Texas States’s TSUS Regents’ award winners are improving the future

todaySeptember 8, 2023 40 1

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By Danielle De Lucia

Chief Editor of News

After excelling in research, teaching, research and community service, 5 Texas State University representatives were honored in the 2023 TSUS Regents’ Awards in August.

The awards come from the Texas State University System Foundation Board of Directors. Those awarded Regents’ Professor are Arzu Ari and Cyrus Cassells. The recipients of the Regents’ Teacher Award are Charise Pimentel, Jon Zmikly and Catherine Cherrstrom. The five winners are creating a better future through the way they teach and connect with students through their own journeys.

Ari has a Ph.D. degree in higher education administration and teaches in respiratory care. Cassels is an English professor. Pimentel has a Ph. D. in social foundations of education and teaches curriculum/instruction education. Zmikly is a senior lecturer in journalism and mass communication. Cherrstrom has a Ph.D. in adult education and human resource development and is an associate professor in organization, workforce, and leadership studies.

I was able to contact Ari and Cassells via email while they were away overseas. As for Pimentel, Zmikly and Cherrstrom, I spoke with them over the phone for a short interview.

How did you feel about receiving the award?

Ari: “I feel honored that the selection committee saw value in my research, teaching, and service to select me for the Regent’s Professor award this year. I am grateful for the nomination of President Damphousse and proud to represent Texas State University.”

Cassels: “It’s an incredible honor, especially given the fact that Dr. Azru and I (we were chosen as Texas State’s 2023 University Distinguished Professors in March) are the only professors chosen out of all the seven schools that comprise the Texas State University system.”

Zmikly: “I was very honored to know I was even up for the award… I was very proud to receive the award.”

Pimentel: “I was excited, honored and delighted that I had been recognized for such a prestigious award. The reality is that only a few people get this award across the state of Texas.”

Cherrstrom: “I was very excited to hear, and it really meant a lot to me that President Damphousse personally called to me that I won the award.”


What kind of research, publication and community service do you do?

Ari: “When I received my degree in physical therapy from Hacettepe University in Turkey, I realized there are no respiratory therapists in my country, and I want to be a pioneer to make a difference in patient’s lives. For millions of people in the world, that next easy breath becomes a struggle due to their chronic pulmonary diseases. My mission as a scholar is to promote clinical practice in aerosol medicine through research, innovation, and training. The most rewarding part of my research is seeing healthcare providers change their clinical practice based on my research… Building relationships with healthcare foundations, corporations, and government, at all levels, create opportunities for students, careers for graduates, research collaborations for faculty, and crucial funding to my lab’s mission.”

Cassells: “I’m the author of nine books of poetry and two books of translations of Catalan poetry.  As the 2021-2022 Poet Laureate of Texas, I sponsored a statewide Juneteenth poetry contest in 2023 for students in grade 8-12, funded by the Academy of American Poets and the Mellon Foundation. The award ceremony was held at the Neill-Cochran House Museum in Austin, which houses the only intact slave quarters in the city.”


Here are links to past contests by Cassells:


How do you use technology innovatively in the classroom?

Zmikly: “I use technology in the classroom a lot. I use online resources and I make my own videos as well so students can follow…It means a lot to the students when they know you are the one doing the tutorial, in the way you teach…Last semester, I taught a class on interactive audio and automation…We build augmented reality in our classes… So, it was focused on smart speakers, like Alexia and Siri, and how to build virtual chat boxes. How to build a skill … or interactive experience like ordering a pizza…I teach a lot of coding as well… I’m also looking for ways to innovate within the classroom with new courses and curriculum. I’ve done little modules on 3D printing, scanning and motherboards… and even the droid presence. Whatever is cutting-edge and fun.”

Pimentel: “I really deliver a multimedia experience for my students…we look at films, plays, were listening to podcasts… also have audiobooks, short videos and music,” said Pimentel. “I try to offer a variety so it’s always changing and gaining the students interest, but also interactive too.” Pimentel is constantly updating the media and having deep analysis with students.

Cherrstrom: “I really work hard to bring stories, lessons and experiences from the real world to the classroom. What I’m teaching is very relevant. So, I try hard to not have an assignment that is just an assignment, but maybe is a task where they can connect to their work or can use in their job, or maybe share with their supervisor or future employer. What’s unique and different most of our students are non-traditional or adult, and most of my teaching is online. May be synchronous or asynchronous, … but that enables these busy adult students, if they are undergraduates help them complete their degrees… Also, use technology to give people access…I do try to use technology to reach students, to include, and up their technology skills to make them more employable in the workplace.”

Cherrstrom had over 25 years of experience leading teams and managing people in the financial industry, as a senior vice president and business banking executive.


Why did you decide to become a professor?

Pimentel: “My goal is really to have a transformable experience in my class. To have students start to think differently and have new perspectives. I want it to be an eye-opening experience, focusing on critical thinking. I want students to look at what might be familiar to them but in unfamiliar ways.”

Zmikly: “It was in the Texas State grad program that I discovered my love for technology and how technology was changing from the traditional media. It was really a fun time for me to learn more about social media, digital media, web design, coding and all those new upcoming forms of communication.”

Cherrstrom: “We all learn from each other. I learn from students; students learn from students, and I learn from my colleagues. There is a lot of learning that goes on as we share our experiences, or even as we see other people learning. We will keep learning and we will have multiple jobs or careers and that is the new face of work. Keep learning.”

Written by: Preethi Mangadu

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