Finalists named for BVU’s 2021 George Wythe Award

Friday, March 12, 2021

The following four faculty members have been named finalists for the 2021 George Wythe Award for Excellence in Teaching at Buena Vista University:

• Dr. Wes Beckwith, Assistant Professor of Psychology;

• Dr. Lisa Mellmann, Associate Professor of Chemistry;

• Dr. Richard Riner, Assistant Professor of Criminology/Criminal Justice; and

• Dr. Karin Strohmyer, Associate Professor of Special Education, and Division Chair for K-12 and Special Education.

Beckwith, who is in his fourth year at BVU, set all academic programming that utilizes BVU’s animal behavioral lab, a structure he designed and constructed. The complex of operant chambers and mazes serves to aid BVU students as they research behaviors associated with alcohol and related substance addiction.

Mellmann, who has been at BVU for 12 years, serves as principal investigator on a prestigious National Science Foundation S-STEM grant that has helped attract low-income, high-achieving students into STEM while preparing them to flourish in related fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. Initiatives include creating and implementing a career exploration trek and other career and leadership experiences along with targeted mentoring to help students succeed.

Riner, a four-year BVU professional, directs the University’s new Center for Criminal Justice Studies, the brainchild of Riner and Dr. Stephanie Hays-Angstrom, Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice. The new center bridges the gap between what Riner, a former police officer, and his colleagues cover in the classroom and the skills students will need as they begin careers in any number of law enforcement settings by placing students in real-world situations through the use of the simulator and crime scene rooms in the CCJS, a safe, controlled environment.

Strohmyer, now in her 10th year at BVU, has worked to develop BVU’s Special Education undergraduate major, as well as the University’s graduate program and its “Plus 1” graduate program endeavor. Strohmyer has also instituted Teacher Talk Tuesdays, a professional collaborative group comprised of special education teachers throughout the region.

Beth Blankers, Professor of Accounting and Assistant Dean, Harold Walter Siebens School of Business, chairs the 2021 Wythe Award Selection Committee. Blankers is joined on the committee by: David Boelter ’97, Professor of Art; Jamii Claiborne ’96, Professor of Digital Media; Dr. Michelle Metzger, Assistant Professor of Education-STEM & Mathematics; Dr. Steven Mills, Associate Professor of Spanish; Dr. Jason Shepherd ’99, Professor of Computer Science; and Dr. Jill Tussey ’04 MA ’08, Assistant Professor of Education-Literacy/Early Childhood, Division Chair, Literacy/Early Childhood and TESL.

The recipient of the George Wythe Award, which was endowed by the late Paul and Vivian McCorkle ’59, receives a sabbatical and a $30,000 stipend for faculty development. The winner will be announced at BVU’s Annual Faculty and Staff Recognition Celebration in May.

More information about the award, as well as a complete list of past winners, can be found at