2019 Recipients

The John Toups Presidential Medal for Faculty Excellence in Teaching Recipient

Kathleen E. Wage

Associate Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Photo of Kathleen Wage

Kathleen E. Wage is an associate professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at George Mason University. Wage earned a BS in electrical engineering from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 1990, and an SM, EE, and PhD in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution joint program in 1994, 1996, and 2000, respectively. She joined Mason’s faculty in 1999.

Wage teaches linear systems and signal processing. She incorporates active learning in all her courses and mentors other faculty interested in using these techniques. With funding from the National Science Foundation, she and collaborator John Buck developed the Signals and Systems Concept Inventory (SSCI), a standardized exam designed to measure conceptual understanding of linear systems. The SSCI has been translated into Spanish and Chinese, and it is being used in the United States and overseas for formative assessment and accreditation. Instructors at 30 schools have administered the SSCI to thousands of students.

In addition to signal processing education, Wage’s research interests include array processing, random matrix theory, and underwater acoustics. As a part of her Office of Naval Research-funded efforts, she participates in deep-water propagation experiments. From 2009 to 2012, she spent 55 days at sea to deploy and recover equipment for a series of experiments in the Philippine Sea. During the PhilSea experiments, Wage and colleague Lora Van Uffelen developed a blog and videos to engage young women in ocean acoustics and engineering. Together, Wage and Van Uffelen were known as the Able Sea Chicks.

Wage has received a number of awards for teaching, including the 2016 Harriett B. Rigas Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Education Society and Hewlett-Packard for “championing active learning, developing an internationally recognized assessment instrument, and cultivating a sustainable and supportive environment for female engineering faculty.” Other teaching awards include the 2008 Mac Van Valkenburg Early Career Teaching Award from the IEEE Education Society, the 2016 Teacher of Distinction Award from George Mason University, the 2004 Outstanding Teaching Award from Mason’s Volgenau School of Engineering, and the 1994 Harold L. Hazen Teaching Award from MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Wage has received several awards for research, including the Office of Naval Research’s Young Investigator Award (2005) and Ocean Acoustics Entry-Level Faculty Award (2002). She is a member of the IEEE, the Acoustical Society of America, the American Society for Engineering Education, Tau Beta Pi, Eta Kappa Nu, and Sigma Xi.


The Beck Family Presidential Medal for Faculty Excellence in Research and Scholarship Recipient

Tyler Cowen

Holbert L. Harris Professor of Economics and Director, Mercatus Center

Photo of Tyler CowenTyler Cowen is Holbert L. Harris Professor of Economics at George Mason University and director of the Mercatus Center. He received his PhD in economics from Harvard University in 1987. His book The Great Stagnation: How America Ate the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better (Dutton, 2011) was a New York Times best seller.

An Economist poll recently named Cowen as one of the most influential economists of the last decade. Several years ago, Bloomberg BusinessWeek dubbed him “America’s Hottest Economist,” and Foreign Policy magazine named him as one of its Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2011.

He co-writes a blog at www.marginalrevolution.com, runs a podcast series called Conversations with Tyler, and has cofounded an online economics education project, MRUniversity.com. His last book was Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero, just published in April.

He also attended George Mason University as an undergraduate, earning a BS in economics in 1983, and has very fond memories of his earlier time here.


The United Bank Presidential Medal for Faculty Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion Recipient

Frederic Paul Bemak

Professor, Counseling and Development Program

Photo of Frederic BemakFrederic Paul Bemak received his undergraduate degree in psychology at Boston University and his master’s and doctoral degrees in counseling at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. He is a professor in the Counseling and Development Program and founder and director of the Diversity Research and Action Consortium in the College of Education and Human Development. He also founded Counselors Without Borders and has taken teams to provide training, consultation, and counseling following disasters in New Orleans, Haiti, Thailand, Burma, California, Japan, and Puerto Rico.

Bemak’s activism in the civil rights movement coincided with him becoming a summer counselor in the federally funded University of Massachusetts Upward Bound Program, where he worked with diverse, low-income high school youth and families. Nine years later, he became one of the youngest directors of an Upward Bound program in the United States. Bemak’s civil rights and Upward Bound work created a foundation for his lifetime commitment to diversity and inclusion.

He has published extensively in the fields of cross-cultural and multicultural psychology and counseling, developing culturally responsive cross-cultural models to work with immigrants and refugees, survivors of natural disasters, and diverse and high-risk student groups. He is the coauthor of six books, including Social Justice Counseling: The Next Steps Beyond Multiculturalism and Counseling Refugees: A Psychosocial Approach to Innovative Multicultural Interventions.

Bemak is frequently invited to be a speaker, consultant, and trainer throughout the United States and internationally in more than 60 countries. The impact of his diversity work is evident with visiting professorships in Turkey, Brazil, Australia, and Mexico; a research scholar appointment in Taiwan; Fulbright awards in Brazil, Scotland, and Turkey; and an Honorary Distinguished Professorship from Amity University in India. Bemak also received a Kellogg Fellowship in International Leadership and Development to work throughout Latin America and the Caribbean and a World Rehabilitation Fund International Exchange of Experts Fellowship to undertake research in India.

A fellow of both the American Psychological Association and the American Counseling Association, Bemak was the recipient of the 2018 State Council of Higher Education for Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award. He has published more than 100 professional journal articles and book chapters and is most recently the coauthor of articles focused on challenges in promoting race dialogues in psychological training, culturally responsive counseling interventions dealing with refugee trauma, the psychological impact of terrorism on refugees, facilitating race dialogues in group psychotherapy, and culturally responsive models of intervention with modern-day refugees.


The United Bank Presidential Medal for Faculty Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion Recipient

Rita Chi-Ying Chung

Professor, Counseling and Development Program

Photo of Rita Chi-Ying Chung

Rita Chi-Ying Chung is a professor in the Counseling and Development Program at the College of Education and Human Development. She earned her doctorate in psychology from the Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. Chung is a child of immigrant and refugee parents, was a first-generation college student, and is the first New Zealand-born Chinese woman to earn a doctorate.

As a Chinese immigrant growing up in New Zealand, formerly a British colony, Chung had direct experiences witnessing the effects of colonialism, discrimination, and racism toward communities of color and the indigenous Maori population. As a result, she became motivated to advocate for marginalized populations. This lifelong commitment was reinforced by her parents, who instilled the values of human rights and giving back. She began working with immigrant and refugee populations in New Zealand in the 1980s. She was awarded a Medical Research Council (MRC) Oversea Fellowship to conduct her postdoctoral studies in the psychology department at the University of California, Los Angeles. The MRC’s support enabled her to continue working with migrant and refugee populations in the United States, conducting research and providing culturally responsive mental health services.

Chung garnered major National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) grants that provided opportunities to give voice to migrant and other underserved communities related to psychological well-being, including an NIMH-funded grant to develop a conference on Southeast Asian Re-Education Camp Detainees (Vietnamese torture survivors) and Vietnamese Amerasians (children whose fathers were U.S. servicemen and mothers were Vietnamese). The conference was unique because it was the first U.S. conference on that topic, and it included members of each of those groups who shared their lived experiences and narratives.

Her work has expanded to include working with survivors of forced migration. Chung’s work on the sex trafficking of Asian women and girls led to an invitation to present at the United Nations. She is co-director of the nonprofit organization Counselors Without Borders, which provides mental health counseling to disaster survivors, such as those suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar (Burma), and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, as well as the wildfires in California, earthquake in Haiti, and tsunami in Thailand.

Chung teaches multicultural counseling, which includes difficult race dialogues and a counseling and social justice class that addresses human rights and social justice. She is the author of more than 100 publications, several books, and training videos that address diversity and inclusion issues. Chung was the recipient of the 2013 State Council of Higher Education for Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award.


The Earle C. Williams Presidential Medal for Faculty Excellence in Social Impact Recipient

Christianne Esposito-Smythers

Professor, Department of Psychology

Photo of Christianne Esposito-SmythersChristianne Esposito-Smythers joined the faculty at George Mason University in 2008 as an assistant professor of psychology. She was promoted to associate professor in 2012, appointed as the director of clinical psychology in 2017, and promoted to professor in 2018. She is also part of the adjunct faculty in the department of behavioral and social sciences at Brown University and a licensed clinical psychologist.

Prior to joining Mason’s faculty, Esposito-Smythers served as a faculty member for four years in the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. She was an assistant professor (research) in the department of psychiatry and human behavior and a faculty member in the Brown University Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies.

Esposito-Smythers graduated summa cum laude with a BA in psychology and English from Lafayette College. She received her MS and PhD in clinical psychology from Virginia Tech. She completed three years of postdoctoral fellowship at Brown University.

Esposito-Smythers designs and tests treatment and prevention programs for adolescent suicidal behavior, substance abuse, and other high-risk behaviors. More recently, she has been disseminating this work to the local community. She has been awarded almost $14 million in research grants, as principal or co-investigator, from the National Institutes of Health, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and other sources. She is the author of more than 90 publications and 110 national and international presentations. She also sits on the Scientific Advisory Council for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and participates as an expert panelist in meetings sponsored by federal agencies focused on reducing youth suicide and alcohol abuse.

Esposito-Smythers engages in active suicide prevention efforts in her local community. She served as chair for the Fairfax County Youth Suicide Review Team, for which she was awarded a County of Fairfax Team Excellence Award. She has also served on the Mason Suicide Prevention Task Force, the Fairfax County Mental Health Promotion Team, and work groups for the Fairfax County Children’s Behavioral Health System of Care—where her work has included blueprint planning, depression assessment, and evidence-based practices.

She consults and delivers presentations and clinical workshops to local community agencies. In collaboration with community partners, she is leading the Fairfax Consortium for Evidence-Based Practice, which delivers training in evidence-based interventions for youth mental health difficulties to behavioral health clinicians. This is a scalable training model that she hopes to bring to the state level and beyond.