Tennessee Tech honors top faculty, staff

Tennessee Tech University has recognized four faculty and staff for their commitments to teaching, service and the university.

Two of the honorees are professors in the history department who have supported each other through the years in research and academic collaborations. Nominated by department chair Jeff Roberts, Wali Karif and Kent Dollar wrote letters of support for each other's nominations. 

For his commitment to numerous community programs, the university honored Kharif with the Outstanding Faculty Award for Professional Service. Kharif has been at TTU since 1988.

“I have never known someone so committed to serving his department, his university and his community,” said Dollar. “Dr. Kharif is worthy of this award. Indeed, he is exactly the kind of person for whom this award was intended.”

Kharif chairs the university’s Diversity, Equity and Access Council and serves as TTU’s diversity contact at the Tennessee Board of Regents. He has been a member of the American Association of University Professors since 1988, and he is president of the Upper Cumberland Islamic Society.

He is president emeritus of the board of directors of Lazarus House Hospice, which has honored him with the Heart of Hospice Award and Service Award. He serves numerous organizations throughout the Upper Cumberland, including United Way of Putnam County and Cookeville Regional Medical Center.

“Dr. Kharif’s accomplishments in teaching, in service, and in community evolve from his inner strength and faith,” said James Monroe Stewart, speech communication professor. “He has maintained high teaching standards and an impressive publication record, and he is involved in the academic lives of our students as an academic advisor and mentor.”

Dollar and Satya Narimetla were honored with the Outstanding Faculty Award in Teaching.

Narimetla has been a math instructor at TTU since 2006, but he has served as a graduate assistant and adjunct professor in the departments of mathematics and mechanical engineering since the late 80s. Narimetla earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering at TTU.

“Sam has a wonderful rapport with his students, and they always appear fully engaged in the discussion,” said Andrew Hetzel, associate professor of mathematics. “Sam clearly respects them as people and understands the challenges they face in learning something for the very first time.”

Letters of support for Narimetla repeated a common strand of praise for his ability to relate mathematical concepts to engineering.

“In class, Dr. Narimetla would give excellent examples of how to apply the mathematics I was learning to real-world engineering applications, making his classes more enriching,” said mechanical engineering major Scott Hill. “Never did I feel uncomfortable asking him a question.”

Dollar’s supporters cited his reputation for teaching students with enthusiasm and creativity.

“Dollar is an enthusiastic lecturer, and his obvious passion for history can be infectious for his students,” said history professor Philip Davis, Jr. “He lectures with a narrative style that reminds the students of the humanity and the passions of the subjects they are studying. He will play period-themed music – slave hymns or civil war marches – as the students file into the classroom, engaging them in the class topic before he appears at the lectern.”

Admired by colleagues and students for his teaching style, Dollar chaperones student trips to Civil War battlefields and other historic sites.

“What I love about his classes is his ability to make students aware of the larger themes that run throughout the topics he covers, rather than focusing on the rote memorization of names and dates,” said former student Casey Fox.

Others in the history department praised Dollar’s teaching style, including his colleague Kharif.

“Dr. Dollar is energetic and has achieved a balance in using audio-visual materials with lectures and discussions to capture the interest of students, making learning fun,” said Kharif. “He has been a valued colleague.”

Dollar leads the local Civil War Roundtable, which focuses on Civil War and Reconstruction issues. “This allows him to extend his teaching beyond the classroom in to the greater community,” Kharif said.

Dollar has been at TTU since 2001.

The university named Lora Cowan the Outstanding Professional Award winner for this academic year. Cowan is a research associate in the university’s Office of Advancement Services.

“Lora has a love for this university and truly wants to see the fundraising operation succeed,” said John Smith, associate director of Advancement Services. “Whether it’s providing a prospect profile or updating prospect information, Lora’s commitment to excellence shines.”

Cowan joined Advancement Services in 2003, where she had worked previously as a graduate assistant. Cowan earned her bachelor’s degree in business management at TTU in 2000 and completed her master’s degree in business administration at TTU in 2001.

“She is a dedicated alumna and a faithful and committed employee,” said Sharon Rader, director of Advancement Services.

“Lora provides and supervises research, a critical area within the fundraising arena,” Rader said. “She has led the way in successfully developing appropriate policies and procedures for this operation and has moved us forward to identify appropriate resources, to provide information critical to the continued success of fundraising, and designed and developed a rating score and system that is of interest to many other universities.”

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