The Kennesaw State University Foundation recognizes faculty and staff achievements



More than $156,000 awarded to outstanding faculty and staff

KENNESAW, Ga. (Aug 16, 2016) — As Kennesaw State University continues to grow by leaps and bounds, so too do the achievements of faculty and staff. On Thursday, the Kennesaw State University Foundation recognized those achievements, awarding more than $156,000 to outstanding faculty and staff.

“Continuing the tradition we started in 2013, we will honor both faculty and staff this morning to allow the campus to come together as a community and celebrate our noteworthy achievements,” said Ken Harmon, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “The level of funding provided by the Foundation for faculty and staff recognition exceeds that of any other university within the University System of Georgia.”

The Foundation awarded $135,000 in funds recognizing faculty excellence in research, teaching and professional service. The Foundation also awarded $21,000 in funds for staff and administrator awards.

The top faculty award, the university’s “Distinguished Professor,” was given to Divesh Sharma, program coordinator for the Doctor of Business Administration and professor of accounting, along with a check for $20,000.

“Annually we recognize a single faculty member as the university’s distinguished professor,” Harmon said. “This faculty member not only exhibits excellence and distinction in teaching, research and creative activity and professional service, but clearly integrates all three areas in his or her professional life in a manner that results in regional, national or international recognition.”

Sharma arrived at KSU in 2010 and has published more than 46 articles, with eight manuscript awards, and he won two Foundation prizes for publication and the 2014 “KSU Distinguished Graduate Faculty Award” for research and creative activity.

He also serves on the editorial board of four international journals, where he received an outstanding service award for editorial board service.

Top staff awards went to Cynthia Elery, “Distinguished Staff Award,” and Melisa Baldwin, “Outstanding Administrator Award.”

And, for the first time this year, an award was created to recognize outstanding teamwork. The inaugural “Outstanding Team Award” was presented to the staff of the KSU Sports and Entertainment Park. Recipients included Marty Elliott, David Bennett, Necie Brown, Kristin Evans, Margaret Gendernalik and Zachary Kerns.

Other faculty awards included:

  • Outstanding Teaching Award: Nita Paris, professor of educational psychology
  • Finalist: Laura Davis, associate professor of English
  • Finalist: Vanesssa Slinger-Friedman, associate professor of geography
  • Outstanding Professional Service Award: Thomas Rotnem, assistant chair of the Department of Political Science and International Affairs and professor of political science
  • Outstanding Book Award: Jiayan Zhang, professor of history
  • Outstanding Community Engagement Award: Irene McClatchey, associate professor of human services
  • Diversity Advocate Award: Jesse Benjamin, associate professor of sociology, and African and African diaspora studies
  • The Madhuri and Jagdish N. Sheth Distinguished Faculty Award: Ming Chen, professor of theatre and performance studies

Other distinguished staff support awards included:

  • Exceptional Customer Service: George Johnson, facilities assistant II
  • Students’ Appreciation Award: Sterling Brown, director of character development, Intercollegiate Athletics
  • Excellence in Innovation Award: James Kang, IT application support professional V, team lead
  • Outstanding Supervisor: Mark Forehand, director, International Student and Scholar Services
  • Service to the Community Award: Cherie Miller, administrative specialist V, Interdisciplinary Studies

Outstanding Research and Creative Activity Award:

  • Artistic and Creative Pursuits: Linda Hightower, professor of visual arts
  • Natural and Physical Sciences: Nikolaos Kidonakis, professor of physics
  • Business and Industry Applications: Jomon Paul, associate professor of economics
  • Interdisciplinary Research: Sean Ellermeyer, professor of mathematics 

Oustanding Early Career Faculty Award:

  • Sohyun An, associate professor of social studies education
  • Charner Rodgers, assistant professor of construction management
  • Christopher Pallas, associate professor of conflict management and political science
  • Rebecca Makus, associate professor of theatre and performance studies
  • Heather Abbott-Lyon, assistant professor of chemistry

Outstanding Part-Time Teaching Award:

  • Nicholas Papleacos, assistant professor of construction law
  • Jeanette Wachtman, assistant professor of art education
  • Amy Vitala, instructor of instructional technology
  • Martin Varon, assistant professor of accounting
  • Steve Prettyman, assistant professor of information technology
  • Ayse Tekes, assistant professor of mechanical engineering
  • Ruth Padan, instructor of Hebrew
  • Elaine Bush, instructor of mathematics education
  • James Stephen Miller, instructor of philosophy
  • Joy Brumbeloe, instructor of nursing

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit