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VCSU announces 2023 Faculty Excellence Awards

May 3, 2023

President Alan LaFave has announced the Valley City State University Faculty Excellence Awards for 2022–23, recognizing “exceptional dedication and commitment to students and the university by outstanding teaching, scholarly activities, or university service.”

This year’s recipients include:

  • Teather Sundstrom, Ph.D. – Senior Faculty (associate or full professor) award
  • Gratia Brown, M.F.A – Junior Faculty (instructor or assistant professor) award
  • Joan Klein, M.Ed – Special Appointment Faculty award
  • Kai Western, Ph.D. – Adjunct Faculty award

Faculty members commended Teather Sundstrom, associate professor of science and senior faculty excellence award recipient, on her ability to take on extra classes the past two years due to vacancies in the department. One nomination read, “Because of this, I know that she must be stretched thin, but she has not complained about it once. She still regularly sees students in her office, conducts her usual committee business, helps me with my advising, and carries on with a wonderful demeanor despite carrying a heavy teaching load.” Nominators also detailed her as the “driving force” behind the Science Olympiad event held on campus every year.

Gratia Brown, assistant professor of art, received the junior faculty award. Brown’s colleagues highlighted that she has “invested significant time in restructuring and revitalizing the art education major and minor, rebuilding it to include a fully online option for completion.” Outside of teaching her students, Brown is working towards her master’s degree in art education. One nomination stated that not only will this provide students an opportunity to be taught by a faculty with an “even broader array of skills, knowledge, and abilities” but it will also set the art department up for future national accreditation.

According to her colleagues, Joan Klein, assistant professor of education and special appointment award recipient is “innovative and passionate about preparing future educators.” Joan’s efforts go above and beyond the requirements of her workload. She has created opportunities for teacher candidates to expand their awareness in the field of education. Her engagement efforts with teacher candidates have increased opportunities for recruitment, retention, and leadership… She has high expectations and sincerely cares that VCSU teacher education graduates are ready to make a difference for their future students.”

Kai Western, adjunct faculty for communication arts, received the adjunct faculty excellence award. A nomination stated, in part, “Her online courses are engaging and she provides real-world examples from her experiences in the corporate world. She is responsive to students and gets them to truly engage with each other, which is not always easy to do in online courses.”

The award recipients were recognized at the VCSU Employee Recognition Dinner on Thursday, May 11, at the VCSU Cafeteria in the Student Center. 

Recognitions also included retirements, years of service, Difference Maker, Staff Employee of the Quarter, degree and professional certification completion, tenure and promotion, Student Advocate of the Year, Teacher of the Year, and faculty excellence.

A group of faculty with Teather Sundstrom in the middle. Teather Sundstrom

A group of faculty and staff with Gratia Brown. Gratia Brown

A group of faculty and staff with Joan Klien Joan Klein

A group of faculty presenting an award online to Kai Western. Kai Western