Chen, Ellis, Mims receive prestigious Pratt-Heins Award

UNK Communications

KEARNEY – University of Nebraska at Kearney professors Ting-Lan Chen, Mark Ellis and Grace Mims received the prestigious Pratt-Heins Faculty Awards on Aug. 19 during the Faculty/Staff Convocation.

For more than 30 years, the Pratt-Heins Foundation has recognized UNK faculty members for their outstanding contributions in the categories of teaching, service and scholarship, and research.

Ting-Lan Chen


Ting-Lan Chen, a violin and viola professor, received the Pratt-Heins Foundation Scholarship and Research Award.

The award is based on evidence of the consistent production of original work in the nominee’s discipline. Each nominee submits a list of research documents and publications, evaluations from individuals qualified to evaluate the scholarship and research of the nominee, and administrative evaluations from the department chair and dean.

At age 17, Chen was the first-prize winner in the National Chamber Music Competition in Taipei, Taiwan. Before turning 21, she performed in a young musicians concert at the White House and United Nations as a select violinist from the Asian Youth Orchestra.

A native of the Republic of Taiwan, Chen has had a career as a soloist, chamber musician and orchestral performer.

Chen began her career at UNK in 2004. She has participated in many jury-selected national and international activities, including the College Music Society International Conference in Seoul, South Korea, and CMS National Conferences in Atlanta, Salt Lake City and San Antonio.

She has delivered five research papers to American String Teachers Association national conferences. Chen has also been a visiting artist and performed recitals across the United States and internationally.

She was instrumental in establishing the UNK String Project and has played a key role in attaining grant funding to establish the Ronald J. Crocker Chair of Orchestra Endowment, Frahm-Lewis Trio and Gerald Feese Endowed Professor of Violin.

Mark Ellis


Mark Ellis, a professor of history, received the Pratt-Heins Foundation Service Award.

Selection for the award is based on evidence of consistent outstanding service to UNK students, the university and to education and peer evaluations.

Ellis joined the UNK faculty in 2000 and serves as chair of the department. He designed and implemented a successful graduate program serving residential and online students.

First serving as the History Graduate Program Chair from 2006-13, he has been the moving force in creating the online component of the graduate program. The program has achieved national recognition as one of the largest master’s programs in the country, producing more than 40 Master of Arts degrees each year.

Ellis has served on the board of governors for the Center of Great Plains Studies, board of governors for the National Digital Newspaper Program, served on and chaired the University Department Teaching Award selection committee, and he serves on the Executive Graduate Council for the University of Nebraska.

He has also served on the Board of Nebraska Humanities Council, Buffalo County Historical Society, editor of its publication Buffalo Tales, and he has been appointed by two governors to serve on the Nebraska State Historical Records Advisory Board.

Ellis is a frequent public speaker and expert adviser locally and statewide.

Grace Mims


Grace Mims, professor of counseling and school psychology and department chair, received the Pratt-Heins Foundation Teaching Award.

Selection for the award is based on peer evaluations from faculty, chair and dean of the nominee’s department and student comments from course evaluations.

Mims joined the UNK faculty in 2008. Her teaching style has been described as “innovative,” “engaging” and “meaningful.”

Mims specializes in marriage and family counseling and counseling ethics. She has counseled families for over 20 years.

She has conducted extensive research on the prevention of violence against women. Due to her extensive field experience, she relates an array of real life experiences in a clinical setting that reinforces meaningful and pertinent content to her students.

SAFE Awards for Excellence

Staff Awards for Excellence (SAFE) were also presented at the convocation. SAFE Awards are presented annually to honor UNK staff members for outstanding service to students, UNK and education in general.

The awards are sponsored by Fidelity Investments.

Recipients of the SAFE Awards were Linda Johnson, director of graduate studies, and Megan Fryda, assistant director of institutional research.

A third SAFE Award, made possible by the Jim and Lynn Rundstrom Family Foundation Fund, was awarded to Kit Brisbin, carpenter in facilities management and planning.

Each recipient is awarded a plaque and $1,000.


Megan Fryda
Linda Johnson
Kit Brisbin