Graduate Excellence Recognition

By: Graduate Studies on

The UCF College of Graduate Studies is proud to recognize the following graduate students and faculty for their excellence. The honorees would have been honored during Founder’s Day, but the coronavirus pandemic forced UCF to cancel this event.

Each year the Graduate Council Program Review and Awards Committee reviews college nominations and recognizes graduate students and faculty for the University Graduate Awards of Excellence and Awards for Faculty Excellence in Mentoring Doctoral students. The nominations are very competitive and the selection is especially challenging. Congratulations to all the recipients.

Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching

Erin Kidder, College of Sciences

Erin Kidder is a doctoral student in the Sociology PhD program. Kidder is considered an excellent classroom teacher. She lays out material carefully, provides space for students to question and absorb, and connects to students. She always makes a point to get to know each student in her class and provides constructive feedback to them in person and in more formal assessments. She loves teaching and enjoys exploring ways to get a particular lesson or concept across to the students.

College Winners
Sona Klucarova -College of Business Administration
Heather Knott- College of Arts and Humanities
Kenan Sualp – College of Community Innovation and Education

Award for Excellence by a Graduate Teaching Assistant

Ryan Connelly, College of Sciences

Ryan Connelly is a doctoral student in the Chemistry PhD program. Connelly is described as a very enthusiastic and creative Teaching Assistant. He does not hesitate to walk the extra mile to find an efficient approach to interact with students and explain the material. In his review sessions and office hours, he would use real-life examples and analogies to better convey the knowledge. The students like his approach a lot, and his office hours are always very popular and have full attendance.

College Winners
Jessica Lynch – College of Arts and Humanities
Olga Pysmenna – College of Community Innovation and Education

Award for Outstanding Master’s Thesis

Lea Harvey, College of Sciences

Lea Harvey is from the Anthropology MA program and was mentored by Beatriz M. Reyes-Foster, PhD. Harvey’s thesis is titled: Trouble in Paradise: Impacts of Theme Park Tourism on the Mental Health of Employee in Orlando, Florida

Harvey’s thesis used the ethnographic method to collect extensive field notes and analyze her findings with qualitative analysis and coding. Her research is an important contribution to the anthropology of tourism and is expected to be published in a major peer-reviewed journal.

College Winner
Carys O’Neill – College of Arts and Humanities

Award for Outstanding Dissertation – Engineering, Physical Sciences, and Life Sciences

Alireza Safaei, PhD, College of Sciences.

Alireza Safaei, PhD is a graduate of the Physics PhD program and was mentored Debashis Chanda. Dr. Safaei’s dissertation is titled Nanoplasmonics in Two-Dimensional Dirac and Three-Dimensional Metallic Nanostructure Systems

Dr. Safaei’s research details his invention of a new way to dynamically tune the optical characteristics of monolayer graphene by surface plasmonic excitation and the design and production of a high-efficiency broadband midinfrared flat lens. Dr. Safaei continues to advance the science of nano-optics as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Illinois.

Award for Outstanding Dissertation – Social Science, Humanities, Business, Art and Health

Saundra Tabert, PhD, College of Community Innovation and Education

Saundra Tabert PhD, is a graduate of the Education PhD program and was mentored by Dr. Glenn Lambie. Dr. Tabert’s dissertation is titled An investigation of College Student-Athlete’s Mental Health Stigma, Help-Seeking Attitudes, Depression, Anxiety, and Life Stress Scores Using Structural Equation Modeling.

Dr. Tabert’s research used the tailored design method and gathered a large sample size of data on student-athletes. The findings of her innovative multidisciplinary research will be published in a national journal and presented at refereed conferences.

College Winner
David Morton – College of Arts and Humanities

Award for Faculty Excellence in Mentoring Doctoral Students

Ronald DeMara, PhD, Professor – Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Engineering and Computer Science

Dr. Ronald DeMara is a professor, director of the Computer Architecture Laboratory, and a UCF Digital Learning Fellow. Dr. DeMara uses his knowledge in the field and his love of teaching to engage students no matter their knowledge level. He supports his doctoral students through any-hour availability, large grant funding, assists with earning scholarships and publishing, and enables connections with professional contacts.

Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching

Carey Rothschild, PhD, Clinical Assistant Professor – School of Kinesiology and Physical Therapy, College of Health Professions and Sciences

Dr. Carey Rothschild applies her extensive knowledge in the field to transition her students from basic sciences to clinical sciences through mentorship and innovative teaching. She has developed and improved doctoral courses to meet professional accreditation requirements within the Doctor of Physical Therapy program including new areas of focus on pain science and pelvic health.

College Winners

  • Elizabeth Horn, Assistant Professor – Department of Theatre, College of Arts and Humanities
  • Dana Joseph, PhD, Associate Professor – Department of Management, College of Business Administration
  • Stacey Van Horn, PhD, Associate Lecturer – Department Counselor Education and School Psychology, College of Community Innovation and Education
  • Yeonwoong Jung, PhD, Assistant Professor – Department of Materials Science Engineering, College Engineering and Computer Science
  • Ladd Thiamwong, PhD, Assistant Professor – Department of Nursing Systems, College of Nursing
  • Pieter Kik, PhD, Associate Professor – College of Optics and Photonics
  • Michael Mousseau, Professor – School of Politics, Security, and International Affairs, College of Sciences
  • Jeeyeon Hahm, PhD, Assistant Professor – Department of Tourism, Events, and Attractions, Rosen College of Hospitality Management

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