The University of Nevada, Reno recognizes eight Major Unit Outstanding Letter of Appointment Instructional faculty members for their distinguished efforts in the Spring 2022 semester. These faculty members teach courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Instructors were recognized for their exceptional instruction and for creating learning environments that allow their students to thrive in the classroom and on the University’s campus.
The impact of LOA faculty on the University is long lasting and felt beyond their time with the University. The diverse pool of winners in Spring 2022 represents departments and divisions across campus, from the Departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Science and Chemistry to the World Languages and Literatures Department, illustrating the impressive range, skill sets and capabilities of LOA instructors. This award is one of many faculty and staff recognitions awarded annually by the University of Nevada, Reno Foundation.
Katherine LaPierre is the recipient of the $1,000 award funded by the Foundation “Since the Foundation was incorporated in 1981, our volunteer board of trustees has celebrated excellence among hundreds of University faculty and staff,” said 2021 and 2022 University Foundation Chair Jeff Rodefer ’85 (finance). “We are honored to congratulate these esteemed faculty and staff members, and recognize the importance of continuing their great work on our campus.”
In addition to faculty support and recognition totaling more than $70,000 each year, the Foundation provided more than $40.4 million to University programs, capital projects and student scholarships across campus in the 2020-21 academic year.
These Major Unit Outstanding LOAs are being recognized for their exceptional teaching. Katherine LaPierre won this semester’s top instructional LOA award.
Outstanding LOA Katherine LaPierre
College of Liberal Arts
During the Spring 2022 semester, Katherine LaPierre taught Communications 101: Oral Communication with an enrollment of 40 students and Communications 329: Business Communication, both online. She is the sole instructor for these courses and does not have a teaching assistant and still managed to maintain one-on-one grading and mentoring that is part of the course. LaPierre restructured the course to offer more personal interactions and to give students more learning opportunities beyond public speaking experience.
LaPierre pushes students outside of their comfort zone while still maintaining an encouraging and supportive learning environment, her course design carries a distinct style that is visible through the course readings and active assignments, and the ability to teach to students’ interests. The readings she selects and the assignments she creates across all of her courses, and not just this semester, are often rigorous, pushing undergraduate students to challenge their analytical and critical thinking skills. Many of her courses incorporate a civic engagement element or some kind of assignment that asks them to embrace the bigger world, and they are rich with active learning. Common projects include writing short stories, creating maps of theories or concepts, or reflective writing on students’ own experiences within a given construct or context.
Her syllabuses are reflective of diversity and inclusion, as she picks her own readings and creates new, creative activities. Her award-winning activity “cocktail party” gives students the opportunity for self-reflection about how they present themselves to others. This encourages students to embrace their unique attributes and to consider where they might experience challenged because of personal experiences or social identity.
“As a Department Chair who depends on the work of temporary instructors and who sometimes feels nervous that a class might not be able to be filled by a qualified instructor, LaPierre has been a sigh of relief many times as she stepped up to do a new preparation for a course. Quite simply, we could not keep our schedule afloat without her — her versatility and extensive knowledge make her a true treasure in our department,” said Jimmie Manning, the chair and a professor of the Communication Studies department.
“This award is not just an honor, it is a validation of the years I have put into becoming an online pedagogical communication expert. I have been teaching for 22 years and online for over 15 years. Before the pandemic, not many people really understood what I did or how difficult it can be to create quality online classroom experiences. In Covid, we all saw the good, the bad, and the ugly. I am honored that UNR has seen the good that I do for our students. In communication, we teach that the three things people need to feel complete are to be seen, heard, and recognized. Through this award, UNR has given me all of that and more.
“I live in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and have never been to the UNR campus. I teach online. I started teaching online for UNR because of a connection I made with Dr. Jimmie Manning, chair of the communication department at the National Communication Association. I am the founder of a mentoring program through the Women’s Caucus and the Feminist and Gender Studies Division, called Womentoring/ Womxntoring, which he has been participating in for the past few years. I am also the immediate past chair of the Women’s Caucus, the largest caucus in the National Communication Association.
“I enjoy teaching at UNR. I have had the freedom to create my own curriculum and thus ensure that the students receive the full extent of my expertise while we explore communication. The students are engaging, hard-working, and willing to be self-reflective. I couldn’t ask for more.
“I look forward to many more years of teaching at the University.”
Heather Crawford-Ferre, Ph.D.
College of Education & Human Development
Since 2020, Heather Crawford-Ferre, Ph.D., has taught two to four courses per year for the Educational Studies department of the College of Education and Human Development (COHED). During this Spring 2022 semester, Heather taught Reading and Language Education 472/672: Methods and Curricula for Teaching English Language Learners. Dr. Crawford-Ferre additionally, supports current and future educators in earning their Nevada teaching license endorsement in English Language Acquisition and Development (ELAD) and/or their graduate certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) with courses including Issues in Assessment for English Learners (EDRL 475/675), Policies, Critical Issues and Best Practices for English Learners and Practicum (EDRL 477/677), and Methods for Adolescent and Adult English Learners (EDRL 473/673).
Heather additionally teaches The Law of Public Education (EL 735) for the Nevada Leads program in the COHED. Nevada Leads is a two-year program for a Master’s in Educational Leadership that prepares future school administrators through an innovative partnership between the University and Washoe County School District.
Through all of these courses, she had taught meaningful and relevant curriculum for future and current educators and educational leaders. Heather excels at bridging research into practice and shares her expertise in current research, policy and applications.
The COEHD’s primary mission and goal is to prepare and train prospective teachers to become high-quality education professionals who are effective and efficient at working with diverse student populations in a variety of settings. Dr. Crawford-Ferre’s courses are designed and delivered to students to equip them with the skills necessary to apply research, both local and global, that is interdisciplinary in any context. It is apparent that she has high standards for her students and holds students accountable to become the high-performing education professionals, aiming ultimately for the betterment of young people’s educational experiences.
Crawford-Ferre is passionate about building a rapport with her students; making an effort to include office hours, group and one-on-one conferences and partner work in her asynchronous courses, a format in which students struggle to build relationship. Heather also serves as the Assistant Director of the Nevada Math and Technology Program at the University of Nevada, Reno.
“Heather displays a genuine interest in students’ personal development and well-being, especially as it relates to building an inclusive classroom for diverse students,” said Lynda Wiest, a professor of education at the University.
“I am honored to receive this award. After earning my bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and Ph.D. at the University of Nevada, Reno, I feel it is my duty to give back to my field. Supporting Nevada’s preservice and inservice teachers as an instructor in the College of Education and Human Development is one of my favorite ways to contribute. I know that our Pk-12 teachers are doing some of the most challenging and important work. I am happy to share my expertise and help build their toolbox as they engage with Nevada’s children.”
College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources
Natural Resources and Environmental Science
As a Letter of Appointment instructor for Spring 2022 Demuth is teaching three courses, including Environment 101: Introduction to Environmental Science, Natural Resources and Environmental Science 410: Compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, and Natural Resources and Environmental Science 412: Environmental Law. As the primary instructors of NRES 410 and 412, Demuth is solely responsible for the development of course content and curriculum and its delivery. NRES 410 is a relatively new course that he has implemented over the past decade.
Demuth’s background and experience owning an environmental consulting business for several decades provides him a first-hand knowledge how regulatory oversight is required for protecting the environment. His experience gives him a unique perspective when formulating curriculum and in that he well understands the conflicts and controversy that exist in real-world permitting.
“He is able to deliver a course that has an actual basis in reality, and the NRES faculty truly value his contributions to the curriculum. Students have consistently rated him and his courses as excellent. I have personally had students come to me and comment on how important his courses are for understanding professional positions which relate to the environment,” said Glenn C Miller, a co-chair for the Natural Resources and Environmental Science department.
In his 16-year career as an NRES instructor at the University, Demuth has taught at the intersection of Environmental Science and Policy. The courses taught by Demuth require continual curricular development as both the Natural Resources and Environment course are rooted in historical legislative and legal precedent. Mr. Demuth makes diversity, equity and justice a cornerstone of the courses he teaches. Each lecture provides students with an additional understanding and perspectives of environmental justice. His commitment to teaching students the critically important aspects of environmental law and regulation is truly outstanding.
“My 16 years of teaching here have been the highlight of my 30+ year professional career in environmental compliance, permitting and law. I take great pride in the over 1,700 undergraduate and nearly 200 graduate students who have taken my environmental law and NEPA courses, many of which I still have contact with in their professional positions throughout the western United States. My teaching has always been my way of ‘paying-it-forward’ to a profession which has given me so much over the years. I am truly grateful.”
College of Liberal Arts
World Languages and Literatures
Roger Gray, or as he is affectionately known as “Herr Grau” (Mr. Gray in German) by his students, is the University’s sole instructor of the German Program, teaching German 111, 112, 211, and 212. He teaches 14 credits of German language courses per semester, with a total of 28 credits per academic year as a Letter of Appointment instructor. As the only German instructor for the language program, Gray has mentored and advised students on their academic progress and can field questions on study abroad interests for over 20 years at the University.
To develop curriculum and gives students the most holistic language education, he has developed prompts to create effect target language learning environment. In doing this, Gray has facilitated student-centered and student-driven hands-on activities. These activities are designed to focus on grammar, vocabulary and culture and followed by formative and summative assessments to measure students’ learning outcomes. He has created a built a solid foundation for students to pursue higher levels of the German language.
Gray has enriched the experiences of German students at the University by expanding his curriculum to include German cultural content and authentic materials for students to critically discuss and analyze to gain multi-perspectives on the European views on current American social and cultural events. He goes beyond the required textbook and provides
He also provides students with supplementary materials that help to enhance his students’ proficiency levels to cultivate an understanding of German and European traditions and value systems in the content areas and how the European and American cultures interact. It aims to raise students’ cultural awareness and develop their intercultural competence while strengthening their linguistic skills.
Gray goes out of his way to create an immersive educational experience for his students by hosting the German movie club and other extracurricular activities. He has long been an active member in the World Languages and Literatures Department awards ceremony by selecting and presenting German program awardees. He has additionally maintained a collaborative relationship with the German program in the Washoe County School District to ensure the smooth transition for the German language learners from Washoe County high schools to the University.
“Roger’s professional performance in the German program is exemplary. His actions in teaching have shifted the stagnant view of language courses serving only as a basic tool to upper division courses. He has proved through his daily efforts in teaching that content areas in culture and society that enhance understanding among different groups of people can be effectively integrated into the language instruction to build the curriculum more in depth” said Cassie Isabelli, the chair of the World Languages and Literatures department at the University.
“Just when I thought no one was looking, I receive the teaching award! In Fall 2021 Lin Li Hall (Chinese) informed me she was nominating me for an award. I was flattered that someone had taken notice of my efforts. She must have seen the light coming out from under my office door as I was burning the midnight oil. Anyway, I was nominated, but did not receive an award. In early to mid April I was walking through Cain Hall to go to one of my classes and Lin Li was in the hallway talking to one of her students. I said “Hello” to her as I passed by, and she replied “Congratulations!” I didn’t know what she was congratulating me for, but I guessed (and guessed correctly), that I must have won some kind of an award. She informed me that Cassie had re-nominated me in Spring 2022 and that I had actually received an award this time around. I had no idea that anyone was working behind the scenes to re-nominate me. Such a pleasant surprise.
“I would like to thank both Lin Li Hall and Cassie Isabelli (Chair of WLL) for putting in the effort to nominate me. It is an honor and a pleasure to know that my colleagues value me as an instructor.”
Taylor Lensch, Ph.D.
School of Public Health
Nevada Public Health Training Center
Dr. Taylor Lensch teaches two courses, Community Health Science 280: Introduction to Biostatistics in Public Health and Community Health Science 473: Epidemiology, as a Letter of Appointment instructor. Enrollment for these courses ranges from approximately 45 to 65 students and includes students from the public health and kinesiology tracks in the School of Public Health.
Dr. Lensch has adopted a general strategy and structure of class in which he gives a 30–45-minute lecture, followed by an in-class activity, and then he uses the remaining time to debrief and connect the lesson to the course’s learning outcomes. During the in-class activities that he creates, Dr. Lensch engages with the students on an individual level, helping them find the solution. The engagement that he has with students during class time helps students grasp course material at a deeper, more impactful level and students get the opportunity to learn from each other and to get to know each other. Students consistently give Dr. Lensch’s teaching style and courses glowing evaluations.
“His interactions with each student throughout the semester helps to foster a shared respect among the instructor and the students, which also helps to promote a positive and inclusive classroom environment,” said Matt Strickland, a professor and division lead of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Environmental Health.
“It is an incredible honor to be recognized by the University with the Foundation Letter of Appointment Teaching Award for the School of Public Health. As a University of Nevada, Reno alumnus, I care deeply about the success of the students at our University and strive to provide them with a welcoming and inclusive learning environment. I am grateful for the opportunities I have had to teach courses such as Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the School of Public Health and enjoy helping students to build skills in the classroom that they can use to promote health and well-being of people and populations around world.”
Kaitlin Ochsenrider, Ph.D.
College of Science
During the Spring 2022 semester as a Letter of Appointment faculty member, Kaitlin Ochsenrider has been responsible for coordinating and organizing the large enrollment general chemistry teaching laboratory program. This includes Chemistry 121L: General Chemistry I Laboratory, 36 sections of up to 24 students each, approximately 860 students and Chemistry 122L: General Chemistry II Laboratory, 16 sections of up to 24 students each, approximately 380 students. Notably, Ochsenrider’s role as the coordinator for this large enrollment laboratory means that she was also responsible for mentoring undergraduate and graduate student teaching assistants. With a total of 52 lab sections, the TA mentorship is essentially a class of its own with between 25-30 TAs.
In addition to her invaluable role as the laboratory coordinator, Ochsenrider has administrative and teaching tasks including making the course schedule, managing the online presence for the course, resolving student’s issues, coordinating and communicating with the stockroom on lab materials and problems that arise during the lab times, resolving various interpersonal conflicts, and solving unexpected problems that arise during the semester.
Ochsenrider has an impressive track-record as a Letter of Appointment instructor. In Fall 2021, Ochsenrider taught Chemistry 122A: General Chemistry II to 139 enrolled students. At this time, she was recognized as a top LOA instructor for the College of Science. In Summer 2021, she taught Chemistry 122A to 41 enrolled students. In Fall 2019, she taught the large lecture course Chemistry 220A: Introduction to Organic Chemistry Lecture to 159 students and coordinated the associated laboratories Chemistry 220L: Introduction to Organic Chemistry Laboratory, which had five sections totaling 116 students. During her time teaching Chemistry 220L, Ochsenrider mentored three graduate teaching assistants in the role of Chemistry 220L laboratory course coordinator.
“Kaitlin acknowledges the challenges that she experienced during her time as an undergraduate and graduate student in chemistry and normalizes struggling as a part of – not a hurdle to – the learning process. She brings empathy and care to her interactions with students and TAs. She understands that serving as a TA is both a teaching and a learning experience and she understands that the TA is a very vulnerable position,” said Sarah Cummings, the director of advancements in teaching excellence at the University.
“I am so honored to receive the Foundation Outstanding LOA Instructor award once again. I am deeply grateful that faculty members who demonstrate excellence in teaching would take the time to support my growth as a teacher and nominate me for this award. It is such a privilege to be able to do something that I am absolutely in love with. My passion is with teaching and supporting students at all levels. This semester, I have had the unique opportunity to focus on supporting undergraduate and graduate student TAs in the Chemistry Department. This work has been incredibly important to me because the level of support I received as a UNR graduate student TA helped me realize my passion for teaching. My goal is to have the opportunity to continue investing in UNR’s student body and advocating for each student’s success for many years to come. My hope is that I can help TAs find joy in teaching chemistry, and that undergraduate students can find joy in learning chemistry!”
Nicholas Tsoulfanidis, Ph.D.
College of Engineering
Chemical and Materials Engineering
Nicholas Tsoulfanidis taught Materials Science and Engineering 468/668: Nuclear Materials during the spring 2022 semester as a Letter of Appointment faculty member. As a world-renowned engineering professor with specializations in nuclear sensing and sensors, he teaches four courses for the University’s Materials Science and Engineering Degree program. Beyond his capacity as a teacher, he is helping train instructors via mentorship and co-teaching courses with them.
Tsoulfanidis consistently receives high teaching evaluations from peers and students, consistently landing him in the ten percent in the Chemical and Materials Engineering department. During office hours, he spends as much time as students need to grasp the course material. Through his encouragement and consistent guidance, he has helped students encourage women and ethnic minority students to pursue engineering and provides extra attention and encouragement so students do not drop the major. Tsoulfanidis is also responsible for single handedly setting up the radiation detection lab.
When the nuclear materials emphasis in 2011, Dev Chidambaram, a professor in the Chemical and Materials Engineering department, requested that Tsoulfanidis come out of retirement to help develop and instruct courses for the new emphasis. He eagarly accepted and has been an instructor for over 10 years at the University.
“The award means a lot to me because as a teacher I consider the best prize I can receive is appreciation of my work by the students. I like to teach. I like the interaction with students. I believe a good teacher should accept the fact that his knowledge is limited and should want to keep learning; consistent with this idea, the student questions I like best are those I cannot answer; which will make me search for the answer and thus learn something new. I believe that the role of the teacher is not only to transmit knowledge but also, and more important, to challenge his students and try to improve their ability to think. Transmission of knowledge is easy; improving the ability to think not so easy; but. I will keep trying!”
Daniel Villanueva, Ph.D.
Honors Signature Experience
Daniel Villanueva was the instructor for Honors 494: Honors Signature Experience for the Spring 2022 semester. In addition to being an LOA instructor, Villanueva serves on several Honors College committees. Villanueva has also served as the Assistant Director of the University Honors Program and currently serves as a member of the honors faculty committee and the newly founded Honors College Alumni Chapter. The Fall 2021 semester marked the first time that Honors 494 was ever offered.
“I have been consistently impressed by Dr. Villanueva’s willingness and capacity to take initiative in improving this developing course,” says Erin Edington, the associate dean of the honors college.
Through his instruction of the course, Villanueva has integrated the Honors College’s mission pillars in meaningful ways through discussion and reflection assignments, developed guidelines for students to follow during the course, brought guest speakers to the class, and consistently works collaboratively with University faculty members. Through all of this, Villanueva is also the full-time director of the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals, a competitive fellowship sponsored by the U.S. Congress and German Parliament.
Villanueva is especially adept at addressing student concerns with Honors 494 and encourages intellectual curiosity and engagement with meaningful topics in innovative and creative ways. He goes beyond what is expected of him as an educator and actively solicits feedback from students’ faculty mentors and works to connect them to relevant University resources. When students inevitably encounter obstacles, he is the first to advocate for them.
“I am so honored because, first, I know so many passionate, committed adjunct faculty across the University of Nevada and it’s so encouraging to be recognized among them. Also, since I had no idea I was even being considered for the award, it’s wonderful to know that others appreciate the dedication to student success I bring to each of my classes each semester. This award is as much a recognition of my students’ efforts as it is of mine.
“There are two reasons I eagerly volunteer to teach in Honors. For one, I was a professor and university administrator for two decades before changing careers to become the director of a nationally-competitive fellowship for young professionals. I did miss being in the classroom encouraging and mentoring students to engage with real-world dimensions of their research, so am very glad the Honors College invited me to be an LOA. And in return I also am so very inspired by these dedicated, creative, future leaders as they craft their Honors Signature Experience projects. Finally, it’s a special time to be teaching as the new Honors College takes shape. Creative energy is everywhere and my colleagues are as excited as I am to be here.”