2024 Recipients

2024 President’s Faculty Excellence Award Announced

Kent State University President Todd Diacon recently notified six Kent State faculty members that they are the 2024 recipients of the President’s Faculty Excellence Award.

Veronica Dexheimer

Veronica Dexheimer, Associate Professor, Kent Campus, Department of Physics  

Veronica Dexheimer, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Department of Physics. Dexheimer started her career at Kent State University in 2013 when she came to the university as a research non-tenure track faculty member. After two years, Dexheimer moved to a tenure-track position. At Kent State, Dexheimer’s multiple accomplishments have shed light on the university and its physics department. One of these accomplishments is receiving the National Science Foundation CAREER award, the most prestigious recognition presented by the foundation, which supports early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as role models in research and education and who could lead to advances in the mission of their department or organization. Dexheimer’s work has appeared in the top 2% of research in the world because of her contributions to astrophysics. Along with these accomplishments, she has published more than 100 high-impact papers, given almost 100 invited talks and has brought more than $7 million in research funds to Kent State.  

Ebrahim Poustinchi

Associate Professor, Kent Campus, College of Architecture & Environmental Design

Ebrahim Poustinchi is an associate professor in the College of Architecture & Environmental Design. Poustinchi has brought national and international attention to Kent State University through his work and accomplishments. Poustinchi’s work focuses on world-building, user interface, user experience and cyber-physical reality, all of which extend and challenge the traditional boundaries of architecture. His 2021 curated exhibition “One Object at a Time” at the A+D Museum in Los Angeles garnered national and international attention in the areas of human-computer and human-robotic interfaces and also received recognition in the publications “ARCHINECT” and “The Architect’s Newspaper.” He has also co-edited the book “A Purple Architecture: Design in the Age of Physical-Virtual Continuum” by Carnegie Mellon University ETC Press. Along with these accomplishments, Poustinchi continues to rise in this area through his leadership in the international global DigitalFUTURES program, an assemblage of international thought leaders in artificial intelligence and cyber-physical reality. Poustinchi’s experience and expertise make him a sought-after lecturer and guest critic at leading architecture schools when addressing the leveraging of new technologies in architecture like augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed-reality, artificial intelligence and human-computer interface.  

Deborah Smith
Deborah Smith

Deborah Smith, Professor, Kent Campus, Department of Philosophy

Deborah Smith, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Philosophy. Smith started her career at Kent State University as an assistant professor in 1997, and she has been a valuable faculty member at Kent State ever since. Faculty and student success is at the core of all her work. Smith was a leader in moving the university through the pandemic by establishing the value of “do no harm” regarding the university’s faculty and students. During this time, she also served as president of the American Association of University Professors and in this role negotiated a memorandum of understanding. Smith also was involved in the making of every permanent and temporary policy created during the pandemic. Smith is not only a leader at Kent State, but she also is a leader in the state as she defends academic freedom and faculty rights and gives testimony to the state senate on behalf of the faculty at Kent State. Among her many contributions, Smith is a 2018 recipient of the Georgina M. Smith Award from the American Association of University Professors. This national award is presented to one who has provided leadership that improves the status of academic women or has advanced collective bargaining and through that work has improved the profession in general.  

Mary Beth Spitznagel
Mary Beth Spitznagel

Mary Beth Spitznagel, Professor, Kent Campus, Department of Psychological Sciences

Mary Beth Spitznagel, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences. Spitznagel started her career at Kent State University as a research scientist in 2009. A year later, she moved into a Research non-tenure track position in 2010 and then to a tenure-track line in 2011. Spitznagel is a world expert on veterinary mental health, specifically addressing caregiver burden and the mental health crisis among veterinarians due to the volume of deaths in the animal community. In 2020, Spitznagel was named a Fellow in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which focuses on building a culture of health in America by identifying, illuminating and addressing barriers to health. Spitznagel was also awarded the International Neuropsychological Society’s Lifetime Achievement Service Award in 2023 for her work through the INS Global Engagement Committee’s Research Editing and Consulting Program. Both accomplishments have brought recognition to both her and the university. 

Joseph Underwood
Joseph Underwood

Joseph Underwood, Associate Professor, Kent Campus, School of Art

Joseph Underwood, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the School of Art. He joined Kent State University in 2017 as an assistant professor and was promoted to associate professor in 2022. Throughout his time at Kent State, Underwood has established himself as a significant scholar with a national and international impact through his portfolio of research. Underwood specializes in the African continent and diaspora and teaches a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses that focus on historical and contemporary African Art, curatorial studies and the ethics of curation. Underwood is driven to improve students’ experiences and the reputation and standard of the School of Art. Underwood has also published two edited volumes during his time at Kent State and has authored 13 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters in national and international journals. Along with teaching and research, Underwood has also been invited to lecture in more than 40 national and international public presentations and has curated or co-curated 11 exhibitions. Because of Underwood’s excellence, he has been the recipient of multiple grants and has stewarded the School of Arts initiative to yield programming that expands the school’s reach and impact regionally and nationally.  

Jihyun Vick
headshot of Jihyun Kim-Vick

Jihyun Vick, Professor, Kent Campus, School of Fashion

Jihyun Vick, Ph.D., is a professor in the School of Fashion. Vick joined Kent State University in 2013 as an associate professor. In 2019, Vick was promoted to the rank of professor. Her research has elevated the reputation of the School of Fashion both nationally and internationally. Vick is a 2022 recipient of the Outstanding Research and Scholarship Award from Kent State. At the international level, Vick has received a nomination for vice president of the Publication from the International Textile and Apparel Association. Recently, Vick was elected as a secretary for the International Textile and Apparel Association and will serve from 2024-2027. Along with these accomplishments, Vick has multiple refereed journal publications in many international journals that have received thousands of citations. Vick consistently provides leadership in the School of Fashion, the College of the Arts and at the university level.