Faculty academies recognize three new members for exceptional leadership, service
Three faculty members have been recognized for outstanding leadership and service with appointments to the Academy of Faculty Leadership and the Academy of Faculty Service.
Executive Vice President and Provost Cyril Clarke selected Bill Knocke, professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering, for membership in both the Academy of Faculty Service and the Academy of Faculty Leadership. Kevin Edgar, professor of sustainable biomaterials in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, and Donna Wertalik, director of undergraduate student engagement and a marketing professor of practice in the Pamplin College of Business, will join the Academy of Faculty Leadership.
“The members of the Academy of Faculty Leadership and Academy of Faculty Service have distinguished themselves and Virginia Tech through their commitment to and accomplishments in teaching, research, and student engagement,” said Clarke. “I want to congratulate the newest inductees to these academies and thank each of them for their outstanding contributions to our university and for serving as a model for faculty excellence in the spirit of Ut Prosim" (That I May Serve).
Bill Knocke, Academy of Faculty Service and Academy of Faculty Leadership
Knocke’s significant achievements merited a landmark recognition: For the first time in Virginia Tech history, a candidate was selected for both the Academy of Faculty Leadership and the Academy of Faculty Service in the same nomination cycle. “I believe that you would have to search very hard indeed to find a better qualified candidate,” Executive Vice Provost Don Taylor wrote in his nomination letter.
Knocke built his reputation as an inspiring leader during 15 years as the head of the Charles E. Via, Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, a period when the department’s research expenditures grew five-fold and its graduate and undergraduate programs rocketed into the top 10 in the nation.
While serving as associate vice president for research, Knocke created the Proposal Development Institute, an intensive, seven-month cohort program that prepares faculty from across campus to compete for external research funding, with an estimated 80 percent of participants receiving funding within 18 months. He also helped found the Department Heads Council, then chaired its executive committee for two years. “Bill is one of the finest university citizens I have ever known,” said Mark McNamee, provost and vice president emeritus.
Kevin Edgar, Academy of Faculty Leadership
Extensive leadership activities at Virginia Tech and within the American Chemical Society (ACS) commended Edgar for membership in the Academy of Faculty Leadership.
Within ACS, Edgar has held multiple offices, including chairing a local section and a technical division. He’s an editor-in-chief of the leading journal in his field, Carbohydrate Polymers.
Edgar has served as associate dean of the Graduate School since 2018, a role in which he’s been “a true servant to the university,” said College of Natural Resources and Environment Dean Paul Winistorfer. In 2019, Edgar chaired the Graduate Education Task Force in its comprehensive analysis of graduate education at the university. Since then, the university has addressed many of the task force’s recommendations, with Edgar at the helm of a number of those initiatives.
He also leads an in-depth, semester-long Graduate Teaching Assistant Workshop for over 1,000 registrants and co-founded and co-directs the Infectious Disease Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program. “His work has had a transformational impact on graduate education at Virginia Tech, and he serves as a role model to hold up for others to emulate,” said Graduate School Dean Aimée Surprenant.
Donna Wertalik, Academy of Faculty Leadership
Wertalik's extensive work to improve the educational environment for students and faculty in the Pamplin College of Business prompted her nomination to the Academy of Faculty Leadership. Most notably, she founded and advises PRISM, an interdisciplinary ad agency where students produce award-winning creative work forcclients such as Coca-Cola, Smithfield Foods, and Blacsburg's First & Main shopping center.
PRISM alumni boast a 100 percent job placement rate, in no small part because of Wertalik’s mentorship, establishment of strategic recruiting partnerships with employers such as MasterCard, and cultivation of a strong alumni network of over 500 former PRISM members. “She has shown her devotion not only to teaching excellence, but also to the career development of those she teaches,” said France Bélanger, University Distinguished Professor in the Pamplin College of Business.
With Bélanger, Wertalik created Voices of Privacy to offer expert guidance about information privacy through videos and online resources. As a founding member of the Pamplin Women in Business (WIB) leadership team, she launched the first WIB Panel Member Series. She’s also leading marketing students into the metaverse by creating virtual classrooms and a digital hub. “Professor Wertalik truly embodies Virginia Tech’s Ut Prosim motto,” said Rajesh Bagchi, head of the Department of Marketing.
The Academy of Faculty Service recognizes exceptional service to the university beyond a faculty member’s usual responsibilities. Nominees must have successfully completed an elected or appointed term of office in university governance, completed the responsibilities associated with a university-level project, or made commendable service contributions at the university level outside of their usual responsibilities and ongoing formal governance roles.
The Academy of Faculty Leadership recognizes exceptional leadership at the university, either within or beyond a faculty member’s usual responsibilities. Faculty nominated for membership must have shown exemplary leadership in formal or informal roles within the university and through activities and approaches that significantly advance a culture of collaborative leadership. They must also have promoted faculty, staff, and/or student development; advanced program or curricular transformation; and made a notable and demonstrable positive impact within the university community.