College Faculty Receive Distinguished Awards
Campus News

Four Franklin College faculty members and one adjunct faculty member received awards recognizing their scholarly accomplishments at the annual Faculty Recognition Luncheon, hosted by the Franklin College Board of Trustees.

The distinguished faculty include:

Kyra L. Noerr, Ph.D., received the Clifford and Paula Dietz Award for Faculty Excellence. The award, given by a vote of the Franklin College Board of Trustees, upon recommendation of the president and the academic dean of the college, recognizes a faculty member who demonstrates extraordinary dedication and commitment in service to the college.

Noerr serves Franklin College as program director, department chair and associate professor of exercise science. She earned a bachelor’s degree with distinction in physical education with an emphasis in exercise science, before earning a master of science in kinesiology, clinical exercise science track, and a doctorate of philosophy in health and rehabilitation science, all from IUPUI. Before beginning her employment at Franklin College in 2013, she gained experience as an adjunct faculty member in the department of kinesiology at IUPUI.

One nomination stated: “She has been nothing short of brilliant in getting the exercise science program started and bringing it to the level of being one of the most sought after majors we have on campus – all while completing her doctorate degree and teaching a full load of classes. Her student-centered focus, her ability to stimulate and engage students in their learning, her ability to work well with faculty and staff in and outside of her department, and her love of learning make her the type of faculty member we all should strive to be.”

On campus, Noerr has served the college in several different ways during her tenure, including as a member of the college’s Strategic Planning Committee and Digital Fluency Committee, as a member of search teams for faculty and cabinet-level appointments, as a member of the Promotion and Tenure Committee, as a member of the Presidential Council for Diversity, as the department chair for the exercise science department and as a guest lecturer for the Masters of Physician Assistant Studies program. In addition, she has led a study abroad trip to Costa Rica.

Noerr is a resident of Indianapolis.

Alice Heikens, Ph.D., received the Faculty Steering Committee Distinguished Service Award. The recipient of this award is a faculty member who shows outstanding service to the college.

Heikens, professor of biology, joined the Franklin College faculty in 1991. She earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Central Arkansas and a doctorate degree from Southern Illinois University. Heikens is a plant ecologist specializing in endangered species and plant communities. Her research focuses on individual endangered species, rare plant communities and natural areas management with an emphasis on invasive species. She works with multiple state and federal government agencies as well as non-profit conservation organizations. She has presented research with her students at regional and national conferences.

On campus, Heikens has demonstrated outstanding service to both her students and to colleagues. In one nomination, Heikens was praised for organizing a mentorship program partnering Franklin College students with faculty and members of the community. “In this program, students learned to become better leaders, how to pitch themselves to future employers and how to network with others.” The program ended with a reverse job fair where employers went around to meet and talk with each student. “None of this would have been possible without Alice’s hard work and dedication to helping students grow.”

Heikens was also commended in another nomination letter for heading the college’s tree beautification efforts. “Committed to sharing her expertise for the benefit of the local and larger community, Dr. Heikens spearheaded and continues to support efforts to have the Franklin College campus recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation for the past nine years. This honor means the college is one of the only 393 campuses to meet the Tree Campus Higher Education’s five standards. She often provides expertise in maintaining the campus’s trees and when planting new ones. She has been a quiet, but important player in making our campus beautiful for years and years to come.”

In addition, Heikens was praised for helping create a sense of community among new faculty members during COVID-19 when she chaired the New Faculty Seminar in 2020. “Alice recognized that what new faculty needed in that time of uncertainty was not new pedagogical practices or professional development, but a community to find support both in and out of the classroom. I’m not sure I would have made it through that first year without Alice’s support.”

Heikens has received the Fellow Award and the Distinguished Service Award from the Indiana Academy of Science. At Franklin College, she has been awarded the Clifford and Paula Dietz Award for Faculty Excellence, the Faculty Excellence in Scholarship Award and the Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award.

Heikens resides in Franklin.

Katharine Harris, Ph.D. received the Faculty Excellence in Scholarship Award. The award recognizes a faculty member’s scholarly achievement at the college, as well as his/her work outside the college (publications, presentations, etc.).

Harris, assistant professor of biology, joined the Franklin College faculty in 2020 and quickly starting making an impact. She received her bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and her doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh. She served as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Chicago. Harris is a microbiologist who is fascinated by the relationship between humans and the microbes that live in and on them, from the friendly bacteria that inhabit the gut to the pathogenic viruses that cause illness.

A nominator praised Harris for accomplishing an amazing body of work since arriving at the college four years ago. “She has thoughtfully engaged students in meaningful and rigorous research. She supervises students on her core projects, but also welcomes opportunities to collaborate in interdisciplinary ways, including avian biology, plant/fungi biology and biochemistry.”

“In addition to her devotion to mentored undergraduate research, Dr. Harris has a mind-blowing level of professional productivity. Since coming to Franklin, she has co-authored six peer-reviewed papers in major international journals, including a recent paper in Science, one of the highest rated scientific journals in the world. She has accomplished all of this while maintaining a deep commitment to the highest form of classroom instruction on our campus, and a sincere humbleness that makes her accessible to her colleagues and to her beloved students.”

Harris is a resident of Indianapolis.

James R. Alexander, Ph.D., received the Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award. The award recognizes a faculty member who exhibits excellence in mastery of subject and effective communication, has respect for all students, and believes that all students can learn and provides helpful feedback to other students in a number of ways.

Alexander serves as the department chair and as an assistant professor of philosophy and religion, sharing his expertise in world religions, the history of religion in America, religion and the environment, religion and pop culture, religious giving, nonprofit studies, and anthropology. He joined the faculty in 2010. He received his bachelor’s degree from Franklin College and obtained his master’s in theological studies from Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville, Tenn. Recently he completed his doctorate in philanthropic studies from Indiana University after graduating from the Lilly School of Philanthropy at IUPUI.

Alexander received praise in his nomination for finding ways to raise interest and enrollment in religion courses by pairing his topics with cultural favorites, such as Star Wars and the Marvel Universe. He was also commended for his student-centered teaching style and his approach to course design. “He meets students where they are through his concern and accommodations for their mental health and through the incorporation of pop culture references and content. One signature practice of his classes is how he takes roll at the beginning of class, by asking everyone to answer a fun question – so that everyone starts class knowing a little more about their classmates and the day begins in a relaxed, fun and informative way.”

“I know from observing him teach that his reputation on campus as someone who is highly engaged with his students and passionate about teaching is accurate,” wrote a nominator. “He is one of the best teachers we have at Franklin College.”

Alexander is a resident of Franklin.

The final honor bestowed at the Faculty Recognition Luncheon was the Adjunct Faculty Excellence Award. It is designed to honor a commendable faculty member who is not in a tenure-track position, has completed two or more semesters teaching and has taught a minimum of 12 credit hours at Franklin College. The award was established in 2012.

Denis Kelly received the 2023 Franklin College Adjunct Faculty Excellence Award. He serves the college as lecturer of art. He started working at Franklin College in the fall semester of the 2019-20 academic year.

Kelly earned a bachelor’s degree from Wabash College. He has served as photographer and multimedia producer for Denis Kelly, World Photographer, LLC since 1985. His work took him on assignments to Africa, Europe, Asia, South America, Central America and the U.S. through wilderness areas, ancient ceremonial sites and modern cities. Kelly’s photographs have appeared in galleries, national magazines and newspapers, in most local press, and in hundreds of private collections.

Of his time at Franklin College, one nominator wrote of Kelly: “From his first semester on campus, my students have relished his teaching and his mentorship. His passion for photography and his warm, inclusive approach to teaching has drawn numerous biology students into a deeper love for photography and a greater confidence in their own ability to participate in art and capture beauty.”

While at Franklin, Kelly has showcased his work in two faculty art exhibits, mentored many students and served as a CampGRIZ instructor, teaching photography to middle school students during a summer camp engagement experience. An observer wrote of that involvement, “The skilled, kind approach to his leadership was brilliant. He lit an absolute flame in these young photographers. He inspired and coached them with such energy and skill.”

Kelly resides in Indianapolis.

Contact the Franklin College Office of Communications for more information at (317) 738-8185.


POSTED Dec 1, 2023