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Texas State University

Presidential Award Winners 2020

Presidential Awards for Excellence in Teaching

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Professor/Associate Professor

Regina Jillapalli
St. David's School of Nursing

Regina Jillapalli, a clinical associate professor in the St. David’s School of Nursing, joined the faculty at Texas State in 2009.  She earned her doctoral degree in nursing from University of Texas at Austin in 2019.  Dr. Jillapalli’s research interests include interprofessional education, nursing communication, and performance improvement initiatives.  To enhance her student’s clinical judgment, she has created numerous rigorous, unfolding high-fidelity simulations.  Dr. Jillapalli has received the ‘Outstanding Faculty in Didactic Teaching’ award from the graduating nursing seniors for eight consecutive years.  She has co-authored articles appearing in the Journal of Ethnicity and Health and the Journal of Marketing for Higher Education, among others.

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Assistant Professor

Kristen LeBlanc Farris
Department of Communication Studies

Kristen LeBlanc Farris, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies, joined the faculty at Texas State in 2009.  She earned her doctoral degree in communication studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2017.  Dr. LeBlanc Farris serves as the course director of the award-winning fundamentals of human communication course (COMM 1310) and Faculty-in-Residence for Residential College.  Dr. LeBlanc Farris’ recent publications appear in the Journal of Family Communication, Higher Education, and the Basic Communication Course Annual and chapters appear in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication and the Handbook of Instructional Communication.  Dr. LeBlanc Farris is the recipient of several awards including the Abbi Prestin Dissertation of the Year Award from the Health Communication Divisions of the International and National Communication Associations in 2018.

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Senior Lecturer/Lecturer

Laura Duhon
Department of Curriculum and Instruction

Laura Duhon, a senior lecturer in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, joined the faculty at Texas State in 1999.  She earned her doctoral degree in education leadership, management, and policy from Seton Hall University in 2019.  Dr. Duhon serves as the director of the Teacher Fellows Program and has participated in the program since 2004.  The Teacher Fellows Program gives graduate students the opportunity to maintain a classroom and learn from mentor teachers to facilitate support and practical classroom skills.  This program currently operates in Round Rock ISD, Hays ISD, and Leander ISD.  Dr. Duhon’s teaching has been recognized by numerous student organizations including Alpha Chi, Kappa Delta Pi, and the Panhellenic Council.


Presidential Awards for Excellence in Scholarly/Creative Activities

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Professor/Associate Professor

Arzu Ari
Department of Respiratory Care

Arzu Ari, a professor in the Department of Respiratory Care, is a physical therapist and a respiratory therapist by training with 25 years of experience as a manager, clinician, educator, and researcher.  She is the first Turkish physical therapist who passed the National Board for Respiratory Care Exams for respiratory therapists and pulmonary function technologists.  After she graduated from the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation at Hacettepe University in Ankara, the Turkish Republic, Dr. Ari completed her master’s degree in public health at Istanbul University.  She received her second master’s degree in respiratory therapy and Ph.D. degree in higher education administration from Georgia State University.

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Lecturer/Assistant Professor

Kathleen Melhuish
Department of Mathematics

Kathleen Melhuish, an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics, earned her Ph.D. in Mathematics Education from Portland State University.  Her research focuses on the design of tools and assessments that can transform the study of teaching and learning of mathematics.  She has had four National Science Foundation grants and works on cross-institutional teams focusing in mathematics education measures.  She leads the design and development of the Group Theory Concept Assessment, the Math Habits Tool, and is part of project teams developing proof comprehension tests in real analysis and modeling self-efficacy assessments.


Presidential Awards for Excellence in Service

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Professor/Associate Professor

Cindy Royal
School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Cindy Royal, a professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, earned a doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin.  Dr. Royal spearheaded Texas State’s new Digital Media Innovation degree program and Media Innovation Lab, integrating media innovation activities across the university.  She also created SXTXState.com, a dynamic project in which students provide media coverage of the South By Southwest Interactive Conference and a program recognized with externally funded scholarships. Additional funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation led Dr. Royal to develop the PhDigital Bootcamp, a first-of-its-kind program to train doctoral students and early career faculty to lead innovative curriculum in digital media.  Dr. Royal has received several honors for her accomplishments including the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Everette Swinney Faculty Senate Excellence in Teaching Award, the prestigious John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University, and the Charles E. Scripps Journalism and Mass Communication Teacher of the Year by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications. 

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Assistant Professor/Lecturer

Michael Burns
Department of Communication Studies

Michael Burns, a senior lecturer in the Department of Communication Studies, joined the Texas State faculty after completing his doctorate from North Dakota State University. Dr. Burns serves as the Director of Career Readiness and Co-Founder of the College of Fine Arts and Communication’s interdisciplinary research startup program CoSearch.  He has been internationally recognized for his work with CoSearch, a program connecting faculty from every college and department to create research projects that solve community problems.  Dr. Burns’ TEDx talk on CoSearch has led to research partnerships with other universities from around the world.  He has also played an instrumental role in other service initiatives including co-chairing TEDxTexasStateUniversity, volunteering as a Faculty in Residence with the Honors Living Learning Community, co-chairing the COMM Week committee, and leading service projects  with the Honors College, H-LSAMP, Athletics, and Undergraduate Admissions.  Dr. Burns is proud to lead programs that have both university and community impact.


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Presidential Seminar Award

Kathleen Melhuish
Department of Mathematics

Kathleen Melhuish, an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics, earned her Ph.D. in Mathematics Education from Portland State University.  Her research focuses on the design of tools and assessments that can transform the study of teaching and learning of mathematics.  She has had four National Science Foundation grants and works on cross-institutional teams focusing in mathematics education measures.  She leads the design and development of the Group Theory Concept Assessment, the Math Habits Tool, and is part of project teams developing proof comprehension tests in real analysis and modeling self-efficacy assessments.


Previous Presidential Award Recipients