During the convocation ceremony of Opening Days, Willamette University recognized seven outstanding faculty members for significant contributions in their areas of teaching, research and service.
Jerry E. Hudson Award for Excellence in Teaching
Named after Willamette’s 22nd president, this award celebrates distinguished teaching and leadership by a faculty member.
Ashley Nixon, Associate Professor of Human Resource Management and Organizational Behavior
A member of the Atkinson Graduate School of Management faculty since 2011, Nixon teaches courses across public, private and not-for-profit context in human resources and organizational dynamics, HR principles and practices, training and development, and compensation and rewards.
Using real-life examples and role-playing exercises, Nixon helps students develop critical thinking skills as they learn about ethical managerial behavior in a global context. Students especially value Nixon’s interactive classes for their practical application in real world corporate settings.
Jeffrey Dobbins, Associate Professor of Law; Executive Director, Oregon Law Commission
A member of the Willamette law faculty since 2006, Dobbins is an exemplary classroom teacher. He offers courses in administrative law, civil procedure, federal courts and Native American law. Students regularly praise both his mastery of the material and his ability to communicate effectively even the most difficult and complicated concepts.
Dobbins shares his intellectual energy and curiosity with students, creating classes that challenge in all the right ways. Students appreciate his obvious commitment to them and their ultimate success.
Joseph Charles Williamson, Professor of Chemistry
Williamson teaches across the spectrum of courses: from the College Colloquium for students without any scientific prerequisites to experimental biochemistry, experimental chemistry and physical chemistry classes for more advanced chemistry majors. In addition, he mentors undergraduate research students.
As co-director of Willamette’s Science Collaborative Research Program, Williamson has also helped make science outreach activities available to regional schools. Elected to serve on the Faculty Council and currently chair of the Academic Technology Advisory Committee, Williamson is regarded as a trusted, valued and exemplary teacher and leader for the department, the college, the university and the local community.
United Methodist Award for Exemplary Teaching and Service
This honor celebrates the extraordinary impact a professor can make both inside the classroom and within the community.
Cindy Koenig Richards, Associate Professor of Civic Communication and Media
More than just an excellent teacher, Koenig Richards nurtures intellectual curiosity and inspires civic engagement. She teaches courses including “Citizenship and the Public Sphere,” “Civic Media,” “U.S. Women’s Activism,” public speaking and a senior research seminar. Students praise the comprehensive feedback she provides, her availability outside of class and the balance she achieves between high expectations and compassion for students’ personal challenges.
Her colleagues appreciate the leadership, dedication and hard work that Koenig Richards provided during a transition to a new curriculum. During that time, she chaired the department and served on the search committee for the director of Native American programs.
Lawrence D. Cress Award for Excellence in Faculty Scholarship
Named after a former dean of the College of Liberal Arts, this award recognizes the importance of research to the undergraduate experience. The work done by the recipient is often interdisciplinary in nature and involves joint faculty-student research that creates a seamless connection between the scholar and the teacher.
Stephen Patterson, George H. Atkinson Professor of Religious and Ethical Studies
Since 2012, Patterson has published over 10 essays and articles on the Gospel of Thomas and on the Coptic early Christian texts, as well as a book, The Lost Way: How Two Forgotten Gospels are Rewriting the Story of Christians Origins.
Patterson’s colleagues praise his research as “ground-breaking,” “solid” and “thought-provoking.” His students describe him as a masterful and devoted teacher with the ability to explain complex issues and to lead challenging and rigorous discussions.
Patterson has served as the department chair and as an elected member of the Academic Council and the Budget Advisory Committee.
Robert L. Misner Award for Law Faculty Scholarship
This award was established in memory of former College of Law dean and professor Robert L. Misner in recognition of his innumerable contributions and his commitment to faculty excellence.
Symeon Symeonides, Alex L. Parks Distinguished Professor of Law; Dean Emeritus
Symeonides has taught for 40 years at several American and European universities. The foremost authority in the world on the subject of conflicts laws, he has published 26 books and over 100 articles in seven languages. Reviewers have been effusive over the years, calling him “a conflicts giant,” “the father of codification” and “the world’s leading expert on comparative conflicts law.” His work is routinely called “brilliant,” “masterful” and “indispensable.”
Symeonides has been honored with four scholarly prizes, and has been cited by the supreme courts of the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel.
Mortar Board Award for Professor of the Year
This award is presented to a member of the College of Liberal Arts faculty by Willamette University’s undergraduate chapter of Mortar Board, a senior honor society that serves as a resource for high-achieving, motivated students to forge bonds and give back to the community, preparing them for lifelong commitment to service and excellence in scholarship.
Laura Taylor, Associate Professor of Economics
Taylor’s commitment to her students’ success is apparent both within and outside the classroom. In classes on the principles and theories of microeconomics and macroeconomics, comparative economic systems and a senior seminar, she is organized and entertaining, while also instilling the skills that help students develop academic self-confidence.
Taylor proactively establishes connections with students, scheduling regular one-on-one meetings with them and making herself available outside class hours to help with problems large or small. Students credit Taylor’s positivity, guidance and encouragement for helping them grow both personally and academically.