Inspiring speeches and dueling toy pianos marked an annual event celebrating faculty excellence.
Karmran Abedini, David Speak and Nadia Schpachenko-Gottesman presented at the Provost’s Awards for Excellence Symposium on March 8. The trio were honored with the Excellence in Teaching, Excellence in Service and Excellence in Scholarly and Creative Activities respectively.
The George P. Hart Award, named in honor of faculty member George Hart, was presented to Sociology Professor Faye Wachs. The award recognizes a faculty member who carries on Hart’s legacy of faculty governance, academic excellence and dedicated leadership.
Each of the awardees presented, with Schpachenko-Gottesman also performing a duet with a student on dueling toy pianos.
“This is a very special event,” said Provost Sylvia Alva. “It’s a time for us to celebrate and honor our faculty members and their outstanding accomplishments to the university, to their own disciplines, as well as to our students. These professors represent the very best of Cal Poly Pomona’s teacher-scholar model.”
Excellence in Teaching
Kamran Abedini, chair and professor of in the Department of Industrial & Manufacturing Engineering, has taught for more than 34 years. He created “Puzzles Principles,” a teaching technique that uses cognitive and active-learning methods melded with his own experiences, an approach that earned him recognition from the National Academy of Engineers. Abedini has won many awards and mentored numerous students, including underrepresented minorities in engineering, and those students have won awards at regional and nation competitions.
“You cannot teach a mind and not think about the heart. Everyone has a learn button and at certain times you can actually push that all of a sudden it turns on and they start listening to you,” he said. “I want to make sure that they feel with their mind and think with their heart. I think that will make a better person.”
Excellence in Service
Political Science Professor David Speak has a long and distinguished record of service, including work on campus, in local cities and in Central America. On campus, he has dutifully served the political science department, the College of Letters, Arts & Social Sciences and the Academic Senate. Off campus, Speak was a Claremont Unified School District Board of Education trustee and was elected to the California School Boards Association Delegate Assembly. He has worked as a credentialed international election observer in Central America. He also is the co-author of the textbook “American Government.”
“My work here and elsewhere in my career is in service of life,” Speak said. “That wouldn’t have been possible without the safe harbor the university provides. The university is the sanctuary…that shelters us as we do our work in the world. I serve the university. I serve life.”
Excellence in Scholarly and Creative Activities
Music Professor Nadia Shpachenko-Gottesman is noted for her outstanding national and international contributions to music performance. The pianist specializes in commissioning, premiering and recording new works by living composers and has performed 150 recitals since joining the Cal Poly Pomona faculty. Her most recent album, “Woman at the New Piano” received three Gold Medals from the Global Music Awards and three Grammy nominations. She often collaborates with her students.
“It is my responsibility and my exciting task to get people excited about this new music, to be a part of this process and to make classical music up to date and exciting to people,” she said. “I feel like I have all the freedom to do what I feel is exciting and engaging.”
George P. Hart Award
Sociology Professor Faye L. Wachs has taught at Cal Poly Pomona for 15 years, but her teaching, scholarship, service and leadership extend far beyond the campus boundaries. Wachs has given years of distinguished service to the Academic Senate. She is the past president of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport and served as the chair for the Status of Women for the Psychological Society of America. She volunteers with Covenant House California, an organization that serves homeless youth.
“While tremendous focus is place on the influence our research has, the influence we have as mentors, teachers and role models is probably more profound,” she said. “There is no better chance of reforming the criminal justice system, creating educational equity or developing meaningful programs than our graduates stacking local agencies, companies, firms and governments. We need to treat our opportunity to interact with students as a truly precious thing, an opportunity of growth and learning.”