Michelle Strickland
KU Endowment

3 KU educators receive Chancellors Club professorships

Tue, 09/03/2019

LAWRENCE — Three professors at the University of Kansas are recipients of the prestigious Chancellors Club Teaching Professorship, which recognizes outstanding educators for their dedication to excellence.

The honorees for 2019, all on the Lawrence campus, are Karen Nordheden, associate professor in the Department of Chemical & Petroleum Engineering; Robert Parsons, professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental & Architectural Engineering, and Amy Rossomondo, associate professor in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese.

Each will receive an annual $10,000 honorarium for each of the next five years.

Karen Nordheden

In her 25 years at KU, Karen Nordheden has found unique ways to keep students’ attention in her chemical and petroleum engineering classes. Her methods include splitting up large classes into the “houses” of Hogwarts (the school from the Harry Potter book series) and developing active, problem-based lessons with simulations and case studies that better prepare students for industry. Student reviews repeatedly praise Nordheden for her teaching style, her material presentation and her encouragement of students’ questions.

Career highlights:

  • Nordheden has received numerous scholarly and teaching awards, including the W.T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence and the H. Bernard Fink Award for Excellence in Teaching, both universitywide awards.
  • She directed a KU study abroad program to New Zealand that provided chemical and petroleum engineering students with a unique opportunity to get first-hand, practical experience of process engineering through site visits and associated assignments.
  • Nordheden led students in a real-world project about a refinery that detailed how it could have saved $30 million by creating a safer environment.

“Her courses have a high level of rigor, clarity and structure, with highly effective classroom delivery, as her student evaluations accurately reflect,” wrote former colleague Michael Detamore in his letter of support for Nordheden’s nomination. Detamore is now chair and professor at the Stephenson School of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Oklahoma.

Robert Parsons

Robert Parsons goes out of his way to create a relevant, meaningful learning experience for students in the civil, environmental & architectural engineering department. Parsons’ range as an educator is broad, from letting his soil mechanics students dig holes in his yard to leading the effort to build KU’s geotechnical engineering program into one of the best in the Midwest.

Career highlights:

  • As the chair of the department accreditation committee, Parsons has successfully led CEAE to full accreditation of both the civil and architectural engineering programs by ABET, the national organization that accredits engineering programs, which improves the growth of enrollment. 
  • He regularly leads technical field trips in Douglas County for soil mechanics students. Rather than taking one large group, he repeats each trip several times so students can have a small-group experience.
  • Parsons has conducted a large number of research projects for the Kansas Department of Transportation and other agencies based on his expertise in areas such as chemical stabilization and earth-retaining walls. He has published 58 technical papers in top-rated engineering journals.

In his letter of support for Parsons’ nomination, CEAE professor and colleague Steven Schrock detailed Parsons’ invaluable assistance and feedback when Schrock was a new faculty member. “I’m a better instructor today because of the help he gave me,” Schrock wrote.

Amy Rossomondo

Amy Rossomondo’s influence on KU has not only been in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese, where she is an associate professor in Spanish. Through her innovation, research and persistence, she created her own groundbreaking educational materials, tools and methods that support her teaching goals. She developed Acceso, a pioneering open educational resource for second-year Spanish curriculum that has garnered Rossomondo and KU significant recognition nationally and internationally.

Career highlights:

  • Rossomondo has won several awards for teaching, notably the Shulenburger Award for Innovation & Advocacy in Scholarly Communication, the Computer Assisted Language Instruction Consortium (CALICO) Access to Language Education Focus Award and Mortar Board Outstanding Educator of the Year Award.
  • Acceso, which is undergoing a redesign for fall 2019, has saved KU students approximately $900,000 in textbook costs since its inception in 2009.
  • She developed Contraseña, the first fully digital research-informed learning program for foundational Spanish studies. As of spring 2019, Contraseña has been adopted by nearly 30 institutions of higher learning.

KU Spanish Professor Stuart Day said in his nomination letter, “She is so committed to her classes and so thoroughly engaged in what she does that students often feel transformed after a semester in her classroom.”

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