DelVal faculty members honored for excellence in teaching

Courtesy: Jason Downs. Jason Downs was awarded the 2016-2018 Professorship at Delaware Valley University.

May 20, 2016

Delaware Valley University recently recognized two faculty members for excellence in teaching. The University selected Jason Downs for the 2016-2018 Delaware Valley University Professorship award and Kimberly Johnston for the 2016 Distinguished Faculty Member Award.

Downs, an assistant professor of biology who is also a research associate with the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, plans to use the funding from the professorship to take crews of DelVal students into the field with him to excavate fossils.

Downs earned his Ph.D. from Yale and has actively researched and published on Pennsylvania fossils for his entire professional career. He joined DelVal’s biology department in 2015. As a DelVal faculty member, he has taken students on tours of the ANSP fossil collection and receives frequent requests from students who would like to gain hands-on experience in the field. The funding will allow him to purchase field equipment such as handheld GPS units, hard hats, and reflective vests and cover costs such as travel and lodging for crews of three to five students who are interested in excavating fossils.

“I plan to put the available funds to use here in Pennsylvania to acquaint Delaware Valley University students with the natural history of this area,” said Downs. “Even a single day in the field offers an education in the biology and geology of deep time that is impossible in a classroom setting.”

Kimberly Johnston ’95, a biology lecturer, received the Distinguished Faculty Member Award. It is the most prestigious faculty award at the University. Every spring, the University recognizes a faculty member who has made an extraordinary, meaningful and lasting contribution to DelVal. Honorees receive a $5,000 stipend, as well as an additional $2,500 to use on professional development resources and activities, and a commemorative plaque.

Johnston was selected for demonstrating excellence in teaching, positive engagement with students and a commitment to contributing to the University community.

Johnston joined DelVal in 2002. She teaches courses in genetics, immunology and biological sciences. Johnston helped develop and currently helps maintain a dual enrollment genetics course with Souderton Area High School. She serves as an advisor for: the Small Animal Science Society, the DelVal Soccer Club and the student chapter of the Sunshine Foundation. She is also active on the Student Research Committee and has mentored undergraduates conducting research at DelVal. She is active in programs that focus on diversity and inclusion and has conducted campus trainings on the subjects. Johnston earned her bachelor’s degree in small animal science and conservation from DelVal in 1995. After DelVal, she earned her master’s degree in molecular biology from Lehigh University in 2002. Johnston worked as a research biologist for Merck before joining the University.

“I believe it is important to challenge students in a way that leads them to problem solve,” said Johnston. “For students, each academic level brings new challenges not only in terms of academic rigor, but in personal growth. I believe that it is my responsibility to not only instruct students on the academics of each course that I teach, but also to provide a system of support for students as they grow and mature over those critical four years that they spend with us, during which time they transform from shaky freshmen to confident and well-equipped seniors.”