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College of Arts and Sciences

2024 Faculty Awards

Award, Liu, 2024

The 2024 faculty award for outstanding teaching in the College of Arts and Sciences is awarded to Dr. Li-Yin Liu in the Department of Political Science.

Li-Yin holds a Ph.D. in political science from Northern Illinois University. She joined the University of Dayton faculty in 2018 as an assistant professor and will be promoted to associate professor in 2024. Currently, she serves as director of the Nonprofit and Community Leadership Graduate Certificate program.

Li-Yin is recognized in the Department of Political Science and beyond as a dedicated and innovative instructor, with particular expertise in learner-centered pedagogy. She treats her students as whole persons who differ from one another in how they might learn, and experience challenges and success in the classroom.

She is known by students for possessing an infectious energy in the classroom, and upper-class students frequently advise new students to “make sure they take a class with Dr. Liu before they graduate.” Most importantly, Li-Yin strongly believes that she is also supposed to learn from her students.

Li-Yin’s teaching evaluations show consistently high scores and outstanding student feedback. Her scores routinely exceed departmental averages, with many being the highest possible score. These evaluations have extremely high response rates — often exceeding 90% — which speaks to the regard for which her students hold her.

In his letter of support, Associate Professor Chris Devine recalled watching Li-Yin’s teaching demonstration during her campus interview for her current position. In a word, he said it was “legendary.”

“At times, Li-Yin was leading students in a vibrant discussion,” he said. “At other times, she had them collaborating together in groups or coming up to the board. It was the ideal learning environment. Students were having a blast, but also learning complex and relevant material about public administration. My colleagues and I were amazed by what we were seeing — clearly a great teacher in action, but more than that someone who displayed uncommon pedagogical courage and care for students. It might be the best class I’ve ever seen someone teach.”

Li-Yin’s reputation as an innovative instructor who cares deeply about the success of students is growing across campus. Recently, she served as a co-facilitator with Yvonne Sun of a popular Advancing Teaching and Learning Scholars program session, Engaging Students in a Learning-Centered Classroom. She also was asked to co-lead the curriculum and pedagogy task group under the Provost’s Strategic Working Group on Artificial Intelligence.

For her innovative teaching, passion in the classroom, and commitment to student learning and growth, the College is pleased to recognize Dr. Li-Yin Liu with the Outstanding Teaching Award for 2024.

Faculty profile

Award, Wagner, 2024

The 2024 faculty award for outstanding scholarship in the College of Arts and Sciences is awarded to Dr. Mary Wagner in the Department of Psychology.

Mary holds Ph.D. and Master of Arts degrees in developmental psychology from the University of Notre Dame. She joined the University of Dayton faculty in 2013 as an assistant professor and was promoted to associate professor in 2019.

Mary is a highly productive scholar whose research focuses on cognitive development in young children. She is particularly interested in understanding mechanisms that promote the development of positive socio-emotional, cognitive and academic outcomes in children from marginalized groups.

Mary has an outstanding publication record. She has enjoyed incredible success in attracting external funding and has received significant recognition in her field.

Since coming to UD, Mary has published 17 papers, including 10 as first author, and she has co-written 33 conference presentations. Her work appears in the leading journals in her field and she has more than 2,000 citations. Mary’s work is highly collaborative, featuring researchers from UD and other institutions, as well as undergraduate and graduate students. Most of her publications and presentations feature student co-authors.

Mary’s external grant funding includes being the recipient or co-recipient of two awards from the National Science Foundation, one from the National Institutes of Health and one from the U.S. Department of Education. She is the lead consultant on the latter award, a $4 million grant to the local nonprofit Preschool Promise.

In total, Mary has brought more than $1.3 million to UD from these grants. Her success in securing funding is especially impressive given that she is a highly dedicated and effective instructor, carries an advising load of about 25 students, and is deeply engaged in important service in the department and University.

Her professional recognition includes being honored with the Cognitive Development Society’s 2022 Award for Excellence in Cognitive Development Research at Undergraduate-Focused Institutions.

Beyond these achievements, Mary’s work is perhaps even more noteworthy for its potential to improve the lives of preschoolers from under-resourced communities, said Jackson Goodnight, UD Department of Psychology chair.

“Not only is she advancing theory surrounding the mechanisms by which flexible attention contributes to positive math outcomes and school readiness, she has developed and is testing low-cost, scalable interventions to promote these outcomes in children living in the Dayton area,” he said.

For her remarkable publication and funding record, and the impact her research has had on children and families in Dayton and beyond, the College is pleased to recognize Dr. Mary Wagner with the Outstanding Scholarship Award for 2024.

Faculty profile

Award, Neeley, 2024

The 2024 faculty award for outstanding service in the College of Arts and Sciences is awarded to Dr. Grant Neeley in the Department of Political Science.

Grant holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Tennessee. He joined the University of Dayton faculty in 2005 as an associate professor and was promoted to professor in 2023. Grant served as Department of Political Science chair from 2014 to 2023. Currently, he is director of the UD Center for Cyber Security and Data Intelligence.

Grant is willing to serve in any capacity, as evidenced by the quality and extent of his service in formal administrative roles such as director of the Master of Public Administration program, as well as in voluntary positions as co-chair of the College Tenure and Promotion Revision Committee and a member of the Provost Search Committee. 

The only gap in his University of Dayton service resume occurred from June 2010 to July 2011 when Grant served a one-year tour in Baghdad as part of his continued service to our nation as a public affairs officer in the U.S. Navy Reserves. He also was deployed to Afghanistan for eight months in 2018. 

Grant’s service at UD has been centered around three areas: improving community engagement opportunities for students; providing greater resources for students who are veterans or active military; and addressing policy needs to improve the administration of the University.

Department of Mathematics Chair Wiebke Diestelkamp said that once Grant takes on a commitment, he works hard to fulfill his obligation.

“He is opinionated, but he arrives at his opinions honestly, by doing his homework and thoughtfully researching and considering the topic in question,” she said. “He is not afraid to offer hard truths when he feels that acknowledging them is necessary to move UD forward. But he is also a good team player. He values the input of others and is quick to recognize their contributions.”

Grant’s service also extends to the Dayton community. He has worked extensively with the Fitz Center for Leadership in the Community to advance community engagement opportunities, serving on the Rivers Institute Curriculum Committee and the Dayton Civic Scholars Advisory Committee.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Grant assisted with the Ohio Medical Reserve Corps to manage vaccination sites. He also volunteers with the Hope Foundation of Greater Dayton to help distribute groceries to local families.

For his singular commitment to service, motivated by his desire to improve the University and help it fulfill its Catholic, Marianist mission, the College is pleased to recognize Dr. Grant Neeley with the Outstanding Service Award for 2024.

Faculty profile

Award, Litka, 2024

The 2024 faculty award for outstanding contribution by a full-time professional faculty member in the College of Arts and Sciences is awarded to Dr. Stephanie Litka in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work.

Stephanie holds a Ph.D. in linguistic and cultural anthropology from Florida State University. She joined the University of Dayton faculty in 2011 as a lecturer of anthropology and was promoted to senior lecturer in 2020.

Stephanie is a highly dedicated educator committed to the teaching of culture, specifically those of Spanish-speaking countries. She has contributed to the success of study-abroad programs, including Common Academic Program-focused immersions in Argentina and Spain and anthropology-specific programs in Mexico.

In addition to teaching several sections of Introduction to Anthropology every semester, alongside the Social Science Interdisciplinary course, Stephanie has developed a new course titled Anthropology of Tourism. This course draws upon her research focus on the politics of tourism, exploring who travels and where, and what is presented as the ‘authentic’ culture of the place to tourists.

Stephanie has a forthcoming book publication, Communicating Heritage: Language Use, Social Ties, and Tourism among the Maya of Coba, Mexico, with the University of Alabama Press.

As an educator, Stephanie consistently receives positive feedback on student evaluations of her teaching, with SET scores at or above the department average. Students often praise her inclusive and enthusiastic style of instruction, and students of various majors frequently take repeated classes with her.

Stephanie served as the department advisor for all sociology majors from 2018 to 2023, which also involved organizing and attending student recruitment events and consulting with students interested in declaring sociology as a major. In addition, she is an active participant in the University’s Collaborative Online International Learning program, as well as numerous faculty development workshops.

Outside of the University, Stephanie volunteers as an English-language tutor for adults who are new to the U.S. and Dayton, along with children of Hispanic backgrounds, at the El Puente Educational Center.

International Studies Program Associate Director Tracey Jaffe said Stephanie’s contributions to the success of study-abroad programs and her work to incorporate online international learning into her classes reflect a high level of commitment to expanding students’ global awareness and understanding.

“Dr. Litka’s research on tourism in southern Mexico, which informs her teaching, similarly reflects the deep contribution she makes to the University’s internationalization,” she said.

For her strong record of global learning research, instruction and leadership, the College is pleased to recognize Dr. Stephanie Litka with the Outstanding Contribution by a Professional Faculty Member Award for 2024.

Faculty profile

2024 Emeritus Faculty

Emeritus, Brecha, 2024

From 1993-2021, Bob Brecha was a faculty member in the Department of Physics at the University of Dayton, where he initially focused his research on laser spectroscopy of molecular oxygen and continued theoretical quantum optics research.

Since 2021, he held a new position as Professor of Sustainability in the Hanley Sustainability Institute, as well as continuing to have joint appointments in the Renewable and Clean Energy Program.

In January 2022, he took on the role of Director of the Sustainability Program. Across much of that time, he held a number of positions at UD and internationally. He held
the Bro. Leonard Mann Chair in the Natural Sciences at UD, and, together with colleagues in 2006, established the Sustainability, Energy and Environment (SEE) Minor.

Starting in 2006, he was a guest at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) working in the Sustainable Solutions research group. From 2015-17, he was Research Director of the Hanley Sustainability Institute. In 2018, he spent a sabbatical at Climate Analytics in Berlin. The second half of the year he was Interim Head of Energy Modeling and Co-Lead of the Climate Policy Team at Climate Analytics. Between 2019-21 he was funded at Climate Analytics through a European Union Marie Curie Fellowship researching and working with stakeholders on sustainable energy access and energy system modeling in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

Equally importantly, Bob has been colleague to so many, a creator of many new courses that make it possible for a university to lead in sustainability education and the very public voice at UD and in the greater community around living and acting sustainably. This has happened through his many public lectures and contributed pieces to the Conversation and other outlets. Bob has made a transformative impact on the faculty, staff, students and community.

Faculty profile

Emeritus, Gratto, 2024

Since joining the UD faculty in 2008 as the Department of Music’s seventh Chair, Dr. Sharon Davis Gratto’s teaching, scholarship, leadership, example and service have left an indelible mark on not only the University, but the surrounding community, nurturing not only the careers of students and colleagues but the character and efficacy of our mission.

In her nine years as chair, the Department of Music experienced some of its strongest growth in enrollment, enrichment of the curriculum and quality, expertise and diversity of faculty. As Graul Endowed Chair in Arts and Languages, she continued her relentless advocacy of the arts through significant connections to community arts organizations, and has been a significant force in helping to re-ignite Dayton’s identity as one of major historical centers of funk music in America. Additionally, she has continually helped to provide not only support but leadership in music education throughout the regional and national discipline.

Most importantly, of course, Dr. Gratto leaves an incredible legacy through her teaching; among her many invaluable and enduring initiatives include the University’s World Music Choir, a performing group which embraces cultural diversity and inclusivity as its core mission, and the Certificate for Arts Engagement, a unique and forward looking program that combines community engagement with experiential learning to help our students follow Dr. Gratto’s incredible example of arts advocacy and carry it into the future.

Faculty profile

Emeritus, Islam, 2024

Dr. Muhammad Islam has served the University of Dayton for 39 years. Before coming to UD in 1985, he earned a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics (with honors) from the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh, a Master of Science in Mathematics from Carleton University in Canada, and, finally, a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. 

Dr. Islam has been an active researcher. His main research focus has been on functional equations, although he has also worked on research in other areas, including fractional differential equations and applied optics. He has authored or co-authored forty-five articles that are published in refereed mathematics journals, and he has many different collaborators, including colleagues in the UD Department of Mathematics Department. He published 10 articles with Dr. Youssef Raffoul and eight with Dr. Paul Eloe. 

Dr. Islam has served as a referee for numerous national and international journals, and he has been a reviewer for MathSciNet, a searchable online bibliographic database created by the American Mathematical Society. He is a frequent participant of the annual Southeastern Atlantic Regional Conference on Differential Equations (SEARCDE), and he organized the conference at the University of Dayton in 2005, with funding from the National Science Foundation. 

Dr. Islam has been involved in the department's graduate programs for many years. He served as Graduate Program Director for the Master of Science in Applied Mathematics program from 2000-08. He was the Co-Director (with Dr. Paul Eloe) of the Master of Financial Mathematics program from 2004-08. He has taught eight graduate mathematics courses. He developed two of them: MTH 552 Methods of Applied Mathematics and MTH 583 Discrete and Continuous Fourier Analysis. He also supervised many Mathematics Clinics (the capstone research project for our graduate programs), and some of these projects resulted in publications with his students. His most enduring collaboration with a former student is that with Dr. Jeffrey Neugebauer, a graduate of both our undergraduate and graduate programs. He published six articles with Jeff, who is now a Professor of Mathematics at Eastern Kentucky University. 

Dr. Islam has been a popular teacher of undergraduate courses as well. He has taught 15 different undergraduate mathematics courses, ranging from precalculus, business calculus and analytic geometry and calculus courses to upper-level courses, such as linear algebra, abstract algebra, boundary value problems and real analysis. In 2002, he received funding from the UD Fund for Educational Development to develop a course for electrical and computer engineering majors. The course (MTH 343) was taught regularly until Fall 2012. In the 2015-16 academic year, Dr. Islam received a grant from the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network for the development of a new course for electrical and computer engineering students (MTH 301), which replaced MTH 343. MTH 301 is now taken by engineering, physics and computer science students. He has also supervised six undergraduate capstone projects.

Dr. Islam has served on many department committees, including the tenure committee, the executive committee, the graduate committee, the vision committee, and a number of search committees. He was one of the authors of the Department Promotion and Tenure Policy, and he has served on the tenure subcommittee for several pre-tenure faculty. He also served on College and University Committees, including the College Tenure & Promotion Committee and the Graduate Student Summer Fellowship Committee. 

Dr. Islam has made an impact on many students at UD, whether they were engineering students who took one – or several – calculus classes with him, or mathematics majors who had him in linear algebra or real analysis, or graduate students whom he taught, advised and mentored. Jeff Neugebauer credits Dr. Islam as having greatly influenced his professional life. He writes: “Dr. Islam was the first person in my mathematical journey who saw my potential as a mathematician and was able to motivate me. Doing research with him helped me realize that I wanted to be a mathematician. I have tried to model parts of my career after Dr. Islam. He has always been there to give advice, and through the years, he has become a great friend.”

Dr. Islam has been an impactful presence in the Department of Mathematics for nearly four decades. He has been a mentor and a friend to many colleagues.

Faculty profile

Emeritus, Masthay, 2024

Mark joined UD as the Chair of the Department of Chemistry in 2006, and served in that capacity until 2014. Additionally, he served the university and the professional community in various capacities for 18 years.

Some of Mark’s service activities include Director of the Annual Ohio PKAL meeting where regional academic colleagues gather to showcase, share and discuss ideas, concerns and best practices around STEM education; Chair of the Annual Faculty Merit Review Committee; Member of the search committee for University Professor of Faith and Culture; Member of the Policy Review on Promotion and Tenure Policies Working Group; and serving as a Marianist Educational Associate.

Mark also served as joint director of the Department of Chemistry Graduate Program. A particular source of pride for Mark were his many research collaborations with fellow faculty and student mentees and being a recipient of the 2022 Lackner Award.  

During Mark’s time at UD he was one of the hardest working people in the department, often arriving early and leaving late. The department will miss Mark’s boundless enthusiasm and energy as he moves to the next stage of his career.

Faculty profile

Emeritus, Mosser, 2024

Kurt Mosser was an associate professor in the Department of Philosophy.

Faculty profile

James Robinson has been a faculty member at UD for 42 years.

He is known as a prolific scholar. In his words, he “cranks” research. He’s not wrong. He’s published two books, 47 peer-review journal articles, 29 book chapters and 14 encyclopedia articles. He's also presented 106 papers at various academic conferences.

James is a “workhorse” educator, who annually says “just tell me what you need me to teach.” So, he’s taught up and down the curriculum — 11 different graduate courses and 16 different undergraduate courses in his career.

His service is likewise robust. To be brief, he’s served as the Department of Communication Graduate Director and on the University’s Research Council Seed Grants Committee. He facilitates programming for the University’s Cybersecurity Center and serves on the editorial board of the Health Communication journal.

But that’s not how Communication faculty will remember him. They’ll remember his sarcastic wit; his nearly constant companion, Seal Ottertail; and his mentorship and unfettered support of junior faculty. You always know where you stand with James. Hopefully, he knows where he stands with us, that he will be sorely missed.

Faculty profile

College of Arts and Sciences

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