May 9, 2022

33 Exceptional Teacher-Scholars Recognized During WCU’s Banner Year for Research & New R2 Reclassification

West Chester University President Chris Fiorentino, and Deputy Provost and Vice President for Academic Operations Jeffery Osgood presided over the Spotlight on Faculty Research event to congratulate the 33 teacher-scholars being honored. Pictured (L to R) are Josh Auld, associate professor of biology & assistant chairperson; Lisa Marano, professor of mathematics; Chris Fiorentino, president; Shannon Mrkich, associate professor of English & director of First-Year Experience; Jeffery Osgood, deputy provost and vice president for academic operations; and Rodney Mader, professor of English and Visiting Research Associate, McNeil Center for Early American Studies.West Chester University has ushered in an exciting new era for research while remaining committed to its priority of teaching first and foremost. At a time when the University prepares to celebrate its next class of soon-to-be graduates, West Chester University recently recognized another outstanding academic class — 33 exceptional teacher-scholars whose compelling research efforts are enhancing issues related to community solutions; diversity, equity and inclusion; sustainability; student development; and leadership & innovation. The teacher-scholar group, whose 23 research projects align directly with the five specific areas outlined in the University’s strategic plan, was formally recognized during a featured Spotlight on Faculty Research evening that took place in the University’s new 175,000 square-ft. Sciences and Engineering Center and The Commons.

“Today, as we look forward to a promising future for the research enterprise at West Chester University, we also commemorate the hard work and commitment of the faculty members whose leadership, curiosity, and expertise have brought us to this moment,” said Vice Provost for Research & Creative Activity Nicole Bennett in opening remarks.

Bennett acknowledged that the University’s sponsored research funding is on the rise with the accumulation of more than $5 million in fiscal year 2021; the increase in grant funding is the highest experienced by the University.

“As part of our new era for research, external grant funding for the University is increasing,” added Bennett. “Funds for student services and training are actually outpacing funding for research and development. This is undoubtedly a reflection of the commitment of University faculty, staff, and administrators to improving student success.”

Numerous community partners in the area attended West Chester University’s Spotlight on Faculty Research to recognize the faculty being honored. Pictured (L to R) are President of the Independence Blue Cross Foundation Lorina Marshall Blake; President and Founder of Nth Solutions Sue Springsteen; and President of Alliance for Health Equity (formerly Brandywine Health Foundation) Vanessa Briggs.The University’s time has certainly come as this new era coincides with its reclassification from Master's Colleges & Universities – Larger Programs (M1) to Doctoral Universities – High Research Activity (R2) by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The University’s new 2021 classification took place during Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education’s most recent three-year cycle of evaluation, which was posted for a public-review period in December of 2021. Carnegie’s last update occurred in 2018.

According to the classification, R2 universities have “high research activity” in academic settings where teaching is the priority. In an R2 university, most courses are taught by professors who are involved in research activities and often include students in their research work.

“R2 signals that West Chester University takes research seriously,” said Deputy Provost and Vice President for Academic Operations Jeffery Osgood to the audience of award winners and guests. “At the same time, blending research with teaching makes for research-informed teaching, which provides the most robust experiences for our students. We are here today to celebrate the teacher-scholars who bring excellence to the classroom through their teaching every day.”

Osgood presented an inscribed award to each of the following teacher-scholars during the program:

  • Josh Auld, Associate Professor & Assistant Chairperson, Biology
  • Michael Boyle, Professor and Department Chairperson, Communication and Media
  • Maria Cabrera, Assessment Coordinator & Professor, Languages and Culture
  • Constance Case, Associate Professor, Theatre and Dance
  • Alex Cohen, Assistant Professor, Marketing
  • Simon Condliffe, Professor, Economics and Finance
  • Laquana Cooke, Assistant Professor & Director of iCamp Media Academy, English
  • Patricia Davidson, Professor, Nutrition
  • Anita Foeman, Professor, Communication and Media
  • Elizabeth Foster, Associate Professor, Kinesiology
  • Amir Golmohamadi, Associate Professor, Food Sciences
  • Elizabeth Grillo, Professor, Communication Sciences and Disorders
  • Megan Heckert, Associate Professor, Geography and Planning
  • Lauri Hyers, Professor, Psychology
  • Daniel Ilaria, Professor, Secondary Education
  • Kurt Kolasinski, Professor, Chemistry
  • Bessie Lawton, Professor, Communication and Media
  • Grace Liu, Assistant Professor, Business Librarian, University Libraries
  • Rodney Mader, Professor of English; Visiting Research Associate, McNeil Center for Early American Studies
  • Lisa Marano, Professor, Mathematics
  • Rachel McMullin, Associate Professor, Humanities Librarian, University Libraries
  • Brandon Mitchell, Assistant Professor, Physics
  • Paul Morgan, Professor, Educational Foundations & Policy Studies
  • Shannon Mrkich, Associate Professor of English & Director of First-Year Experience
  • Cheryl Neale-McFall, Professor & Interim Chairperson, Counselor Education
  • Mia Ocean, Associate Professor, Social Work
  • Amanda Olejarski, Associate Professor & MPA Director, Public Policy and Administration
  • Matt Saboe, Associate Professor, Economics and Finance
  • Gretchen Studlien-Webb, Associate Professor, Dance
  • Jasmin Tahmaseb-McConatha, Professor, Psychology
  • Julie Tennille, Associate Professor, Social Work
  • Maria Urrutia, Associate Professor, Dance
  • Kerry Walton, Assistant Professor, Electronic Resources Librarian, University Libraries


“All of you receiving awards today have demonstrated an unyielding commitment to student success,” said West Chester University President Chris Fiorentino in closing remarks.  “You have made an incredible impact with the type of teaching load that you carry and during what has been an incredible past two years. I am so proud and honored to be aligned with faculty who are at the heart of this University and its mission.”

“As you can see, the research-informed teaching conducted by West Chester University faculty is consistently inspiring and fuels our students to be the best versions of themselves in and out of the classroom,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Laurie Bernotsky. “We are quite fortunate to work with faculty who are committed to creating extraordinary experiences for their students by producing research, engaging students in that research, and creating relevant graduate programs. By doing so, this University is truly helping to tackle some of the grand challenges of our world in ways that are making significant differences.”

The Spotlight on Faculty Research evening also attracted numerous community partners to the campus-wide celebration. Among those cheering on the University’s award-winning teacher-scholars and students were leaders from West Pharmaceutical Services, Independence Blue Cross Foundation, Alliance for Health Equity (formerly Brandywine Health Foundation), Chester County Community Foundation, Penn Medicine (Chester County Hospital), Exton Chamber of Commerce, West Chester Business Improvement District (BID), The Wistar Institute, Nth Solutions, Meridian Bank, Vista Today, Keiretsu Forum, and Aspire Prosthetics.

Details About the University’s R2 Reclassification

To be considered an R2 university, a university or college must have awarded at least 20 research/scholarship doctoral degrees and must have had at least $5 million in total research expenditures as reported through the National Science Foundation (NSF) Higher Education Research & Development Survey (HERD). As such, the University’s reclassification to an R2 university is based on research and development expenditures and the number of doctoral students it graduates. 

A steady increase in graduate student enrollment between fiscal years 2010-2020 has been enhanced by the University’s addition of doctoral programs in the fields of clinical psychology (Psy.D.), education policy planning and administration (Ed.D.), nursing practice (D.N.P.), and public administration (D.P.A.).

In FY 2020, the update year, WCU graduated 24 Ed.D. and D.P.A. students combined and invested $6.41 million in research and development as defined by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Higher Education Research & Development Survey (HERD) survey. The University investment in research has been greater than $5 million since FY 2015, so the new Carnegie Classification is really a reflection of the fact that WCU’s professional practice doctoral programs are beginning to graduate students in higher numbers.


Back to top of page.