Smith, Visco and Hinton named this year's Outstanding Faculty

Students and colleagues of Tennessee Tech University’s 2007 Outstanding Faculty Awards say the three are the tightrope walkers of their fields, displaying incredible balance in their teaching, research and service.

David D. Smith, assistant professor of mathematics, and Donald P. Visco Jr., associate professor of chemical engineering, have been named the recipients of the Outstanding Faculty Awards in Teaching. Paula Hinton, assistant professor of history, has been awarded the Outstanding Faculty Award in Professional Service.

The three award winners will receive cash prizes and plaques during TTU’s spring commencement ceremonies on May 5.

David D. Smith
In courses ranging from pre-calculus to graduate-level statistics, Smith’s students give him excellent reviews, and that fact is evidence that he can effectively teach to a wide range of student mathematical backgrounds, said Allan Mills, interim chairperson of TTU’s mathematics department.

As a graduate student in mathematics at TTU, Dorothy Leann Long took a number of courses taught by Smith.

“One class in particular had a wide variety of student backgrounds, and Dr. Smith took time to address the various needs of the students,” she said. “He even offered mid-semester evaluations to determine what changes could be made to maximize the learning experience without compromising the integrity of the course.”

Now a doctoral student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Long said Smith has been an inspiration to her.

“As a teacher, he has inspired me to not only seek knowledge in academia, but he has also inspired me to become a better college professor through his enthusiasm for and dedication to quality education,” she said.

Former student Meera Shukla praised Smith’s promptness in grading and returning tests and homework assignments, so his students could more quickly learn from and correct their errors.

Tyler Heep, a former TTU student who is now a graduate student at Auburn University, commended Smith’s organization and efficiency, as did Ronald Smitty, a dual math and computer science major at TTU.

Donald P. Visco Jr.
While Visco’s contribution to teaching begins in his own classroom, it ends with national recognition for his accomplishments, said Joseph Biernacki, a chemical engineering professor and colleague of Visco.

Pedro Arce, chairperson of the department, agreed, pointing out Visco’s various awards.

“Dr. Visco is the single winner of the two most prestigious awards related to educational and instructional efforts in our College of Engineering — the Sissom Award and the Brown-Henderson Award,” he said.

“Dr. Visco is also the winner of the most prestigious national award for a junior faculty of the Society of Engineering Education, chemical engineering division — the Fahien Award,” Arce continued. “In fact, he is only the second faculty member to receive a national award in teaching at our College of Engineering.”

His performance has also captured the attention of Ada Haynes, director of TTU’s Quality Enhancement Plan. “I’ve learned that he’s a very dedicated faculty member who goes that extra mile to maximize student learning,” she said. “Overall, I feel that Don is an outstanding teacher who helps students make tremendous gains in their critical thinking and real-world problem solving through active learning.”

Because of his willingness to create an effective and active learning environment, Visco often garners positive responses from his students as well. “My own personal experience with Dr. Visco has had profound effects on many aspects of my education — in the classroom and in the lab,” said Adrian Mether.

Sophomore Andrew Blumberg describes Visco as being knowledgeable without being intimidating, and Blumberg said he appreciates Visco’s personable manner and inviting personality because it makes him effective at relating to student problems and situations.

Derick Weis, who has been both an undergraduate and graduate student of Visco, said the instructor presented a unique and effective teaching style because he “always had questions that really challenged your knowledge of the material in a constructive way.”

Paula Hinton
In her 2006 annual report, Hinton listed 29 different university service activities and 18 other public service activities in which she was involved, for a total of 47 — and there was little duplication among them, said Jeff Roberts, chairperson of TTU’s history department.

“Given the breadth and depth of her activities, it’s hard to imagine anyone more deserving of an award for outstanding professional service,” he said.

Her performance as faculty adviser for the History Club is definitive of her level of commitment, he said. “She has personally taken students on a variety of field trips, much to their delight, while also hosting lectures, movie nights and other social events. She is tremendously popular with our students, who laud her caring nature and express appreciation for her perpetual ‘open door’ office policy,” Roberts said.

The Center for Educational Policy Research Study recently identified her work as one of the top examples of advanced placement best practices in a national study of U.S. history courses.

“Dr. Hinton’s contribution in the professional service arena is exemplary,” said TTU President Bob Bell. “I have observed Dr. Hinton’s service on several TTU committees and commend her integrity and wisdom.”

As the founder and chairperson of the planning committee for this year’s first WoMeNet Conference for networking and mentoring, Hinton helped make the event a success because of her level of organization, professionalism and flexibility in handling challenges, said Robin Murdoch, a reporter for WBIR-TV in Knoxville and the event’s keynote speaker.

As vice president of the Humane Society of Putnam County, she has been instrumental in the organization’s capital campaign fundraising efforts and is working to develop more long-term success for the society, said President Linda Clemons, and Roberts agreed, saying, “She raised more money for the shelter with one raffle than my beloved Rotary Club raised in an entire year’s worth of activities.”

Clemons concluded, “I believe she is an asset to TTU and is a superb representative for the university in our community.”