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Who Are Fresno State’s Award-Winning 2021 Professors?



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Fresno State News

Dr. Kenneth Froelich, professor of music, was selected for Fresno State’s 2021 Provost’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, announced Dr. Xuanning Fu, Fresno State’s interim provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

The Provost’s Awards also honored the following faculty:

  • Dr. Kathleen Dyer, professor of child and family science, and Dr. Thomas Holyoke, professor of political science — Faculty Service Award
  • Dr. Jennifer Randles, associate professor of sociology — Research, Scholarship and Creative Accomplishment Award
  • Dr. Frederick Peinado Nelson, associate professor of liberal studies — Innovation Award
  • Tanya Nichols, Department of English — Outstanding Lecturer Award

Five faculty members were selected for the Promising New Faculty category of the Provost’s Awards in recognition of their exemplary achievements in teaching, research, creative activities and/or service among non-tenured, tenure-track faculty. The honorees are:

  • Dr. J. Ashley Foster, assistant professor of English
  • Dr. Leece Lee-Oliver, assistant professor of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies
  • Dr. Jiaochen (Jason) Liang, assistant professor of agricultural business
  • Dr. Patricia López, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction
  • Dr. Jennifer Miele, assistant professor of finance and business law

Provost’s Awards Began in 1993

The Provost’s Awards were established in 1993 to recognize the outstanding teaching, research, and service that is central to the mission of Fresno State.

Honorees provide students with a stimulating environment that fosters learning and affirms the University as an intellectual and cultural leader in the Central Valley.

The awardees will be celebrated during a virtual celebration from 3 to 4 p.m. Thursday, May 6.

Excellence in Teaching

Dr. Kenneth Froelich

Dr. Kenneth Froelich (music) has served as the principal instructor and academic adviser for the music composition studio since he arrived at Fresno State in 2005. He has transformed the composition area into one of the leading music composition programs in the state, and his students regularly receive honors from the university and national awards for their work.

Froelich has composed more than 25 commissioned works since 2005 and received a number of awards. In 2016, he was honored with the Provost’s Award for Research, Scholarship and Creative Accomplishment. Froelich is working on a new project to create compositions for flexible middle and high school ensembles addressing issues that music educators face due to COVID-19.

He believes students learn by doing and his goal is helping students become self-sufficient learners capable of envisioning a project and following through a design process to completion.

Faculty Service Award

Dr. Kathleen Dyer

Dr. Kathleen Dyer (child and family science) was elected chair of the Student Ratings Committee in 2018 to examine student rating options and create an instrument for evaluating teaching effectiveness. Dyer presented detailed research, the advantages, and what the process would entail.

The result was the adoption of a scientifically sound instrument to improve teaching, which proved even more helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dyer has also served as chair of the Department of Child and Family Science since 2015, overseeing the department’s move from one college to another, new faculty hires, revision of the curriculum, and more.

In addition, she serves as chair of the Council of Chairs, where department chairs from across campus meet to share common issues and discuss policy.

Portrait of Fresno State political science professor Thomas Holyoke

Dr. Thomas Holyoke

Dr. Thomas Holyoke (political science) has served for almost 15 years on the Academic Senate, where he has become a strong voice for faculty. He led the Senate through some of the university’s toughest challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, a debate on academic freedom and free speech, and new ethnic studies requirements.

He was scheduled for a yearlong sabbatical this year, but postponed it in order to stay on as senate chair to help guide the university through the pandemic.

Holyoke joined the University in 2005 as a political science professor and has served on several committees within the college and across the campus. He continues to earn high teaching ratings in his courses and has published peer-reviewed books and articles. Holyoke has also become the media’s go-to expert on local, state and national politics.

Research, Scholarship and Creative Accomplishment Award

Dr. Jennifer Randles

Dr. Jennifer Randles (sociology) arrived at Fresno State in 2013 and has since written 20 articles and book chapters and two books on topics that not only matter to sociologists but also to the general public.

Her research on the challenges that poor mothers face trying to afford diapers for their children appeared in the American Sociological Review and was featured in The New York Times this spring. In addition, Randles regularly publishes essays and blog posts, speaks to community groups and consults with social welfare organizations about her research on parenting, childhood and anti-poverty programs and policies.

She founded and serves as the faculty adviser for Fresno State’s Diapers for Degrees diaper pantry, became chair of the Department of Sociology in 2019 and serves as chair of the University Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects.

Innovation Award

Dr. Fred Nelson

Dr. Frederick Peinado Nelson (liberal studies) chair of the Department of Liberal Studies and coordinator of the Liberal Studies Program, has led, designed and implemented multiple programs to support the success of liberal studies students, one of the largest undergraduate majors at Fresno State.

Those programs include a STEM concentration in liberal studies, a teaching cohort that invited faculty from across disciplines to collaborate, a redesign of the multiple-subject teaching program courses, and development of capstone courses and recruitment and hiring of a qualified and diverse faculty.

Nelson also designed and implemented the South Valley Integrated Teacher Education Program. It helps transfer students in the South Valley complete their bachelor’s degrees in liberal studies and a multiple-subject teaching credential a year and a half earlier than those on the traditional pathway on campus.

Outstanding Lecturer Award

Tanya Nichols

Tanya Nichols (English) teaches first-year writing, literature, and creative writing, and a graduate-level seminar in fiction writing.

She also took on a last-minute assignment to teach English 166: Literary Publishing and Editing, which includes the publication of “Spectrum,” the annual anthology for the Young Writers’ Conference. The conference, which fosters writers from area high schools and gives them a university forum to showcase their work, is in its 41st year, with Nichols serving as coordinator since she joined Fresno State 16 years ago.

Nichols has published three novels while teaching at Fresno State and has guided students on their journey to publishing books. Nichols has incorporated technology into her teaching, making the switch from in-person to virtual during the pandemic easier.

Promising New Faculty

Dr. J. Ashley Foster

Dr. J. Ashley Foster (English) has gained national and international recognition as an expert in digital humanities, peace studies and British modernist literature.

She joined Fresno State in 2017 and has expanded digital humanities on campus and incorporated it into her courses. That resulted in “Mapping Cultural Circulation in Modern and Contemporary British Literature,” a collaborative student project, and “Surveying Utopias,” a standing exhibition in the Henry Madden Library with digital components curated by Foster and her students.

She is working to create a fully immerse extended-reality modernist virtual exhibition in collaboration with the Digital Transformation and Incubation team through Technology Services. In addition, Foster also works on digital initiatives with other universities nationwide, introducing and allowing Fresno State faculty and students to collaborate.

Dr. Leece Lee-Oliver

Dr. Leece Lee-Oliver (women’s, gender, and sexuality studies) came to Fresno State in 2017 to fulfill a dual role as a scholar in women’s studies and director of American Indian studies. Since then, she built an American Indian Studies minor with a special major that competes with programs in the state and beyond.

She advanced the American Indian Studies honors program, co-developed a California State University American Indian student and faculty mentorship association, and helped students in American Indian Studies and women, gender, and sexuality studies advance to graduate programs and professions.

Campus leaders and colleagues call on Lee-Oliver for her advice on how to support American Indian students. Lee-Oliver also collaborates with local community colleges, tribal educators, and tribal-serving organizations. Those efforts have led to the success of the “American Indian Studies Freshman and Transfer Summer Academic Advancement Program.”

Dr. Jiaochen (Jason) Liang

Dr. Jiaochen (Jason) Liang (agricultural business) brings real-world problems into the classroom thanks to his experience in resource economics and labor markets.

But in addition to his expertise in agricultural economics, Liang is involved in service-learning, online teaching, project-based learning, and study abroad. He is a researcher, a mentor for students, and serves on several college and department committees.

He also continues to expand his teaching skills by participating in the California State University Quality Learning Teaching Instrument and the Association of College and University Educators’ Course in Effective Online Teaching Practices. He designed one of the first online/hybrid courses in the agricultural business department and, based on his expertise, developed a new course “Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Agribusiness” offering students exposure to one of the cutting-edge areas of agribusiness.

Dr. Patricia D. Lopez

Dr. Patricia López (curriculum and instruction) is a Valley native dedicated to serving the diverse communities of the region and helping students develop a sense of belonging in higher education and teaching.

She came to Fresno State in 2013 as a lecturer and has impacted the careers of pre-service teacher candidates, in-service K12 teachers, and students working in bilingual education and Chicano and Latin American Studies. She goes beyond to champion the ideals of social justice, servant-leadership, and community partnerships through her work as the director of the Enseñamos en el Valle Central Initiative.

The program expands the pathway for future bilingual and Latina/o/x teachers from high school through community college. Her research includes education and public policy, critical race and ethnic studies pedagogy, race, culture and language in education and more. She also serves on several committees within and beyond the University.

Dr. Jennifer Miele

Dr. Jennifer Miele (finance and business law) strives to strengthen her teaching by participating in Student Success Summits, teaching and innovation conferences, online teaching programs, high impact seminars, project-based seminars, and Fresno State’s own DISCOVERe training.

As a result of her continued learning, she incorporated a project in one of her classes to work with Rabo AgriFinance, an international agricultural financing institution, to allow students to obtain hands-on experience and develop relationships in the community. She converted two courses to DISCOVERe and also removed the textbook from a class for online resources and her own materials.

Miele received the Craig School of Business Faculty Award for Research in spring 2020 for having a distinctive record of publishing in journals and elsewhere. Her research is in behavioral finance with a particular focus on investor decision-making.

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email