Faculty recognized for teaching, service, leadership at Benedictine

June 11, 2015

Five faculty members were recently named recipients of the 2014-15 Benedictine University Faculty Awards, including Susan Mikula, Ph.D., acting dean of the College of Liberal Arts, who was named recipient of the Judith Ann Whinfrey Distinguished Faculty Award for Leadership.

Faculty awards recognize significant achievements in the areas of teaching, research and service which serve as models for all faculty members. Faculty members are nominated by members of the Benedictine University community (faculty, staff, administration and students). Each nomination includes at least three letters attesting to the exemplary teaching, research or service of the nominees.

The academic deans recommend the award winners, and the provost and vice president for Academic Affairs makes the final decision regarding the award recipient.

Whinfrey was a member of the board of directors of Hewitt Associates, chair of the board of Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, a board member of S&C Electric Company of Chicago and a trustee of Benedictine University until her passing in 2010. The award named in her honor recognizes a faculty member who has provided exceptional leadership during their tenure.

Mikula, a Chicago resident and faculty member at Benedictine for nearly 30 years, has served as a division chair, director of the Scholars Program, member of countless committees and University ambassador to a number of community projects during her tenure. Most recently, Mikula accepted the position of acting dean.

"Susan has stepped up when necessary to address University needs even when it meant temporarily abandoning her beloved teaching," said María de la Cámara, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Benedictine. "She has also mentored a number of young, female faculty members who are confronted with navigating the difficult challenges of the academic world."

Also recognized among faculty were Elizabeth Bell, Ph.D. (Physical Education), who was awarded the Distinguished Faculty Award for Teaching;Fannie Rushing, Ph.D. (History), who was awarded the Distinguished Faculty Award for Research;Rita George-Tvrtković, Ph.D. (Theology), who was presented the Distinguished Faculty Award for Internal Service;and Joan Libner, Ed.D., M.S.N. (Nursing and Health), who was presented the Distinguished Faculty Award for External Service.

Bell, an assistant professor in the School of Education from Mount Prospect, has made substantial progress in revising courses in physical education to meet the new Illinois State Board of Education standards and best practices in the discipline. She also led the development of courses to meet the new certification in Strength and Conditioning Specialty.

"Elizabeth has a genuine interest in students and serves as a mentor for their academic and disciplinary progression," de la Cámara said. "She lives her faculty role with enthusiasm, disciplinary competence and advocacy for students. She is committed to program development, quality improvement, and student recruitment and retention."

Rushing, a Chicago resident and associate professor of History at Benedictine since 2008, is recognized nationally and internationally as one of the pioneers in the field of the African Diaspora in Latin America. A number of institutions have invited her to give seminars on the topic and her courses have been replicated at a number of universities.

"Fannie has excelled in both stages of historical research –accessing primary source materials, and interpreting and presenting conclusions based on those resources," de la Cámara said. "Additionally, her close collaboration with major figures in the civil rights movement led her to develop an archival record that will preserve this history for future scholars."

Chicago resident George-Tvrtković has been a major force in fostering interreligious dialogue at Benedictine in the classroom and as part of such co-curricular activities as MOSAIC (Movement of Students Achieving Interfaith Collaboration) and the Catholic Muslim Dialogue. She has been awarded a grant to represent her work at the 2015 Parliament of World Religions in Salt Lake City, Utah.

"Rita has been a prime mover in creating a climate of dialogue and respecton our campus and building bridges between religious communities," de la Cámara said. "She has challenged the students to learn more about their own faith, while at the same time encouraging them to ask questions and learn about other faiths."

Chair of the Board of Nursing for the State of Illinois, a 13-member committee overseeing implementation of the Illinois Nurse Practice Act (the statute governing nurse licensure in Illinois), Libner serves the University and her profession in a number of ways. The Park Ridge resident is also a fellow in the National Council of State Boards of Nursing Institute on Regulatory Excellence.

"So many people have been impressed by Joan's willingness and ability to help the nursing board be more efficient, more professional and more consistent in its approach to the evaluation of nursing programs," de la Cámara said. "She is a wonderful example of the way a senior academic nurse can help both the profession and the quality of care in Illinois."

Benedictine also announced the promotion of nine faculty members. Promoted to associate professor were Christopher Birks, Ph.D. (Communication Arts) from Geneva, George-Trvtković, Olga Lambert, Ph.D. (Languages and Literature) of Lisle and Kari Stone, Ph.D. (Chemistry/Biochemistry) of Bolingbrook;and promoted to professor were Timothy Comar, Ph.D. (Mathematics) of Wilmette, Cheryl Mascarenhas, Ph.D. (Chemistry/Biochemistry) of Plainfield and Joaquin Montero, Ph.D. (Languages and Literature) of Lisle.

Jonathan Lewis, Ph.D. (Psychology/Sociology) of Naperville was promoted within rank and Elizabeth Ritt, Ed.D., M.S.N. (Nursing and Health) of Kildeer was granted tenure.


Benedictine University is an independent Roman Catholic institution located in Lisle, Illinois just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois and Mesa, Arizona. Founded in 1887, Benedictine provides 56 undergraduate majors and 16 graduate and four doctoral programs. Benedictine University is ranked No. 1 among the country's fastest-growing campuses between 2002-2012 in The Chronicle of Higher Education's list of private nonprofit doctoral institutions, and Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the fourth consecutive year in 2014. Benedictine University's Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program is listed by Crain's Chicago Business as the sixth largest in the Chicago area in 2014.

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