Glennis Nagel
Director, Media Communications, 308.865.8454

Outstanding faculty, staff and friends of the university were honored during the UNK Faculty/Staff Convocation held recently on the campus.

Three faculty received Pratt-Heins Faculty Awards for exceptional achievements in teaching, service, and research and scholarship. Michael Tye, a trustee of the Pratt-Heins Foundation, presented the awards. Recipients, their departments and their respective award areas include:

– Dr. Wayne Briner, Department of Psychology, teaching. This is Dr. Briner’s second Pratt-Heins Faculty Award. In 1997, he received the Pratt-Heins Award for scholarship and research. He has also received the UNK Creative Teaching Award. Dr. Briner, who has successfully mentored numerous students with research projects, also consistently receives high praise in his class evaluations. As one student wrote, “He has shown me how to learn at a level I never thought possible in myself.”

 – Dr. Robert Rycek, Department of Psychology, service. Dr. Rycek has received several prestigious teaching awards, including the UNK Faculty Mentoring of Student Research Award and the university-wide Outstanding Teaching and Instructional Creativity Award. In the area of service, Dr. Rycek was a founding member and the first president of the UNK chapter of Sigma Xi, the science research society; served a three-year term as faculty assistant to the vice chancellor for Academic Affairs; was deputy director of the UNK Institutional Review Board; and served as associate dean of the College of Natural and Social Sciences. His professional service includes serving as editor of the Journal of Psychological Inquiry,coordinating numerous conferences and conventions, and serving as the founding president of the Nebraska Psychological Society. In the community, he has served as president of the school board for Kearney Catholic High School, president of the Kearney Area Interfaith Caregivers, and is an active Boy Scout leader and school volunteer.

– Dr. Samuel Umland, Department of English, scholarship and research. Dr. Umland has published numerous book chapters and journal articles, presented more than 20 conference papers, and contributed a steady stream of film, book and script reviews. In 1995, he edited a book on critical interpretations of American science fiction writer Phillip Dick, which represented a major step forward in the critical reappraisal of this author’s work. Similarly, his book, The Use of Arthurian Legend in Hollywood Film, made an internationally recognized contribution to film studies and research into modern medievalist cinema.

A fourth faculty member, Dr. Hal Nagel, Department of Biology, received the Leland Holdt/Security Mutual Life Distinguished Faculty Award.  Dr. Nagel, who joined the faculty in 1969, is a past recipient of all three Pratt-Heins Awards. In presenting the Leland Holdt/Security Mutual Life award, UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen noted: “He (Dr. Nagel) is a scholar and a researcher, but first and foremost, he is an educator. His breadth of interests, and his involvement of students in those interests, is exceptional.”

Chancellor Kristensen also presented Kearney residents Dr. B.M. Stevenson and his wife Beverly with the Ron and Carol Cope Cornerstone of Excellence Award. In making the award, Chancellor Kristensen said: “We truly have excellence in the classroom. There is also excellence outside the campus. This award is presented to special individuals who, through their commitment and contributions, have elevated our campus to new levels.”

Two UNK staff members–Dixie Larson, a secretary for Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action, and Mary Sommers, director of Financial Aid–received Staff Awards for Excellence. In making the award to Larson, Staff Senate President Linda Clark said: “She has provided exemplary support to her immediate supervisors and general support to the entire campus community. On two occasions since 1999, she was called on to maintain her office while the supervisor’s position was vacant.

“She has been active in researching, developing and implementing new on-line procedures that have resulted in an improved employee recruitment process. She also created a search audit.” Larson, who is Staff Senate secretary, has also received the Board of Regents KUDOS Award and the UNK Employee of the Month award.

In presenting the award to Sommers, Clark noted: “Under her leadership, the (Financial Aid) office has transformed its internal functions and structure, and improved both administrative efficiency and student service. She has also guided other units and programs through major financial aid challenges.

‘She is described as someone with uncommon professional expertise, a can-do spirit and a clear focus on her mission. She repeatedly turns the extraordinary into ordinary routine.”

In 2003, Sommers received the Bob Minturn Award from the Nebraska Financial Aid Professionals  for her exemplary service to the profession, and this summer, she received the international Alpha Phi Ursa Major Award, which is presented to alumni who have achieved success in their profession.