Three From SU Named 2023 USM Board of Regents' Faculty Award for Excellence Recipients
SALISBURY, MD---A classroom leader lauded for her work shaping the science teachers of tomorrow, a staunch advocate for the Delmarva Peninsula’s vulnerable limited-English communities, and a professor whose music has been called a crucial mechanism for healing during turbulent political times — all from Salisbury University — are among the recipients of this year’s University System of Maryland Board of Regents’ Faculty Award for Excellence.
Dr. Jeni Davis, associate professor of early and elementary education has earned the award for Excellence in Teaching. Dr. Corinne Pubill, professor of Spanish and chair of the Modern Languages and Intercultural Studies Department, has been honored for Excellence in Public Service. Dr. John Wesley Wright, professor of music, received the honor for Excellence in Creative Activity.
“The USM Board of Regents has confirmed what we at SU already know: our faculty are among the best in Maryland,” said SU President Carolyn Ringer Lepre. “From preparing the teachers of tomorrow, to assisting the greater community in times of crisis, this year’s SU award winners have proven themselves not only worthy instructors for our students, but role models which they can — and should — follow. These honors are greatly deserved.”
Dr. Jeni Davis – Excellence in Teaching
Davis was nominated for her work to empower SU students to become strong, capable, engaged educators by weaving clinical experience into her courses, encouraging students to challenge their previous understanding of science education while also assessing their instructional decisions and pedagogical moves. Her expertise in curriculum development as a former elementary educator enables her to create experiences that help students make the necessary connections between SU’s Teacher Preparation Program and their clinical experiences.
She also arranges for students to design elementary school science learning experiences and facilitate class discussions through which they are tasked with making sense of — and supporting — elementary students’ scientific explanations. Additional innovations have included the creation of an accessible Family Science Night and the introduction of simulated teaching experiences to her curriculum.
“Not only is Dr. Davis dedicated to the students in her classroom and mentoring past students, but she is also committed to her own continuous improvements to be the best educator she can be,” said Lepre. “Her approach to learning and innovative education is reflected in Salisbury University’s 95% passing rate of the Praxis II elementary education content knowledge science subtest.”
“Through her mentoring, her teacher candidates gain the knowledge and skills necessary to advocate for science to be taught in early childhood and elementary classrooms,” added Dr. Shanetia Clark, chair of SU’s Early and Elementary Education Department. “She models the level of enthusiasm needed to champion science as an integral part of the schools’ curricula.”
Dr. Corinne Pubill – Excellence in Public Service
Pubill was nominated for her service as an advocate and resource for the Delmarva Peninsula’s growing Hispanic population. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she was on the front lines, offering translation and interpretation services for those with limited English proficiency.
In full personal protective equipment, she worked with vulnerable populations in the community struggling with disparities stemming from geographic, language, age, gender and socio-economic factors. She also has encouraged her students to become involved in similarly impactful community work.
“Throughout the pandemic, and still to this day, Dr. Pubill’s generous spirit has served local organizations like the Lower Shore Vulnerable Populations Task Force,” said Lepre, calling the professor “an extraordinary humanitarian” and “a model representative of our campus community.”
“The outreach she has done with the Latinx communities has compellingly built trust and engagement in Salisbury University amongst these groups,” she added.
Julia Glanz, SU alumna and assistant secretary of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, worked with Pubill as Salisbury’s city administrator and a member of the Lower Shore Vulnerable Populations Task Force during the pandemic.
“Corinne understood the tremendous cultural barriers that exist for non-native English speakers and that by providing consistent access to information in native languages, interpreters on site, and education to agencies and volunteers around cultural competency, we could save lives.
“I am incredibly proud of the work that Salisbury University and the City of Salisbury have accomplished … and this work being led by Corinne is taking us to a whole different level of authentic engagement.”
Dr. John Wesley Wright – Excellence in Creative Activity
Wright was nominated for his use of music as a focus for illuminating and untangling social issues. For example, his Les Mis Projects afforded a creative outlet for prisoners at two correctional institutions in Ohio as he and SU students provided performances and vocal coaching, joining two men’s choirs comprised of inmates in a showcase of scenes from Les Misérables.
Closer to home, when a series of racist graffiti incidents threatened SU in 2019-20, Wright used his artform to respond, creating the musical presentation “From Ship to Shore: Celebrating 400 Years of Resilience Through Music,” showcasing historical spirituals, gospel music and more, that was cited as a crucial mechanism for healing. Similarly, following the January 2021 U.S. Capitol insurrection, he responded with “Songs of Courage, Freedom and Justice,” a performance incorporating freedom songs, spirituals, ring shouts and gospel as a reflection on history and modern challenges.
“In addition to his exemplary work as a voice instructor, Dr. Wright generates sincere excitement around vocal performance through careful research and development of repertoire for civic engagement around fundamental issues of race, equity, healing and resilience,” said Lepre.
She also noted Wright’s long-standing membership with the American Spiritual Ensemble, recognition from the Maryland Senate for helping to educate the state’s residence through the performance of spirituals, and work with undergraduate SU students including national-level National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) competition winners and American Idol finalist Jeremiah “Jay” Copeland.
“Dr. Wright’s creative activity has simply made Salisbury University a better institution: more aligned with our mission statement, more in tune with the social issues facing our students and more aware of the power of the arts in promoting a sense of common humanity,” said Dr. Colleen Clark, co-chair of SU’s Music, Theatre and Dance Department. “We are extremely proud to call him a colleague.”
Awards will be presented during the USM Board of Regents’ monthly meeting in April.
Learn more about opportunities to Make Tomorrow Yours at the SU website.