WSU Honors 2011 Distinguished Professors

OGDEN, Utah – An archeologist, writer and pianist at Weber State University have been named the 2011 Presidential Distinguished Professors.

Anthropology professor Brooke Arkush, English professor Judy Elsley and music professor Yu-Jane Yang were selected by WSU’s Board of Trustees. They will formally receive their awards at the university’s spring commencement exercises April 22.

Each professor will receive a cash prize of $16,000, payable over four years, which may be used to further professional academic goals. Honorees also will retain the Presidential Distinguished Professor title throughout their tenure with the university. Upon retirement from WSU, “Emeritus” will be added to the end of the title. The professors also will be featured on the Honor Wall for Presidential Distinguished Professors located on the second floor of the Stewart Library in the west atrium.

Funding for the annual recognition program was made possible by a generous gift from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous. The program was established in 2006 as a way to recognize outstanding WSU faculty members who demonstrate the highest quality of teaching, scholarship, research and community service.

“It is a pleasure to recognize these distinguished professors,” said President Ann Millner. “While they represent different disciplines on campus, they share a strong commitment to teaching, scholarship and excellence. All three recipients have made lasting contributions to the university.”

“This year’s honorees engage students in learning opportunities beyond the classroom, and lead by their example in the field, in literature and on stage,” said Provost Michael Vaughan. “We are very grateful to this donor for recognizing the important role faculty play in the lives of our students and the vitality of the campus.”

Brooke Arkush
Anthropology professor Brooke Arkush likes getting his fingers dirty, and he encourages his students to do the same.

Since joining the faculty in 1990, Arkush has taught the lion’s share of archaeology curriculum and served as director of WSU’s Archaeological Technician Program. His lesson plans occur both in the classroom and at dig sites as part of his annual field schools. For four weeks each summer, Arkush mentors eight to 12 students who live, learn, eat and sleep on site. Students receive hands-on experience in documenting and recovering archaeological data, understanding regional, natural and cultural history, and interpreting the archaeological record of prehistoric foragers.

Arkush’s research agenda focuses on prehistory, protohistory and colonial history of western North America, especially communal big-game hunting, ancient settlement patterns, subsistence systems and Native American cultural continuity and change after contact with European settlers.

His scholarship has led to the publication of 24 articles and book chapters about his personal research and collaborations with students. Through his research, Arkush has added a great deal to the understanding of Great Basin Archaeology. He serves on the editorial board of two scholarly publication series and is an active member of several professional organizations, including the Society for American Archaeology and the Rocky Mountain Anthropological Association.

His previous honors and awards include being selected as Endowed Professor of WSU’s College of Social & Behavioral Sciences from 1996 to 1999, the 2004 George and Beth Lowe Innovative Teaching Award and the 2006 Gwen S. Williams Award of Excellence. Arkush is described as a “delightful” colleague who “expands our understanding of ancient cultures.”

Judy Elsley
English professor Judy Elsley is equally passionate about text and textiles. Elsley is the author of three books, 17 refereed publications, four articles published in books and seven non-refereed publications.

She has presented her work locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. Elsley has drawn on her expertise in narrative writing to create a substantial body of work exploring the topics of quilts in literature and society.

Throughout her 21-year career at WSU, Elsley has played a key role in the development and enhancement of institutional programs. She has served as director of the Writing Across the Curriculum committee (1992-1995); co-coordinator of the First-Year Experience program (1995-2000); and coordinator of the Bachelor of Integrated Studies program (2000-2007). For the past three years she has served as director of the WSU Honors program.

In addition to her scholarship and campus leadership, Elsley is an exceptional teacher. Year in and year out her teaching evaluations cite her skills in the classroom and her willingness to work with her students. The recipient of the John S. Hinckley Award in 2009, Elsley has also received the Nye/Cortez Distinguished Professor award in 2003 and the President’s Award for Exemplary Teaching in 1993. She served as the Endowed Scholar of the College of Arts & Humanities from 1996 to 1999. In 2002 Elsley received the “Woman of Wonder” award from Women’s Resources.

To quote one of her peers, Elsley shares her wisdom freely, and “the success of students, faculty, and the university as a whole is her top priority.”

Yu-Jane Yang

An accomplished concert pianist in her own right, music professor Yu-Jane Yang is recognized for her ability to train a new generation of award-winning performers.

Yang joined the WSU music faculty in 1992. In the past two decades, she has performed in concert on three continents and grown WSU’s Piano Program, elevating its renown on the national and international stage.

That heightened awareness has helped Yang successfully recruit piano students from around the world to Weber State, in some cases eschewing famed conservatories like Julliard and Oberlin in favor of WSU. As one of her peers has noted, Yang has developed a “reputation as a teacher able to combine high – indeed, world class – expectations with a comfortable yet rigorous classroom atmosphere.” Under her tutelage, these young pianists have gone on to win prestigious competitions at the national and international level.

Yang is the author of numerous articles on piano teaching published in leading piano pedagogy journals. She is a sought-after teacher of both piano workshops and master classes as well as a judge of national and international piano competitions.

Yang was one of three national winners of the distinguished D.H. Baldwin Fellowship for Teaching Excellence in Piano, and received the Women in the Arts Award from the Utah Symphony Ballet Association. Yang has been named an Endowed Scholar/Artist in the Telitha E. Lindquist College of Arts & Humanities and was the recipient of WSU’s Lowe Innovative Teaching Award in 2000.

She also has spearheaded the Steinway Project at WSU, working to attain the prestigious “Steinway School” designation. Last year Yang was chosen to receive the Utah Music Teachers Association’s highest honor, the UMTA Legacy Award. In March, she was honored as a 2011 Foundation Fellow by the Music Teachers National Association.

Faculty members are nominated by current or past WSU colleagues, administrators and/or students. Nominees are screened and evaluated by a selected group of senior faculty and academic administrators appointed by the provost. The finalists are recommended by the president of the university to the Board of Trustees for approval.

Visit to learn more about the award and past recipients.

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Michael Vaughan, provost
801-626-6006 •
John Kowalewski, director of Media Relations
801-626-7212 •

Brady Presidential Distinguished Professors


Craig Oberg
Gene Sessions
Sam Zeveloff

Eric Amsel
Yasmen Simonian
Michael Wutz

Bradley W. Carroll
Brian Davis

Jim Christian
Brenda Marsteller Kowalewski
Susan Matt
Adolph Yonkee

John Cavitt
Lauren Fowler
Ed Walker

Brooke Arkush
Judy Elsley
Yu-Jang Yang

Diane Kawamura
John Mukum Mbaku

Hal Crimmel
Adam T. Johnston
Shane J. Schvaneveldt

Jennifer Turley
Kirk D. Hagen