Prestigious Awards Presented To Faculty And Staff

The Bradley community came together Oct. 3, 2022, at Dingeldine Music Center for the annual Founder’s Day Convocation. This event celebrates and honors the university’s founder, Lydia Moss Bradley, and honors those who continue her legacy of excellence. Below are six remarkable faculty/staff members honored during the convocation.

Caterpillar Faculty Achievement Awards for Scholarship — Dr. Rachelle Pavelko, Assistant Professor of Advertising and Public Relations (pictured center-left) and Dr. Mahmoodreza Soltani, Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering and Construction

Nominees of this award must hold a full-time, tenure-track faculty appointment, but they must not have attained tenure status.

Dr. Pavelko joined Bradley as an assistant professor of advertising and public relations in 2017 and has built a strong research agenda focused on health communication, media effects, entertainment media, and digital media. She’s published eight peer-reviewed articles, several in top journals like Health Communication, Health Education Journal, and The International Journal of Communication and Health. Dr. Pavelko has also published a book chapter, and presented five refereed conference papers, This is all in the past five years!

Her nominator wrote, “To contextualize these achievements, Dr. Pavelko has excelled in scholarly productivity despite the pandemic interrupting research and conference travel nationally and internationally, with an increased workload due to departmental attrition, and with

increased responsibilities in service. She is one of the department’s most respected teachers, academic advisor to 40 students in the (advertising/public relations) major and minor, organizer and advisor of the Chicago Auto Show internship, OLLI instructor, a member of the OSF-Bradley Work Group, and a course innovator.

Dr. Soltani joined Bradley in the fall of 2018 and in less than four years has established an impressive record of scholarship. Before he finished his third year here, Dr. Soltani had published seven papers, serving as lead author for five of them, in extremely competitive journals. To have that many in so short a time — and while teaching three to four courses per semester — is truly exceptional.

He submitted a total of eleven proposals and secured seven projects totaling nearly $70,000 and served as the principal Investigator on all of them. Dr. Soltani involves undergraduate and graduate CEC students in his research, giving them the opportunity to create knowledge that will affect the lives and livelihoods of millions of people around the world — possibly beyond. This is because of the impact the research may have on influencing code requirements for the design, construction, and maintenance of concrete structures and on the ability of humans to develop a sustainable approach for constructing habitat on other planets.

His nominator writes, “Dr. Soltani exemplifies excellence in scholarship “His success in scholarship is also reflected in his success as a teacher where he devotes unusual effort to motivate his students to look beyond the obvious and explore new venues for enhancing their learning experience. Dr. Soltani exemplifies the teacher/scholar model that Bradley University values.”


Caterpillar Faculty Achievement Awards for Scholarship — Dr. Tianjiao (Grace) Wang, Assistant Professor of Advertising and Public Relations (pictured 2nd from left)

When she arrived at Bradley in 2017, Dr. Wang quickly impressed her colleagues as an organized, energetic, and experienced teacher. Since that first fall semester, she has taught no fewer than nine different courses and consistently updates her class materials each year to reflect advancements in her field.

Dr. Wang’s nominator writes, “I was able to personally witness her excellent pedagogical qualities by being a guest in her classroom in COM 220 Advertising as Communication, where I noted not only how fresh, current, and scholastically rigorous her teaching materials were, but also the warm, graceful, and engaging way she communicated with her students. I saw how skillfully she timed her activities: the lecture was a nice balance of depth and breadth, and the class exercises and videos were stimulating and advancing of learning. By the end of the class, the students had a spark in their eyes and a smile on their faces, a sign of time well spent in Dr. Wang’s classroom.”

She has contributed to the merging of Advertising and Public Relations majors, the creation of the AD/PR minor, and the revision of existing advertising courses to reflect the newest trends in the fast-changing field of advertising and social media. She also created a new course COM 326 Digital Analytics, which aims to prepare students to get useful data from social and digital media and turn such data into advertising and marketing intelligence. With Dr. Wang’s strategic contributions, the department is confident that students in Advertising/Public Relations receive in-demand skills and an excellent education for their investment.


Samuel Rothberg Professional Excellence Award - Dr. Jing Wang, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering (pictured 2nd from right)

This award recognizes outstanding achievements in research and creativity by a senior faculty member. Recipients are expected to make original contributions to their field and submit these contributions for critical appraisal by their professional peers.

Dr. Wang joined Bradley in 2014 as an assistant professor and became an associate professor four years later. His research is focused on the broad areas of controls, systems and robotics, with a current emphasis on distributed optimal learning for the coordination of multiagent systems with applications to large-scale cyber-physical systems — things like mobile robotic networks, electric power networks, traffic systems. The results of his research could have immediate applications in unmanned vehicle control, industry for factory floor automation, intelligent transportation systems, deployment of large-scale sensor networks for environmental monitoring, search and information acquisition in hazardous environments using small-scale robots, and distributed optimization of smart grids.

Dr. Wang’s book, Emergent Behavior Detection and Task Coordination for Multiagent Systems: A Distributed Estimation and Control Approach, was published in 2021. In addition, he’s published some 50 journal articles, many in top-tier professional journals, contributed to 91 conference papers, and presented 13 invited talks in his field of expertise. He has supervised 28 student research projects, overseen two master’s theses and taught 17 different courses at Bradley. He’s been awarded funding in excess of $1.4 million from agencies like the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Air Force Office of Sponsored Research, and the Department of Transportation (DOT), including $30,000 to enhance Bradley’s research laboratory facilities.

Experts in his field characterize his research contributions as "extraordinary," "original," and "revolutionary." He is described as a leading expert in his field with a national reputation.

Charles M. Putnam Award for Excellence in Teaching - Dr. Patricia Nugent, Professor of Teacher Education and chair, Department of Education, Counseling and Leadership (pictured far right)

The recognition of excellence in teaching became a tradition at Bradley in 1957 when Charles M. Putnam established the Putnam Award for Excellence in Teaching.

According to her nominator, Dr. Nugent’s teaching is anchored in scholarship that facilitates enthusiastic collaboration with warm encouragement, an inviting sense of humor and an ability to integrate theory with practice, calling her “an inspiring, engaging, gifted, and scholarly teacher.” Dr. Nugent is a research mentor for new Bradley faculty and continues to inspire others in the research of teaching.

Dr. Heljä Antola Crowe, Retired Director of CTEL and Professor of Teacher Education, Emerita, said “I have had the privilege to work with her in multiple research projects through the Early Math initiative, Heart of Illinois Math Counts, and other research projects, which has allowed me to witness her development as a thoughtful researcher. Through her ambitious sabbatical agenda, Dr. Nugent was able to accomplish several scholarly projects. She then brought that scholarship back into the classroom to implement best practices related to teacher education that continued to enhance her pedagogy.”

Her nominator adds, “Dr. Nugent’s humility is an eloquent model for our students to become learners for life. She excels in reality-based engaged learning experiences for students

In addition, Dr. Nugent’s research agenda and output has been robust, versatile, and productive. She’s published book chapters on topics of pedagogical importance and teacher preparation on professional development of teachers in mathematics education. Her work includes refereed articles, book chapters, a monograph, research reports, and dozens of international and national refereed presentation all of which have strengthened her teaching.

Frances C. Mergen Award for Public Service – Heather Ford, Department of Interactive Media (pictured far right)

Each year the alumni association chooses the recipient of the Francis C. Mergen award, which the Central Illinois Bradley Alumni Chapter established in 1973 to honor Dr. Francis C. Mergen, chair of the Department of Industrial Engineering. The award recognizes a member of the Bradley staff or faculty who has provided exceptional service to the community.

Heather Ford is a richly talented designer, teacher and exhibiting artist and a Bradley alumna. She serves as Program Head and Assistant Professor of Bradley’s User Experience Design program. Heather’s service to others has been exemplary: She has volunteered extensively for the Big Picture Initiative, sharing her skills to help establish arts education for underserved children, and also served on their board. She organized an exhibit at the Peoria Library to highlight the needs of the homeless, and she even spent the night outdoors in a cardboard box on a frigid winter night to raise money and call attention to the needs those without shelter.

Heather has also volunteered at the Salvation Army “Lunch with Love” soup kitchen, and she was recognized last year by the Heart of Illinois United Way with the Hoot Gibson Award, which is given particularly to those work out of the limelight, quietly helping others to live more fulfilling lives.