Celebrating Achievement

Congratulations to the 2014 award winners:

Outstanding Faculty - Mentor of First-Year Student Award

Tom Hartley
Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Dr. Tom Hartley is known for his ability to teach at all levels, from freshmen through doctoral level, in traditional courses as well as those specific to electrical and computer engineering. 

Hartley's commitment to the development of and approach to the Tools for Electrical & Computer Engineering freshman course has helped increase freshmen retention from 50 percent to 70 percent over the last 10 years.

The accreditation exit report by ABET cited the tools class and its hands-on and design activities as a strength of the electrical and computer engineering program.

Hartley's mentoring of students has gone beyond that of most faculty in that several of his mentees have founded successful start-up companies.

Hartley single-handedly started and still runs the flourishing robotics program, a source of pride for the department, college and University.

He makes himself available to meet with prospective students and parents, politicians and industry principals, and he participates in Scholarship Days and other events throughout the year.  In the last three years, he participated in 71 recruiting activities, and raised more than $114,000 to support the robotics competitions and projects.

Diversity Award

Julie Yuhua Zhao, Ph.D.
Director, IDEAs Program, College of Engineering

Dr. Julie Yuhua Zhao directs the College of Engineering's IDEAs (Increasing Diversity in Engineering Academics) Program, designed to increase the retention and graduation rates of diverse students in the college.

From 2006-2013, student diversity in engineering has increased 75 percent.  Further, Zhao has secured $54,000 for scholarships and more than $375,000 in secured grants to support minority education programs in engineering.

She has presented and published numerous articles about diversity and student success in the African American population, diversity in engineering, and learning disabilities and engineering.

Exemplary University Service Award - Contract Professional

Kevin Tondra
Academic Advisor II, College of Education

Mr. Kevin Tondra, an academic advisor, is described by colleagues as kind, intelligent, a consummate professional, wise, humble, dedicated and a true zip.  He has had a positive impact on thousands of students who have graduated over the years with a degree in education.

He's dedicated to student and institutional success; he is seen as the "go-to" person in the College of Education by the Office of Admissions, the Adult and Transfer Services Center, and administrators in other colleges.

Interim Dean Susan Clark says Tondra demonstrates the ability to creatively solve problems of practice and to understand the various choices the College of Education faces.  "He is a strong contributor, always working to ensure that the college recruits, retains, and graduates its students," she says.  She further states that Kevin has helped generate new ways of working in the college.  She counts him as a strong member of the support service team.

Exemplary University Service Award - Staff

Debra Gannon
Program Specialist, Honors College

Mrs. Debra Gannon's nominator said her service to students is extraordinary; students often write about how helpful she is and how she goes above and beyond to assist them.

Gannon handles a number of vital functions for the college.  She coordinates the Honors Colloquia, communications with prospective students for Honors Scholarships, arranges all New Student Orientation programs for incoming Honors students, works with the Honors Emerging Leaders Learning Community and coordinates the large Honors Graduation Recognition programs in December and May of each year.  That entails issuing invitations, compiling information for the booklets with students' Honors abstracts, preparing the commemorative booklet and organizing the reception for the graduates and their families.

She is also responsible for the Degree Audit Reporting System and enters as an exception each course that students take, because DARS does not recognize the Honors Distribution.  With 1,600 Honors College students, that is a monumental task!

Gannon also serves on the University Council committee on Student Engagement and Success.  She is a member of SEAC, and serves as the adviser for the Honors Book Club.

Outstanding Teacher Award

Ali Hajjafar
Professor, Mathematics

Dr. Ali Hajjafar is praised for his passion for his discipline, his students and his university.  He has served UA for 30 years.  In the early years, he was instrumental in building the applied mathematics program and numerical analysis.

Hajjafar has coordinated the general education mathematics course offerings; more recently, he has coordinated course offerings for the precalculus course.

He has been involved for years on the Buchtel College Council, including 12 years as chair of the council.  He has served five three-year terms on the Faculty Senate, and gave his expertise as a member of the Communication & Technology Committee as well as the Curriculum Committee.

Additionally, he has served on the University Council's Budget and Finance Committee, and recently assisted with the budget forums.

Outstanding Contributions to Student Success Award

Kathleen "Kelly" Kulick
Director, Office of Accessibility

Ms. Kelly Kulick joined UA in 2012 as director of the Office of Accessibility.  She is credited by her nominator as being "a strong advocate on campus for inclusion and accessibility, always paving the way for students with disabilities to feel welcome, supported and affirmed."

She has reached out to faculty and staff across campus to ensure that they are both knowledgeable and supported in their work with students who have disabilities.  Meanwhile, under her leadership, the number of students with disabilities working with the Office of Accessibility has risen more than 20 percent and student traffic into the office has increased 38 percent.

Kulick's drive and focus on improvement is also demonstrated in the outreach effort under way with a large number of area high schools.  The Office of Accessibility is creating strong working relationships so that students with disabilities may be supported in the entire process of choosing to go to college and transitioning to college.

"She is a true advocate and works tirelessly to support the University and the students for whom she is responsible," adds her nominator.  "We are delighted and honored for her to be a part of the Division of Student Success."