September 15, 2021

Faculty recognized for contributions to university, academic freedom

City Campus

At its first in-person meeting in 18 months, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Faculty Senate on Sept. 7 recognized five faculty members for distinguished service by presenting them with its most prestigious honors.

Deb Hamernik, until recently associate vice chancellor for research in the Office of Research and Economic Development, was presented with the 2020 Louise Pound-George Howard Distinguished Career Award. The senate did not meet last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and wanted to present Hamernik’s award in person.

Carole Levin, Willa Cather Professor of History since 2002, and Allen Steckelberg, associate professor in teaching, learning, and teacher education, were presented with the 2021 Pound-Howard Distinguished Career Award.

Christina Falci , associate professor of sociology, and Kevin Hanrahan, associate professor of voice and voice pedagogy, were presented the James A. Lake Academic Freedom Award.

Congratulations to Louise Pound-George Howard Distinguished Career Award honorees recognized by the @UNLincoln Faculty Senate yesterday. Deb Hamernik (2020), Carole Levine (2021) and Al Steckelberg (2021) are beyond worthy and am so proud of them, their teams, and their impacts.

— Ronnie D. Green (@RonnieDGreen) September 8, 2021

The Pound-Howard Award was established in 1990 to recognize individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the university during their career. The contribution may have made through teaching, research, public service, administration or a combination of those roles and reflects a long-standing commitment to the university.

Hamernik, who was inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Agricultural Achievement in 2017, began her career with Nebraska in 1991 as an assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary Sciences. After her appointment as associate chancellor for research in 2018, her primary responsibilities included administration of sponsored funding for agricultural research and enhancing the competitiveness of interdisciplinary teams for extramural funding. She previously served as interim associate vice chancellor for research in 2011-13 and 2016-17. Her major accomplishments include development of a more viable Center for Biotechnology, increased success with young faculty for federal funding and increased research expenditures through programs she implemented

From 2009 to 2018, Hamernik played a number of roles at Nebraska, including associate dean of agricultural research, associate director of the Nebraska Agricultural Experiment Station, as well as professor in the Department of Animal Science. While employed on campus, she has been active in the American Society of Animal Science, serving as its president in 2017; on its board of directors from 2010 to 2013, and as chair of its public policy committee from 2011 to 2015. She has served as editor in chief of “Animal Frontiers” since July 2018. Other leadership positions include chair of the North Central Regional Association of State Agricultural Experiment Station Directors in 2016 and as chair of the NCRA Multistate Review Committee in 2014. She served as chair of the Experiment Station Committee on Organization and Policy in 2019 and has been a member of the ESCOP Science and Technology Committee since 2014.

Outside of the university, Hamernik served several roles as a national program leader with the USDA. She is one of the first two national program leaders to be inducted into the Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service Hall of Fame; and earned the CSREES Employee of the Year Award in Science and Education and the Secretary of Agriculture’s Honor Award for Excellence for the eGrants Implementation Team in 2007 and for the Plan of Work Review Team in 2000.

The 2021 Pound-Howard Award went to two recipients on the recommendation of the Faculty Senate’s Honorary Degrees Committee.

“Dr. Levin has a national and international research record that is truly outstanding and has brought great kudos to UNL,” the committee said. “Dr. Steckelberg’s career is marked by decades of pioneering work with very many educators in the state, specifically in the field of instructional technlology.”

Levin began her career at Nebraska in 1998 as a professor of history and became the Willa Cather Professor of History in 2002. Her research and creative activity has included more than 18 books on renaissance studies, in addition to more than 60 journal articles and book chapters and three plays. Recognition for her research includes being named an Elected Fellow at the British Learned Royal Historical Society in 1999. Her fellowships include long-term fellowships from the National Endowments for the Humanities, the Newberry Library in Chicago and the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. In 2008, she received the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women prize for best collaborative book, and in the same year the 16th Century Studies Society Roland Bainton prize for the best reference work.

Levin also has been recognized for her excellence as an instructor. She received the College Distinguished Teaching Award in 2002 and the Annis Chaikin Sorensen Award for Teaching in the Humanities in 2014. Twenty students that she supervised at the graduate or undergraduate level have won awards for their papers or theses. The Parents Association of the University of Nebraska recognized her six time with the “Certificate of Appreciation for Making a Difference in A Student’s Life.” In 2017, the Women’s Center on campus recognized her with the “Woman of Character, Courage and Commitment Award.”

Levin has served as graduate chair for the Department of History from 2004 to 2006, director of the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program from 2007 to 2017, and as undergraduate chair from 2016 to 2019.

Steckelberg began his career at Nebraska in 1979, as project coordinator for the Parent Education Project. In 1998, he became an assistant professor in the Department of Special Education and in 2003 he became an assistant professor in Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education, where he is currently an associate professor.

He has played key leadership roles in the design and development of instructional technology applications and educational programs. As the director of Project Para, where he led the design, development and deployment of web-based training for paraeducators. Completion of the program is recognized by the State of Nebraska as one way to become designated as a “highly qualified” paraeducator — and to date more than 27,000 individuals from 2,186 school districts have participated in the program.

Steckelberg has served on the Faculty Senate and has been chair of the College of Education and Human Sciences’ Technology Committee. He has chaired, advised and mentored 25 doctoral students who have received their degrees, with five more in candidacy.

Heartiest congratulations to Christina Falci & Kevin Hanrahan on being recognized for their tireless leadership protecting and strengthening academic freedom on being honored yesterday by the @UNLincoln Faculty Senate with the James A. Lake Academic Freedom Award. Well deserved.

— Ronnie D. Green (@RonnieDGreen) September 8, 2021

The Lake Academic Freedom Award was established in 1980. It is supported by a contribution from former Regent Ed Schwarzkopf. It recognizes an individual for “helping preserve the most basic freedom of all, the freedom to seek and communicate the truth.”

After “rigorous evaluation,” the Faculty Senate’s Academic Freedom Committee recommended that the 2021 award go to two individuals who served on the Senate’s Ad Hoc Committee for AAUP Censure Removal.

Falci’s work on academic freedom began in earnest in 2007 when she received a faculty seed grant to examine faculty networks and departmental climates in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. This laid the groundwork for her role from 2008 to 2013 as research director for an institution-wide collaboration to hire, retain and promote women STEM faculty at Nebraska. The project included their perceptions of academic freedom in their departments and at the university

Falci, who represented the Sociology Department on the Faculty Senate from 2010 to 2013, served on the Academic Rights and Responsibility Committee from 2017 to 2020 and was its chair in 2019-20. She represented the ARRC on the Ad Hoc Committee for Censure Removal, which worked tirelessly since 2018 to make suggestions for revising the Regents’ bylaws and the university’s bylaws to align with the American Association of University Professors’ guidelines on academic freedom.

“This was laborious and contentious work,” the committee said in its recommendation. “Ushering in the changes to the bylaws required strong leadership and commitment to the principles of academic freedom. Professor Falci was up to the task.”

Hanrahan, was recognized as being “a fierce advocate for and defender of academic freedom” while he served as president of the Faculty Senate from October 2018 to April 2020. He served as chair of the Ad Hoc Committee. While president, he kept academic freedom ideals front and center, using the president’s newsletter as a means of conveying the importance of shared governance and educating faculty on the often-misunderstood concept of academic freedom.

As chair of the ad hoc committee, Hanrahan worked to revise NU Regents’ bylaws to develop an official process for how to handle faculty suspensions. He negotiated language that provides that “leave will not be imposed in a manner that is inconsistent with the principles of academic freedom or used as a means of disciplining individuals for exercising rights guaranteed under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

“Dr. Hanrahan took a very well-thought-out approach throughout an almost two-year battle to get all the policy positions faculty wanted in the bylaws,” the committee’s recommendation said.