Congratulations to our 2023 staff and faculty award winners! These awards recognize a group of outstanding people who have demonstrated their excellence in teaching and service. These staff and faculty members are dedicated to guiding the future of our students and the University community.
Staff Award Winners
On Thursday, June 8, the University held its first #BEGREAT event at the Gaylord National Harbor and Convention Center in Oxon Hill, Maryland. This awards reception recognized the hard work and commitment demonstrated by the University’s staff and faculty members.
Excellence in Service Award: Dr. Lori Woeste
The Excellence in Service Award is presented to an outstanding staff member. It recognizes that staff member for quality work, dedication, and a commitment to providing excellent service to students, alumni, faculty, and other staff. Typically, that staff member goes above and beyond university standards to be respectful and helpful.
Dr. Lori Woeste is the associate dean of Graduate Programs at the University. She has been at the University since 2017, previously holding leadership positions at the University of Iowa, Kirkwood Community College and Illinois State University.
Dr. Woeste holds a bachelor’s degree in clinical laboratory science and medical technology from Luther College. She also holds a master’s degree in health services and a doctoral degree in education, both from Illinois State University.
Chapter Advisor of the Year Award: LaVarn Gordon
This award is presented to a student organization advisor who actively engages in that student organization and fosters relationships with members, leaders, and the Office of Student Affairs. This advisor also sets a high standard and provides exemplary service to the student organization and its leadership team.
This year’s recipient of the Chapter Advisor of the Year is LaVarn Gordon. LaVarn serves as a program manager for the Office of Student and Alumni Affairs. He has been a valuable member of the University since May 2017. LaVarn leads the University Ambassador Program. In this role, he collaborates closely with the University’s alumni community to support their needs and foster lifelong partnerships with the University.
As the advisor for the Alumni Advisory Council, LaVarn is passionate about engaging and supporting alumni. He takes pride in supporting the Council’s goals to enhance the alumni experience and serves as a liaison between alumni and University leadership. LaVarn also provides guidance when the Council offers valuable feedback on initiatives that align with the mission and values of the University.
LaVarn holds a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from Shenandoah University. In 2023, he completed his Master of Education in Student Affairs in Higher Education with a concentration in campus leadership. LaVarn’s mission is to help others reach their fullest potential and soar to their highest ability. He is grateful for the opportunity to serve the student and alumni community.
The University recognized several outstanding faculty members. These faculty members received their awards during the annual Convocation ceremony on June 9.
Outstanding Faculty Awards
Two prestigious awards were presented to outstanding faculty members during Commencement:
- Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year – Dr. Amr Elchouemi
- Outstanding Faculty Research and Scholarship – Dr. Janet Athanasiou
Dr. Wallace E. Boston Leadership Award: Dr. Tracey Lanham
The Dr. Wallace E. Boston Leadership Award was created in 2016 and is presented annually by the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees. It recognizes a member of the University community for outstanding leadership and a significant impact on their community, industry, or the world.
This year, the Dr. Wallace E. Boston Leadership Award went to Dr. Tracey Lanham. Dr. Lanham has been a program mentor, instructor, program chair, and associate dean for the University’s School of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). She has over 14 years of higher education experience, teaching a wide variety of technology courses.
Previously, Dr. Lanham worked in various industries. She has been a web developer, database administrator, e-commerce platform manager, social media marketer and systems administrator.
She holds associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees in computer information technology from Hodges University. She is also a Microsoft Office Specialist, an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certified Cloud Practitioner and an AWS Accredited Educator. She is currently working on her dissertation for her Ph.D. in information technology at Capella University.
Dr. Lanham is fully engaged in getting more girls and women involved in technology fields in order to support their pursuit of technology careers.
James P. Etter Creativity and Innovation Award: Mrs. Katherine Fisne
The James P. Etter Creativity and Innovation Award was established in 2014 and is presented annually to a member of the University community. This award recognizes an innovative or creative contribution that has made a significant impact on the award winner’s community, industry, or the world.
Mrs. Katherine Fisne is the 2023 winner of this award. She is a Senior eLearning Architect in the Instructional Design department of the University. Additionally, Katherine is a certified 7-12 math instructor and P-12 instructional technologist in Pennsylvania.
Mrs. Fisne originally joined the University as an eLearning architect in June 2021. She was quickly promoted to a senior position as a result of her drive, commitment to quality and focus on the student experience. She has received five awards from the University’s Office of the Provost.
Mrs. Fisne holds a bachelor’s in mathematics with a secondary education focus from Marywood University and a master’s in instructional technology from Wilkes University. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in instructional design with a focus on leadership from the American College of Education.
Mrs. Fisne took charge of the Practice Classroom as part of the Provost’s Welcome Wagon Taskforce. The Practice Classroom provides a self-paced, interactive learning experience for new students to become familiar with the MyClassroom learning space, setting them up for success in their future coursework. She also serves on the Intelligent Agents Task Force, the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) Committee, and the General Education Committee.
Excellence in Diversity Award: Lieutenant Colonel Susan E. Upward
This year, the University presented its first-ever “Excellence in Diversity” Award. This award is given to someone who has made a significant effort to foster equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging within the University community or a local community. In 2023, this award went to Lieutenant Colonel Susan E. Upward, an AMU alumna.
Lt. Col. Upward is an active-duty judge advocate in the United States Marine Corps. A native of Toronto, Canada, she enlisted in the Marine Corps in February 2004 and became a U.S. citizen in September that same year.
Lt. Col. Upward spent seven years of her military career as an Air Support Control Officer, including two tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, before she was selected to attend law school. She holds several degrees, including a bachelor’s in English from Valparaiso University; a master’s with honors in military studies from American Military University; a J.D. from Syracuse University; an LL.M. in national security and homeland security law from Western Michigan University’s Cooley Law School.
Lt. Col. Upward served as a prosecutor, defense counsel, command judge advocate, and law center director before being deployed to the Middle East in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve in May 2023. She has focused on fostering diversity, equity and inclusion within both the military and legal communities.
She is a member of the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Women in Criminal Justice Task Force, which has explored issues related to the hiring, retention, and promotion of women in criminal law. That research culminated in a resolution, “Ten Principles to Achieve Gender Equity in the Criminal Legal Profession,” which was unanimously adopted by the ABA House of Delegates in February 2023.
Lt. Col. Upward is a published author and speaker on implicit bias and other diversity issues. She has written for several professional publications and participated in multiple military and civilian presentations across the country.
Excellence in Teaching Awards
Dr. Janet Athanasiou, School of Arts, Humanities, and Education
Dr. Janet Athanasiou is a student affairs professional who has worked in various capacities for the University, the University of Alberta and James Madison University. Currently, she is the program manager for Campus Leadership and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) Initiatives at the University.
Dr. Athanasiou also recruits, trains, and assesses student, alumni, faculty, and staff campus leaders and co-chairs the annual Campus Leadership Institute. In addition, she promotes out-of-classroom learning and engagement, supports the DEIB Council, and works to ensure the University is an institution where all students feel like they belong.
Dr. Athanasiou has also served as a graduate academic advisor and senior manager of advising schools at the University and has been a Residence Coordinator at the University of Alberta and James Madison University. She is an adjunct faculty member at the University and has taught courses in student affairs and higher education.
Her research interests are centered around identity development, campus advocacy, student engagement and participation in co-curricular programming in online environments. She has published articles in the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, the Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, and the Journal of College & Character.
In addition, Dr. Athanasiou has given presentations at several association meetings. She has spoken at the Association for Studies in Higher Education (ASHE), College Educators International (ACPA), Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) and Leadership Educators Institute (LEI).
Dr. Paullett Golden, School of Arts, Humanities and Education
Dr. Paullett Golden is an associate professor of English for the School of Arts, Humanities and Education. She has taught for 25 years and has called the University home since 2018. Dr. Golden currently serves as the sequence lead for British Literature and the course lead for Argumentation and Rhetoric and British Fiction.
Dr. Golden’s classes are unique due to her coffeehouse approach in building a community. In her courses, Dr. Golden challenges her students’ critical thinking and encourages students to feel comfortable. She looks forward to at least another 20 years of being part of students’ academic success.
Dr. Golden holds a master’s in British literature and a Ph.D. in Composition and Rhetoric, both from King’s College, London. Her doctoral dissertation focused on online teaching and tutoring strategies, research she utilized when serving as a writing center director. The one-on-one connection between a writing consultant and a student, at the heart of writing center pedagogy, influences Dr. Golden’s teaching style.
In addition to teaching, Dr. Golden is a novelist of historical fiction. She has currently written 10 books.
Dr. Elina Keiser, School of Health Sciences
Dr. Elina Keiser, DNP, RN, CEN, CNE, CNE, is a full-time faculty member at the University in the RN to BSN and MSN nursing programs. Dr. Keiser specializes in emergency and trauma nursing for adult and pediatric populations.
She holds an associate degree in nursing science from Broward College and a bachelor’s in kinesiology and exercise science from the University of Maryland. Dr. Keiser also earned a bachelor’s in nursing science, a master’s in nursing administration and a post-master’s certificate in nursing education, all from the University of Central Florida.
She was awarded her Doctorate of Nursing Practice from Chatham University in 2018. Her doctoral dissertation was on mindfulness meditation and decreasing the perceived stress in undergraduate nursing students.
Dr. Nicole Hare-Everline, School of Health Sciences
Dr. Nicole Hare-Everline is an instructor and curriculum developer with more than 20 years of public health and human resource practice. She currently serves as an associate professor and graduate advisor for the University.
She holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in health science from the University of Central Arkansas. She also earned a doctoral degree in health science from Nova Southeastern University.
Dr. Hare-Everline has worked tirelessly to improve the health of her community. She won a grant from the Texas Governor’s Office of Physical Fitness to increase public health awareness and the health literacy of Houston residents, especially concerning chronic diseases.
Dr. Matthew D. Gonzalez, School of STEM
Dr. Matthew Gonzalez is a part-time instructor in the School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. He also serves as the Director of Operations at the American Council of Education. He also served as the founding director of cyber security for the University of Charleston, West Virginia.
Other leadership positions have included serving as a Chief Data Officer for the Department of Defense (DoD), an IT Project Manager at the United Services Automobile Association and TTEC. Dr. Gonzalez has also been the Chair of Business for the University of the Incarnate Word and a Cyber Security Evaluator for the American Council of Education.
He has also performed research and taught courses for various organizations. Dr. Gonzalez has been a Pentagon Offense/Defense trainer to the Air Force Cyber Command on blockchain and cryptocurrency. In addition, he has assessed intelligence, cybersecurity, and network-related occupations and courses covering the Global Information Grid for the U.S. Navy, Army, Air Force Cyber Command, and Coast Guard Cyber Operations.
Dr. Gonzalez served as a consultant for different civilian, government, and military organizations. His clients have included Microsoft, IBM, T-Mobile and the DoD.
Dr. Amr Elchouemi, School of STEM
Dr. Amr Elchouemi is a faculty member for the School of STEM. He holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree computer science from Alexandria University in Egypt. In addition, Dr. Elchouemi has a second master’s degree and a Ph.D. in computer science, both from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Dr. Elchouemi holds multiple industrial certifications in areas related to cloud computing, e-business and networking. He is very active in research in areas related to computer architecture, computer networks, image processing and e-learning. Dr. Elchouemi has published over 124 technical papers for scientific journals and refereed conferences.
Dr. Elchouemi has over 24 years of industrial experience, working for companies like Intel, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and Hewlett-Packard. He is a specialist in computer-aided design development, microprocessor verification, software engineering, and software architecture. Dr. Elchouemi has also 21 years of teaching experience at the higher education level.
Dr. Jolene Mendel, Outstanding Faculty Research and Scholarship (Honorable Mention), School of Arts, Humanities, and Education
Dr. Jolene Mendel is an assistant professor at the University. She holds a master’s in English literature from Chapman University and a Ph.D. in literature from Faulkner University.
Again, congratulations to all the 2023 winners of the staff and faculty awards! We hope your outstanding work continues to inspire others.