Outstanding WT Faculty, Staff Honored in Year-End Ceremony

Chip Chandler May 08, 2024
  • Nursing
  • Social Sciences
  • Agriculture
  • Health Sciences
  • Business
  • Arts
  • Engineering
  • Education
  • Featured
  • Cornette Library
  • Science

Outstanding WT Faculty, Staff Honored in Year-End Ceremony

Copy by Chip Chandler, 806-651-2124,


CANYON, Texas — Top West Texas A&M University faculty and staff members for the 2023-2024 academic year recently were honored.

“Winning one of the University awards is a special moment in your professional career, further enhanced by the knowledge you have earned the highest level of respect from your peers, dean, administration, and other stakeholders across campus in recognition of your distinctive production,” said Dr. Neil Terry, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “Outstanding faculty and staff members are the most critical asset of a great university.”

The winners represent each of WT’s six Colleges. Each year faculty members also are recognized in the six academic colleges for accomplishments in the core areas of teaching, research and service.

University-wide recognition demonstrates one of the highest levels of respect a faculty member can achieve based on the nomination and selection process, including input from peers, administrators, students and other campus stakeholders. 

The Department of Sports and Exercise Sciences and its 12 faculty members were given the Assessment and Assurance of Learning Award for its work in evaluating the effectiveness of its programs to ensure undergraduate and graduate students in the field obtain the absolute best education and practical experiences, said Dr. Holly Jeffreys, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences .

“Our faculty work hard to ensure our students are well trained in the science and research of human performance using state of the art equipment, technology, and facilities as well as offer amazing hands-on learning opportunities in areas of physiology, kinesiology, athletic training and sports management,” Jeffreys said.


Photo: Kelly Hoppe, right, associate director and head of outreach and instruction for Cornette Library, was given the Academic Affairs Staff Excellence Award. Also pictured is Shawna Kennedy-Witthar, director of information and library resources, left.

Kelly Hoppe, associate director and head of outreach and instruction for Cornette Library , was given the Academic Affairs Staff Excellence Award.

“Kelly is very dedicated to helping students and faculty meet their research needs, embedding in online classes and scheduling individual appointments with students when needed,” said Shawna Kennedy-Witthar, director of information and library resources. “As a former K-12 teacher and librarian, Kelly also saw a need to talk to school librarians and teachers about ways they can prepare their students for college and so she has presented to area librarians, teachers, and at the annual Texas Library Association conference on this topic.”

Hoppe is in her 33rd year in education and eighth as an academic librarian. She is past chair of the Texas Library Association Library Instruction Round Table and chair-elect of TLA’s College and University Division. She frequently works on collaborative projects with school librarians and faculty in the WT Department of Education.

Don Lefevre, associate professor of music and director of bands in the School of Music in the Sybil B. Harrington College of Fine Arts and Humanities , was presented the Instructional Excellence Award.

Lefevre’s Symphonic Band recently was named the winner of the Presidential Order of the Silver Buffalo Award, presented to individuals and groups who have brought national or international recognition to WT. The band was recognized for being invited to perform at the  2023 College Band Directors National Association convention  and the  2024 Texas Music Educators Association convention .

In the realm of teaching there can be no better marks of success than the accomplishments of one’s students, and recognition by peers. With those benchmarks, 2023 was a most eventful year for Don,” said Dr. B.J. Brooks, head of the WT School of Music. “In addition to the six hours per week of ensemble rehearsals, Don typically teaches an additional 10 hours of sectionals to prepare the Symphonic Band to perform at their consistent high level. In recognition of this high standard and consistent achievement, in July, the Texas Bandmasters Association awarded Don the Meritorious Achievement Award.”

Lefevre, a WT alumnus, joined the faculty in 1987. In 2008 and 2017, he earned his college’s Faculty Excellence Award, and previously won the University’s Faculty Teaching Excellence Award in 2003.

Dr. Audrey Meador, assistant professor of mathematics in the College of Engineering , earned the Professional Service Excellence Award.

“Dr. Meador is a leader in service at all levels,” said Dr. Emily Hunt, dean of the College of Engineering. “She annually dreams up investigations for all age groups at Engineering Camp, and for two years has worked tirelessly to promote robotics in 6th- to 12th-grade education in rural communities.”

Meador, a WT alum who earned a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from Texas Tech University, joined the WT faculty in 2012. Her research interests include recruitment and retention of students to the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, diverse populations in STEM education, instructional theories in mathematics, and pre-service teacher knowledge in mathematics education.

Dr. Barbara Wang, the Edwards Professor of Finance and Banking in the Amarillo National Bank School of Accounting, Economics and Finance in WT’s Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business , won the Intellectual Contributions Excellence Award.

“I am pleased to see the University honoring Dr. Wang with the University Research Award, recognizing her exceptional contributions to accounting and finance research,” said Dr. Amjad Abdullat, dean of the Engler College of Business. “Last year, Dr. Wang published four influential papers in top-tier journals, offering groundbreaking insights on corporate investment efficiency, stock market pricing and audit processes. Her work not only advances academic knowledge but also significantly impacts practical financial management and policymaking.”

Wang joined the WT faculty in 2007, teaching international finance, managerial finance and multinational finance. She received a bachelor’s degree in accounting from China Institute of Finance and Banking and a Ph.D. in finance from The University of Alabama. She won her college’s Research Excellence Award in 2013.

Dr. Jenifer Kunz, professor of sociology in the Department of Psychology, Sociology and Social Work in WT’s Terry B. Rogers College of Education and Social Sciences , was presented the Distinguished Innovation in Teaching Award.

“Having taught thousands of students in-person and online during her WT tenure, Dr. Kunz consistently receives exceptional student evaluation scores accompanied with comments that substantiate both teaching effectiveness and genuine care for students,” said Dr. Gary Bigham, dean of the Rogers College and Regents Professor. “Her gregarious nature is contagious, and her consistently positive attitude contributes to the collaborative, student-centered culture that is cultivated by the College.”

Kunz, who earned her bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. in sociology from Brigham Young University, joined the WT faculty in 1993. Her courses include introductory classes, sociology of gender, statistics, and research. She has received numerous awards for teaching and has been an international visiting professor several times at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.

Dr. Ty Lawrence, professor of animal science and Caviness Davis Chair in Meat Science in the Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences , won the Distinguished Graduate Faculty Award.

“Dr. Lawrence is a prolific researcher,” said Dr. Kevin Pond, dean of the Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences. “He has published 14 peer-reviewed journal manuscripts and 21 conference proceedings and abstracts, and submitted several manuscripts to various journals for publication. Under Dr. Lawrence’s leadership, WT is becoming the go-to place for food safety information and new-drug approval research for the livestock industry.” 

Lawrence, a WT alumnus who earned a Ph.D. from Kansas State University, joined the WT faculty in 2004. The director of the University Meat Laboratory and Beef Carcass Research Center, Lawrence teaches undergraduate courses in food science, meat animal/carcass evaluation, anatomy and physiology of domestic farm animals, meat science and statistics.  He also teaches advanced level meat science and technology and integrated animal science courses for graduate students.

The individual awardees were given $3,000 honorariums, and the Department of Sports and Exercise Sciences was given a $6,000 prize.

In addition to Kunz and Lefevre, college faculty award winners for instructional responsibilities also include: Dr. Kevin Williams, associate professor of agricultural education in the Department of Agricultural Sciences ; Dr. Marisa Crisostomo, clinical assistant professor of decision management in the Engler College of Business; Dr. Li Chou, assistant professor of computer science in the College of Engineering ; and Dr. Blake Price, assistant professor of sports and exercise science in the Department of Sports and Exercise Science.

In addition to Meador, college faculty award winners for professional service also include: Dr. Ray Matlack, the James A. “Buddy” Davidson Professor of Wildlife Biology in the Department of Life, Earth and Environmental Sciences ; Dr. Rahul Chauhan, the McCray Professor of Business in the Engler College of Business; Dr. Janet Hindman, the Dyke Rogers Professor of Educational Leadership in the Department of Education ; Dr. Carolyn Baum, assistant professor of communication studies in the Department of Communication ; and Teresa Smoot, instructor of nursing in the Laura and Joe Street School of Nursing.

In addition to Lawrence and Wang, college faculty award winners for intellectual contributions also include: Dr. Swastika Bithi, assistant professor of engineering; Dr. Russell Miller, the Lanna and Bob Hatton Professor of Education: Dr. Guglielmo Manfredi, professor of French horn in the School of Music ; and Dr. Traci Fredman, assistant professor in the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences.

Honorees were celebrated May 2 in Legacy Hall in the Jack B. Kelley Student Center.

Nurturing excellent faculty and staff is an important principle of the University’s long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World .

That plan is fueled by the historic  One West  comprehensive fundraising campaign, which reached its initial $125 million goal 18 months after publicly launching in September 2021. The campaign’s new goal is to reach $175 million by 2025; currently, it has raised nearly $160 million.



About West Texas A&M University

WT is located in Canyon, Texas, on a 342-acre residential campus. Established in 1910, the University has been part of The Texas A&M University System since 1990. WT, a Hispanic Serving Institution since 2016, boasts an enrollment of about 10,000 and offers 59 undergraduate degree programs and more than 40 graduate degrees, including two doctoral degrees. The University is also home to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, the largest history museum in the state and the home of one of the Southwest’s finest art collections. The Buffaloes are a member of the NCAA Division II Lone Star Conference and offers 14 men’s and women’s athletics programs.



Photo: West Texas A&M University faculty members won University Awards in an end-of-year meeting from the Office of Academic Affairs. Pictured are, from left, Dr. Barbara Wang, Dr. Jenifer Kunz, Don Lefevre, Dr. Audrey Meador and Dr. Blake Price, representing the Department of Sports and Exercise Sciences. Not pictured is Dr. Ty Lawrence.