Provost Dr. Allison Jablonski recognized the recipients of this year’s faculty awards at Friday’s Academic Awards Ceremony, which also featured the presentation of student academic awards.
Dr. Debbie Bradney, who directs the Master of Science in Athletic Training, received the Thomas C. Allen and Heidi Koring Award for Excellence in Academic Advising. Bradney joined the University of Lynchburg in 2002.
The VA Athletic Trainers’ Association named her Educator of the Year in 2012, and both the Mid-Atlantic and the National Athletic Trainers’ associations awarded her the Athletic Training Service Award in 2018.
According to her nomination letter, Bradney is being honored for her “excellent advising” to undergraduate and graduate students, athletic training and exercise physiology students, softball and lacrosse players, faculty members who come to her with advising questions, “and to anyone else who shows up at her office needing advising guidance.”
Her advising philosophy is simple: Be direct, responsive, and compassionate. According to one student, Bradney “makes it very easy to set up my schedule, achieve academic goals and course requirements, and she has helped me to step up and prepare myself more as I go into each year and eventually graduate school.
“Having her as my academic advisor has removed a large amount of pressure and stress from my life here on campus.”
The Shirley E. Rosser Award for Excellence in Teaching went to Assistant Professor of Criminology Dr. Daniel Murphy, “an outstanding educator who has made a significant impact on the lives of countless students,” his nomination letter reads.
Murphy is further described as “an all-around nice person who is beloved by colleagues and students alike. He is approachable, kind, and always willing to lend a helping hand.
“[His] warmth and generosity create a welcoming atmosphere in the classroom, and his commitment to excellence sets a shining example for all of us. … Professor Murphy is an outstanding teacher, scholar, and human being who embodies the very best of what our institution has to offer.”
Murphy teaches such courses as Juvenile Delinquency, Child Abuse and Exploitation, Comparative Justice, Criminal Justice Process, and Crime Scene Investigation. It’s clear, the letter argues, that he has a “deep and thorough understanding of the criminal justice system and is able to communicate complex ideas in a way that is engaging and accessible to students.”
Earlier this spring, Murphy also coordinated a Virginia State Police helicopter landing and presentation on campus.
The James A. Huston Award for Excellence in Scholarship was awarded to Dr. Brooke Haiar, chair of the environmental sciences and sustainability department, who has conducted many projects with undergraduates at the University of Lynchburg and volunteers and researchers from the Virginia Museum of Natural History.
Recently, Haiar was selected to receive $391,000 in funding for a National Science Foundation grant through the GEOPAths program, which strives to grow the number and diversity of students entering the geosciences.
The grant will allow six Lynchburg students a year, for the next three years, to participate in both her summer research class in Wyoming to excavate dinosaurs and a newly designed course in the fall, free of charge.
For her research, Haiar maintains strong ties with the Bureau of Land Management. Her work has culminated in various professional presentations at local, national, or international conferences and publication in peer-reviewed publications.
Her other honors include the 2019 Thomas Jefferson Award for Outstanding Contributions to Natural Science Education from the Virginia Museum of Natural History and the 2020 Excellence in Research Mentoring Award from the University of Lynchburg.
This year’s Elsie Ervin Bock Award for Excellence in Citizenship was awarded to Assistant Professor of English Jeremy Bryant ’03, ’10 MA, who also serves as the Richard H. Thornton Chair, director of the Wilmer Writing Center, and interfaith chaplain.
According to his nomination letter, Bryant “exemplifies outstanding service to the University of Lynchburg community in the multiple roles he holds on campus. In each of these roles, the vision that guides his service is the creation of ‘an inclusive, safe, and effective learning community for all students, faculty, and staff.’”
According to one nominator, Bryant “has the extraordinarily rare ability to make each member of our community feel not only included and appreciated but necessary,” while another wrote that “in this era of increasing sociocultural and political divisiveness, Jer is the human embodiment of the bridge that unites us all.”
Someone else said, “I can think of very few who have done more to shape our campus community than Jer Bryant. His influence moves beyond the bounds of academic expertise; he teaches us all what it means to be self-actualized human beings and caring, responsible citizens of the world.”
The Edward A. Polloway Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching went to Dr. William Joseph Bowman, who teaches in the School of PA Medicine.
“Dr. Bowman’s students recognize his versatility, professionalism, and humanitarian efforts, which make him an exceptional candidate for this award,” the award committee wrote. “[His] commitment to his students is truly remarkable, going above and beyond to ensure that each student receives the support and guidance they need to succeed.”
Offering regular check-ins after hours to any student who needs help, Bowman “truly cares about each individual student and will go the extra mile to help students with any aspect of their studies,” the letter continued.
Bowman, the course director for the ultrasound program, is well-known for his “insightful lectures on medical practice topics across multiple specialties, consistently displaying aptitude for teaching clinical skills in a broad array of settings.”
For years, he’s participated in Students Without Borders humanitarian trips and is described as “a fixture at the Free Clinic of Central Virginia, where he helps students hone their skills in the service of patients in medically underserved populations.”
Bowman, the committee concluded, “is an outstanding example of excellence … [whose] example sets a high bar … in his interactions with students, faculty members, and patients.”
“Dr. Payerhin has worked with a wide range of students, helping to encourage especially those that may not believe in themselves,” his nomination letter reads.
“[He] is clearly aware of the value of this role to his students, as he writes, ‘I think one of my strengths has been identifying the potential of some students who had not been excelling or perhaps even struggled — and then encouraging them to pursue ambitious research projects.’”
Payerhin’s research with students “spans many avenues, from book publications to field research on study abroad trips,” the letter continues. “This range is incredibly valuable, as our students get a variety of experiences in research, from written to oral and debate.”
This past summer, Payerhin took a group of students to Iceland for the first time. It was one of many study abroad trips he’s hosted over the years.
His “many student support letters” cited a “global perspective and a passion for research.” Payerhin, the letter continues, “works hard to develop interdisciplinary critical thinking skills, which is especially important at a liberal arts college.”
According to students, who used words like “inspiring,” “influential,” “patient,” and “passionate” to describe him, “his mentorship helped them develop skills in and outside the classroom, provided confidence in job interviews, and prepared them for life outside of Lynchburg.”