Oklahoma Baptist University presented its highest faculty and staff honors during the university’s 103rd Spring Commencement May 19. OBU President Dr. David W. Whitlock presented the awards before an overflow audience of more than 1,800 in Raley Chapel’s Potter Auditorium on the OBU campus in Shawnee.
Each year during Spring Commencement, OBU presents three important awards to recognize quality teaching and faithful, productive service: the Distinguished Teaching Award, the Promising Teacher Award and the Meritorious Service Award. Nominations for the awards are made by alumni, current students, faculty and administration. In addition to public recognition and a token of the university’s appreciation, the recipients receive cash awards provided by OBU graduates John and Janet Hudson of Edmond, Oklahoma.
Dr. Vickie Ellis, professor of communication arts and chair of the Division of Communication Arts, received OBU’s Distinguished Teaching Award. The highest honor for OBU faculty members, this award is presented to a faculty member who has taught at OBU for five consecutive years or more. This faculty member has exemplified in his or her teaching career those characteristics of superior instruction delineated in the “Commitment to Excellence,” a statement of teaching expectations and objectives adopted by OBU’s faculty, administration and Board of Trustees.
Ellis joined the OBU faculty in 2008. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in education from Southeastern Oklahoma State University. She then earned a Master of Science in communication studies from the University of North Texas and a Doctor of Education with an emphasis in communication acts within curriculum, instruction and supervision from Texas A&M University in Commerce, Texas.
After graduating from Southeastern, she began her teaching career as a competitive speech and debate coach, English teacher and theatre arts director. After completing her master’s degree, she began teaching communication courses at the college level, teaching at Southeastern, Grayson County College and a summer program at Stanford University. Prior to coming to OBU, she served as associate professor of graduate education at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri. Encouraging communication research is one of her career passions, walking alongside OBU scholars as they investigate how communication studies reveal more about the world around us and how we relate to one another.
In making the presentation, Whitlock referred to a comment by one of her nominators.
“She is an excellent teacher. She knows her subject areas well and she is always well prepared. She uses engaging questioning sessions and PowerPoint presentations that encourage students to interact with the material. In addition, the projects she has created for her students to complete in her courses are academically challenging and professionally rewarding.”
Dr. Jonathan Wilson, assistant professor of psychology / marriage and family therapy, received OBU’s Promising Teacher Award. This award is presented to a junior faculty member who has taught at OBU less than six years, has demonstrated outstanding potential as a teacher and has exhibited the characteristics of one who may be a future recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award.
Wilson joined the OBU faculty in 2013. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from OBU in 2008. He then earned a master's degree in human development and family science with an emphasis in marriage and family therapy from Oklahoma State University in 2010 and a Ph.D. in Medical Family Therapy from East Carolina University in 2014. He serves as a Licensed Marital and Family Therapist (LMFT) and an AAMFT Approved Supervisor. Along with his colleagues, he was instrumental in founding OBU’s certificate program for advanced clinical training in medical family therapy in 2014, the first of its kind in Oklahoma. He enjoys attending and presenting research at state and national conferences as well as maintaining a regular clinical case load.
Whitlock referred to a nomination letter from an OBU alumnus, who said of Wilson, “Of all of the outstanding professors that I came to know at OBU, he stands apart as one who had both the opportunity and compassion to care about me personally and to help me through a difficult time in my professional development. To this day, he remains in contact with me and a number of people from my graduating cohort, providing both professional guidance and a friendship that we all value. I have been able to share significant events in my life with him and he has consistently offered support and encouragement to me.”
Cynthia Gates, director of events, conferences and camps, received OBU’s Meritorious Service Award. This award is presented annually to a faculty or staff member who has made a substantial commitment of years and service, and who has been a loyal and faithful faculty or staff member.
Gates joined the OBU staff in 1991 as an administrative assistant. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in public relations from OBU in 1987. Prior to joining the staff at OBU, she served as a secretary at both St. Paul’s United Methodist Church and at Shawnee Public Schools. During her time at OBU, she has held other positions of responsibility, including director of alumni programs and special events. She coordinates all of the details that make campus events, conferences and camps successful on the OBU campus.
Whitlock referred to a comment from one nominator, who said, “Her heart of a servant is an integral part of the success of all events that happen at OBU. She is a great leader with a great sense of humor, which combined, makes every event the best experience possible. Her professionalism and dedication makes Bison Hill a better place for all of us.”