Published June 24, 2019
Eleven faculty members, one librarian and 13 staff members have been named recipients of the 2019 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence, the most recipients from UB in recent memory.
The Chancellor’s Awards acknowledge and provide system-wide recognition for consistently superior professional achievement and encourage the ongoing pursuit of excellence.
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 Diana Aga, professor, Department of Chemistry; M. Laura Feltri, professor, Department of Biochemistry; Qiaoqiang Gan, associate professor, Department of Electrical Engineering; Shambhu Upadhyaya, professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering; and Igor Žutić, professor, Department of Physics.
The Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching honors those who consistently demonstrate superb teaching at the undergraduate, graduate or professional level. Recipients are Michael Duffey, professor, Department of Physiology and Biophysics, and Bina Ramamurthy, teaching professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering.
The Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Service recognizes “the consistently superior service contributions of teaching faculty” sustained over a period of time. This year’s recipients are Peter Elkin, professor and chair, Department of Biomedical Informatics; Karl Fiebelkorn, clinical associate professor and senior associate dean for student, professional and community affairs, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Steven Schwaitzberg, professor and chair, Department of Surgery.
The Chancellor’s Award for Adjunct Teaching recognizes consistently superior teaching at the graduate, undergraduate or professional level by adjunct faculty members. This year’s recipient is Susan Allen, adjunct instructor, Department of Information Science.
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.” The recipient is Elizabeth Stellrecht, associate librarian in the Health Sciences Library.
The Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service honors professional staff performance excellence “both within and beyond the position.” Recipients are Matthew Ardila-Weigand, director of new student programs, Office of Orientation, Transition and Parent Programs; Sean Brodfuehrer, senior architectural planner, Office of Campus Planning; Kerry Collins-Gross, assistant dean for undergraduate education, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; Christopher Connor, assistant dean for graduate education, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; Kristin Gniazdowski, associate dean for resource management and chief financial officer, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; Kimberly Greenfield, associate dean for strategic programs, College of Arts and Sciences; Kimberly Kriz, executive officer, Department of Electrical Engineering; Erin O’Brien, assistant dean and director of graduate programs, School of Management; Susan Snyder, director, Student Health Center; and Karyn St. George, administrative director, Honors College.
The Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Classified Service recognizes classified staff members who have consistently demonstrated superlative performance within and beyond their position. This year’s recipients are Robert Czubaj, maintenance supervisor 1, Campus Living; Lori DuVall-Jackson, secretary 1, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering; and Veronica Meyers, secretary 1, School of Public Health and Health Professions.
Diana Aga, who also serves as the Henry M. Woodburn Professor of Chemistry, is a leader in the field of environmental analytical chemistry. Aga’s pioneering research has changed the understanding of the fate, treatment and effects of emerging contaminants in the environment. Her studies have shown the critical role of municipal and agricultural wastes in disseminating antimicrobial resistance in the environment, and the presence of pharmaceuticals and industrial chemicals in the waters, fish and wildlife of the Great Lakes — research that has proven significant not only regionally, but globally. A prolific scholar, she has edited two books and published nine book chapters and more than 125 peer-reviewed papers since she joined UB in 2003. Her research has attracted nearly $15 million in external funding from EPA, NIH, NSF and USDA.
Susan Allen has been an instructor at UB since 2005. She teaches in the MS in school librarianship program, which prepares certified teachers for roles as school librarians at all levels in New York State. Allen uses a variety of methods to engage students in online learning, including producing weekly podcasts, assigning meaningful readings and incorporating videos to help her students comprehend information. She uses knowledge of her students to inform her teaching strategies; for example, she evaluates and differentiates her instruction based on student readiness and learner interest. Students call her “an amazing instructor” who “encourages growth in learning.”
As director of orientation, transition and parent programs, Matthew Ardila-Weigand provides the vision and leadership for programs and services for new UB students and their parents. He oversees all aspects of orientation programming for more than 5,000 students and 2,000 parents or family members annually. Under his leadership, the office has developed comprehensive and cohesive “New to UB” programs that build upon summer orientation, including Welcome Weekend and Year One initiatives. Recent innovations include “Ted Talk”-style sessions presented by faculty members and a semester-long Transfer Ambassador program.
As senior architectural planner since 2008, Sean Brodfuehrer is responsible for planning and programming university capital projects, as well as renovations to existing institutional spaces. This includes overseeing conceptual and schematic designs, determining space utilization, developing benchmark studies, and coordinating efforts between units to maximize resources. Brodfuehrer has also served as a liaison between UB and its institutional partners on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus for campus-wide planning initiatives. During his career at UB, he has been influential in some of the most significant recent architectural and planning projects, including the new building for the Jacobs School.
Kerry Collins-Gross, assistant dean for undergraduate education in SEAS since 2005, oversees 11 advisers and one staff assistant for an office that provides a wide range of services, including recruitment, admissions, scholarships, advisement, academic review and graduation. Collins-Gross was instrumental in shaping many of the revisions to the engineering curricula related to the SUNY Seamless Transfer policy and the launch of the UB Curriculum. She also has been a tremendous resource in the area of academic review — particularly in managing the system for tracking students on academic probation or facing dismissal, sending out notification letters and setting in motion the appeals process.
As assistant dean and chief enrollment officer for graduate education in the engineering school since 2016, Christopher Connor’s primary responsibility is strategic enrollment management. He oversees the development of new academic graduate programs, domestic and international recruitment, admissions, student professional development and alumni engagement. Colleagues laud Connor’s leadership on innovative business processes and procedural redesign, noting that they have “revolutionized recruitment” in the school. His outstanding strategic leadership has been instrumental in boosting the engineering school’s graduate enrollment 17% to the highest in school history, despite reported national declines of 20%. Connor, internationally recognized for his work in enrollment management, is also known for leading a global research project which lead to the higher education industry accepted definition of graduate enrollment management.
Robert Czubaj, maintenance supervisor 1 in Campus Living, is a dedicated employee who has served UB for more than 20 years. He supervises, coordinates and directs all skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled trade positions in maintenance, repair, rehabilitation and construction across UB’s five apartment complexes. Always willing to step in where needed, Czubaj filled a void left by a retiring maintenance supervisor in early 2018 by overseeing an additional crew of 14 staff — a substantial increase to his full-time workload. He also works with UB’s accessibility partners to provide accommodations for residents, overseeing installation of equipment requested for mobility, vision and hearing impairments to ensure a safe and equitable living environment.
Michael Duffey has played a significant role in developing and implementing both medical and graduate curricula in the Jacobs School. He co-founded the PhD Program in Biomedical Sciences, an innovative umbrella curriculum that unifies six graduate medical school basic science programs to recruit new students and provide common first-year courses to meet departments’ academic needs. He has taught cell and human physiology, cell biology, and cell and molecular physiology to medical, dental, graduate and undergraduate students. He receives consistently high scores on class evaluations, and his students effusively praise his pedagogy. A dedicated mentor, he has trained numerous graduate students, medical residents, postdoctoral fellows and undergraduates.
A member of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering since 2012, Lori DuVall-Jackson’s responsibilities include graduate admissions, appointments and personnel files, as well as customer service-related tasks, such as fielding inquiries from students regarding tuition. She is credited with creating and implementing numerous programs and initiatives to improve not only administrative efficiency, but student outcomes as well. These include a graduate information session that keeps students apprised of changes to curriculum, degree conferral or immigration procedures; a student ambassador program; and a new electronic calendar system that enables the department to make the best use of its space.
Peter Elkin, professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Informatics in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, ran with others the UB faculty and administration’s joint study on equity in salary by gender for ladder faculty. He is an internationally recognized researcher in biomedical informatics and applied ontology including natural language processing and artificial intelligence. He currently has seven NIH grants, three VA awards and two industry awards. Elkin serves as the Informatics Core Director for UB's CTSA Award, the largest grant awards given by the NIH. Under his leadership, Biomedical Informatics has become a robust and highly collaborative department, enhancing the research efforts of many other UB disciplines. Elkin has developed and expanded a fellowship in clinical informatics — approved by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education — that attracts top candidates from across the U.S. In addition, he was awarded an NIH T15 training grant to support PhD students and fellows toward full-time research careers. The Department of Biomedical Informatics built by Elkin is in the top 7% of medical schools nationally. Elkin serves on the American Board of Preventative Medicine’s sub-board on Clinical Informatics. He has served on 36 committees for UB, including two terms on the Faculty Senate, as well as for the New York Medical College and the Mayo Clinic, as well as on professional society advisory boards and state boards.
M. Laura Feltri is a world-renowned expert in myelinogenesis and Schwann cell biology who has contributed to a series of discoveries related to demyelinating diseases, including multiple sclerosis, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and Krabbe disease. Currently acting director of UB’s Hunter James Kelly Research Institute, Feltri focuses her research on discovering the cellular and molecular basis for neurodegenerative diseases. A prolific scholar, she is currently the principal investigator on three National Institutes of Health R01 grants totaling more than $3 million, and has also received funding from such sources as the Department of Defense, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association and SUNY REACH. She will chair the NIH study section on glia for the next two years.
A full-time faculty member in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences since 1995, Karl Fiebelkorn teaches in several subject areas, including pharmacy law, pharmacy management and pharmacy administration. He oversees student activities for more than 450 PharmD students, including academic and personal support, leadership and professional development, and advising professional and fraternal organizations. Fiebelkorn has supported many community initiatives, including the school’s Poison Prevention Program, regional Drug Take Back Days, and distribution of more than 20,000 drug deactivation packets to various community and civic agencies.
Qiaoqiang Gan is a pioneering researcher whose expertise in fundamental light-matter interactions has led to development of low-cost manufacturing processes for optical materials and commercialization of groundbreaking technologies. He is internationally recognized for applying photonics to nanoscale and nanostructured materials to solve critical problems in engineering. He has published more than 100 papers in peer‐reviewed journals, such as Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Science Advances, Advanced Materials, Nature Sustainability and Physical Review Letters. He has received a dozen federal grants totaling more than $3.9 million, and his work has been continuously funded by the NSF since 2011. He has three patents, with an additional patent pending.
As associate dean for resource management and chief financial officer in the pharmacy school since 2015, Kristin Gniazdowski is integral to the success of her school’s academic and research programs. Beyond her excellence in performing the vital responsibilities of her position, she is praised for her proven ability to embrace and adapt well to organizational change. Gniazdowski assumes other titles within the school as well, functioning as its unit business officer and senior director of human resources. She excels in all of these duties, demonstrating her exceptional organizational skills, innovative and entrepreneurial spirit, and a heightened appreciation for what is needed to keep her school moving forward.
Kimberly Greenfield, associate dean for strategic programs in the College of Arts and Sciences since 2010, is responsible for various administrative functions within the college. She serves as the Facilities Planning and Management Officer, responsible for almost 1 million gross square feet of space assigned to the college. She initiated establishment of an internal graduate enrollment management function and team to help mitigate the national decline in graduate enrollment in the arts and humanities. She also led the creation of a College Ambassadors program in which undergraduates assist in CAS recruitment and retention efforts, and helped found the Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) program, a joint initiative with UB’s engineering school to support the recruitment, retention and success of women in STEM fields.
As executive officer of the Department of Electrical Engineering since 2012, Kimberly Kriz is responsible for the overall management of her department’s financial, research, academic, communications, space and personnel resources. She is credited with single-handedly redesigning department workflow and continuously scaling it to accommodate an ever-growing population of students and faculty. Colleagues note that her deep knowledge of the higher education landscape has significantly improved marketing efforts to recruit both students and faculty to the department, as well as to increase UB’s reputation among peer institutions.
Service to students, faculty, staff and the community is always the priority for 35-year UB staff member Veronica Meyers, secretary 1 in the School of Public Health and Health Professions. The first point of contact in the Dean’s Office, Meyers is renowned for her institutional knowledge, a crucial asset during the school’s recent rapid growth. She brings professionalism, caring and resourcefulness to her duties, which have included coordination of the commencement ceremony and other events, grant-management support and assistance with fundraising activities. As the school has advanced, Meyers’ willingness to adapt to the emerging needs of the school has led to her role expanding to include managing all procurement activities for the Dean’s Office and acting as liaison for strategic systems implementations such as Concur and Shop Blue.
Erin O’Brien, assistant dean and director of graduate programs in the School of Management since 2013, oversees and manages the graduate programs office and overall direction of graduate recruitment, admissions and student services functions. O’Brien has successfully launched and executed a scalable structure of collaborative degree programs that has enabled the School of Management to sustain and grow enrollment. She created and instituted a comprehensive set of strategic recruitment and engagement initiatives for the school’s MBA and master’s programs that support active members of the military, veterans, women, underrepresented students and those in the health sciences. The effort has greatly increased the diversity and breadth of student recruitment efforts, as well as the quality of the student experience.
An innovative teacher and outstanding curriculum developer, Bina Ramamurthy is praised for her work in developing emerging technologies for education on a truly global scale. Her curricular efforts have been supported by several NSF grants, including one for a SUNY supported data-intensive computing certificate program. She created a set of Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) on the Coursera platform — the Coursera Blockchain Certification — which launched in 2018 with four courses. Ramamurthy used her extensive research on an emerging blockchain technology to engage a community of global learners from diverse cultures and backgrounds. The courses were highly successful: Within three months of their launch, there were more than 30,000 enrollees, and feedback from learners has been excellent.
A key contributor to the preclinical and clinical use of surgical robots, Steven Schwaitzberg has received international recognition as a leader in video/computer technology in the operating room, as well as in minimally invasive surgery technology. He is playing a significant role in developing both the Surgical Skills Laboratory and the Robotic Surgery Laboratory in the Jacobs School. An outstanding leader in his profession, Schwaitzberg has served as an associate examiner for the American Board of Surgery, a member of the Board of Governors for the American College of Surgeons and a consultant for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. He holds membership in several surgical societies, including the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES), which he has served as both president and vice president, and received SAGES’ Distinguished Service Award.
Director of UB’s Student Health Services since 2007, Susan Snyder oversees the health care that UB offers its students. Under her direction, the scope of Student Health Services’ medical practice has evolved to accommodate the growth of the university and the needs of its students by redefining and improving its system of health care delivery. During her tenure, Student Health Services has implemented an electronic health record system and electronic prescribing, ensured UB’s compliance with state immunization policy, ensured that all workplace safety and health issues are addressed, and worked with the Erie County Department of Health on UB’s disaster preparedness and containment of infections.
Karyn St. George manages the Honors College’s budgets and day-to-day operations, including supervising staff, managing spaces, and developing operational calendars and plans. She also oversees curricular and co-curricular programming, and contributes to strategic planning, development and supervision of student recruitment and admission processes, advisement and retention plans, and alumni affairs and fundraising. St. George has effectively and creatively managed the college’s resources to meet student and programming needs. This includes optimizing financial resources when the college saw a 30% increase in its incoming freshman class. She ensured the college continued to offer a high level of services, curriculum and programs by identifying operational efficiencies and strategically using funds to maintain quality programming.
Elizabeth Stellrecht serves as the clinical librarian and liaison to the School of Dental Medicine. She assists researchers, and collaborates with and teaches faculty, students, researchers, clinicians and extended members of the dental school community. She provides reference assistance to faculty, staff and students using specialized health sciences information resources; develops and teaches information literacy sessions for the dental school and the Health Sciences Library; provides embedded point-of-need reference assistance in pre-doctoral dental outpatient clinics; collaborates with faculty to integrate information literacy and evidence-based practice into the curriculum; and assists faculty and staff with in-depth research consultations, literature searches and systematic reviews. Stellrecht’s dedication and excellence have earned high praise and respect from both dental faculty and students.
Shambhu Upadhyaya is described by peers as “a premier researcher and an international authority in computer engineering” who has conducted “outstanding, cutting-edge research on important core areas of testing and diagnosis, fault tolerance and computer security.” Since 2002, he has directed UB’s Center of Excellence in Information Systems Assurance Research and Education, which is certified by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. In this capacity, he coordinates cybersecurity activities on campus, conducts workshops and obtains funds from the NSF and the Department of Defense to support graduate students in cyber security. A prolific scholar, Upadhyaya, who also serves as associate dean for graduate education and research for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, has published three books, 22 book chapters, 68 peer-reviewed journal papers, and 200 refereed conference and workshop proceeding papers, and has received more than $10.5 million in external funding since joining UB in 1986.
Igor Žutić, an elected fellow of the American Physical Society, is described by colleagues as a “leading theorist in condensed matter physics” and “one of the most internationally recognized scientists” in the field of spintronics. Žutić’s research focuses on spintronics and superconductivity, including elusive Majorana fermions, which are their own antiparticles and could be used for fault-tolerant quantum computing. His predictions of various spintronic devices have been experimentally demonstrated. Work with his students on ultrafast spin-lasers led to recent experiments published in Nature showing they can outperform best conventional lasers. He has introduced the concept of proximitized materials. Žutić’s spintronics review has been cited about 7,000 times and he has co-edited the three-volume Spintronics Handbook. At UB he has received 21 grants totaling $5 million — including an NSF CAREER Award, one of the most prestigious honors for junior faculty.