ETSU presents 2019 Distinguished Faculty Awards

Published 8:59 am Friday, August 30, 2019

JOHNSON CITY — East Tennessee State University bestowed its highest honors upon three professors today with the presentation of the 2019 Distinguished Faculty Awards for Teaching, Research and Service.

The winners were nominated and selected by their faculty peers. Each received a medallion, a plaque and $5,000 provided by the ETSU Foundation during the annual Faculty Convocation, which marks the beginning of the new academic year and fall semester.

The Distinguished Faculty Award in Teaching was presented to Dr. Lori Meier, an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the Clemmer College.

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Prior to receiving this award, Meier twice received the Outstanding Faculty Award for Teaching within the Clemmer College (2015 and 2019), as well as the college’s Faculty Award for Diversity and the Excellence in Teaching Award from ETSU’s student chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success in 2018.

“Dr. Meier has assisted in improving my teaching skills by providing input on teaching styles, assessment methods and motivational tools,” a colleague wrote in support of her nomination. “As she has challenged and mentored my teaching, I have come to admire Dr. Meier for personally modeling the teaching practices she is developing in her students. (She) utilizes innovative and enjoyable learning activities, such as geocaching field trips to teach social studies, science or geography courses. Further, Dr. Meier does not allow herself to become stagnant in teaching pedagogy, technology or assessment.”

Meier consistently receives high praise from students in their course evaluations. “She uses her time with students to make sure each student understands what she is trying to teach, and she teaches in a way that shows examples of how we should teach in the future,” one student wrote. Another wrote, “Dr. Meier uses innovative assignments and technology to help us look at the materials in a creative way.”

In 2018, Meier was selected by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to serve as a Solar System Ambassador and used that volunteer outreach program position to support her teaching of undergraduate social studies and support a number of local schools and organizations as well as ETSU.

Within her department, Meier is the graduate program coordinator for the Master of Education in Elementary Education Program and interim coordinator of the Master of Education in Educational Technology Program. She has published numerous articles and presents regularly on innovative teaching practices at meetings of such professional associations as the American Educational Research Association, National Council for the Social Studies, American Association for Teaching Curriculum and more.

Meier, who earned her M.A.T. at ETSU, also holds a B.A. in English from Milligan College and a doctor of education degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Central Florida. Before joining the ETSU faculty in 2008, she taught in elementary schools in Kingsport and Melbourne, Florida, and was a literacy trainer within the Brevard Public Schools system in Melbourne.

The Distinguished Faculty Award in Research was presented to Dr. Alok Agrawal, professor in the ETSU Quillen College of Medicine’s Department of Biomedical Sciences.

Agrawal earned recognition for his 34 years of research related to C-reactive protein (CRP). His research has contributed immensely to the identification of possible new therapeutic approaches to treatment of pneumococcal infection, cardiovascular disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

“Dr. Agrawal’s contributions to research and towards the mission of the College of Medicine and East Tennessee State University are exemplary,” said Dr. Bill Block, dean of Quillen College of Medicine. “His work has received international attention.”

Agrawal’s CRP research at ETSU grew from research he had been conducting as a graduate student in India in the 1980s. Later, he continued the same research as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and then as a research assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University. He joined ETSU’s faculty in 2002.

Agrawal received his first National Institutes of Health (NIH) RO1 grant funding in 2002, and since that time has received approximately $6 million in NIH funding to expand his CRP research.

“The strong support of Dr. Agrawal’s research by NIH funding demonstrates the significance of his findings, and his productivity and independence as a scientist as extramurally and expertly assisted by peer reviewers at the national level,” said Dr. Gregory Ordway, senior advisor to the dean for research and professor in the departments of Biomedical Sciences and Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Quillen. “He is an outstanding scientist making major advances in research in cardiovascular medicine and immunology, and a highly respected educator.”

Agrawal has authored almost 60 publications on CRP and has presented his research at seminars around the world.

On a national level, Agrawal serves on multiple editorial boards and as an ad hoc reviewer for more than 250 publications. He has participated as an ad hoc reviewer for NIH study sections and review committees on more than 35 occasions.

At ETSU, Agrawal has trained and mentored many young research scientists and earned numerous university awards for his teaching and research, including the Dean’s Distinguished Research Award in 2009 and 2017. For 12 consecutive years, he has received the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Student Award for either or both “Course Director of the Year” and “Professor of the Year.”

Agrawal holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Banaras Hindu University and a Ph.D. from Visva Bharati University.

The Distinguished Faculty Award in Service was presented to Dr. Andrea Clements, a professor and assistant chair of curriculum in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychology.

Clements, who has served in many capacities at the department, college and university levels, is best noted for her work in the community and region in two areas: promoting trauma-informed practices in court, police, education and mental health systems, and collaboration with faith-based groups to address the problem of opioid use and addiction.

Beginning in 2015, Clements partnered with Becky Haas, then of the Johnson City Police Department (JCPD) and now of Ballad Health, to implement trauma-informed practices in various Johnson City service agencies.  Through this effort, more than 4,500 professionals throughout the region have heard Clements’ talks on the effect of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on brain development, behavior and interpersonal relationships.  These talks have led many to incorporate trauma-informed care approaches in their agencies.

Working with the JCPD and the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Clements played a leading role in hosting a regional forum showcasing advances in trauma-informed care in the fall of 2018.  Following the event, SAMHSA officials called the forum “a national model other cities should follow.”

As part of her work with Haas, Clements has worked directly with those in need of care, in addition to educating professionals.

For five years, she served as a mentor through a reentry program for felony offenders with addictions, bringing a home-cooked lunch each Monday and spending time with participants.

“More than the food she provided, her impact is often shared when individuals graduate from this program after 12-15 months of attendance,” the former program director wrote.  “Clients will tell how it was Andi’s firm but reassuring mentorship that helped them to stay on the road to gaining sobriety and successfully reentering the community after incarceration.  Though a tenured faculty member, published author and sought-after lecturer, Andi redefined for those in the reentry program that there is no ‘us and you.’ Her ability to relate and connect person to person has provided hope to hundreds passing through the program.”

Clements and Haas also helped “transform the culture of a punitive alternative school program to a positive caring and successful learning environment for students who before had little academic success,” according to a program administrator.

Clements’s “dedication to working with teachers monthly … has not only restored value to our students but also to our teachers,” the administrator wrote. “She totally threaded herself in with our school and became one of us. We went from around 52% of the students earning approximately 200 credits per year to earning 1,155 credits last year. But most of all, our students feel loved and cared for — able to make life-long decisions that positively impact their lives. Our teachers and staff have a renewed pulse for our school and it is evident as you walk the halls of our building.”

In addition, Clements has been instrumental in engaging faith-based organizations in the fight against the opioid epidemic in southern Appalachia. She is a founding member and executive director of the Holy Friendship Collaborative, a multi-agency, multidisciplinary, non-profit consortium that mobilizes the faith-based community at the individual church level to integrate their resources to counteract the opioid crisis. She helped plan and coordinate the 2018 Holy Friendship Summit, which drew approximately 450 clergy, clinicians and others together to discuss needs and strategies involved in combating addiction in the region.

Clements joined the ETSU faculty in 1995 as an assistant professor in the Department of Human Development and Learning in what is now the Clemmer College and moved to the Department of Psychology in 2005. She is a graduate of the University of Alabama, from which she holds a B.S. degree in interdisciplinary counseling, an M.A. in rehabilitation counseling and a Ph.D. in educational psychology.