Campus News

20 UB faculty, staff receive SUNY Chancellor’s Awards


Published June 4, 2015 This content is archived.


UB again was well-represented when recipients of the 2015 SUNY Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence were announced recently, with seven faculty members, two librarians and 11 staff members being honored for outstanding achievement.

The 20 recipients match last year’s number of award winners, the most in recent memory.

The Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities recognizes the work of those who engage actively in scholarly and creative pursuits beyond their teaching responsibilities. Recipients are Stella Batalama, professor and chair, Department of Electrical Engineering; Ralph Benedict, professor, Department of Neurology; Ann Bisantz, professor and chair, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering; and Sriram Neelamegham, professor, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering.

The Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching honors those who consistently demonstrate superb teaching at the undergraduate, graduate or professional level. Recipients are Peter Bradford, associate professor, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology; Steven Miller, associate professor, Department of English; and Mary Nell Trautner, associate professor, Department of Sociology.

The Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Professional Service honors professional staff performance excellence “both within and beyond the position.” Recipients are Beth A. Corry, associate vice president and controller, University Business Services; Elaine R. Cusker, associate dean for academic affairs and undergraduate education, Division of Academic Affairs, Office of the Provost; John DellaContrada, associate vice president for media relations and stakeholder communications, University Communications; Valerie Frerichs, associate laboratory director, Department of Chemistry; Jacqueline Molik Ghosen, assistant dean and director of communications, School of Management; Krista L. Hanypsiak, director of general education; Kevin Leary, assistant to the director, Arts Management Program; and Patricia Shyhalla, associate vice provost for resource management, International Education.

The Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Librarianship recognizes “skill in librarianship; service to the campus, the university and to the field; scholarship and professional growth; and major professional achievements.” Recipients are Theodora Belniak, associate librarian, Charles B. Sears Law Library, and Michelle Zafron, associate librarian, Health Sciences Library.

The Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Classified Service recognizes classified staff members who have consistently demonstrated superlative performance within and beyond their position. Recipients are Vickie Searight, undergraduate secretary, Department of Biological Sciences; Deborah Szurgyi, clerk 2, Department of Oral Biology; and Paul Wilcox, maintenance supervisor, UB Anderson Gallery.

Stella Batalama.

Stella Batalama joined the UB faculty in 1995. She served as associate dean for research in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences from 2009-11, and has been chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering since 2010.

Batalama has worked on various design aspects of wireless communication systems and networks, including CDMA cellular communications, cognitive and collaborative networks, underwater communications, multimedia security and data hiding. She has received more than $9 million in research funding from such agencies as the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense (DoD), as well as private industry. Her research has been published in more than 150 peer-reviewed journals.

Her work in the area of cognitive networking, in collaboration with students and colleagues, recently was recognized by DoD national labs as the technology of choice, based on its flexibility, inherent interference tolerance, throughput and reliability. This pioneering work made her DoD sponsors the de facto leader in policy-based spectrum access and cognitive networking in the U.S. and abroad.

Theodora Belniak.

As head of collection management for UB’s Law Library, Theodora Belniak oversees the library’s acquisitions department, managing the budget and selection of library materials. She joined the library staff in 2010 as a reference librarian and served as faculty services librarian from 2010-11. She assumed her current position in 2011.

Belniak teaches a Law School elective, “New York Legal Research,” each spring and also has guest lectured in “Legal Research and Writing,” a first-year law school course, as well as “Legal Information Sources,” a course offered by the Department of Library Science.

A member of the American Association of Law Libraries and the Association of Law Libraries of Upstate New York, Belniak earned an MLS and JD, both from UB, and an MA in culture and colonialism from the National University of Ireland, Galway.

Ralph Benedict’s research focuses on Alzheimer’s disease and memory disorders, and multiple sclerosis. He uses behavioral psychometrics to understand how cerebral disease affects personality, cognition and psychiatric stability.

Benedict has developed two memory tests — the Brief Visuospatial Memory Test Revised (BVMTR) and the Hopkins Verbal Learning Test Revised (HVLTR) — that are widely used in neuropsychology, especially in the areas of multiple sclerosis, head injury and schizophrenia, and are included in consensus panel test batteries for NFL and NHL athletes who suffer concussions.

He also has conducted research on pharmacological treatments for cognitive function in MS patients and on the role of brain atrophy —particularly deep gray matter atrophy — on cognitive impairment in MS patients.

The author or co-author of nearly 200 publications, he also directs an outpatient neuropsychology practice at the Buffalo General Medical Center and an inpatient consultation service at the Erie County Medical Center.

Ann Bisantz.

A UB faculty member since 1997, Ann Bisantz specializes in cognitive engineering, including research on human computer interfaces for complex health care systems related to enhanced patient safety. Her work includes developing novel information displays for complex systems, advancing methods in cognitive engineering and modeling human decision-making; she has worked extensively in the domains of health care and defense.

Bisantz is a recipient of a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation and a Young Investigator Award from UB. She has received funding from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and a number of defense organizations, and has been involved with collaborative research with UB’s Center for Multi-source Information Fusion.

A fellow of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES), Bisantz is a member of the advisory board of the National Center for Human Factors Engineering in Healthcare and the executive council of HFES.

Peter Bradford.

Peter Bradford, who joined the UB faculty in 1990, co-directs the Endocrinology-Reproductive Biology module for second-year medical students and directs the “Principles of Pharmacology course for third-year dental students and the “Essentials of Pharmacology” course for undergraduates.

Bradford studies how hormones and nutrients affect cell growth, differentiation and survival in bone osteoblasts and breast normal epithelial cells, as well as in cancers of both tissues. Collaboration with Atif Awad, now retired associate professor in the Department of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, has led to numerous publications, including primary research papers, significant review articles, and two books: “Nutrition and Cancer Prevention” and “Adipose Tissue and Inflammation.”

Bradford, who also holds an appointment as an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Oral Biology in the School of Dental Medicine, is the 2014 recipient of the dental school’s Richard A. Powell Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Beth A. Corry.

Named associate vice president for business services and controller just last month, Beth A. Corry previously served as director of financial services. In that position, she was responsible for implementing and executing a strategic plan; developing and applying accounting, financial, and internal control policies; and directing operational improvement activities in the Office of Financial Services.

Among her other accomplishments were developing a multi-year central budget model for senior management planning and decision-making; serving as the financial lead on the university’s recent Business System Transformation project; guiding and advising multiple university departments in implementing a strategic account reporting process in compliance with internal operational requirements; and developing standards and governance for access to financial data.

A UB staff member since 1992, Corry received a BS in accounting from Canisius College and is a certified public accountant.

Elaine R. Cusker.

Elaine R. Cusker has held varied positions during her 20-year career at UB. Among them were coordinator of pre-professional health advising programs in the Academic Advisement Center; assistant dean for student affairs in the School of Nursing; assistant dean in the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education; and most recently, associate dean in the Office of the Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs.

She has played leadership roles in key university-wide initiatives, including the Finish in 4 program; the successful Middle States reaccreditation; the Student Systems Transformation project, better known as the HUB; UB compliance with the SUNY Seamless Transfer initiative; and the new general education program. These roles, combined with her oversight in undergraduate curriculum and academic policies, have given her the opportunity to make broad contributions to serving the university.

Cusker holds a PhD in higher education from UB.

John DellaContrada.

A UB staff member since 1996, John DellaContrada is responsible for positioning UB’s strategic message in local, national, and international media, and assisting top-level administrators, researchers and others in promoting the university’s message. He frequently serves as the “university spokesperson” to the media on a wide range of matters — from high-profile campus events to university initiatives attracting national press.

DellaContrada holds a prominent position as well in the professional communications community in Western New York, serving as an active member, and a past president, of the Buffalo Niagara Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. He is a recipient of the chapter’s Platinum Award for excellence in media relations and was just named the recipient of its 2015 Outstanding Practitioner Award for exceptional professional success, high ethics and dedication to the community and profession.

Valerie Frerichs.

As associate director of the General Chemistry Laboratory, Valerie Frerichs mentors undergraduate and graduate students, updates undergraduate laboratory experiments, provides pre-laboratory and in-laboratory instruction, and maintains student safety in the lab.

She also teaches lecture sections of general chemistry and analytical chemistry laboratory, and assists with the department’s Project Teach program and management of graduate teaching assistants

In addition, Frerichs plays a key role in refining the chemistry department’s research curricula, including redesigning the freshman course laboratory work into authentic research-style experiments that provide critical experience in experimental design, hypothesis formulation, testing and analysis. Her current projects include developing case study-style experiments based on departmental research, and developing digital primer materials for incoming students.

Jacqueline Molik Ghosen.

Jacqueline Molik Ghosen joined the School of Management in 1995 as associate director of the Career Resource Center. She became director of communications for school in 2002 and assumed the additional title of assistant dean in 2007.

She enhances the School of Management’s reputation as a world-class business school by strategically implementing public and media relations, communications and marketing to a diverse audience of students, alumni, university friends and employers.

Her communications projects have earned her more than 40 awards of excellence from such professional groups as CASE, SUNY CUAD and PRSA.

An active member of the local chapter of PRSA, she has served as co-chair of the membership committee, president, treasurer, board member, and presenter and panelist at chapter events. She is a recipient of the chapter’s Outstanding Practitioner Award in recognition of exceptional professional success, high ethics and dedication to the community and profession.

Krista Hanypsiak.

Krista Hanypsiak, recently named director of general education in the Office of Undergraduate Education, previously served as administrative director of the Honors College. In that role, she oversaw all activities related to the college, including recruitment, admissions, student advisement, alumni and donor relations, service learning, curriculum and program development.

Under her leadership, the structure of the Honors College was transformed to feature a strong emphasis on student engagement in the community, and greater alumni and faculty involvement in the program.

Hanypsiak also oversaw the planning for a new facility for the college and its move into its new home in the undergraduate library in Capen Hall.

As chair of the Integrative Cluster working group for the general education program, she was the primary architect of the integrated cluster concept, in which courses are linked thematically across disciplines.

Kevin Leary.

Kevin Leary joined UB — and its Arts Management Program — in 2007 as an administrative assistant. He was named assistant to the director in 2009 and assumed the additional role of financial administrator for the Technē Institute in 2013. His duties include managing the budgets of both programs, student advisement and recruitment services, managing special events, scheduling courses, website maintenance and general office operations.

He led an extensive redesign of the Arts Management website, designing the interface in ways that made the program accessible and attractive to prospective students from around the world.

Leary holds a BFA in acting/music theatre from Wright State University and an MA in Interdisciplinary Studies from UB. In addition to his career at UB, he has directed and choreographed productions for the Lancaster Opera House and performed with national touring and regional theater companies.

Steven Miller.

A specialist in psychoanalytic theory, continental philosophy, 19th- and 20th-century European literature, and translation studies, Steven Miller teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in criticism, Freud, Lacan, Derrida and psychoanalysis, among other subjects. He joined the UB English faculty as a visiting assistant professor in 2004 and was named assistant professor in 2006 and associate professor in 2013.

He was the Fulbright-Freud Visiting Scholar of Psychoanalysis at the Freud Museum in Vienna in 2010.

Miller has published numerous articles, essays and translations, and is the author of “War After Death: On Violence and Its Limits” (Fordham University Press, 2014).

He serves as director of the Center for the Study of Psychoanalysis and Culture in the College of Arts and Sciences, and also is affiliated with the Department of Comparative Literature.

Sriram Neelamegham.

Sriram Neelamegham serves as co-director of UB’s Center for Biomedical Engineering, and recently was named co-director of the Stem Cells in Regenerative Medicine program, an interdisciplinary stem cell research training program that brings together scientists from UB and Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

A UB faculty member since 1997, his research interests include molecular and cellular bioengineering, systems glycobiology, pathways in inflammation and thrombosis, and cell biomechanics and adhesion molecules.

In particular, he is interested in applying quantitative experimental and computational techniques to discover new mechanisms that control the cell-adhesion properties of blood leukocytes and platelets during human inflammatory and thrombotic disorders. A long-term goal of his work is to identify new targets for drug development

A fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, Neelamegham is a recipient of an NIH Independent Scientist Award, a UB Exceptional Scholar Award for Sustained Achievement and a UB Exceptional Scholar Award for Young Investigators.

Vickie Searight.

Vickie Searight joined the Department of Biological Sciences in 2010. As undergraduate secretary, she serves as the liaison for undergraduate students, department faculty, the director of undergraduate affairs and the department chair. She currently maintains records for more than 400 biological sciences majors.

Among her other duties are coordinating the department’s honors program symposium, open houses and commencement convocation.

Searight earned a business certificate — with specialization in the administrative assistant/accounting curriculum — from Cheryl Fell’s School of Business.

Patricia Shyhalla.

As associate vice provost for resource management for the Office of International Education, Patricia Shyhalla provides personnel administration and fiscal oversight of all units comprising International Education, including International Enrollment Management and International Admissions, Study Abroad Programs, International Student and Scholar Services, and Immigration Services, as well as the English Language Institute.

She also provides personnel support for International Education’s overseas divisions, which include, among others, UB’s undergraduate degree programs at the Singapore Institute of Management. In this role, she supports those university employees who are stationed overseas for either short or long-term assignments — more than 50 individuals within any given year.

A UB staff member since 1991, Shyhalla also served as administrator of UB’s National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis from 1993 to 2004.

She holds an MBA from the UB School of Management.

Deborah Szurgyi.

Deborah Szurgyi began her career at UB in 2006 as a keyboard specialist 1 in the Department of Oral Biology, School of Dental Medicine.  She was promoted to clerk 2 — now office assistant 2 — in 2012 and assumed duties as the senior clerical staff member in the department.

Her wide-ranging responsibilities include oversight of all research proposal submissions from department faculty, coordination of all facilities and infrastructure issues in Foster Hall, and expenditure and account administration for $1.5 million in external research funds.

Mary Nell Trautner.

Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Sociology, Mary Nell Trautner’s research and teaching focus on intersections of social inequality and social justice. She studies how law, culture and organizational practices shape the ways in which inequality is created, perpetuated and/or experienced.

Her current work spans a range of topics, including analyses of young people’s ideologies of gender, tales about the “litigation lottery,” bodywork practices, physical appearance bias, prosecutors as cause lawyers, living wage campaigns and sexual aggression in bars.

She has just begun a study funded by the National Science Foundation on how families cope and make decisions about their child’s birth injuries.

Trautner joined the UB faculty in 2006 after earning a PhD in sociology from the University of Arizona.

Paul Wilcox has served as maintenance supervisor for the UB Anderson Gallery for 15 years, ensuring the the gallery provides a clean and safe space for visitors while meeting professional museum standards for the care and management of its collections.

Since the gallery is owned by the UB Foundation and does not receive maintenance support from  the university, his duties include not only cleaning and maintaining the building and grounds, but also performing basic electrical and plumbing work, and other maintenance tasks.

Wilcox supervises the various contracted services for the building’s systems, among them environmental controls, building security, elevator maintenance, snow removal, landscaping and fire inspection. He also served as University Facilities’ liaison with contractors for three major capital projects at the gallery: roof replacement, installation of a new controller board and computer system for the entire HVAC system, and renovation of the space to house the Cravens World exhibition.

Michelle L. Zafron.

Michelle L. Zafron coordinates day-to-day reference operations and administrative tasks in the Health Sciences Library, and provides reference service to students, faculty, staff and the public.

She also serves as library faculty liaison to five departments in the School of Public Health and Health Professions (SPHHP), working with faculty to integrate information literacy into their curriculum.

An adjunct instructor in the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, Zafron co-teaches “Evidence-Based Practice I,” a course in the doctoral program in physical therapy, as well as “Critical Analysis Of Scientific Literature,” a course offered in the Department of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences. She has been a guest lecturer in other SPHHP departments as well.

She is an author of a chapter in “Introduction to Reference Sources in the Health Sciences” and is member of the Medical Library Association.