Art Evans, Art Evans, professor of mathematics, reacts to winning an award for outstanding part-time faculty. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Faculty awards ceremony highlights outstanding faculty, commitment to students

May 5, 2021
Kathryne Davis
Brenau President Anne Skleder and Elizabeth Conoley, winner of the Ann Austin Johnston award. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Several Brenau University faculty members were recognized for their service to the university and its students during the Faculty Appreciation Awards ceremony held April 29 on the Front Lawn of the Gainesville campus.

“Today we wanted to celebrate our faculty, a group of individuals uniquely suited to support Brenau during this past academic year,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Jim Eck. “We asked a lot from you, and you delivered in every way.”

Eck began the ceremony by presenting Brenau’s highest faculty honor, the Ann Austin Johnston Outstanding Faculty Award, to Elizabeth Conoley, assistant professor of nursing. The award is made possible by Donald C. Johnston in honor of his wife, Ann Austin Johnston, who was a Brenau graduate. Eck said Conoley “was able to thrive under immense pressure during a most challenging time for her profession.”

“It’s all about my students,” Conoley said. “I wouldn’t have won anything without them. They are the reason I am who I am. There’s no way I can be successful without them.”

Conoley was nominated by multiple people who praised her as the best instructor they’ve ever had. Students said that she goes above and beyond and sets them up for success, while colleagues praised her work ethic and involvement with Brenau’s COVID vaccine clinics.

The Vulcan Award, provided by Vulcan Materials through the Georgia Independent College Association, was presented to Rebekah Taylor-Wiseman, assistant professor of English. The award is given each year to a faculty member who demonstrates an exceptional commitment to teaching and academic advising, and provides leadership and support in preparing students for their professional lives.

Rebekah Taylor-Wiseman accepts the Vulcan Award. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

“I am shocked and honored,” Taylor-Wiseman said. “It is such a meaningful culmination to the school year and a little pat on the back after this most difficult year when our students were dealing with so many unusual challenges. I’m very grateful for this award.”

Eck said Taylor-Wiseman demonstrated outstanding leadership when Brenau moved from on-ground to remote classes, adapted to instructional obstacles and reassured her students during a stressful time.

Outstanding Part-time Faculty Awards, given to two instructors whose teaching and service to the university are exemplary, went to Trisha Sullivan, adjunct professor of nursing, and Art Evans, professor of mathematics.

“It means the world to me to be recognized by Brenau students, faculty and administration and to know that they see my love for teaching and for the students,” said Sullivan, who has been teaching at Brenau since 2014

Evans, who won the Ann Austin Johnson Award as a full-time faculty member in 2011, has taught at Brenau for 27 years and has continued doing so during retirement.

“I am completely surprised,” Evans said. “It’s nice to know that those around me still feel like I’m doing well teaching.”

Rudi Kiefer with his Brenau motorcycle jacket. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Multiple faculty members were also recognized for promotions, completing terminal degrees and retiring during the past year. Suzanne Erickson and Rudi Kiefer were recognized for earning emeritus faculty status.

Erickson, dean of the College of Business and Communication, is retiring after joining Brenau in 2007. She also served as the graduate chair for business administration and associate dean.

Kiefer, professor of physical science, has been at Brenau since 1998 after being the dean of health science at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. During his time at Brenau, Kiefer served in various roles including webmaster, university photographer and director of sustainability.

Jessi Shrout, department chair and assistant professor of biology, praised Kiefer for all he has done for the university.

Juli Clay, left, and Suzanne Erickson laugh during the ceremony. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

“He is always willing to step in whenever and wherever he is needed to serve Brenau,” Shrout said. “Is piano accompaniment needed at an event? Rudi can do it. Is someone needed to work traffic duty at graduation? Rudi will step in. Need something translated into German, French, Spanish or Chinese? Rudi can do that, too.”

Eck closed by thanking faculty members for their support of students despite the challenges of the past year.

“You extended grace and empathy to our students, met them wherever they were throughout the pandemic, and decided to thrive despite so many obstacles,” Eck said. “ I am in awe of you, your commitment to Brenau, your tenacity, your goodwill, your grit and your sense of calling to our mission and the Brenau Ideal. As we end this academic year, let’s look ahead to 2021-22 with great anticipation as an opportunity to write the next epic chapter in the history of Brenau University.”