Distinguished Faculty Awards

Distinguished Faculty Awards

Distinguished Faculty Awards (DFA) celebrate outstanding performance by full-time and contract faculty in all aspects of their role and support faculty in the ongoing enhancement of their teaching and/or scholarship. These prestigious awards constitute a public reward, recognition and celebration of outstanding work, and are a way of thanking individual faculty members for exemplary contributions in teaching, research and service.


Each year, members of the Mount Royal community - faculty peers, managers, students and alumni - nominate professors for Distinguished Faculty Awards. Nominations will open soon.

Please review the following carefully prior to completing your nomination.

1.       For the full-time credit award, all full-time tenured faculty members who have five years of full-time service with Mount Royal are eligible.


2.       For the contract faculty credit award, faculty must have served as an instructor in a credit area for at least eight semesters (not necessarily consecutively) are eligible.


3.       Previous recipients of this award (full-time or contract) are not eligible to receive the award again for a period of five years.


4.       Full-time faculty members must be nominated in the full-time credit award category.

Nominees for Distinguished Faculty Awards will be invited to submit materials to the selection committee that align with the following criteria and present evidence in support of their candidacy.


The general criteria for the awards are:


1.       Excellence in Scholarly Teaching;

2.       Leadership in Service;

3.       Significant Accomplishments in Scholarship.


Nominees for full-time credit awards are assessed on the above criteria, as appropriate to work pattern.


Nominees for contract credit awards are assessed on “Excellence in Scholarly TeachinDetailed Selection Criteria


Nominees for full-time credit awards will be assessed using the following criteria:


1.       Excellence in Scholarly Teaching, characterized by:


  • teaching that aligns with principles of effective practice in undergraduate education;
  • high expectations for student learning;
  • alignment of intended outcomes, teaching practices and assessment methods;
  • innovation and experimentation in teaching with a view to enhancing student learning;
  • engagement in reflective practice;
  • commitment to continuous improvement in teaching;
  • teaching informed by scholarship;
  • support/mentoring of colleagues relative to teaching;
  • influence or impact on teaching beyond the academic unit.


2.       Leadership in Service, characterized by:


  • substantial participation and contribution in service;
  • contributions that support or advance organizational goals and priorities (internal or external);
  •  leadership in service going beyond membership and participation;
  • evidence of influence and/or impact – the positive difference the nominee’s contributions made.


3.       Significant Accomplishments in Scholarship (as appropriate to work pattern), characterized by:


  • sustained scholarly activity;
  • pattern of consistent dissemination of research outcomes in peer reviewed fora/venues;
  •  impact of scholarly work in one’s field;
  •  integration of scholarship and teaching;
  • mentoring/support of colleagues relative to scholarship.


Nominees for contract credit awards will be assessed on “Excellence in Scholarly Teaching,” as described above.


1.       Nominations are to be made on the form entitled “Distinguished Faculty Award (Credit) Nomination Form” available at the websites of the AVP Teaching and Learning.


2.       Nominations can be submitted by any student, faculty, staff or alumnus of Mount Royal University.  Nominations should be submitted to the Office of the Vice-Provost and AVP, Teaching and Learning.  All nominations must be either made or seconded by a full-time or contract faculty member.  Nominations should include the names of five additional contacts (no more than two students) who may be asked for input as the shortlist stage, over and above materials submitted by the nominee.


3.       Nominations should be accompanied by a narrative indicating the reasons for the nomination (maximum 3 pages).  Specific reference should be made, where possible, to the nominee’s qualifications relative to the assessment criteria noted above.  Additional materials in support of the nominations may be attached.  Anonymous emails or testimonials will not be accepted.

 Nominations for the 2018 Distinguished Faculty Awards should be submitted via the online nomination form on or before Monday, March 12, 2018.


Meet the 2017 Award recipients

(full-time credit)

Hamilton_2017DFALeah’s students say she has enriched the education they received at Mount Royal and made a real impact on their post-secondary experience.

“Leah has been an exceptional role model and mentor to me,” says Anja Meier. Leah supervised Anja’s honours thesis. The honours program is a new initiative at the Bissett School of Business, and Leah played a crucial role in its creation and implementation.

 Leah is deeply committed to championing the involvement of undergraduate students in research. Her own program of research focuses on the social and economic integration of newcomers and refugees in Canada. Her work has been published in a variety of journals and government reports. 

Leah is engaged in the community and encourages the same of her students, leading them to opportunities to excel beyond the classroom. Courtney Warren, one of Leah’s students says, “Leah presents course material in a variety of ways that are conducive to a supportive learning environment; she offers multiple perspectives and challenges students’ thinking so they can learn and grow; and she shows a genuine interest in her students’ lives, education and success.”

McCollum_2017DFABrett seeks to involve students in his areas of research into the use of mobile technologies in higher education. Students value his enthusiasm for including them in his research as one of the ways he encourages their critical-thinking skills.

Brett’s classroom is filled with engaged students actively discussing chemistry concepts. The lively discussions are inspired by the enthusiasm and passion that Brett has for chemistry and teaching.

Student Brandon Shokoples says, “I have never seen a professor put so much work into innovating in their classroom. From the integration of a free-access textbook for the course, to peer leaders, to academic reading circles and group quizzes - all of these elements enhance student learning and the experience as a whole.”

Brett’s current research, which involves exploring new elements of transformative pedagogies, has provided his students a unique opportunity to work collaboratively on organic chemistry assignments with students from the University of Illinois - Springfield. Engaged in the scholarship of teaching and learning, Brett works collaboratively to help identify and apply ongoing improvements in teaching and learning, and has consulted on innovative pedagogy for university faculty across Canada and in the United States.  

Moorman_2017DFAFor more than 20 years, Lynn has been developing curricula and educational resources about geographic information systems and remote sensing at the post-secondary, secondary and elementary levels, and online for public use.

She is passionate about geospatial literacy and actively promotes widespread understanding of spatial geography. Since joining MRU full time in 2009, Lynn has developed four innovative courses for the University that combine technology, community service, problem-solving and collaborative learning. Several students who completed her Advanced Spatial Analysis and GIS course have received large scholarships and been accepted into graduate geography programs, despite Mount Royal not yet offering a major in Geography.

A community member who worked closely with Lynn’s class on a project says Lynn “has a gift for building skill and capacity within her students, while her manner of respect, innovation and joyful discovery motivate her students to do their very best work for the people whose lives will be affected by it.”

Lynn is Co-Chair of the 2018 International GeoOlympiad and a Governor of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.



Mulholland_2017DFAIn just over half a decade at Mount Royal, Mary-Lee has become one of the most effective teachers in the Faculty of Arts, according to Dean Jeff Keshen. “She has consistently achieved Student Evaluation of Instruction (SEI) scores that place her in the very top echelon among colleagues and has clearly established herself as a leader in providing an exceptional experience for students both in and outside of the classroom.”

Inside the classroom, Mary-Lee provides a highly effective, organized, inclusive and engaged teaching style, often incorporating humorous examples from her travels and field research. She is appreciated for her empathy and personal support of students.

Outside of the classroom, Mary-Lee established a career day for the Faculty of Arts, bringing in employers from several sectors to discuss opportunities with students. The event is now in its third year and is a tremendous success. Student Skylar Caldwell says, “The classes I have taken with Mary-Lee have not only provided academic knowledge, but they have also provided me with a more holistic perception of my life and what I am capable of.”

 (contract credit) 

Dirks_2017Heather leaves a lasting impression on students and colleagues. Nursing student Ashley Suykens says, “Heather is one of those teachers who give so much that they leave a little piece of them with every student they teach.”

Heather is passionate about community and indigenous health, which is evident to students who are part of her clinical rotations at Anchors II, an outreach program in Strathmore and the Piitoayis Family School and Aboriginal Learning Centre. Nursing students observe how Heather knows each youth by name, is genuinely interested in their lives and has built trusting relationships.

On top of the work Heather does for the community and her students, she has four children of her own and is currently working on a Master’s degree in Nursing. Student Amanda Law says, “Heather’s dedication in providing opportunities to enhance my experiences as a nursing student through leading by example will never be forgotten. Thank you Heather for all that you do to touch the lives of those who have the honour of knowing you.”

kadi_2017Joe has worked as an educator for several decades, in community settings as well as formal education. He’s been teaching women’s studies at Mount Royal University since 2006. His special interests are social change history, critical thinking and intersectionality.

Joe teaches that social change is achieved by ordinary people who engage in ongoing, consistent actions over time. Student Tamara Solomon says, “Joe’s enthusiasm for, and belief in, social change work has made a significant impact on my life and in the lives of many of his students.”

Because of her classes with Joe, Tamara says she was inspired to volunteer with two non-profit organizations in Calgary. Students appreciate Joe for challenging them to engage with a diversity of research and scholarship and with non-profit community organizations committed to social change. Joe invites his students to become part of a learning community where innovative instructional approaches, informed by interdisciplinary scholarship and social change work, guide student learning.

Outside of class time, Joe supports students looking to improve their skills and broaden their ability to examine the world, and their own lives, more critically.

Macleod_2017Heather is a highly involved faculty member in the Department of Education and has made a significant contribution to the program. She holds a BFA majoring in Theatre, English and Dance, a B.Ed. and an MA in Educational Leadership.

Heather has taught at the university level and in a variety of public school settings for 26 years. Jodi Nickel, Chair of the Department of Education, says, “When Heather joined the department in 2014, we were delighted to find her, since drama is not a common area of expertise among K-12 teachers.” Heather teaches assessment and has also taught special needs and inclusive schooling, drawing on her expertise teaching children with learning disabilities.

Heather had been instrumental in opening an arts-centered program for the Calgary Board of Education -- a program now housed at one of the department’s key partner schools. Heather instructs the Teaching Elementary Drama course, among others, and is a strong advocate for fine arts education. Heather also supervises more than 60 students in practicum, serving as a supportive mentor and coach in the journey to becoming a teacher.


Meet the 2016 Award recipients

By all accounts, Carol Krol, a contract faculty member of the Sociology and Anthropology Department, is beloved by her students at Mount Royal University.


She received a Students’ Association E-Award for teaching excellence in 2015 and was described as follows: “A dedicated instructor, Carol Krol goes above and beyond in service of her students. Her students describe her as warm, engaging, fun and passionate about her teachings. Always willing to devote her time to her students, Carol Krol stands as an example of a tireless educator, always putting her students first.”

This year, she was nominated for a 2016 Distinguished Faculty award by a student.

“Carol is a professor who enhances the student experience at MRU with her enthusiasm, clarity of expectations and passion for her discipline,” writes Zoe Slusar, an anthropology major in the Bachelor of Arts program, in her nomination letter. “She treats us as human beings and levels with us as people, while encouraging us to meet her expectations of academic excellence.”

Carol and her colleague Frederick Ulmer are researching the rodeo culture of non-professional cowboys and cowgirls in southern Alberta. The specific focus is the members of the Foothills Cowboy Association and the rodeos they sanction. Their research involves both fieldwork and archival research.

Carol, MA, PhD (ABD), joined MRU in 1992. 

DFA_2016_CariTo describe Cari Merkley as a librarian doesn’t quite tell the whole story.

At Mount Royal University, librarians are part of faculty, so she’s also an associate professor — an academic librarian who teaches and does research.

A 2016 Distinguished Faculty Award winner, Cari received her Master of Information Studies degree from the University of Toronto in 2005. She worked in the University of Alberta’s Academic Library Internship Program before joining MRU in 2007.

Cari describes her job as “pretty varied.” “I might educate a class of first-year nursing students on critiquing sources,” she says. “I often do one-on-one teaching or, sometimes, it’s responding to panicked emails.”

In essence, her work is to help students and faculty develop their information literacy skills, to find and critically evaluate the best and most trust-worthy sources.

She’s responsible for selecting resources — books, videos and journals, many of which are online — for the general education, nursing and midwifery departments. “There’s a lot of information in the area of health. How do you find information that’s appropriate for a health professional? How does it guide your practice? How do you make informed choices?”

“Cari’s support of our students is outstanding, and our program is better because we have her,” writes Deborah Mansell, a faculty member in the School of Nursing & Midwifery, in her nomination letter.

A self-described “voracious” reader and urban explorer, Cari is currently devouring the Maisie Dobbs mystery series and anticipating an upcoming trip to Ireland. 

DFA_2016_KevinKevin O’Connor began his teaching career in the Yukon, where he was “put into the dumping ground of dumping grounds”: a special education class with a wide range of ages, psychological issues and cognitive disabilities, including Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

“It was a huge learning curve,” says Kevin, an assistant professor of Education and a 2016 Distinguished Faculty Award winner. The subsequent 13 years of teaching in the North taught him about the value of experiential learning, the important of “place” and the need to involve community partners. And it launched him on an academic path, in search of a more holistic model of education.

Those lessons informed his PhD in education at McGill and his job as a senior policy advisor on Aboriginal education issues for the federal government. They also inspire his work at Mount Royal University, whether it’s partnering with the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area to turn education students (plus schoolkids and their teachers) on to science, or finding innovative ways to support teacher education by integrating theory and practice.

He and two colleagues are funded by the largest SSHRC grant MRU has received to date to study teacher candidates and support them with in-school weekly seminars and integrated course work as they bump up against the realities of the classroom during their practicums and in the initial years of their careers.

When he’s not coaching his kids’ hockey, Kevin loves to go camping with his family.

DFA_2016_IreneBy combining hot-button social-justice issues with her expertise as a sociologist of health, gender and social inequality, Irene Shankar spurs her students to become active, engaged citizens.

For example, Irene and her students in a feminist theory course discussed how what they learn can’t just be theoretical — that they must also take action. Within two weeks, the students raised $3,500 for Doctors Without Borders. Her students have also collected toys for homeless children at Inn From the Cold and refugees helped by the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society.

Nominated four times for her exemplary teaching, Irene received a Champion Award from the Students’ Association of Mount Royal University in 2013 and is now a 2016 Distinguished Faculty Award winner.

An assistant professor in the Sociology & Anthropology Department who joined MRU in 2009, Irene holds a PhD from the University of Alberta. She will be taking a year-long sabbatical in 2016/17 and using it to write up two studies — one on how pregnant women made sense of health messages during the H1N1 flu crisis; another on how universities react to sexual assault on their campuses — and begin a new project on childhood vaccination.

Irene spends as much time as she can with her young daughter, exploring Calgary.


Meet the 2015 Award recipients

Trevor Day Everest ResearchA cardiorespiratory and cerebrovascular physiologist and associate professor of physiology in the Department of Biology, Trevor Day likes to refer to himself simply as a “heart, lungs and brain guy.” His interest in cardiorespiratory physiology began in Grade 12, when he worked as a lifeguard. This path continued when he became an Emergency Medical Technician. “I saw first-hand what happens when you can’t breathe.” His growing interest in the brain led him to complete an undergraduate program in neuropsychology and a PhD in respiratory neurobiology at the University of Calgary.

Trevor joined Mount Royal in 2007 and teaches undergraduate courses in basic and applied physiology. Kristi Wynnyk, one of several students who nominated Trevor for a 2015 Distinguished Faculty Award, says that he’s become “an incredible mentor for his students, has a true passion for teaching and has played a crucial role in the success of countless students.”

“This award means so much to me, because it was driven by students,” says Trevor. “It’s very gratifying.”

A guitarist, who collaborates with author/ broadcaster Jay Ingram on various “science and music mashups,” Trevor says his favourite part of teaching is providing undergraduate students with real-life research opportunities. For example, he and six Mount Royal students were slated to trek to Everest’s base camp in early May for a research project investigating how lowlanders adapt to highaltitude environments. He had planned to develop some portable diagnostic tools to help identify acute mountain sickness, resulting from low oxygen levels in the body. But, given the earthquake that devastated Nepal on April 25, Trevor cancelled the trip. Instead, the team will focus its efforts this summer on doing simulated high-altitude work in the lab. Read more.
content_english_rharrisonsmAn award-winning poet, essayist, editor and Mount Royal professor, Richard is celebrating a very good year. It began when he was made a full professor in the Department of English. Then, Richard’s long-time publisher accepted the manuscript for his latest book of poetry, largely about his role as a son and as a father. It’s slated for release in the fall of 2016. He’s just put the finishing touches on “Red: A Haida Manga,” a essay about aboriginal graphic novelist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas for inclusion in a forthcoming book about the Canadian graphic novel. The essay will be published next year by the University of Alberta Press. And, nicely capping this stellar year, Richard was named a 2015 Distinguished Faculty Award winner.

“It’s a great honour,” he says.

Richard holds a M.A. in English from Concordia University, a B.Sc in Biology and a B.A. (Honours) in Philosophy, both from Trent University. He has flourished since moving to Calgary in 1995 for a one-year fellowship as the Markin-Flanagan Canadian Writer in Residence at the University of Calgary. He fell in love with the city and joined Mount Royal in 1997 as an associate professor.

“Mount Royal is far ahead of its time, because it accepts that creative work is scholarly work,” says Richard.

This has given him the time and the freedom to “make knowledge,” by publishing widely on literary criticism, mathematics, hockey, comics, graphic novels and superheroes. He’s published nine books, including six books of poetry. Hero of the Play, poems in the language of hockey, was launched at the Hockey Hall of Fame. Richard teaches composition, creative writing (poetry), and comics and graphic novels.
Todd Nickle - FP BioBiology professor Todd Nickle doesn’t make things easy for his students.

“Learning is not something that just happens to you. It is something that you do to yourself,” says Todd, quoting the late Robert Leamnson, the author of a compelling book on teaching philosophy. In his Introductory Biology and Principles of Genetics courses, Todd puts the onus on students to be up to speed before they come to class and to apprise him of the gaps in their knowledge.

“I put a lot of the learning on the students’ shoulders and the results are mixed,” he says. “Learning is hard. It takes discomfort and effort. If we tell students exactly what they want to know, if we just give them the answers, we cut corners and they miss valuable learning.”

Knowing that both students and colleagues nominated him for the 2015 Distinguished Faculty Award makes his win that much more “gratifying.” It is his third such nomination. “I’m proud of being able to work with interesting people,” he says. “Proud of being able to share my ideas and hear other people’s ideas.” Todd earned a PhD from Oklahoma State University in 1998 and came to Mount Royal University a year later. “I used to be a scientist in plant biology, but I made the decision to go into education. My interest now is in learning styles and techniques,” he says. This interest is evident. In his classes, he’s experimented with blogging, video, Just-in-Time Teaching, blended delivery, guided inquiry in the laboratory, peer review of writing and other active-learning techniques.
Katja Pettinen hails from Finland by way of Lafayette, Indiana, where she obtained a PhD in cultural anthropology from Purdue University. The 2015 Distinguished Faculty Award winner began teaching at Mount Royal five years ago, primarily in foundation level General Education courses.

Students in those courses give her rave reviews: “Katja’s classes are a joy, for each and every class she poses new questions, predicaments and concepts to grapple with.”

“It’s mind-blowing to learn new things that I never thought of before.”

“Her class has opened me up to how I think and I look at things in a new light.”

“I enjoy teaching,” says Katja. “It’s a particular challenge and an opportunity to teach courses in General Education. It’s not how academia is structured, where everything is premised on specialization with defined parameters.”

Her approach is to organize each course around a multidisciplinary theme, such as food. “Food is more than just calories you put in your mouth,” she says. “It’s an experience, a social phenomenon. It can be approached biologically, socially, ethnically, morally, aesthetically. We can bring in history and philosophy. Food is nice because it’s very accessible.”

Katja herself has a multidisciplinary background. In Finland, she competed for 10 years in heptathlon, a gruelling track and field combined contest that consists of seven events: 100-metre hurdles, high jump, shot put, long jump, javelin throw, a 200-metre run and an 800-metre run. She’s studied martial arts since the age of 10, but became interested in a traditional Japanese martial art called ‘taijutsu’ when she was completing her PhD. It is the focus of much of her scholarly writing.


Carolynn Sterenberg photoAt the first-day-of class icebreaker in a course called The Art of the Pitch, Carolyn Sterenberg asked her students to write a sixword story about themselves on a Post-it note and stick it on the wall. She wrote one for herself that read, “Wanted summers off; got great life.”

This creative exercise and those six words neatly summarize Carolyn’s approach to life, working and teaching. Carolyn, the proud recipient of a Distinguished Faculty Award, holds a B.Sc. from the University of Alberta and an MBA from the University of Calgary. A geologist by training, she has a background in sales and marketing at both non-profit and for-profit organizations. She joined Mount Royal in 1996. By the fall of 1997, she was on the tenure track and had a child at the same time. After a couple of years of juggling both, Carolyn decided she wanted summers off, like her husband, a teacher. “I gave up the tenure and went part-time. It’s very civilized and I’ve never looked back,” Carolyn says.

Although she mainly teaches marketing and entrepreneurship in the Bissett School of Business, Carolyn’s taught more than 14 different courses. In her Creativity for Entrepreneurial Practice course, she uses gaming and blogging, and encourages students to “step out of their self-imposed boxes” with art, dance and other forms of creative expression. What is the best part of her “awesome” job? “I love that every day is different, and that every day I learn something new and I laugh.” As for those summers, she’s a major supporter of the Okotoks Dawgs baseball team and loves to “travel, camp, run, bike and read trashy novels.”