Published: Fri May 10, 2002
Students and colleagues say Tennessee Tech University's 2002 Outstanding Teaching and Professional Service Award winners are the tightrope walkers of their fields -- they display incredible balance in their teaching, research and service.
Corinne Darvennes, associate professor of mechanical engineering, and Stuart Wells, associate professor of management information systems, have been named the recipients of Tennessee Tech's Outstanding Faculty Awards in Teaching. John Harris, professor of biology, has been named the recipient of TTU's Outstanding Faculty Award in Professional Service.
All three will be recognized for their achievements, receive plaques and $1,500 honorariums during the university's spring commencement ceremonies.
Wells, or "Doc Wells" to most, is recognized on and off campus for his work with the university's capstone management information systems course. In that class, his students work with businesses to analyze, design and implement working information systems as a major field project.
"Many companies today operate in team environments," said former student and Miliken professional James R. Lamb. "Dr. Wells' classes are given the opportunity to learn about team dynamics before entering the workplace."
Wells consistently earns the highest student evaluation in his department. When those students graduate, he helps them find career opportunities, fosters goodwill between the university and alumni, and continues his roles as mentor and friend.
Alumni from his classes say Wells knows how important it is to their careers that he teach them not only what's happening in their field now, but what is likely to change tomorrow.
Wells combats the problem by keeping close ties with industry and tailoring his classes on the skills being sought by employers.
"'Doc shines a clear light on the skillful arts of teaching, advising and counseling," said student James C. Johnson. "His open door policy extends to his home, and he is always available to provide direction when I face stumbling blocks."
Wells has dedicated time as a captain and officer in charge of the Putnam County Sheriff's Reserve. His vast community service also includes serving as an information systems consultant for several organizations.
A TTU faculty member since 1988, he received his master's and doctorate in business administration from Louisiana Tech University.
Darvennes motivates and challenges others to become better instructors by being a good model and by encouraging the use of new methodology and technology in the classroom.
One of the first on campus to embrace the use of WebCT, a web-based teaching tool for faculty, she leads national efforts to stretch the capabilities of professors using the technology.
"She has clearly demonstrated creativity, a willingness to experiment, and an ability to learn from classroom and web instruction," said Glen Johnson, TTU's College of Engineering dean.
Pursuing her research interests in acoustics, noise control and ultrasonic non-destructive evaluation, Darvennes organized and added equipment to TTU's Acoustics and Vibration Lab, the state's most extensive noise control lab. This has also resulted in service opportunities, such as the recent hands-on science activities in the lab for 60 5th-graders from an area elementary school.
Teaching web enhanced courses in dynamics, fluid mechanics and mechanical vibrations, her students say she engages them in learning instead of just lecturing to them.
"She gave me valuable advice about graduate school, career choices and life in general," said Joshua Knight, former student and now a graduate research assistant at Georgia Institute of Technology. "She is more than a professor; she is both a friend and a mentor."
Darvennes, a TTU faculty member since 1990, earned her doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.
Harris began playing a part in the success of the Tennessee Board of Regents On-line Degree Program when he was chosen in Summer 2000 to be TTU's representative to the RODP Curriculum Committee. A winner of a TBR Trailblazer Award, he was also appointed as chairperson of the TTU-RODP Curriculum Committee, formed to identify and recommend courses and instructors on campus.
Facing a small time frame and a large task, Harris and fellow RODP school representatives designed a curriculum for the program and selected courses. He was then recruited to serve on the RODP Implementation Oversight Committee and other subcommittees to evaluate data and make recommendations for improvement of the program.
"Dr. Harris has devoted a tremendous amount of time throughout his career to professional service at all levels, and I expect that few others can rival his record of service accomplishments," said Daniel Combs, TTU's biology department chairperson.
His service to TTU includes leadership on the Faculty Senate, Academic Council, and TBR Faculty Sub-Council. The Faculty Salary Study Committee, Science Fair Committee, Athletics Committee and Biology Planning Committee also benefit from his leadership.
He considers his work with TTU's Honors program as a highlight, and was chairperson of the Public Programs Committee, a group responsible for bringing speakers including John Dean, Betty Friedan, Jerry Rubin, Wilma Rudolph, John Siegenthaler and Jean-Michael Cousteau to campus.
"His ability to face difficult issues with tact and resolve is worthy of emulation," said colleague and associate history professor Jeff Roberts. "He is one of the most hard-working, dedicated, caring and conscientious individuals I know."
The community may more readily recognize Harris as a more than 30-year member of the Cookeville Toastmasters Club. A Distinguished Toastmaster, the highest level of achievement in the organization, he has served both the area and the district. He is also a member and past president of the Cookeville Evening Lions Club.
Harris, a professor in TTU's biology department since 1980 and a member of the TTU family since 1968, earned his master's and doctorate in botany from Indiana University.