Island University Hosts First Adjunct Excellence Awards

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – What began as a conversation between friends several years ago has now come to fruition as Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi held its first Adjunct Excellence Awards on April 9.

In her keynote at the ceremony, Dr. Kelly M. Miller, President and CEO of the Island University, explained how longtime adjunct music faculty member Brad Kisner noted in passing that adjunct faculty – who are those who often work part-time or are not on the path to a tenured position – were not formally recognized for their service.

“When I got to a job where I could make that happen, I proceeded to do so,” said Miller.

Miller thanked the collective audience of adjunct faculty – in person and viewing online – for their dedication and devotion during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic and for the breadth of knowledge each adjunct faculty professor brings to the classroom.

“As adjunct professors, you are our partners who supplement the educational experience on this campus. You are our partners in the classroom, you are our partners in the departments, you are our partners on our journey together to educate and graduate tomorrow’s leaders,” Miller said.

Presented by the TAMU-CC Center for Faculty Excellence, the ceremony recognized the service of 76 adjunct faculty to the Island University with service pins. They included 49 adjunct professors at the 5-year level, 12 at the 10-year level, seven at the 15-year level, six at the 20-year level and two adjunct College of Liberal Arts faculty members at the 30-year level: Dr. Cecilia Rhoades of the Department of Psychology and Sociology, and celebrated concert guitarist Philip Hii of the Department of Music. 

In her welcome remarks, event organizer Dr. Kellie Smith, CFE director and assistant professor of Communication, reflected on her own journey at the Island University, which began in 2011 as an adjunct faculty member.

“I can still remember the overwhelming feeling of pride and purpose every time I arrived on campus,” Smith said. “I felt pride because I had been given the opportunity to teach at the Island University, and I felt purpose because I knew that Texas A&M-Corpus Christi was where I loved to be and where I loved to serve.”

At the ceremony, Dr. Clarenda Phillips, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, announced the winners of the first Adjunct Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award.

“The entire university is thankful for your service: We see you, we value you, and we value your contributions to the Island University,” Phillips said. “You lend your expertise, your time, and your talents to make our students better equipped to enter life after college or life after graduate school.”

Phillips said the six finalists and two winners were selected on portfolios that included examples of outstanding classroom teaching, innovative classroom activities, projects and assignments, and effective use of technology – all of which combine to create an enhanced student learning experience.

The winner of the first Adjunct Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award was Cassie White of the Department of Art and Design.

White said that while her own expertise is in printmaking, she primarily teaches foundation art classes, such as drawing and design. White, who started teaching as an Island University adjunct in summer 2020, said she has been able to contribute to an ongoing collaborative initiative with the College of Nursing and Health Sciences.

“I’ve been working with nursing students as part of the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program to help integrate art curriculum into the nursing program,” White said.  “I feel so honored and incredibly lucky to work with our students every day. I feel incredibly appreciated and really grateful.”

Dr. Scott Elliff, retired Corpus Christi ISD Superintendent of Schools and adjunct professor and Superintendent Preparation Program Coordinator for the Department of Educational Leadership, was named the runner-up recipient.