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Faculty & Staff

April 25, 2018 

Dear Colleagues:

As I mentioned at the Faculty, Staff and Retirees awards ceremony yesterday, Winthrop will confer during spring Commencement ceremonies awards on faculty members who have demonstrated exceptional service to the institution and a dedication to student learning.

The LaRoche Graduate Faculty Award is given to a faculty member who holds the rank of associate or full professor, has a record of outstanding teaching at the graduate level, and has made a significant contribution to the quality of graduate education at the university. Please join me now and on May 3 at the Graduate Commencement ceremony in congratulating Dr. Lisa Harris, associate professor in the Richard W. Riley College of Education, as the recipient of the 2018 LaRoche Graduate Faculty Award.

The Outstanding Junior Professor Award is given to an assistant professor who has demonstrated a commitment to inspired teaching, creative scholarship and dedicated service to students. Dr. Zachary Abernathy, assistant professor of mathematics, and Dr. Andrew Besmer, assistant professor of computer science, are to be congratulated as the 2018 Outstanding Junior Professors.

The Distinguished Professor Award is the highest honor Winthrop can bestow upon a faculty member. It is presented in recognition of exceptional skills in teaching, significant research or creative effort, high standing among professional colleagues, and service to the university and community. It is my pleasure to announce Dr. Janice Chism, professor of biology, as the 2018 Distinguished Professor.

The Distinguished Professor and Outstanding Junior Professors will be presented at the May 5 Undergraduate Commencement ceremonies.

Below is a press release with more about these outstanding faculty members. The release will go out to our larger Winthrop community shortly. Please join me now and at graduation in thanking these faculty members for their extraordinary contributions to Winthrop University.

Four Faculty Members to Be Honored at Commencement Ceremonies for Outstanding Contributions

ROCK HILL, SOUTH CAROLINA – Winthrop University will honor a faculty member at its May 5 Commencement who accomplished something no other faculty member has done. In receiving the Distinguished Professor Award, the highest recognition for faculty members, Biology Professor Janice Chism will be the first to win all four faculty awards.

President Dan Mahony also will recognize two faculty members with the Outstanding Junior Professor Award: Assistant Professor Zachary Abernathy of the Department of Mathematics and Assistant Professor Andrew Besmer of the Department of Computer Science and Quantitative Methods.

Chism will receive the Distinguished Professor Award and Abernathy will receive his award at 10 a.m., May 5, at the Winthrop Coliseum during the ceremony for the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Visual and Performing Arts. A 3 p.m. Commencement, where Besmer will receive his award, will be held for those graduating from the Richard W. Riley College of Education and the College of Business Administration.

A third award will go to Associate Professor Lisa Harris of the College of Education during the May 3 Graduate Commencement ceremony at Winthrop Coliseum. She will be honored with the Jane LaRoche Graduate Faculty Award.

Read more about the honorees:

Distinguished Professor
Janice Chism is the 2018 Distinguished Professor and the recipient of three other awards: Outstanding Junior Professor, Kinard Award for Excellence in Teaching and Jane LaRoche Graduate Faculty Award.

A biology faculty member, Chism started work at Winthrop in 1989 as an instructor of anthropology and biology before becoming an assistant professor in 1992, associate professor in 1998 and professor in 2003. She also is the director of the biology graduate program. She teaches a wide variety of courses in biology and biological anthropology at the undergraduate and graduate level. An active scholar, Chism spends her research time studying animal behavior in Africa, the Caribbean and South America. She and her husband, biology faculty member Bill Rogers, have led class expeditions to the Peruvian Amazon and the Galapagos Islands in the past decade.

Outstanding Junior Professors
Zachary Abernathy and Andrew Besmer are the 2018 Outstanding Junior Professor recipients.

Abernathy, an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics, started work at Winthrop as an adjunct instructor in 2011 and became an assistant professor in 2013. Administrators describe him as an engaged and prolific scholar who fosters the love of mathematics in all aspects of his work. He uses a process-oriented, guided-inquiry learning approach to his courses that is touted as a national best practice for teaching STEM disciplines.

Abernathy’s peers have recognized his achievements, resulting in two beginner teaching awards, one regional and one national, in the past year.

Besmer teaches computer science and digital information design courses in a field that is constantly changing. He joined the Winthrop faculty in 2013 and has developed content for an introductory computer science course, shared it with eight colleagues who also teach the course and has revised it at least twice. He played a pivotal role in developing a capstone course for seniors in which they work on real client projects at the Technology Incubator in Rock Hill. He also organizes hack-a-thons, including the latest semester-long project involving 24 Winthrop students and six high school students funded with help from a $10,000 grant from Comporium.

Jane LaRoche Graduate Faculty Award
Lisa Harris, an associate professor of curriculum and pedagogy in the College of Education, is the 2018 Jane LaRoche Graduate Faculty Award recipient.

She joined the Winthrop community in 1997 as a technology specialist. She soon became an assistant professor in the Center for Pedagogy and director of the Instructional Technology Center. She moved to the Department of Counseling, Leadership and Education Studies as an assistant professor in 2010 and was promoted to associate professor in 2014. As the Master of Arts in Teaching program director, Harris collaborates with faculty in 11 program areas across three colleges. She has taken leadership roles in the graduate program’s redesign, recruitment of students to the M.A.T. program, and works closely with academic advisors to ensure a smooth transition for those moving from undergraduate to graduate programs.

For more information, contact Judy Longshaw, news and media services manager, at 803/323-2404 and

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