CSUN President Dianne F. Harrison; Harry Hellenbrand, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs; and Adam Swenson, acting faculty president, were among the campus leaders who welcomed those in attendance.
“Those of you who are being honored, I’m very excited and in admiration of you and your work, your length of service and your pending retirement in some instances,” said Harrison during her opening remarks. “I’m very, very appreciative of what you have done for our students.”
Rafi Efrat ’89 (Accounting Theory and Practice) and Yohannes Shiferaw each captured the Outstanding Faculty Award. Efrat was honored for Accounting and Information Systems, while Shiferaw received recognition for Physics and Astronomy. Throughout Efrat’s tenure at CSUN, his outstanding research, teaching and service have shown him to be worthy of this award. He has received 15 awards for outstanding leadership in the field of tax education, including the 2014 Outstanding Educator Award from the California Society of Certified Public Accountants and the endowed Bookstein Chair in Taxation. He has published 22 articles and presented at countless conferences.
Efrat developed the Master’s in Taxation Program, as well as the Bookstein Tax Clinic at CSUN, which provides free federal tax controversy resolution services to low-income taxpayers. Since 2008, the clinic has trained more than 550 undergraduate and graduate students to serve LA taxpayers through consulting, seminars and workshops.
Department of Physics and Astronomy faculty member Shiferaw has demonstrated evidence of his distinguished teaching skills and a command of physics and mathematics with his ability to connect with students across seven different undergraduate and graduate courses. His dynamic teaching style and use of pedagogy enhance student learning, specifically developing students’ ability to think critically, actively engage with course material and peer collaboration. His teaching evaluations from students are impressive. He presents an extraordinary lineup of undergraduates and graduates in publishing quality research projects in mathematical biology and physiology, specifically in the area of cardiac electrophysiology and abnormal cardiac rhythms. Recognized as a top researcher in his field, Shiferaw has published 18 articles in peer-reviewed journals and presented at 20 national and international conferences — including a major international conference of world experts in nonlinear dynamics and pattern formation.
The Distinguished Teaching, Counseling or Librarianship Award went to Kenya Covington (Urban Studies and Planning) and Holli Tonyan (Psychology). Covington, who joined the faculty nine years ago, was the 2011-12 Visiting Faculty and Scholar at the UCLA Lewis Center on Regional Studies, and she was the 2013-14 Haynes Foundation Fellow.Covington is an urban sociologist whose research examines the social and economic conditions of at-risk populations, and the effects of social and urban policy. For her Haynes Fellowship, she documented how Los Angeles responded to the 2007 housing crisis. Previously, she co-directed the research department at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation in Washington, D.C., where she was responsible for the conceptualization and release of major research on black male unemployment, innovative legislation to boost homeownership among renters, and implementation of a grassroots health-disparities education campaign. Her extensive experience in legislative development at state and national levels and impressive record of publications inform her teaching and course content.
Tonyan joined the Department of Psychology faculty in 2007. At CSUN, she teaches courses on human development and qualitative research, and she leads a large research lab of undergraduate and graduate students. Tonyan has served as an assessment liaison and on the Academic Technology Committee, and she participated in the Redesign Institute. She is leading the Early Childhood Education Affinity Group, a campuswide effort to better coordinate across the departments and colleges in which students can learn about careers related to early childhood education. Through that affinity group, she helped organize a panel of distinguished CSUN alumni who spoke about their careers in early childhood education, facilitated a study group to map CSUN courses onto the California Department of Education Early Childhood Educator Competencies, and worked to create web resources related to early childhood education at CSUN.
This year’s Creative Accomplishment Award went to Stephanie Satie (English) for her extraordinary accomplishments in the field of creative writing. For this particular award, Satie submitted for the committee’s consideration a screenplay titled Silent Witnesses, based on interviews and conversations with child survivors of the Holocaust. This critically acclaimed work received positive reviews from numerous newspapers, professors, playwrights and directors.
Although many creative works have depicted the subject of Nazi-occupied Europe and the Holocaust in particular, the committee was particularly struck by the manner in which Silent Witnesses approached it. The screenplay used the setting of a support group of older women who were child survivors of the Holocaust, who encouraged each other to share and explore the anguish they separately experienced as children. The support group proved safe enough that each was able to begin the daunting task of mentally processing these atrocities — as adults.
Thomas Devine (History) received the Preeminent Scholarly Publication Award. A professor of history at CSUN since 2000, he is considered a prolific scholar of American history. He has published widely, but it is his monograph, Henry Wallace’s 1948 Presidential Campaign and the Future of Postwar Liberalism, that is truly worthy of this award. Devine has received much critical acclaim for his book, even winning the Harry S. Truman Book Award in 2014, from the Harry S. Truman Library Institute for National and International Affairs. He researched extensively, even accessing former Soviet archives.
Sue Sears (Special Education) received the Extraordinary Service Award. She was chosen for this honor because of her more than two decades of dedication to students, her outstanding service to the university and her development of community programs.
Her accomplishments are numerous: She reformed teacher preparation, especially in the area of language and literacy, and she pioneered and institutionalized clinically based programs in the community and on campus.
Sears has been awarded significant external funding to support the development, implementation and evaluation of innovative programs for undergraduate and graduate credential and master’s students. In addition, she has been a strong advocate for and a hands-on mentor to numerous LAUSD special educators and their students.
The Visionary Community Service-Learning Award went to Shad Willingham(Theatre). Willingham developed a service-learning course that has brought the arts to the secondary schools in the San Fernando Valley.
Working alongside Strength United, an organization that supports victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse and child maltreatment, Willingham took an adaptation of an ancient Greek myth, Persephone & Me, and developed an analogous modern story involving teens, their parents and gender violence. With the help of his theater students, this ambitious theatrical production was presented to the San Fernando Valley’s underserved secondary schools. The staff at Strength United developed a teaching manual so that Willingham’s students could provide prevention tools and a chance to discuss and reflect on how to deal with these issues. His project makes vivid the relevance of the arts to public life.
The university also recognized faculty who in 2015 reached the milestones of 25, 30, 35, 40 and 50 years of service — as well as those granted emeritus status.