EMU faculty members' research, ability to inspire students cited as they receive University's top academic honors during 'Week of Excellence'

by Geoff Larcom, Published April 10, 2014

YPSILANTI – Five Eastern Michigan University faculty members and a full-time lecturer were honored for their excellence in teaching, research and other categories during the 37th annual Academic Awards celebration, held Wednesday, March 26 in the Student Center.

The Academic Awards are part of the weeklong celebration on Eastern's campus known as the "Week of Excellence" where faculty, staff and students are honored for their years of service, and their contributions to the University.

The Ronald W. Collins Distinguished Faculty Award is the highest honor a faculty member can receive at the University. Up to six faculty members are recognized each year. The winners will receive a plaque and a $3,500 honorarium and the Full-Time Lecturers Outstanding Teaching Award winner receives a plaque and a $1,000 honorarium.  


Honored for their excellence in teaching and research were, from left, Steven Ramold, Heather Janisse, Joan Cowdery, Pamela Landau, Philip Schmitz and Pirooz Aghssa.

The recipients honored this year were:

Pamela Landau, lecturer in psychology, was presented with the EMU Full-Time Lecturers Outstanding Teaching Award. Landau has taught at EMU since 1982, and is a licensed practitioner who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Eastern. She teaches one of EMU’s most popular courses, the Psychology of Sex, and her student ratings are among the highest in the University. Her candor and expertise in the classroom have earned her numerous nominations and teaching awards from the University, colleagues and students. She often speaks in residence halls around campus as well as in the community.

• Steven Ramold, professor of history, received the received the 2013 Ronald W. Collins Distinguished Faculty Award - Teaching II. Ramold came to EMU in 2005, and has taught 19th century U.S. and American military history for nine years. A native of Nebraska, Professor Ramold earned all his degrees in his home state. He earned his bachelor’s from Wayne State College, and his master’s from the University of Nebraska at Omaha before completing his Ph.D. in history at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. At EMU, his course offerings have included three travel courses, a course in American sports and several online courses, along with regularly taught courses on the U.S. Civil War and American military history. He has written three books on Civil War topics as well as writing more than 100 book reviews. Ramold is known as a skilled researcher and talented teacher who sparks strong interest in students. Students comment on his engagement, energy, knowledge, rigor and empathy.

• Heather Janisse, a professor of psychology, received the 2013 Ronald W. Collins Distinguished Faculty Award - Research I. Professor Janisse earned her doctorate in developmental psychology from Wayne State University in 2002. She is interested in the development of health disparities among at-risk minority populations, and has worked with populations in Detroit.  Over her past four years at EMU, Janisse has won two NIH grants worth more than three quarters of a million dollars. In addition to serving as chair for multiple masters’ theses, she has supported many undergraduate research projects. Her presentations at various national meetings have included graduate and undergraduate students as co- or first authors. Her students note her enthusiasm, her passion for teaching, her support and her ability to expose them to all aspects of research.

• Philip Schmitz, a professor of history, received the 2013 Ronald W. Collins Distinguished Faculty Award – Research II. He is a specialist in Phoenician language and history of Phoenician expansion in the Mediterranean, and has taught History of Religions and Historical Methodology at EMU since 1990. Since 2006, Schmitz has published 25 academic papers in leading journals and in edited volumes, and has been invited to speak at institutions such as the University of Toronto, Ohio State University and the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. Schmitz’s peers recognize him as a distinguished senior scholar and expert, while students note his high standards, support and listening skills.

• Joan Cowdery, a professor in health promotion and human performance, received the 2013 Ronald W. Collins Distinguished Faculty Award – Research II. She has done extensive research in health communication, behavior change and program planning for under-served populations. Cowdery is known for designing interdisciplinary research projects that involve students. She has published 27 manuscripts and has presented at more than 75 national and international meetings. She has been awarded $9.5 million of funded research, $1.3 million of which she served as the principal investigator. She is committed to mentoring students who will have a strong impact on the health profession and in their communities.

• Pirooz Aghssa, a professor in the department of Communication, Media & Theatre Arts, received the 2013 Ronald W. Collins Distinguished Faculty Award – Creative/Artistic Activity. He received his doctorate from Texas Tech University and has been at EMU since 1992. During that time, he has taught a wide range of courses and directed numerous plays, including “Evita,” “Angels in America” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” Students say his scholarship and devotion to research translate into experiences that he brings to the classroom and become an inspiration in his teaching and directing. His productions at Eastern have been praised for their high standards and professional quality, and he is known for the strong bridge he creates between classroom work and onstage performance.

The awards celebrate the legacy of Ronald Collins, a professor of chemistry who served EMU for 35 years, including 18 years as provost and vice president for academic affairs, from 1983 until his untimely death in 2001.  

Doris Fields, a professor in the department of Communication, Media & Theatre Arts, was acknowledged as Eastern Michigan University's nominee for the seventh annual Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year. The award recognizes outstanding faculty contributions to undergraduate instruction and is sponsored by the President's Council of State Universities of Michigan.

Several awards for service and scholarships were also announced during the ceremony, including recipients of the Academic Service-Learning Fellowships, Sabbatical Leave recipients, Faculty Research Fellowships, Provost's New Faculty Research Awards, and Undergraduate Research Stimulus Program Awards.

Other events celebrated during the Week of Excellence included the Employee Service Recognition Awards, the Student Gold Medallion Awards, the College of Education’s Celebration of Excellence and the Undergraduate Symposium.



Geoff Larcom



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