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Professors Honored With Early Academic Career Excellence Award

Published: July 1, 2009

Three relatively new professors at CSULB—Babette Benken, Cara Richards and Kim-Phuong Vu—have received the campus’ 2009 Early Academic Career Excellence Awards.

Established in 2008, the Early Academic Career Excellence Award recognizes the outstanding and extraordinary academic and professional achievements of faculty members who are at the early stages of their career and who have made major contribution to the profession and university.

Benken, Richards and Vu – all of whom have been at the university five years or less — were recognized and presented with their awards at the 2009 University Achievement Awards, a special end-of-the-year celebration honoring top faculty and staff for their service and success during the academic year.

Benken, an assistant professor of mathematics and statistics, arrived at CSULB in 2006, and she has been an asset to the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics from the beginning.

Babette Benken

She has enhanced the curriculum, modifying MTED 511 (Mathematics Teaching and Learning) so that it incorporates students’ reflections on and writing about mathematics education research. She has also played a vital role as the mathematics education graduate advisor within her department and as the single subject mathematics credential coordinator.

Her scholarship has contributed to a better understanding of teacher learning and development and is making an impact in mathematics education. Benken has six articles published in national/ international peer-reviewed journals, one book chapter soon to be published, two journal articles under review, two substantial manuscripts in progress, and three international conference proceedings (with two more under review). She served as guest editor for a special-themed issue in mathematics education for the national, peer-reviewed journal, Issues in Teacher Education, last fall.

She has obtained 10 grants since 2006, including a five-year $1.46 million Secondary Teacher Education for English Learner Integration (STEELI) grant from the U.S. Department of Education. She is working on an NSF grant application to secure funding to host a national mathematics education conference at CSULB in September 2010.

Benken earned her bachelor’s degree at Occidental College, her master’s degree at Tufts University and her Ph.D. at the University of Michigan.

In her fifth year at CSULB, Richards is recognized in the Advanced Studies in Education and Counseling Department as an up-and-coming scholar whose work is advancing early reading instruction for English language learners.

Since coming to CSULB, she has written several research articles, presented at national and international conferences and collaborated with school districts to enhance teacher training. This year, she published her first book, “Early Reading Intervention: Strategies and Methods for Struggling Readers,” with Jill Leafstedt. Developed from research they started in graduate school, the book provides teachers with a hands-on approach to teaching reading to struggling readers through data-based decision-making and the unique Core Intervention Model of Instruction.

For four years, Richards has been involved in the Center for the Research on the Educational Achievement of English Learners (CREATE), the only national research and development center for English learners, and serves as a co-principle investigator with Jana Echevarria and Deborah Short for one project in the center, “The Impact of the SIOP Model on Middle School Science and Language Learning.”

In 2006, she was elected to the executive board for the Council for Exceptional Children, Division of Research, enhancing CSULB’s recognition nationally. She has also served on the Executive Board of the Consortium for Professional Development.

Locally, Richards participates in the Special Education Teacher Partnership, a collaboration between CSULB, Cerritos College, and local school districts that is designed to provide students in schools with better instruction and prevent them from developing disabilities through a Response to Intervention (RTI) model.

Richards was a first-grade teacher and a reading specialist before earning her doctorate in education at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2004. She also has a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from the University of California, Riverside.

Cara Richards

In her four years in the Psychology Department at CSULB, Vu has developed an exceptional teaching, research and service record. She has taught six courses in lower, upper and graduate divisions, including a course she developed – Psychology 327I “Introduction to Human Factors.”

Additionally, the associate professor has served as principal investigator, co-investigator or senior personnel on five grants or funded projects from NASA Ames, NSF, The Boeing Company and the CSU Chancellor’s Office, totaling over $3.5 million dollars. She has also authored or co-authored 23 peer-reviewed journal articles, 28 conference proceedings papers or book chapters, and one book.

Vu also received the Provost’s Most Outstanding Mentor Award for Research and Scholarly Activity this year. She worked with more than 50 students in a variety of research projects examining human performance in simple and complex systems. Students have been involved in all levels of her research and have presented 15 papers at national conferences, many of them resulting in proceedings papers that were selected through a peer-review process. Vu has also served on committees for eight students’ master’s theses, chairing five of them.

Vu sits on the editorial boards of two journals, American Journal of Psychology and International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction. In addition, she has been a reviewer for more than 10 other journals in the field and a member of eight international conference program boards.

Kim Phuong-Vu

At CSULB, Vu serves the university as the associate director of the Center for the Study of Advanced Aeronautical Techniques as well as of the Center for Usability in Design and Accessibility. She has also served as chair of the Master of Science in Human Factors Committee and faculty advisor to the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Student Chapter, which has been recognized as a best student chapter by the national society twice.

Vu is also an alumna of CSULB, where she earned her bachelor’s degree, and she went on to obtain her M.S. and Ph.D. from Purdue University.

–Linda Fontes