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Congratulations to Prof. Joan Sereno - one of the winners of the Chancellors Club teaching Professorship!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

LAWRENCE — Five professors from the University of Kansas may be experts in widely different fields, but they all share one important distinction: Their excellence as educators has earned them prestigious Chancellors Club Teaching Professorships in 2017. Three of them are from the Lawrence campus, and two are from the KU Medical Center campus.

Honorees from the Lawrence campus are Music Professor Dan Gailey, Linguistics Professor Joan Sereno and Aerospace Engineering Professor Saeed Farokhi. KU Medical Center honorees are Neurology Professor Gary Gronseth and Nursing Professor Karen Wambach.

Each will receive an annual $10,000 honorarium for each of the next five years.

Dan Gailey

Dan Gailey, director of jazz studies and professor of music, has a knack for bringing out the best in his students. Under his direction, KU’s Jazz Ensemble I has earned national and international recognition. Most recently, it was one of only six collegiate jazz bands to perform at the prestigious Monterey Next Generation Jazz Festival.

Career highlights

  • His students have won 25 DownBeat Student Music Awards, considered the most prestigious and competitive awards in jazz education. DownBeat Awards are given on an international level, including large and small jazz ensembles.
  • Jazz Ensemble I received the award for Best College Jazz Ensemble in the Graduate Division in 2015 and the Outstanding Performance Award in the same category in 2017.
  • Jazz Ensemble I and Jazz Singers, both led by Gailey, have performed by invitation at five international conferences and have been featured at several major international jazz festivals, including the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.

Music Dean Robert Walzel has called Gailey “one of the premier jazz educators in the world.” In his nomination letter, he said of Gailey, “His consistency in producing excellence in his teaching, as demonstrated by the many student and ensemble awards, is nothing short of remarkable.”

Joan Sereno

When Professor Joan Sereno took over the Language and Mind class in the Department of Linguistics 15 years ago, it had an enrollment of about 20 students. Today, it attracts 300 students per semester. Sereno is the department chair, and her popularity speaks to her skill as a teacher — one with an unparalleled talent for taking complex concepts and making them testable and attainable.

Career highlights

  • Sereno received the Gene A. Budig Teaching Professorship in the Social and Behavioral Sciences in 2011-2012 and the Center for Teaching Excellence Undergraduate Teaching Appreciation Award in 2002. She was the recipient of the William T. Kemper Teaching Award in 2006.
  • Sereno redesigned an upper-level class in psycholinguistics, originally taught as a lecture, to include a hands-on lab section in which students gather and analyze their own data based on an experiment they learned in class. They form hypotheses and consider alternatives, learning the scientific method as they go. This “inverted classroom” contributes to her unique classroom experience.
  • Sereno has chaired seven doctoral dissertations, 10 masters theses and four honors theses. She has also served as a committee member for an additional 62 doctoral students and 30 masters students.

“Joan is able to have the students connect class learning to authentic data,” said Carl Lejuez, dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, in his nomination letter for Sereno. “She increases students’ motivation by providing hands-on experiences that clearly deepen their learning and engagement.”

Saeed Farokhi

Students and colleagues agree: Saeed Farokhi is a complete package, skilled in teaching, mentoring, service and research in the field of aerospace engineering. He has held a high standard for education throughout his 30 years as a professor at KU, and the Chancellors Club Teaching Professorship is the latest recognition among many he has received in his career.

Career highlights

  • Farokhi was the John E. and Winifred Sharp Teaching Professor twice, first from 1995 to 1998, and again from 2012 to 2015. Seniors have chosen him as the Aerospace Engineering Educator of the Year seven times during his career at KU.
  • His comprehensive textbook Aircraft Propulsion, now in its second edition, is widely used as a standard book for propulsion around the world.
  • Under Farokhi’s guidance, KU students have surpassed the performance of those from other prestigious engineering programs around the country in American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics team engine design competitions, ranking KU Aerospace Engineering highest among U.S. universities.

“Dr. Farokhi values teaching, advising and interacting with students as his top priority,” said Dennis Lane, N.T. Veatch Distinguished Professor in the KU School of Engineering. “He is always willing to give the extra time and effort to aid both undergraduate and graduate students with their academic endeavors.” 

Dr. Gary Gronseth

Gary Gronseth is considered the “face” of the Department of Neurology at KU Medical Center. He joined the faculty in 2002 and is professor and acting chair of the neurology department. He is also the program director of the Vascular Neurology Fellowship and chief of the inpatient neurology division. A trained flight surgeon, he retired after 20 years in the Air Force with the rank of colonel.

Career highlights

  • He serves as the American Academy of Neurology’s chief evidence-based medicine methodologist and is an associate editor of the journal Neurology. He has written more than 50 AAN Clinical Practice Guidelines. 
  • He has been consistently recognized for his outstanding teaching contributions, including receiving several Student Voice Awards, the Chancellors Club Teaching Award in 2008 and the Ruth Bohan Teaching Professorship in 2009. This year, he received the M2 Illuminator Award, given to teachers skilled at making complex concepts clear and understandable.
  • Gronseth established the neurology hospitalist service in 2007 and has grown the service to eight faculty members.

 “It is widely known that one of the reasons his MS1 Neuroscience course is so successful, and why the medical students continue to rate this course as outstanding, is because of Dr. Gronseth,” said Dr. Richard Barohn, professor and chair of the neurology department.

Karen Wambach

In her 25 years at the KU School of Nursing Karen Wambach has taught extensively and across all program levels. Her focus is in lactation research, and many graduate students have come to study at KU because of the opportunity to work with her in the area of breastfeeding and lactation research. She has received worldwide recognition for her teaching and scholarship in this area. 


Career highlights

  • Wambach has received numerous teaching awards, including the Phyllis Keeney Lawrence Teaching Award in 2010, the Sigma Theta Tau International Pinnacle Award in 2004 and the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2001.
  • She was inducted as a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing in 2015 and as a fellow in the International Lactation Consultant Association in 2012. She is recognized internationally for her expertise and excellence in the field of breastfeeding and lactation.
  • In addition to her teaching and research responsibilities, she coordinates the BSN honors program and became the inaugural doctoral program director in 2016. She has chaired 14 dissertation committees and has been a member of an additional 11 dissertation committees.

“Dr. Wambach is well-known for her creativity in identifying and communicating innovative ideas to students and in helping students stretch their personal expectations,” said Cynthia Teel, professor and associate dean for student affairs in the School of Nursing.

The Chancellors Club, formed in 1977 by KU Endowment, recognizes both donors of major gifts designated for specific purposes on any of KU’s campuses and annual donors to the Greater KU Fund. KU Endowment is the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.


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