Accomplishment and Promise: CSLA Awards 2017

Written by: Dean Maskevich,
Robert Goodman, keynote speaker at the 2017 College of Science and Liberal Arts Awards Ceremony, is helping to transform STEM education in high school and build a better foundation for the success of STEM students in college.

The annual College of Science and Liberal Arts (CSLA) Awards Ceremony was, once again, a highlight of the spring semester. On May 2, CSLA Dean Kevin Belfield welcomed those attending the ceremony at which faculty, staff, students and alumni were recognized for “a remarkable level of achievement” across an exceptionally diverse range of disciplines and interests.

In his opening remarks, Belfield said that of some 100 tenured and tenure-track CSLA faculty 70 percent have published in the past year and 60 percent have active funding for their research, metrics that are outstanding he added. It is a commitment to internationally recognized research and scholarship in the liberal arts and sciences that includes mathematics, solar astronomy, environmental remediation, economic and social analysis, history and literature.

Belfield went on to say that this commitment to sharing new knowledge continues to be matched by educational engagement with students that extends to the role of CSLA in supporting general university requirements which foster communication skills, critical thinking, teamwork and civic understanding. This year, for the first time, recognition was also given for the CSLA initiative that is bringing faculty, staff and students together through the experience of music, and performing in the String, Wind and Jazz Ensembles.

Two special awards — the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Service and the Dean’s Award for Innovation — were presented to individuals whose concern for NJIT students, and all students in New Jersey, is enthusiastically and energetically forward-looking.

The recipient of the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Service was Jay Whitehead, whose association with NJIT is as a guiding member of the CSLA Board of Visitors. Whitehead, a prominent media and business-service entrepreneur, is the co-founder and currently CEO of League Network. Based at NJIT’s Enterprise Development Center, League Network is an assisted fundraising platform and media community for youth sports leagues across the country. Whitehead’s entrepreneurial acumen in cross-cultural management and corporate responsibility and sustainability is reflected in his frequent contributions to media that include CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, Bloomberg News, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and The New York Times.   

Belfield says that he invited Whitehead to join the Board of Visitors in 2015 and that since then Whitehead has “embraced and taken ownership” of translating key CSLA educational priorities into reality. Especially significant among these priorities is developing opportunities for experiential learning and internships that are increasingly important for career success after graduation.

Robert Goodman, recipient of the Dean’s Award for Innovation and keynote speaker, was recognized for an initiative that is transforming STEM education in New Jersey, across the U.S., and in countries such as the African nation of Gambia. Currently, Goodman is executive director of the New Jersey Center for Teaching and Learning, and founder of the Progressive Science Initiative and Progressive Mathematics Initiative.

With engaging humor, Goodman related his life journey from high school, where guidance counselors told him he had no ability in math or science, to becoming a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology in physics, a highly successful electronics-industry executive, and then a New Jersey science teacher who helped to transform the way science is taught in high school — a transformation with major implications for the later success of STEM students in college.

Essentially, Goodman explained, he and like-minded colleagues at  Bergen County Technical High School in Teterboro set out shortly after 2000 to “make greater sense of the world” for STEM students by “resequencing” their science courses. Instead of beginning with biology, physics became the foundation for subsequent STEM studies, then chemistry, and then biology.

“Physics makes chemistry make sense, physics and chemistry make biology make sense. In the right sequence, each one makes sense,” Goodman said at the ceremony. This resequencing, accompanied by other changes such as eliminating tracking, achieved impressive results at Bergen Tech. By 2005, the school was number one in the state for students taking and passing advanced placement physics. In one recent national ranking, it placed 28 among 14,000 U.S. high schools.

In light of this success, the New Jersey Department of Education supported encouraging implementation of the same approach to STEM education statewide, an evolutionary initiative that is now being advanced by the New Jersey Center for Teaching and Learning. In addition, Goodman is at the forefront of an innovative program to train good teachers already in the classroom, but who are not teaching physics or chemistry, to qualify to teach those subjects.

The need for physics and chemistry teachers, Goodman emphasized, is critical. For example, he said that if every student in the U.S. currently taking biology were to take physics, the country would need 36,000 more physics teachers. U.S. higher education is now graduating just 300 new physics teachers each year.

Goodman also emphasized the interactive, emotionally satisfying engagement with science that he has worked to encourage among students. Learning how science can help students “make sense of the world” is an exciting process that encompasses not just factual knowledge, but also the equally important processes of “critical thinking, problem solving, talking, debating, questioning.”

Following are all those recognized at the 2017 College of Science and Liberal Arts Awards Ceremony.

Faculty and Staff

Horacio Rotstein

Department of Mathematical Sciences

Distinguished Research Award

Brittany Froese

Department of Mathematical Sciences

Rising Star Research Award

Felicia Margolies

Centre for Solar-Terrestrial Research, Department of Physics

Outstanding Staff Award

Nancy Steffen-Fluhr

Department of Humanities

Excellence in Service

Jay Kappraff

Department of Mathematical Sciences

Excellence in Service

Keun Hyuk Ahn

Department of Physics

Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Wooyoung Choi

Department of Mathematical Sciences

Excellence in Graduate Education

Louise Castronova

Department of Humanities

Excellence in Teaching by University Lecturer

Egbert Ammicht

Department of Mathematical Sciences

Excellence in Teaching by Adjunct Faculty

Chang Liu

Department of Physics

Excellence in Research by Research Professor

James Lipuma

Department of Humanities

Excellence in Scholarship by University Lecturer



Outstanding Undergraduate Students

Aisha Alam, Department of Humanities

Elizabeth Daudelin, Department of Mathematical Sciences

Nandini Isaac, Department of Chemistry and Environ­mental Science

Sumayya Mohammed, Federated Department of Bio­logical Sciences

Dylan Renaud, Department of Physics

Michael Tadros, Federated Department of History


Outstanding Graduate Students

Robert Hoberman, Federated Department of History

Xingping Li, Federated Department of Biological Sci­ences

Smruti Ragunath, Department of Chemistry & Envi­ronmental Science

Michelle Saeia, Department of Humanities

Zhaoqian Su, Department of Physics

YiMing Yu, Department of Mathematical Sciences



Distinguished Alumni Award

Yadan Chen, Department of Chemistry and Environ­mental Science

Paul Rogers, Department of Physics

Steven Saperstein, College of Science and Liberal Arts, Industrial Administration


Rising Star Alumni Award

Blan Jarkasi, Federated Department of History

Sean O’Malley, Department of Physics

Daniel Ovalle, Department of Humanities

Chris Verdon, Department of Mathematical Sciences