Two from WSU Receive Dixon AwardOGDEN, Utah – Judy Elsley, English professor and Honors Program director, and Michael B. Vaughan, provost and Academic Affairs vice president, are co-recipients of the Weber State University Alumni Association’s 2015 H. Aldous Dixon Award. Elsley and Vaughan will be honored at a luncheon March 18.
For 25 years, British-born English professor Judy Elsley has helped Weber State University students become competent and confident readers, writers and thinkers. “I focus on students as real people whom I honor and respect,” Elsley said. “My teaching style is student-based and interactive, rather than lecturing.” Unique to some of Elsley’s lesson plans is a skillful weaving of her passion for quilting.
“My two great loves are fabric and language,” Elsley said. “My doctoral dissertation explored the semiotics of quilting, and many of my publications focus on quilts in literature and the relationship between text and textile.” Over the past three decades, the self-described “fabric artist” has gradually moved from using commercial textiles and other people’s patterns to designing her own quilts made with fabrics she has hand-dyed and printed.
Elsley is a tireless student advocate. From 1995 to 2000, she co-coordinated WSU’s First Year Experience, a program that helps new students learn the ropes of university life and connect with resources they need to succeed. She is a past director of WSU’s Writing Across the Curriculum Program, and in 1999 started the Rising Star Scholarship for nontraditional students. She guided the Bachelor of Integrated Studies program from 2000 to 2007 and is the current director of the university’s Honors Program. She strives to make honors classes and activities available to students across campus.
Elsley is a Brady Presidential Distinguished Professor and a recipient of the John S. Hinckley Fellow Award for excellence in teaching. Former students post positive reviews online and describe Elsley’s courses as transformative moments in their intellectual development. “Dr. Elsley is by far the best professor I have had at WSU,” wrote one student. “I have never understood Shakespeare before, but she made it so relatable,” said another. “She’s fun, very fair and really knows her stuff,” wrote a third.
Although it has never happened, Elsley says the best compliment a student could ever give her is to tell her she is no longer needed. “In the end, I aim to make myself redundant by teaching students to read, write and think independently without my intermediary guidance,” she said.
Provost and Academic Affairs vice president since 2004, Mike Vaughan is a quiet man with a resounding influence on campus. As he did in his previous role as dean of the John B. Goddard School of Business & Economics, Vaughan uses his administrative expertise, analytical mind and ethical practices to expand and promote the intellectual climate of Weber State. Under Vaughan’s direction, WSU initiated 25 new degree programs, including six at the master’s level.
The scope of Vaughan’s responsibility is daunting. Ultimately it is he who answers the demand for innovative, relevant instruction at WSU, whether it occurs on campus or online, in Utah or out of state. Vaughan has influenced each of the university’s seven academic colleges, and WSU’s enrollment has grown from 18,000 to more than 25,000 students during his tenure as provost. He guided the establishment of an MBA program. With support from his office, WSU was able to purchase enough Steinway pianos to earn a coveted All-Steinway School designation.
Upon establishing WSU’s Center for Community Engaged Learning (CCEL), Vaughan appointed a competent and enthusiastic director, Brenda Kowalewski. Under her leadership, and with Vaughan’s guidance and support, the center has flourished and provided service and learning opportunities for thousands of WSU students. “Since its inception, students have contributed more than 618,000 combined hours of service through CCEL,” said Vaughan, who is a strong proponent of engaged-learning experiences. His support and advocacy extends to Weber State’s nationally recognized undergraduate research program and the recent creation of WSU’s Sustainability Practices and Research Center.
An indicator of Vaughan’s success as provost is the 2014 review by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities that resulted in an extraordinary five commendations and no recommendations.
Vaughan works diligently to make higher education accessible and affordable. In 2008 he was instrumental in creating the Dream Weber program, which covers tuition and fees for qualifying WSU students with a household income of less than $40,000. “It has made the dream of a college education a reality for thousands of students,” Vaughan said.
Vaughan frequently mentions WSU in the monthly column he writes for the “Standard-Examiner.” One memorable column titled “It’s Pronounced Wee-ber” issued a lighthearted, but sincere, appeal for Apple CEO Tim Cook to teach Siri, the iPhone’s voice-activated digital assistant, the correct way to pronounce Weber State University. Vaughan will step down as provost in June of 2015 and return to the faculty.
Since 1970, the WSU Alumni Association has presented the Dixon Award to outstanding faculty and staff who have distinguished themselves professionally and taken extra measures to meet the needs of students. The award is bestowed in memory of President Dixon, who served as the school’s chief administrator from 1919 to 1920 and from 1937 to 1953. Known for his dedication to higher education and warm rapport with students, Dixon stated on more than one occasion, “Young people are the foremost of my hobbies.”
The 46th Annual H. Aldous Dixon Award luncheon is March 18 at noon in the Hurst Center for Lifelong Learning on WSU’s Ogden campus. The public is invited. Cost is $15 per person. Reservations must be made before March 12 at alumni.weber.edu/dixon or 801-626-7535.
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