Aerial view of the Dowagiac campus

Benak, Spurlock win SMC faculty awards

05/14/2019 - 8am
President Mathews, Jim Benak

Finalists for Southwestern Michigan College Faculty of the Year were announced in terms of core values they most embody.

Vice President of Instruction Dr. David Fleming chose “being responsible managers of resources” for fulltime winner Jim Benak of the business faculty.

“The videos Mr. Benak added to the ISYS110 course helps students of all ages, high school to adult learners,” his nominator wrote. “I have watched learners of all ages become more empowered through changes made in the last few years to ISYS110.”

“However,” Fleming said, “it is in the nominator’s closing comments that I see Jim’s commitment to human resources.”

Part-time faculty winner David Spurlock was recognized for the “high quality inherent in all we do.”

Fleming likened Spurlock to Michael Jordan, saying that SMC “coaxed him out of retirement for the betterment of the SMC team. When he returned in January to help us cover some robotics and industrial technology classes, Dave entered his 21st year with SMC.”

“His classroom management stands high among the best, his dedication to his students’ progress is unsurpassed and his attitude is POSITIVE,” his nominator wrote. “He not only knows his subject matter, he knows how to deliver the message in a way that keeps students engaged.”

Finalists also included Director of Choral Activities David Carew (core value knowledge for all); Social Science instructors Christy Tidd and Dr. Barbara Karwacinski (core value excellence with a personal touch), both repeat nominees; and Communications Department Chair Hailey Sheets (core value “learner centeredness”).

President Mathews, David Spurlock

Carew’s nomination states, “He cares about us as musicians, future workers and people. It doesn’t matter if you are a music major” or studying another discipline. “With Dave, we are used to hearing what he does so well, teaching and mentoring our students to produce some of the finest vocal arrangements heard at any community college, bar none,” Fleming said. “There is clearly much more going on between Dave and his students: ‘He talks to us about what we want to do with our music degrees. He wants us to transfer to high-caliber universities to finish our music programs.’”

In summarizing Tidd, Fleming stated, “When a student says they prefer a faculty member’s subject more than their chosen major, that says something, and we heard that from Christy’s nominee”: ‘My major is nursing but she makes me want to continue psychology classes so I can keep her as my instructor a little longer.’ The nominator also emphasized Tidd’s commitment to student success. “She always goes above and beyond to help students who really need it, always encourages others to speak their mind and get involved in class, constantly encourages students to never stop learning and always encourages students to go to the learning lab for any subjects with which they need help.”

Fleming cited Karwacinski’s interactions with students and college service in showing her personification of a core value. Karwacinski “cares deeply for each and every student,” her nomination states. “She is a great person to talk to about anything.” In addition, Fleming thanked Karwacinski for her leadership on the Diversity Committee, twice coordinating week-long programs that rely heavily on student involvement, as well as her role on the Accreditation team reviewing assessment.

Serving as a department chair, Sheets’ nomination clearly showed her impact on both students and her fellow faculty. “Everything I have observed of her,” Sheets’ nomination said, “shows her commitment to making sure our curriculum is learner-centered, most recently working to make changes to our master syllabi. We did a practice run together of the Zoom program, which is a helpful resource for hybrid courses as well as a way to keep education going if there are snow days or sick days that reflects putting today’s learner at the center of the discussion.”

“They all are outstanding representatives of a population that has countless more excellent representatives of our core values,” Fleming said.