authored three books, 17 refereed publications, four articles published in scholarly anthologies and seven non-refereed publications. She has also made numerous presentations sharing her work with local, regional, national and international audiences.   Honors previously received by Dr. Elsley have included her selection as the 2009-10 “Faculty Partner to Student Affairs;” the 2002 Faculty Member of the Year Award from the WSU Reserve Officers Training Corps; the 2002 “Woman of Wonder” Award from Women’s Resources; and her selection as the Endowed Scholar of the College of Arts & Humanities from 1996 to 1999.


Yu-Jane Yang is a professor of Performing Arts. She holds two master degrees from the University of Illinois and a doctorate from the University of Michigan. Since joining the Weber State faculty in 1992, Dr. Yang has excelled in all areas of teaching, scholarship and public service.  Over the past two decades, Dr. Yang’s extraordinary teaching skills have allowed her piano students to be selected as top prize winners in many state, national and international music competitions, including the national first place winner in the high competitive Steinway Young Artist Collegiate Piano Competition hosted by Music Teachers National Association in 2010.   Dr. Yang’s pedagogy students have also earned state and national recognition for their superior teaching skills, including being awarded as “Collegiate Student Teacher of the Year” by the Utah Music Teachers Association in six of the past ten years and as the national winner of the “Studio Teacher Fellowship” from the Music Teachers National Association in 2009.   Dr. Yang has authored numerous articles that have been published in leading pedagogical journals. She is a frequent presenter at prestigious national and international music conferences; an active performer in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia; and an in-demand adjudicator of national and international piano competitions.   Dr. Yang was one of three national winners of the D.H. Baldwin Fellowship for Teaching Excellence in Piano in 1991. She was listed in “Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers” in 1996, 2002, 2005 and 2007. Dr. Yang was selected as “Benjamin Whitten Collegiate Chapter Advisor of the Year” by the Music Teachers National Association in 2008. Most recently, she was chosen as the Endowed Scholar/Artist of the Telitha E. Lindquist College of Arts & Humanities, received the Utah Music Teachers Association 2010 Legacy Award and named a 2011 Music Teachers National Association Foundation Fellow for her exceptional teaching, outstanding professional accomplishments and exemplary service to the music community.