Clayton State University announced the finalists for the 2013 Alice Smith Faculty Award.
This year’s nominees are: from the College of Arts & Sciences, Dr. Susan Copeland and Dr. Erica Gannon; from the College of Information and Mathematical Sciences, Dr. Kelli Nipper; from the College of Health, Dina Swearngin; and from the College of Business, Dr. James Keebler.
Clayton State’s Alice J. Smith Awards, for both faculty and staff, will be presented at Clayton State’s Faculty/Staff Awards Ceremony on Apr. 23 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Spivey Hall. An annual event since 1995, the Smith Awards are presented to the faculty member and staff member ranked most outstanding as determined by committees of their peers. The two, $1000 awards were established by local philanthropist Joseph Smith in honor of his wife, Alice. The winners of both categories will be announced at the Apr. 23 ceremony.
Copeland, who enjoys the camaraderie among the faculty and staff, is an Associate Professor of English. She has been teaching full time since 2002 but started her journey at Clayton State in 1994 part-time. She received her doctorate degree from The Catholic University of American in Washington, D.C. in 2000. She also holds full time graduate faculty status.
“In all these years I especially have enjoyed the camaraderie in my department, and I find at Clayton State a sense of interconnected community among faculty and staff across disciplines and colleges. In fact, when we went through our last SACS campus visit in 2004, one of the major points that the visiting observers made was that there was an extraordinary air of friendliness and collegiality. I think that remains true,” expresses Copeland.
She has two sons and a daughter-in-law that she is immensely proud of and lives in McDonough with her canine children. She loves to write and dabble in photography. Copeland is a Distinguished Fellow of the International Society for Exploring Teaching and Learning and a Permanent Member of the Board of Regents’ Institute of Higher Education.
She explains that she greatly appreciates the diversity of our student population, for they bring broad ranges of experience from which we all learn.
“Because there are so many great faculty members across this campus who deserve recognition for their dedication and skill in our profession, I am all the more gratified to stand for this award a second time,” says Copeland who was also a finalist in 2010.
Gannon and her husband of 15 years and seven-year-old son live in Newnan, Ga. Currently she is an Associate Professor of Psychology and has been a member of the psychology department at Clayton State for 11 years. She obtained her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology in 2002 from Auburn University. This is her second nomination.
Family and travel are in important part of Gannon’s life. She and her family travel often. They love to travel in “Vincent Van Go” their vintage Volkswagen camper named by her son. They have visited a number of state parks in Georgia and Florida since purchasing the van last year. They have two dogs and two cats and definitely consider them an important part of their family.
She enjoys seeing her students become more aware of how the principles and theories of psychology apply to their everyday lives. She notes appreciates her colleagues in the Psychology department and feels fortunate to work with such a collegial and interesting group of people.
“Being nominated for the Smith Award means a great deal to me, as I see teaching as my number one priority. Therefore, being recognized for that is very gratifying, and I appreciate the fact that Clayton State has a mechanism for doing so—it emphasizes the importance that is placed on teaching at our university,” says Gannon.
Nipper, a 1995 graduate from Clayton State, since 2004 has served her university as an associate professor of Mathematics. She obtained her doctorate from the University of Georgia. She currently lives in Social Circle and is married with two children. In her free time she enjoys spending as much time as possible with her friends and family.
She feels being good at mathematics is not about knowing answers. Rather, it is how you behave when you don’t know the answer. Good teaching, therefore, allows the opportunity for students to be successful in their own pursuit of the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to be successful in their chosen fields.
This is Nipper’s third nomination for the Alice Smith Award. Also recently she received the CIMS Award for Excellence in Scholarship, CIMS Award for Excellence in Service, CIMS Award for Excellence in Teaching, and President Obama's Volunteer Service Award.
“With many excellent faculty in CIMS, it is an honor to have been selected to represent our college,” says Nipper.
Swearngin is a clinical instructor for the School of Nursing, but has been a part of the Clayton State family for more than 20 years. She is the first person to obtain nursing degrees at all three educational levels from Clayton State -- Associates, Bachelors and Masters. She is also a past president of the Clayton State Alumni Association. While attending graduate school, she worked part time at Clayton State, but upon completing her degree, she began teaching full time in fall 2010.
She teaches acute care in a hospital setting as well as a course for the BSN program and an online course for the RN-BSN program. Prior to her transition to full time teaching, she worked Neonatal Intensive Care for Grady Health System and DeKalb Medical Center for a combined 19 years.
“I’ve received letters from our graduates thanking me for changing their lives. I know they did that on their own, I was merely a participant, but they are very appreciative of the education and the tough love I’m known to dish out,” says Swearngin.
Swearngin is married with two daughters and one very needy and cuddly English bulldog. She is a native of Atlanta and now resides in Tyrone. She says she is living out her second softball career through her girls who are both starting pitchers. She enjoys cheering them on.
“This is my first nomination for the Smith Award and I sincerely realize the importance of this recognition. I’ve been involved with Clayton State in some fashion for literally more than half my life. I’ve served in many roles including; student, trustee, alumni board member and now faculty. To me, the Smith Award is the highest achievement for a faculty member and represents outward recognition for continued service to my university,” says Swearngin.
Currently residing in Lakewood Ranch, Fla., Keebler has been commuting to Clayton State since 2008. He is professor of Supply Chain Management and serves as chair of the Faculty Senate and the Charles S. Conklin Endowed Chair. He obtained his doctorate in Business Administration, Marketing and Logistics from the University of Tennessee.
Keebler served in the U.S. Army for six years which entailed four years of active-duty. He served as a captain in the Transportation Corp for a year in Vietnam. He has worked in corporate positions in the food, pharmaceutical, health care and electronics industries with his last position as president of a $300 million subsidiary of Colgate Palmolive.
Then at the age of 53, made the decision to complete his doctoral program and since has taught courses at St. Cloud State University, University of Minnesota, and University of South Florida.
Keebler notes he likes teaching undergraduate and graduate students about Supply Chain Management and the rewarding career opportunities it provides. He has enjoyed being able to help build the Supply Chain Management program at Clayton State.
Keebler is married with seven children, two of whom are still in college, and he has 13 grandchildren (so far). He says he used to golf frequently, but due to his affinity for water hazards he kept running out of balls. He enjoys camping, exploring and canoeing. He typically goes to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area for a week nearly every summer.
“I have never applied for a teaching award. I consistently received high evaluations at all the schools at which I taught, in Tennessee, Minnesota, Florida, and at CSU. I enjoy the classroom experience and my sincere concern for student learning, job placement, and career advancement is apparent. I appreciate being nominated by my college for the Smith Faculty Award. Student engagement is a reward in itself,” says Keebler.