Faculty Excellence Awards

Queer Educational Activism
Richard Price, Political Science & Philosophy

The public school system represents one of the most powerful agents of the straight state. Historically, one of this system’s primary goals has been reproducing good citizenship, with “good citizens” understood to mean “heterosexual only.” However, that left lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning (LGTBQ+) youth in a perilous position as they navigated a straight space hostile to their existence. Fearful of the antigay narrative of gay men preying upon innocent children, national LGBTQ+  activists ignored the issue of LGBTQ+ youth in schools for decades. This project explores the pioneering local activists who began to break down this resistance and engage in youth-oriented activism in the 1980s and 1990s. Of particular importance will be  consideration of the 1990s activism as a means for queer youth to advocate for themselves and advance the movement. The project will focus on archival research. Archivists throughout the nation maintain records of educational activism in ways that have not yet been fully appreciated. Some archives contain information about individual teachers and activists, while others note the actions of  either local or national activist groups. This grant will culminate in two scholarly articles about the following topics: 

  1. Backlash against LGTBQ+ visibility by straight college students in the 1990s.
  2. Grassroots activist organizing in the San Francisco Bay Area.

My Pronouns Website
Micah Bauer, Visual Arts & Design

Despite one in five Americans knowing someone who prefers using a pronoun other than “he” or “she,” most of us still don’t fully understand gender-neutral pronouns or how to use them. Based on my assessment as a professional web and web-interaction  designer for nearly 20 years, the information about this subject that is currently presented online is either uninviting or unreliable. I intend to create a friendly, functional website to which people who use gender-neutral pronouns can refer their friends and  families. The goal is to provide information about gender-neutral pronouns that is accessible, up to date and applicable. Individuals who use gender-neutral pronouns will be able to add a link to their email signatures or social media posts. This promises to provide a more personal and tailored experience than what is currently available on other websites. Hopefully, the project will also encourage people who aren’t familiar with gender-neutral pronouns to learn more. I plan to collaborate with the university’s LGBT Resource Center coordinator Jayson Stokes to create web content. According to Jayson, there is currently no data concerning gender-neutral pronoun usage or awareness amongst Weber State faculty and students. One of my primary goals for the My Pronouns website is to spark interest in this topic. In launching and promoting this new website, we hope to increase awareness locally and beyond.

Intercultural Competence / Equity, Diversity & Inclusion
Kacy Peckenpaugh, Foreign Languages
Yimin Wang, International Programs

Globally and locally, there is an increasing demand for a culturally competent populace in communities and workplaces. Academic institutions hold the imperative to nurture the knowledge, skills and attitudes that promote understanding, empathy and intolerance for injustice. The most concrete objective of this project will be to create five intercultural workshops that bring together domestic and international Weber State students. Using pedagogical best practices in intercultural competence, the workshops will be designed to foster the growth of global knowledge, skills and attitudes by combining easily accessible, yet diverse perspectives. Vande Berg and other scholars argue that most students learn efficiently abroad “only when an educator intervenes, strategically and intentionally.” (2020) While it is beneficial for domestic students to engage with varied international perspectives, it is equally important for those studying abroad at Weber to have meaningful connections with domestic students, as international students often only move in circles with other international students.

International Society for Teacher Education, Convening in Florianopolis, Brazil
Sheryl J Rushton, Teacher Education

The International Society for Teacher Education (ISfTE) is an organization of teacher educators from around the world. It is dedicated to improving teacher education in all settings by fostering discussion, critical analysis, and dissemination of ideas from research and innovative practices in teacher education. My main purpose for traveling to Brazil is to attend an ISfTE gathering as the organization’s current treasurer and newly elected secretary-general (e.g., president). While at the seminar, I will pass on the financial duties of being ISfTE treasurer to the new treasurer. I will then lead the yearly seminar as the society’s elected secretary-general for the next four years. My secondary purpose for travel is to present a research paper titled, “Pre-service Teachers’ Use of Assessment Data,” with my colleague Penee Stewart. Our objective is to get feedback from the reading groups at the seminar so that we can improve our article. We will then submit the article for publication in an assessment and education journal. Presenting and publishing are important to building our professional portfolios and increasing our opportunities for promotion. We also wish to increase the international audience’s awareness of Weber State University.

Postsecular Poetics: Negotiating the Sacred & Secular in Contemporary African Fiction
Rebekah Cumpsty, English

I have a book contract with Routledge for a monograph forthcoming in 2022. I will use Hemingway Award funding to help cover the cost of permissions and indexing. The project details are as follows: “Postsecular Poetics” is the first booklength study of the postsecular in African literatures. Religion, secularism, and the intricate negotiations between the two, codified in recent criticism as postsecularism, are fundamental conditions of capitalist modernity. These concerns have been addressed in social science disciplines, but they have been largely neglected in postcolonial and literary studies. To remedy this oversight, this monograph draws together four areas of study; it brings debates in religious and postsecular studies to bear on African literatures and postcolonial studies. The focus of this interdisciplinary study is to understand how postsecular negotiations manifest in postcolonial African settings and how they are represented and registered in fiction. Through this focus, this book reveals how African and African-diasporic authors radically disrupt the epistemological and ontological modalities of globalized literary production, often characterized as secular, and imagines alternatives which incorporate the sacred into a postsecular world.

Ecological Plasticity of a Lizard Species From the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco
Jonathan Marshall, Zoology

Climate change will have a severe impact on montane microendemic species. How fast such species can adapt to changes
may be key to their survival, so collecting baseline data on diet, thermoregulatory behavior and response to water stress
is imperative. Atlantolacerta andreanskyi, endemic to the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco, is a high-elevation lizard species
complex that could potentially be very sensitive to climate change. We plan to use DNA metabarcoding of feces, using next
generation sequencing techniques, to:

  • Determine how diet varies between sexes in sexually dimorphic and monomorphic populations.
  • Identify differences in diet between genetic lineages within this species complex.
  • Assess trophic niche partitioning.

The final aim of this project will be to use the data gathered to model the impact of climate change on the specific
populations as well as the entire species complex. With this information a conservation plan for the species will be proposed.


Faculty Collaborative Awards

Ogden's Connection to O'Shaughnessy Dam
Sarah Langsdon, Special Collections
Leah LeGrone, History
Sara Dant, History
Josh Winegar, Visual Arts
Alice Mulder, Geography
Chris Hoagstrom, Zoology
Dan Bedford, Geography

Special Collections is undertaking an interdisciplinary project where students and faculty will explore the complexity of the O’Shaughnessy Dam, a 430-foot-high concrete arch-gravity dam in Tuolumne County, California. The project will reflect a broad interpretation of the dam over the last 100 years and examine its impact on a variety of things, including the environment and biodiversity. Research will include trips to archives and Yosemite National Park to study the Tuolumne River. The research undertaken can lead to scholarly presentations at conferences and articles written for academic publications. The project will include a one-day symposium where participants will showcase their research to interested parties. Weber State history students will collaborate to create an exhibit that examines the history of the dam, the controversy surrounding its construction, and Ogden’s connection to the dam. The National Parks Service in Yosemite is open to working with the students to help them gather information and tell stories from different perspectives. The results of the project will be on display at Weber State University. The exhibit will also travel to the Museums at Union Station, in Ogden, to help educate the Ogden community about the local component of a conservation effort that played out on the national stage. 

Women & Minorities in Engineering Research Mentorship Program
Avery Gardner, Electrical & Computer Engineering
Alyssa Mock, Electrical & Computer Engineering
Aminda O'Hare, Neiropsychology / Neuroscience

The Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering is dedicated to improving its ethnic and gender diversity. Recent efforts have resulted in a significant increase in the number of female students in lower-division courses. Unfortunately, retention rates tend to be lower for female students than for male students. This project is a collaboration between the electrical & computer engineering and psychological science departments to:

  • Design a study to identify causes of female student attrition.
  • Improve retention of the current cohort.
  • Create a peer mentorship program to improve long-term minority retention.

Creating a Master of Arts Degree in Peace & Sustainable Development
Stephanie Wolfe, Political Science & Philosophy
Melina Alexander, Teacher Education
Julie Rich, Social & Behavioral Sciences
Yimin Wang, International Programs
Alice Mulder, Geography
Cynthia Jones, Foreign Language
Janicke Stramer-Smith, Political Science & Philosophy
Gavin Roberts, Economics
Colleen Packer, Communication
& additional collaborators

This project supports the development of an interdisciplinary master’s the development of an interdisciplinary master’s degree in  Peace and Sustainable Development. As tentatively described, the program would enable students to participate in an interdisciplinary exploration of local, national, and international issues related to sustainability practices in the fields of peace and development. Students will investigate key debates surrounding peace and conflict ranging from community issues to global wars and best practices for creating sustainable development at all levels of society. Program participants will explore how peace and development intersect with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, particularly: peacebuilding, local and global conflict, communication, health, education, environment, and economic and political development. With knowledge and expertise gained through this discipline, students will be prepared for professional careers in conducting positive social change within the fields of humanitarian work, social justice, peace building and sustainable development. Objectives associated with this grant are:

  1. To complete the Utah System of Higher Education R401 form, including all necessary survey work on student interest and labor market demands.
  2. To develop the course curriculum for each of the required and elective courses, in addition to other curriculum and program work.

Reflect on Accessible Content & Universal Design: An Introductory Immersion Session
Jason Francis, Health Sciences
Shaun Adamson, Teaching & Information Services
Diana Meiser, Engineering, Applied Science & Technology
Angela McLean, Disability Services
Nathan Boettcher, Online & Continuing Education
Oliver Snow, Online & Continuing Education

In May 2022, a team consisting of faculty and staff from Stewart Library, WSU Disability Services and the Division of Online & Continuing Education, will present an immersion session at the annual Medical Library Association conference. This session is titled: “Reflect on Accessible Content and Universal Design: An Introductory Immersion Session.” The workshop will provide participants with introductory training and skills needed to successfully remediate Microsoft and Adobe materials for use in their classes. This project has grown out of the respective parties’ shared passion for accessibility and would not be effective without the entire team being represented as part of the conference session. The conference will promote Weber State’s commitment to creating accessible content to a national audience attending in person and virtually. 

Thin Film Coatings to Improve CAthodoluminescence (CL) Imaging of Minerals for Geologic Dating
Kristin Rabosky, Physics
Elizabeth Balgord, Geosciences

Dating geologic materials allows us to constrain the tempo and rates of geologic process and provides a framework for
understanding the evolution of Earth systems. Accurate and meaningful geologic ages can only be obtained through
careful sample collection, mineral processing, imaging and isotopic analysis. The Department of Physics & Astronomy
and the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences are working to improve the resolution of images taken
on our scanning electron microscopy by coating mineral samples with thin films, which prohibit electrical charging
under the electron beam, improving resolution and reducing background noise. Using this coating technique, we will
obtain publication-quality images, eliminate the need to send samples out to other facilities and provide new research
opportunities for our students.

Fine-Scale Variation of thet Soil Microbiome of Phlox Hirsuta, a Rare Plant
Katrina Twing, Microbiology
James Cohen, Botany

Over the past decade, myriad studies have demonstrated the importance of the microbiome (e.g., microorganisms living within a given habitat) to various organismal and environmental processes, such as neurological functioning and cancer in humans, marine environmental conditions, and plant growth. The microbiome’s role in development can be greater than genetic factors. And while this has been studied in agriculture, for most ecosystems and plant species, the microbiome remains unexplored. We propose exploring the microbiome of Phlox hirsuta, a rare species of plant found only in harsh serpentine soils. We anticipate at least two peer-reviewed scientific manuscripts will come out of the proposed research project. The two publications will be focused on:

  • The diversity of microbial communities and unique soil chemistry of these samples.
  • The metabolic potential of microbial communities (from metagenomic data generated from this research) and the ways in which such metabolisms could impact plant growth. 

Additionally, we will present the research at relevant national conferences, such as the American Society for Microbiology’s ASM Microbe, 2023. Finally, this large-scale, interdisciplinary dataset may be used as a bioinformatic teaching tool for Microbiology 4800 and Botany 4800 research students to gain hands-on experience with complex
bioinformatic data, and it could potentially be the focus of a future collaborative course focusing on genomics and big data by Twing and Cohen in the future.


Gwen Williams Prize
Imaging & Separations Facilities for Geologic Dating of Zircons
Kristin Rabosky, Physics
Elizabeth Balgord, Geosciences

A This was a collaborative project between Kristin Rabosky in the physics department and Elizabeth Balgord in the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences (EES). The goal of the project was to purchase equipment and develop protocol to complete mineral separation (specifically the mineral zircon, which is an ideal geologic clock) and imaging facilities in shared lab spaces within the Tracy Hall Science Center. Faculty and students in the EES department have collected zircon-bearing rock samples to determine geologic histories of mountain belts. To determine the history of a sample, individual zircon grains must first be separated and then imaged to evaluate growth increments recorded in different layers having distinct trace elemental signatures. Project outcomes included the following:

  • Developed a technique for generating publication-quality CL images at WSU, so we no longer must pay outside labs. (This saves Balgord and her students $5500-$8250 annually.)
  • Used preliminary data to produce a National Science Foundation Earth Science Instrumentation and Facilities proposal submitted by Balgord and Rabosky.
  • Enabled six WSU undergraduates to work collaboratively. (Three from physics; three from EES.)
  • Presented (or will present) three abstracts, written by a total of seven student authors, at national and regional physics and geology conferences. (2020-2022)
  • Submission (in 2022) of a forthcoming publication co-authored by Rabosky and Balgord.