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Weber State Faculty

Note of Perfection

Professor Yu-Jane Yang receives national recognition for her passion for teaching and dedication to student success

As WSU’s director of keyboard studies and a Brady Presidential Distinguished Professor, Yu-Jane Yang’s passion and dedication in teaching was rewarded in 2020 when she was recognized nationally as the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) Teacher of the Year, chosen from all the finalists nominated by the affiliated state Music Teachers Associations among all 50 states in the U.S.

Now in its 20th year, the award recognizes an individual teacher who has made a difference in students’ lives, has contributed to the advancement of music in their community and is an example of a professional music educator each year. MTNA has over 22,000 members across the U.S., primarily university music professors and independent studio teachers. This is the first time the award has been given to a teacher from Utah.

“I am extremely humbled by this totally unexpected national honor,” Yang said. “I would like to attribute this prestigious award to all of my inspirational former teachers and mentors, to my remarkable and diligent WSU students, and to President Mortensen and the administration, as well as many generous music donors of WSU, from whom I have continuously received their incredible support.”

Yang’s students join their professor in outstanding achievement this year. 

The Utah Music Teachers Association (UMTA) State Collegiate Piano Concerto Competition is recognized as one of the two most competitive state events for collegiate piano students. In 2020, four of the top six awards went to Yang’s WSU students. Min-Shan “Susan” Tsai earned first-place state honors, and Ting-Yu “Cindy” Lu received third place. Shu-Han Shen and Miranda Hoggan were each awarded honorable mention.

Laurisa Cope, UMTA president commented, “Yu-Jane is the most dedicated, unselfish teacher, mentor and friend I know. Thank you for all you have shared with the teachers and students of Utah.”

The MTNA award ceremony was postponed to March 2021, but the award and praise were posted virtually at

Constructing with Soul

WSU faculty Jeremy Farner recognized for advancing construction

When Jeremy Farner talks about building community, he means it literally

He’s helped build schools, homes and orphanages from Ogden to Africa, both improving communities and educating the next generation of construction leaders.

The Associated General Contractors of Utah, an organization dedicated to advancing the construction industry, recognized Farner as their 2020 honoree for the “committed time, energy, and soul” he puts into making the construction industry a better place to work.

Farner, building design and construction professor, began teaching at Weber State in 2008. He has taken students around the world to improve lives and opportunities through new and enhanced facilities. He has worked with WSU teams to upgrade and build multiple schools and orphanages in countries including Thailand, Peru and Mozambique.

In addition to his service abroad, his outreach along the Wasatch Front includes overseeing the design and construction of several Habitat for Humanity homes. He and his students just completed, as a top 10 finalist internationally, a new all-electric, net-zero home in central Ogden for the 2020 Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

Farner helped initiate Utah’s Architecture, Engineering and Construction (UAEC) Pathway to help students as early as ninth grade begin taking university courses to prepare for a career in the AEC industry. Today, the Pathway serves more than 1,000 students in 26 schools and partners with nine other higher education institutions throughout Utah. Jeremy has been instrumental in bringing industry and education professionals together to address labor shortages, educational challenges and student debt, offering proactive solutions that benefit students, teachers, employers and the state of Utah’s economic outlook.

Farner also directs WSU’s Wadman Center for Construction Excellence.

Paying it Forward

Nutrition Program director David Aguilar-Alvarez twice recognized for excellence in teaching

Any faculty member would feel honored to receive one of the awards David Aguilar-Alvarez, assistant professor of nutrition and nutrition program director, won during the 2020 spring semester: the Crystal Crest Master Teacher Award and Presidential Teaching Excellence Award. The awards are especially meaningful to Aguilar-Alvarez, though, since his own teachers played a vital role in his success and have continued to fuel his passion for teaching.

While growing up in Culiacán, Mexico, a socioeconomically diverse city, Aguilar-Alvarez learned from his teachers that he could develop his interests while also contributing to society.

“They showed me that I could be successful by trying to solve problems,” he said. “I was very aware of how these mentors really helped me professionally, and I owe them a lot. I was inspired by that to go on a similar path.”

Aguilar-Alvarez said he prioritized teaching when looking for a job in academia, and Weber State has allowed him to strike a good balance between research and teaching, including hands-on instruction using the kitchens, greenhouse and garden at Weber State University Davis and the nutrition biochemistry lab on the Ogden campus. While learning, Aguilar-Alvarez believes students “need to relate to problems that happen in their community — problems that can be solved — and they need to feel that their opinion and what they do, do have an impact.”

Recently, he has also turned his attention toward the broader Ogden community. Using his nutrition expertise and his understanding of the unique strengths and struggles of the Hispanic community, Aguilar-Alvarez consults and teaches classes for the Ogden Civic Action Network (OgdenCAN), a partnership of local organizations working to improve the welfare of residents in the East Central neighborhood of Ogden.

WSU Faculty Honored for Research and Innovation

In October of 2019, Weber State University hosted the inaugural Research, Commercialization and Entrepreneurial Awards to honor faculty who have made significant contributions to Weber State, the community and the world through research and innovation.

“Research and innovation are crucial because they discover, explain and validate new knowledge, ideas and technologies essential in driving the future of society and humanity,” said James Taylor, WSU’s Sponsored Projects and Technology Commercialization director. “Our research activities foster professional excellence and have critical economic, societal and environmental impacts locally, nationally and internationally.”

Award Recipients

Luke Fernandez, WSU School of Computing assistant professor, and Susan Matt, history professor, received the Outstanding Research Award for their book, Bored, Lonely, Angry, Stupid: Changing Feelings about Technology, from the Telegraph to Twitter. The book examines technology’s influence on Americans’ emotional lives and puts contemporary worries about the digital age into historical perspective.

John Sohl, physics professor, received the Innovation Research Award for his work on WSU’s High Altitude Reconnaissance Balloon for Outreach and Research (HARBOR). He has also been involved in laser-development engineering projects with the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative and with the Utah Center for Aeronautical Innovation and Design.

Former vice provost and dean of Online & Continuing Education Bruce Davis, who passed away unexpectedly last December, received the Entrepreneurial Spirit Award for his advocacy for innovation in northern Utah. Davis also helped Weber State strengthen its economic development plans for northern Utah, taught entrepreneurship courses for many years and was a Layton City Council member.

Faculty members honored for innovation
Clockwise from top: Luke Fernandez, Susan Matt, Bruce Davis, John Sohl