Presidential Distinguished Professors Named for 2007

OGDEN, Utah – Weber State University’s Board of Trustees has selected three faculty members to receive the Presidential Distinguished Professors honor this year.

Psychology professor Eric Amsel, clinical laboratory sciences professor Yasmen Simonian and English professor Michael Wutz are the 2007 recipients of WSU’s Presidential Distinguished Professors award. The trio will formally receive their awards at WSU’s spring commencement exercises.

The selections were approved by the trustees at their monthly meeting held Tuesday.
Each professor will receive 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. The professors also are featured on the Honor Wall for Presidential Distinguished Professors located on the second floor of the west atrium in Stewart Library.

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.

“Eric, Yas and Michael represent very different disciplines on campus, but they share an outstanding commitment to teaching, scholarship and excellence that has been demonstrated consistently throughout their careers,” said President Ann Millner.

“All three of this year’s honorees embody what this award is all about,” said Provost Michael Vaughan. “We are very grateful to this donor for recognizing the important role our faculty play in the lives of our students and the vitality of the campus.”

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.

Amsel joined the WSU faculty in 1996, and from the start he has taken great pride in mentoring students and encouraging them to conduct undergraduate research. Beyond the classroom, Amsel’s professional research has focused on cognitive development in subjects ranging from young children to practicing scientists—studying changes in thinking that occur over time. He and two colleagues served as the primary investigators on “The Intervention and Research Program for the Preservation of Tomorrow’s Children,” a study that examined connections between social skill development and math training in first- and second-graders. Amsel has received numerous awards and honors for his teaching and scholarship, including the Lowe Award for Innovative Teaching and the Endowed Professor in WSU’s College of Social & Behavioral Sciences. In 2006 he was honored as a John S. Hinckley Fellow at WSU and was later named the Utah Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). Prior to joining WSU, Amsel taught as an assistant professor at Vassar and the University of Saskatchewan. Amsel earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from McGill University in Montreal. He holds a master’s degree from Harvard and his Ph.D. from Columbia University. He also conducted postdoctoral work at Yale.

Since joining the faculty in 1981, Simonian has received the Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award from the Dr. Ezekiel R. Dumke College of Health Professions on three different occasions and was honored as the 2004 Crystal Crest Master Teacher. In 2005 she received WSU’s John S. Hinckley award for excellence in teaching, service and scholarship and was named the Utah Professor of the Year. Above all else, Simonian is dedicated to her students. In explaining her teaching philosophy, she says it’s her job to increase students’ creative thinking abilities, while nourishing them emotionally, intellectually, psychologically and spiritually.  Affectionately known as “Yas,” Simonian takes great pride in her students’ 100 percent job-placement rate and stays in touch with her former students, keeping tabs on their careers and celebrating their accomplishments. After 26 years in the classroom, she now teaches and advises a second generation of students, including some of her graduates’ children. In addition to teaching clinical laboratory sciences on campus, she and her colleagues pioneered the development and delivery of entire CLS bachelor’s and associate’s degree programs online. Simonian is the author of numerous articles in professional journals and regularly presents at state, regional and national conferences. She serves on several professional boards at the state and national level, including past president of the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science-Utah.

Wutz, a native of Germany, earned his Ph.D. from Emory University and came to WSU in 1992. He has a strong scholarship record, having presented at more than 30 conferences, including a paper he delivered at the Second International Conference on Technology, Knowledge and Society in Hyderabad, India, in winter 2005. In addition to publishing a dozen or so essays in national and international peer-reviewed journals and chapters in books, Wutz co-edited the collection of original essays, “Reading Matters: Narrative in the New Media Ecology” (Cornell University Press, 1997), which was a finalist for the 1998 Barbara Perkins Prize from the Society of the Study of Narrative Literature. He also has co-translated Friedrich Kittler’s media-theoretical volume “Gramophone, Film, Typewriter” for Stanford University Press (1999).  Wutz has helped establish an exchange program with the University of Bayreuth in Germany, which has benefited numerous WSU students and faculty during the past three years. Currently an Eccles Honors Teaching Fellow, Wutz served as the College of Arts & Humanities Endowed Scholar (2002-2005). He is respected by his peers in the English department for serving as a mentor to his junior colleagues. A former colleague hails Wutz as a “teacher able to combine high expectations with a comfortable classroom atmosphere,” who has taught more than 20 different courses during his 15 years at WSU. He received the Crystal Crest Master Teacher Award in 2002 and the Ralph M. Nye Honors Professor Award in 1996. Wutz also is the recipient of the 2007 John S. Hinckley Award from WSU.

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Michael Vaughan, provost

(801) 626-6006 ·

John Kowalewski, director of Media Relations
(801) 626-7212 •

Presidential Distinguished Professors

Craig Oberg
Gene Sessions
Sam Zeveloff

Eric Amsel
Yasmen Simonian
Michael Wutz

Bradley W. Carroll
Brian Davis

Jim Christian
Brenda Marsteller Kowalewski
Susan Matt
Adolph Yonkee

John Cavitt
Lauren Fowler
Ed Walker