At Richmond, faculty are known for both innovating the curriculum and their intense dedication to student success. It’s common to find them tackling real-world issues in the community and conducting research alongside their student mentees.

This year’s group of distinguished educators all exemplify the Richmond way when it comes to teaching and providing transformative learning opportunities. But you don’t have to take our word for it — in addition to faculty and administrators, current and former students help inform the process for selecting these distinguished educators.

Each year, we are reminded of how much our students have to look forward to when classes start. Here’s a look at this latest group of faculty we’re honoring for their outstanding commitment to students and scholarship both in and outside of the classroom. 

Timothy J. Barney, associate professor of rhetoric and communications studies, has been transforming the way students see the world. Unfolding his expertise in the rhetoric of map-making for students, he guides them through the most circuitous and congested problems in international studies, from Cold War history to globalization to elections and revolutions. One of his courses recently helped compile research for the Digital Scholarship Lab’s project on The Executive Abroad, which catalogs all trips by presidents and secretaries of states in an interactive map.

Kristin M.S. Bezio, associate professor of leadership studies, is an outstanding scholar and teacher who embodies Richmond’s ideal of an engaged and productive faculty member. Her innovative connections between Elizabethean culture and contemporary pop culture, her extended and successful collaboration with Henderson Middle School in the city of Richmond, and her enormous productivity as a scholar in multiple fields distinguish her as a unique and invaluable presence on our campus and in our students’ lives. Of particular note is her work in “Leadership on Stage and Screen,” integrating community-based learning by engaging students in helping local middle school students stage a Shakespeare play.

Bill Fisher, professor of law, exemplifies the teacher-scholar model of Richmond. For his corporate governance course, he could not find a textbook that met his high standards, so he wrote his own — an 800-page book with in-depth explanations of corporate governance scandals of the last 20 years. The book is a favorite of students and scholars alike.

Kasongo Kapanga, professor of French, is described by a few student evaluations as “the rare talent to meet his students at whatever level they enter the classroom, and to encourage them with humor, care and respect.” And Professor Kapanga accomplishes this feat in three different languages! In addition to teaching French, he also tutors students in Swahili, a language rarely offered to students. This is just one of many ways that he has helped to internationalize UR’s curriculum. One former student, Will Cragin, writes: “Dr. Kapanga supported my passion and helped turn it into serious academic and intellectual interest, all without losing sight of the humanity of the work.”

Saif Mehkari, associate professor of economics, joined the UR faculty in 2011 and his teaching focuses on rigor and preparation. He pushes students to think broadly and is dedicated to motivating them to learn. His dedication outside the classroom is equally evident. He serves as a faculty advisor for independent honors research and as a co-coordinator of the mathematical economics major, which requires substantial cooperation between the economics and mathematics departments. 

Carol Parish, professor of chemistry, is a campus and national leader for the effective integration of teaching and research. Look no further than her work in the Integrated Quantitative Science (IQS) and Science Math and Research Training (SMART) courses, as well as in disciplinary Chemistry courses. Her commitment to the involvement of students in outcome-oriented research has led to transformative learning experiences for dozens of UR students. Her passion and effectiveness for increasing diversity and inclusion within STEM fields is particularly noteworthy.

Ellen Walk, assistant professor of information systems, has been a major leader and role model at the School of Professional and Continuing Studies, where she is the associate dean for administration. Her leadership has had the greatest impact in developing courses and engaging her students in scholarly and creative work. As an expert in information systems, she has designed, developed, and taught 11 different courses and one internship program, helping to educate students for careers in the growing tech industry while emphasizing systems analysis and critical thinking skills.

Jonathan Whitaker, associate professor of management, demonstrates an exceptional dedication to student success. He approaches teaching with an unfailingly positive attitude and commitment to excellence. Remarkably, he has won all four major honors in the Robins School of Business: the Teaching Award, the Outstanding MBA Professor Award, the Service Award, and the Research Award. Dr. Whitaker teaches courses in the undergraduate and MBA programs, mentors the MBA Capstone projects, and teaches workshops for Career Services and Executive Education. Whitaker played a leadership role in designing the consulting track curriculum and its cornerstone course and serves as a faculty mentor for all students in the track. His record on student outcomes is astonishing, with 100 percent of his students achieving a full-time job placement before graduating.

Bravo, professors! Thank you for all you do to advance scholarship and mentor our students. We’re thankful that all of our Spiders have the opportunity to learn from and collaborate with so many excellent faculty during their time at Richmond.

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