SUNY Cortland employees honored by SUNY
Seven SUNY Cortland faculty and staff members received the prestigious State University of New York Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence during the 2022 Undergraduate Commencement ceremonies.
The honorees and their awards are:
- Anne Burns Thomas, professor in the Foundations and Social Advocacy Department and program coordinator for Cortland’s Urban Recruitment of Educators (C.U.R.E.), Excellence in Teaching
- AnnaMaria Cirrincione, director of Multicultural Life and Diversity, Excellence in Professional Service
- Heather Drew, administrative assistant in Information Resources, Excellence in Classified Service
- Eileen Gravani, associate dean of the School of Professional Studies, Excellence in Professional Service
- Li Jin, professor in the Geology Department and coordinator of the Environmental Science Program, Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities
- Chris Widdall, assistant dean for assessment and accreditation in the School of Education and associate professor in the Childhood/Early Childhood Education Department, Excellence in Professional Service
- Kim Wieczorek, associate professor in the Childhood/Early Childhood Education Department, Excellence in Faculty Service
The Chancellor’s Awards provide system-wide recognition for consistently superior professional achievement and encourage the pursuit of excellence at all 64 SUNY campuses. Each campus president submits nominations, which are reviewed by the SUNY Committee on Awards.
This year’s SUNY Cortland honorees are profiled below:
Anne Burns Thomas
Every aspect of Burns Thomas’ teaching is informed by her research analyzing inequities in the U.S. educational system and the structural effects of racism on K-12 students and teachers.
Burns Thomas, the 54th Cortland faculty member to be acknowledged by SUNY for teaching excellence, joined the Foundations and Social Advocacy Department in 2006.
She is described by colleagues as a masterful, thoughtful teacher whose courses introduce students to critical contemporary issues in the field of education. Her teaching methods, course design and assessments are created to equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to enter into conversations about educational policy and advocacy work.
Burns Thomas regularly revises and refines her courses based on current disciplinary research and feedback from her students, who have consistently praised the respectful, supportive environment she creates. Her classes are marked by rigorous expectations and clear learning goals.
She directs the Cortland Urban Recruitment of Educators (C.U.R.E.) program, which is critical to increasing the number of diverse teacher candidates the university prepares for careers in K-12 education.
“In this role, Burns Thomas has served as a campus leader, promoting efforts to expand the diversity of our students, especially in teacher education, and sharing anti-racist teaching approaches with faculty across campus,” according to one nominator.
Burns Thomas received a Ph.D. in teaching, learning and curriculum from the University of Pennsylvania.
Cirrincione, the 34th SUNY honoree in professional service at Cortland, has helped the campus make great strides in prioritizing its goals for diversity, equity and inclusion since arriving on campus in 2015.
Her advocacy for students is visible and well-recognized across campus and she recently was appointed as a fellow for the SUNY Hispanic Leadership Institute.
“Cirrincione is a critical leader on our campus whose knowledge, support and drive benefits our students and our institution,” one nominator noted.
Cirrincione, who has an M.S. in higher education administration from Syracuse University, earned her current role just a year after she joined as assistant director of multicultural life and diversity. In 2020, she also stepped in as interim chief diversity and inclusion officer.
Cirrincione has led the development of ongoing initiatives and programs, including the Understanding and Advocating for Racial Justice Workshop, the Peer2Peer Mentor Program and the Kente Celebration.
She plays a leading role on campus-wide committees, including the Anti-Racism Taskforce, the Disability Resources Advisory Committee, the President’s Council on Inclusive Excellence, the Bias Response Team and the Latinx and Latin American Studies Committee. She has served on institution-wide committees including Middle States accreditation.
A 13-year SUNY Cortland employee who has served Information Resources since 2017, Drew is a highly knowledgeable and extremely dependable member of the campus community who stands out for her problem-solving skill and timely, positive service.
“In the midst of uncertainty in her department, with the sudden retirement of her supervisor and the reorganization of our campus Information Resources office, Ms. Drew was a steady and calm influence,” one nominator noted.
Drew consistently exceeds performance expectations, distinguishing herself with her knowledge of budgeting and contracts. Her supervisor describes her as having a “can-do” attitude. Drew also demonstrates her willingness to help whenever needed, most notably with COVID-19 pandemic operations, volunteering with the State Employees’ Federated Appeal (SEFA) Campaign, and leading professional development in Information Resources.
Drew, the 14th Cortland recipient of the SUNY classified staff recognition, is credited with a dedication and capability that allows Information Resources to run as a model office on the campus.
Gravani, associate dean of professional studies, advocates tirelessly to help students navigate the complexities of their degree requirements. She is the 35th SUNY Cortland faculty member honored for professional service,
“Her excellence is manifest in her daily work as associate dean: solving problems, advising students and collaborating with key partners across campus, including Disability Resources, Title IX, and the Student Behavioral Assessment Team,” one nominator observed.
- led the development of a selected studies major within the School of Professional Studies that has improved student retention
- coordinated a major curricular revision to ensure graduate students in the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department were eligible for New York state teaching certification
- developed new study abroad opportunities for students in the school.
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Gravani applied her calm, positive and proactive approach to developing temporary flexible grading policies, obtaining emergency student funding, addressing academic and medical needs for students in quarantine or isolation, and working out remote learning issues for students.
Gravani earned her Ph.D. in developmental psychology from Cornell University. At Cortland, she served what is now called the Communication Disorders and Sciences Department from 1980 until 2008, when the associate professor and former department chair was appointed to her current role.
An internationally-known researcher in the long-term, global impacts of climate change and water contamination, Jin is the 19th SUNY Cortland faculty member to receive the Chancellor’s Award for scholarship and creative activities.
Jin, who earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in geochemistry from Nanjing University in China and a Ph.D. in geology/hydrology from Syracuse University, joined the SUNY Cortland Geology Department faculty in 2011 and attained the rank of professor in 2019.
A prolific scholar in the fields of aqueous geochemistry, hydrochemistry and hydrogeology, since coming to Cortland she has written 37 peer-reviewed papers published in high-impact international journals. Jin also boasts an impressive record of presentations at national and international conferences. A valuable mentor for undergraduate students, she has directed 17 undergraduate research projects since 2012.
“Jin’s sustained record of water quality modelling scholarship is interdisciplinary and collaborative, and she has long-standing partnerships with scholars and research teams around the world to study water systems and their human impact,” wrote one nominator. What makes her research stand out is its solution-driven approach and consideration of the social, economic, agriculture and environmental impacts of water systems.
Jin has secured funding for her research, including two recent grants from Water Resource Associations/University of Oxford to study metal transport in river systems in southeast Asia and Africa.
Chris Widdall ’00, M ’03
Widdall’s colleagues across campus regard her as a dependable, upbeat and highly collaborative professional who uses her expertise to solve problems both within her division and in other areas.
The 36th SUNY Cortland faculty member to be awarded by SUNY for professional service, she joined the SUNY Cortland faculty in 2008. In 2016, she was appointed to a full-time professional position as the Watermark and edTPA coordinator for SUNY Cortland’s Teacher Education Unit. In 2021, she was appointed as assistant dean of assessment and accreditation in the School of Education.
Widdall, who has a Ph.D. in education with specialization in instructional design for online learning from Capella University, is credited with a deep knowledge of online learning, programmatic assessment and teacher certification that has been essential for leading the campus through several initiatives directly tied to accreditation efforts. She worked to establish an online database that supports ongoing institutional and programmatic assessment.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, she created a course that introduced teacher education candidates to principles of online learning and helped the institution acquire and use digital tools to continue supporting student teachers in the field.
Widdall also serves on the university’s Faculty Senate and fulfills many other campus and community volunteer commitments.
Wieczorek, who currently chairs the Childhood/Early Childhood Education Department, excels at cultivating and sustaining collaborations that benefit all the stakeholders involved.
“This can be clearly seen in her work with school partnerships, fieldwork sites that bring together SUNY Cortland teacher education faculty, SUNY Cortland teacher candidates and the students, teachers and administrators in local schools,” one nominator said.
“In all of her service work, her joy and passion for learning is contagious, and she is a well-respected, life-long mentor for her students and colleagues alike,” said another.
Wieczorek leads several of the school’s partnerships and has frequently secured grant funding for them.
Wieczorek is a key player in the campus-wide teacher education accreditation efforts and a member of the board of the SUNY Cortland Child Care Center.
Her long-standing state-wide and national service includes having served as president of the New York State Association for Teacher Educators (NYSATE).
The 18th SUNY Cortland faculty member to be honored by SUNY for faculty service, she joined the university in 2013 as an associate professor.
Wieczorek earned a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.