Markussen Named 2009 Recipient of the Prestigious Leland Holdt – Security Mutual Life Award

Dr. Charlie Bicak
senior vice chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs, 308.865.8209

The 2009 Leland Holdt/Security Mutual Life Distinguished Faculty Award, one of the most prestigious awards for UNK faculty, was presented to Dr. Phyllis Markussen today (Friday, Dec. 18) during winter commencement ceremonies on the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus.

In presenting the award, UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen noted: “Her teaching philosophy, ‘students learn by example’ is well suited to her discipline and is supported by her program’s strong external relationships. She is extremely innovative, and one who goes beyond traditional education limits. Her colleagues confirm that service to her department, college, university and profession has been a hallmark of her career.”

Dr. Markussen is chair and professor of the UNK Department of Family Studies and Interior Design. She is only the 14th faculty member to receive the award, which carries with it a $5,000 stipend. Recipients must “demonstrate influential intellectual impact on students, have published research…that has made a significant impact in their respective disciplines, and …demonstrate extraordinary education-related service.”

Under Dr. Markussen’s leadership, the UNK interior design program has become one of only seven across the nation to be accredited by both the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) and the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA). In 2008, the UNK program received the Outstanding Program Trophy from the NKBA, and in 2009, UNK was selected by CIDA as a “Standard of Best Practice” for student display work for accreditation.

“This national recognition has made this program a destination program, which attracts students from throughout our region,” said Dr. Tim Burkink, dean of the UNK College of Business and Technology. Since 1992, more than 100 UNK interior design students have entered national and international competitions, and more than half have earned top awards.

“All UNK interior design students engage in a senior show structured as a juried competition,” Dr. Burkink said. “Based on employer feedback, Dr. Markussen’s students start their careers well prepared.”

In addition, Dr. Markussen has a strong record of creative activity and scholarship which has included co-authoring five books and numerous presentations of design-related research papers, he said, noting that she has frequently offered her expertise to industry trade publications and the popular press.

“Perhaps her most impressive creative activity was her selection to the design team to redesign and renovate the Nebraska Governor’s Mansion in 1996,” Dr. Burkink said. “The entire project took more than two years to design and complete. The design of the kitchen complex was submitted to ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) design competition and won first place in the Historic Preservation category.”

In service to her profession, she led a major initiative of strategic planning at the national level for NKBA. One of the major goals was to grow the Accredited College Program by 100 percent in five years, which the organization did successfully. She also helped to formulate the NKBA Center for Education and Research.

“The result of Dr. Markussen’s sustained record of service, linking academia and industry, was her induction into the NKBA National Hall of Fame in 2004,” Dr. Burkink said. “She was the first professor to receive this honor. Dr. Markussen is humble about this achievement, but the leadership at NKBA has helped me understand the significant national impact of her work on the interior design profession.

“Over her career,” he said, “Dr. Markussen has been an innovator in her field of interior design. She has been an effective teacher, an active scholar and pioneered the connection between academia and industry in a way that best serves students and advances the field. She exemplifies the tenets of the Leland Holdt/Security Mutual Life Distinguished Faculty Award as her work has brought substantial credit to UNK and its faculty through national impact.”