Five Spartans receive university awards for leadership, teaching

March 23, 2021

Five Spartans from the College of Education have received honors for their distinguished teaching, research and leadership at Michigan State University.

Four of these recognitions are part of the annual All-University Awards, celebrating faculty and graduate students.

In addition, Department of Kinesiology Chair Alan L. Smith received the Simmons Chivukula Award for Academic Leadership from MSU’s Academic Advancement Network.

Alyssa Hadley Dunn: Teacher-Scholar Award

Alyssa Dunn headshot

Associate Professor Alyssa Hadley Dunn‘s work centers on urban teacher education and the sociocultural and political contexts of urban schools, with a focus on issues of race, justice and equity.

Dunn was one of six recipients of the Teacher-Scholar Award, which honors early career faculty for their commitment to and expertise in teaching and whose instruction is linked to and informed by research and creative activities.

“Undergraduate and graduate students who have worked with her over the last six years at MSU refer to her as ‘inspiring,’ ‘life-changing’ and ‘a revolutionary mentor and friend,'” wrote Dorinda Carter Andrews, chair of the Department of Teacher Education, in an award nomination letter. “Dunn’s research and scholarship help us learn about the ways we can and should be changing conditions, policies and educational structures to support public school teachers’ continuation and thriving in the profession.”

In another letter, assistant professors from the Department of Teacher Education expanded on Dunn’s impact as a scholar and colleague.

“She builds relationships and spaces of trust. The topics she discusses in class and in department meetings are societal structural issues and challenges, which are difficult to navigate without trust. She makes sure that each one of her students feels confident enough to navigate these topics and she has extended this opportunity to her colleagues. … She has brought out the best in us; all in service of our students.”

Dunn’s work explores how educational spaces, such as K-12 schools and teacher education programs, can become more just and equitable for students and educators, and has a focus for three areas within the field: the sociopolitical contexts of teaching and teacher education, teachers’ experiences in urban schools and urban teacher preparation.

Learn more about the award and Dunn’s research (MSUToday).

Related news: “The Days After:” Teaching, Trauma & Trump (2018); Teacher resignation letters paint bleak picture of U.S. education (2017)

Excellence-in-Teaching Citations

Excellence-in-Teaching Citations are given to graduate students for their distinguished care and skill in meeting their classroom responsibilities. For 2021, three of the six citations recognize students in the MSU College of Education.

Lauren Elizabeth Reine Johnson

Lauren Elizabeth Reine Johnson

A former New York City teacher and a current doctoral student in MSU’s Curriculum, Instruction and Teacher Education (CITE) program, Johnson “believes in teaching as an opportunity to learn alongside her students, supporting them as she makes space for students to engage in critical discussions and self-reflection about theory and practice” (MSUToday).

Within her various roles at MSU as a student, researcher and instructor, Johnson strives to create a collaborative, humanizing and equitable space for all students and future educators.

As a researcher, she examines race, place and educational justice in the classroom, curriculum and in educational texts.

Jill Kochanek

Jill Kochanek

Supporting all learners is one of the main goals of Jill Kochanek’s teaching. Kochanek, a Kinesiology doctoral student, celebrates her students’ diverse backgrounds and ensures that all feel welcomed, heard and respected.

Through her research, Kochanek examines the psychosocial aspects of sport and physical activity, with particular attention to social justice approaches for coaching and coach education. She takes the same approach when aiming to improve the teaching of her peers through leading professional development series and workshops, mentoring graduate teaching assistants and more.

Emily M. Wright

Emily M. Wright

As an educator, Wright establishes a student-centric learning environment through various teaching practices supportive of diverse learning styles. As a scholar, Wright’s research “focuses on understanding how the youth sport experience influences family functioning” (MSUToday).

Wright, a Kinesiology doctoral student, has served as a leader at MSU, teaching a variety of Kinesiology courses; presenting for additional courses at MSU, the Michigan High School Athletic Association and various sport camps; mentoring undergraduate research assistants and serving as a judge for MSU’s Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum.

The recipients each received a commemorative plaque, and an in-person celebration is being planned at a later date due to COVID-19-related health concerns and restrictions.

Alan L. Smith: Simmons Chivukula Award for Academic Leadership

Separately from the All-University Awards, Department of Kinesiology Chair Alan L. Smith was named the 2021 recipient for the Simmons Chivukula Award for Academic Leadership.

Alan Smith headshot

The annual award recognizes an MSU leader who has demonstrated excellence through a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion; empowers the success and development of others and is dedicated to openness, honesty and transparency in their work. Smith, who was named the Kinesiology chair in 2012, was selected for the honor because of his “steadfast and even-handed” dedication to these ideals, and other leadership qualities, said the MSU Academic Advancement Network.

Related news: In 2020, Smith and two other College of Education Spartans were named to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition Science Board.