CBCS Faculty and Staff Recognized at Faculty Honors and Awards Reception

By Molly Alexander

Each year, the University of South Florida recognizes its high-achieving faculty and staff at the Faculty Honors and Awards Reception. Sixteen faculty members from across campus receive the Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award and six receive the Outstanding Undergraduate Advising Award. Of those being appreciated for their continued hard work and success, four come from the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences.

Dr. Wilson Palacios

For the last 17 years, Dr. Wilson Palacios has had the privilege of calling USF his home. After receiving his undergraduate degree in criminology and graduate degrees in sociology from the University of Miami, Dr. Palacios came to USF to share his wide range of knowledge and expertise with others.

His research focuses on social epidemiology of drug use, abuse, and addiction; qualitative methods and analysis; and accessing hard-to-reach populations. As a fresh Ph.D. graduate, eager to continue his research interests as a professor, no other university compared to USF.

“I interviewed at several institutions back in the spring of 1996. What made USF the ideal choice was the freedom I was being offered to develop undergraduate and graduate-level courses reflecting my substantive teaching and research areas,” said Dr. Palacios.

Since then, he has never regretted his decision. As an innovative and supportive working environment, Dr. Palacios feels as though USF gives its employees a “real voice and an opportunity in shaping how the institution moves forward.”

For Dr. Palacios, receiving this award is only a reminder of why he chose this career path: the students.

“[The students] are my primary responsibility. I felt very humbled when I heard I’d be receiving the award. It made me start to think of all of the students I have had the privilege of sharing what I know about criminology with and how much I have learned from them,” said Dr. Palacios.

Dr. Brianne Stanback

As a Ph.D. graduate of USF’s School of Aging Studies and an instructor in the program, Dr. Brianne Stanback can speak about the university’s greatness from both perspectives. For her, there are two aspects that make it a great place to work: the diversity across campus and the institution’s relative youth compared to other universities around the state.

“I love that diversity at USF has so many dimensions; it makes the campus community among the most inclusive and exciting in the state of Florida. At the same time, we are a relatively young university, so everything you do contributes to a larger sense of who we are and aspire to be, as well as the traditions that then follow,” said Dr. Stanback.

Dr. Stanback’s areas of interest focus on aging in special populations and aging in higher education with an emphasis on strengths-based education. These days, you will be able to find her teaching senior seminar in gerontology and upper-level electives in the school. Aside from sharing her knowledge with students in the classroom, she is also responsible for directing the field placement program, ensuring their success in practical experiences, as well.

Dr. Stanback finds her job worthwhile because she has the opportunity to work with USF’s students, faculty, administration and community partners. This kind of engagement makes it possible for her to play a part in the improvement of student learning, the fulfillment of their goals and dreams, and enhancing their overall college experiences. Receiving this award served as a reminder that she is on the right track.

“I try to create classes and educational experiences designed to maximize the time we have together. My students and I are on the quest for the best; we are all working hard toward that goal. This recognition is really humbling and a testament to the power of hard work,” said Dr. Stanback.

Dr. Larry Thompson

Hailing from West Virginia with degrees in education, counseling and psychology, and a background as the CEO of various not-for-profit behavioral healthcare agencies, Dr. Larry Thompson has dedicated over 20 years of his expertise to USF’s applied curriculum. His focus has been workforce development for public services programs in our communities. As a professional in the field, Dr. Thompson places emphasis on preparing students with real-world training rather than focusing on theoretical principles.

“I became very interested and have really spent most of my academic career in preparing students to work out in the community agencies. It’s very practical, applied psychology preparing the student to deal with a great variety of situations and serve a diverse population,” said Dr. Thompson.

Dr. Thompson teaches both the undergraduate and graduate-level courses in ethics, professional and legal issues. He teaches the introductory course for the newly-created behavioral healthcare major.   As the program coordinator he plays a fundamental role in recruiting research faculty members to teach other courses in the major.

An integral component of the degree is field experiences.  Students as their capstone experience are assigned to agencies where they work with persons experiencing mental health or addiction problems.

For Dr. Thompson, USF is a rewarding place to work due to the collaboration of faculty and the diverse opportunities to prepare students for real world careers.  Research faculty of the Florida Mental Health Institute have responded and become engaged in the academic mission of the university.

“The faculty here are very talented and have a lot to offer. The variety of courses I teach, the agencies with whom I work makes my job rewarding,” said Dr. Thompson. “I’m very interested in the global perspective, as well, and have started a spring break class in Florence, Italy”

“I was very pleased to be recognized. It’s been a lot of hard work to put the new major degree program together, so I was honored to be recognized,” said Dr. Thompson.

Courtney Lewellen

As an undergraduate advisor in the Department of Criminology, Courtney Lewellen finds happiness in assisting students as they reach their academic goals. She puts in the extra time and effort to develop relationships with students from first-year advising to final graduation checks, ensuring their success along the way.

As an alumna of the University of South Florida, Lewellen can relate to the students on a personal level. After graduating with her bachelor’s degree in criminology in 2003 from USF, she went on to earn her master’s in criminology in 2007 from Florida State University. Currently, she is working on a graduate certificate in Student Affairs in Higher Education through an online program at Colorado State University.

Her work in advising at USF spans over a decade. From student-athlete advising to College of Nursing graduate advising, Lewellen is well versed in the importance of education and receiving the proper guidance in course selection, no matter the field of study.

Lewellen is happy to have found her niche in the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences. For her, being surrounded by great faculty and staff members makes USF a top-notch place to work.

“It is wonderful to be in such a supportive environment and to be part of a great team in the Department of Criminology,” said Lewellen.

Receiving this award has allowed Lewellen to reflect upon her success in her professional career and all of the individuals that played a part in it.

 “I have had some wonderful teachers and mentors who mean a great deal to me and have helped guide me to this point. [Receiving this award] feels like validation that I am making a difference for students in our department,” said Lewellen.