Charles Dunn Award Winners

2022 Winner

Dr. Kym Acuña, Midwestern State University

A member of the faculty at the Midwestern State University since 2013, Kym Acuña is an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership, Coordinator of the Educational Leadership Master’s Program, and Chair of Graduate and Adult Education in the West College of Education. Prior to becoming a faculty member at MSU Texas, she completed her doctoral work in educational leadership, policy, and administration at Pepperdine University. Dr. Acuña is dedicated to preparing educational professionals who are skilled and committed to transforming lives through K-12 education. She is committed to promoting equity in education through her teaching at undergraduate, masters, and doctoral levels. In the area of research, Dr. Acuña’s work focuses on student success by examining direct interaction with students and parents in college readiness efforts, direct preparation of teachers, and preparing educational leaders to create environments that support teachers and to provide an equitable, caring environment for students. In her teaching, Dr. Acuña has been at the forefront of advancing MSU Texas' initiatives to support first-year students through teaching core classes, learning community courses, academic seminars, and course-embedded service-learning. Dr. Acuña is known as a community builder. Apart from the more traditional kinds of student connections, she spends a lot of relational time with students. She invests many hours getting to know students and paying attention to their academic, personal, and life needs. She provides a home away from home for many students and contributes to their well-being. She understands the relationship between student success and connections with the local and professional community. Her community work is tied to student success. Among other things, she secures grants for area non-profits and serves on several boards, assists students with FAFSA and TASFA applications, and speaks to students and parents at a college readiness program called Road to College. She volunteers as the Director of Curriculum and Professional Development for an area non-profit, Café con Leche, whose mission is college readiness for area students.

2021 Winner

Dr. Rob Sumowski, Georgia College & State University

A member of the faculty at Georgia College since 2011, Rob Sumowski is an Associate Professor of Special Education and Program Coordinator for the Master of Education and Education Specialist programs. Prior to entering higher education, Sumowski spent 21 years as a P-12 teacher, assistant principal, behavior specialist, and district-level director of student safety. He holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in Psychology and Music from Mercer University, Master of Education and Education Specialist degrees from Georgia College, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Georgia.

A proponent of the Field-Based Cohort Model, Sumowski serves as a mentor leader in the undergraduate and M.Ed. programs. A state leader in Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), he has served on various visioning and planning committees with the Georgia Department of Education and has been called upon by the Georgia State Attorney General’s Office to testify as an expert witness in hearings involving classroom management issues. From 2015-2018, he served as a Professor-in-Residence assisting the Baldwin County School District with redesigning its behavior management system, resulting in a 32.8 percent decrease in the district’s office disciplinary referrals. Dr. Sumowski then developed coursework in PBIS and served on the 2019 Georgia Professional Standards Commission Task Force that led to the creation of Georgia’s Teaching Certificate Endorsement in PBIS, the first of its kind in the nation.

Described by students as a servant educator and relationship builder with a practitioner’s heart, Dr. Sumowski serves as a professional mentor and confidant available to his students around the clock. He is known for having an extensive knowledge of the field, an ability to share real-world experiences, and helping students navigate the education profession both before and after graduation. Dr. Sumowski’s student advocacy extends across diverse groups within the university community ranging from advising a social fraternity to advocating for the LGBTQ+ community as a S.T.A.R. Ally, partnering with Science faculty on a series of museum exhibits, and serving on the University Senate. As Co-Principal Investigator on two Federal TPSID grants, he is assisting with the development of GC THRIVE, an Inclusive Post-Secondary Education Program in which adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities will be afforded the opportunity to attend Georgia College.

2020 Winner

Dr. Olympia Nicodemi, SUNY Geneseo

A member of the faculty at the State University of New York at Geneseo since 1981, Olympia Nicodemi is a Distinguished Teaching Professor of Mathematics. She earned her doctorate at the University of Rochester in 1978. She taught at Rochester Institute of Technology before coming to SUNY Geneseo.

Professor Nicodemi received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1989 and the Tepper-Haimo Award for Distinguished College and University Teaching from the Mathematical Association of America in 2004. She was promoted to the rank of Distinguished Teaching Professor in 2009.

Beyond classroom teaching Professor Nicodemi has contributed to the educational experience of undergraduates at Geneseo by serving as the Director of the Edgar Fellows Program, Geneseo’s Honors Program, for five years, and by coordinating Geneseo’s extraordinarily successful pursuit of Goldwater Scholarships for thirty years.  She currently co-teaches an interdisciplinary course for the only undergraduate chapter of Project Neuwrite, a program which brings together STEM students involved in research with creative writing students in which the participants craft engaging essays explaining scientific research to a wider audience.

2019 Winner

Dr. Robert W. O'Donnell, SUNY Geneseo

Dr. O’Donnell has been a faculty member at SUNY Geneseo since 1987. In 1995, Dr. O’Donnell was recognized with the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching for consistently superior teaching, sound scholarship, outstanding service to students, and service to SUNY and the college. He was awarded the James and Julia Lockhart Endowed Professorship, which he served in 1995-1998, for demonstrating superior teaching and involvement of students in the learning process, superior advisement, both formal and informal, a visible and meaningful involvement in campus life, and an active scholarly life. He was promoted to full professor in 1998. In 2004, Dr. O’Donnell was awarded the rank of Distinguished Teaching Professor, an honor conferred upon a select few for outstanding teaching competence. In 2008, he was presented with the President’s Award for Excellence in Academic Advising for bearing an advisement load equal to, or greater than, the mean for his department, excellence in communicating knowledge of college and program requirements and campus resources, and developing mentoring relationships with advisees. While Dr. O’Donnell serves as faculty advisor to the Alpha Omega Pi Sorority, the Pre-Dental Club, Students for the Enhancement of Eyesight, and the Pre-Physician Assistant Club and is currently serving his first term as chair of the over-enrolled Department of Biology, he is also voluntarily carrying a full-time teaching load (General Biology: Cells, Genetics, and Evolution, and Biology of Cancer, to name just two of his courses) due to his love of teaching and his commitment to his students. All this he does graciously and proficiently, and always with a smile.

2018 Winner

Dr. Jennifer M. Flory, Georgia College & State University

A member of the faculty at Georgia College in Milledgeville since 2005, Jennifer M. Flory is Professor of Music, Director of Choral Activities, and Interim Departmental Co-Chair for the 2017-2018 school year. Flory holds Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Music Education degrees from Otterbein College, Master of Music and Doctor of Music Arts degrees in Choral Conducting from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. In 2014, Flory was initiated into Omicron Delta Kappa, a National Leadership Honor Society, and selected as a Georgia Governor’s Teaching Fellow for the 2014 Summer Symposium Program.

In addition to an ambitious schedule of teaching, scholarly and creative activity, and service, Dr. Flory guides Georgia College Choral Ensemble students in leadership roles through election of Choral Council officers and appointment of choral librarians, section leaders, and assistant directors. A number of her assistant directors have gone on to graduate work and professional success as music educators and conductors. Dr. Flory builds positive, ongoing relationships that challenge students to do their very best while nurturing them with kindness and support. She mentors them as musicians and leaders and continues these bonds after graduation, assisting alumni in personal and professional situations.

Dr. Flory conducts choral ensembles and teaches music education/conducting courses. She is an active guest conductor and serves as a choral/vocal adjudicator. She also performs as a mezzo-soprano soloist and is Director of Music at First Presbyterian Church in Milledgeville. Flory’s three most recent scholarly articles explore the choral music of prolific New Zealand composer David Hamilton and are featured in the Research Memorandum Series (RMS), a journal of The American Choral Foundation. Flory was also compiler for two earlier issues of RMS; the first article indexes the choral-orchestral music and the latter the choral music of Emma Lou Diemer. Flory has presented on topics such as technology, sight-reading, choral concert programming, contemporary a cappella singing, and contemporary commercial music voice pedagogy for the Georgia Music Educators Association (GMEA).

2017 Winner

Cynthia P. Tidwell, University of Montevallo

A member of the faculty at the University of Montevallo since 2000, Cynthia P. Tidwell is a Professor of Chemistry and Coordinator of the Undergraduate Research Program. Prior to becoming a faculty member at UM, she completed her doctoral work in physical chemistry at The University of Alabama. Dr. Tidwell is rigorously active in the areas of teaching, research and service. The University of Montevallo National Alumni Association named her the recipient of the Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award for 2012.In addition to excellence in the classroom, Dr. Tidwell has dedicated a large portion of her time to carrying out undergraduate research projects with chemistry students. She believes that undergraduate research is the pinnacle in undergraduate education, an opportunity to draw on knowledge obtained from many different courses and venture into the unknown. In 2009, the University of Montevallo Committee on Undergraduate Research recognized her outstanding commitment to undergraduate research and named her the Undergraduate Research Distinguished Faculty Mentor.In the area of service, Dr. Tidwell is active on campus on numerous committees and spends a large amount of time serving as a chemistry ambassador providing opportunities for students at local schools to have the opportunity to participate in hands on activities that help them to understand chemistry and the possibilities of a career in chemistry.

2016 Winner

Joel King, University of Maine at Farmington

Joel King is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Maine at Farmington. He received his undergraduate degree in mathematics and psychology from the State University of New York Binghamton. Joel argues that some of the greatest contributions to his education came from his experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Maktab Rendah Saens School in Malaysia. He was a teacher in a program where Malay children from villages throughout the country were given the resources, education, and opportunities to pursue their dreams and achieve their optimal development. Shortly after, in his role as a stay-at-home Dad for his infant daughter, he realized the tremendous potential that exists in every child. This motivated him to obtain his Ph.D. degree from Cornell University in 1987 in the field of Human Development and Family Studies. Joel has been at UMF for 28 years. He has been selected as Faculty Member of the Year nine times, an award he cherishes because it is an honor given by the students. His research interests include intervention programs such as the Family Development Project, Adult Education, and the Rural Special Education Project. These programs address issues related to poverty, parenting, children, and access to education. In the summers, he has joined efforts with the Autism Society of Maine to mentor UMF students at Camp Summit, a camp for children with autism.

2015 Winner

Kim Misfeldt, University of Alberta-Augustana Campus

Kim Misfeldt is Professor of German and Chair of the Fine Arts and Humanities Department at the Augustana Campus, University of Alberta. She received her PhD in 2000 from Queen’s University. Kim’s literary research focuses on power relations and violence in the works of Heinrich von Kleist, Mariella Mehr and others. Her current research projects include student experience in study abroad and work on female perpetrators in contemporary German-language literature. She has published on Heinrich von Kleist, Mariella Mehr, second language pedagogy and study abroad. Recognized for excellence in teaching and dedication to her students, Kim was the recipient of the Augustana Distinguished Teaching Award in 2000 and the University of Alberta Rutherford Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2011. In 2013 she received Canadian national recognition when she was named a 3M National Teaching Fellow. She is currently the director of the Canadian Summer School in Germany.

Margaret Letterman, Eastern Connecticut State University

Margaret Letterman is Professor of Psychology at Eastern Connecticut State University. She received an undergraduate degree in Psychology from the University of Montana, a Master's degree from Fort Hays State University in Kansas, and a second master's and PhD at Oklahoma State University in Biological Psychology. Dr. Letterman’s research interests began with the physiological aspects of learning. After joining the faculty at Eastern, she became more interested in the teaching and retention of minority students. Dr. Letterman is currently collaborating with colleagues from the Economics Department at ECSU in research on minority students and higher education.