Two Professors Receive John Ireland Presidential Award for Outstanding Achievement as a Teacher-Scholar

Drs. Meg Wilkes Karraker and Sameer Kumar have been named recipients of the John Ireland Presidential Award for Outstanding Achievement as a Teacher-Scholar for 2013.

The award, presented annually since 2008, recognizes outstanding academic achievement of faculty in teaching and scholarship, and exemplifies the mission and values of the University of St. Thomas as an institution committed to the teacher-scholar model. Awardees are tenured members of the St. Thomas faculty who have demonstrated a sustained commitment to not only their respective disciplines but also to the university.

Karraker, professor of sociology and criminal justice, and Family Business Center fellow, has taught at St. Thomas since 1990. Kumar, the CenturyLink Endowed Chair in Global Communications and Technology Management, and professor of Operations and Supply Chain Management, has taught at St. Thomas since 1997.

“At a recent luncheon to honor John Ireland Scholars, the award recipients spoke about how they struggle and constantly seek ways to become better at what they do,” remarked Dr. Susan Huber, executive vice president and provost. “‘What looks seamless and easy really isn't,’ said one of the awardees. Some spoke about finding new avenues to mentor others who might find the demands of academe challenging. The Ireland Scholars have obviously garnered the John Ireland award because they are teachers and scholars par excellence. I couldn't help but think about what a source of pride these faculty members are for the university.”

Awardees’ names are added to the John Ireland Presidential Award plaque, located in Aquinas Hall, and receive an annual award of $1,500 to support continued professional development activities while actively employed as faculty members at St. Thomas.

Dr. Meg Wilkes Karraker

Karraker holds degrees in sociology from Clemson University, B.A.; North Carolina State University, M.S.; and the University of Minnesota, Ph.D. She was the first director of The Luann Dummer Center for Women, 1993 to 1996, and chaired the Sociology and Criminal Justice Department from 2001 to 2007. Karraker also is a contributing member to two interdisciplinary programs: Family Studies and Women’s Studies.

Dr. Meg Wilkes Karraker

Dr. Meg Wilkes Karraker

Karraker was honored as the Aquinas Scholars Honors Program Professor of the Year in 2005 and received the Midwest Sociological Society’s Jane Addams Award for service to girls and women in 2012. She is president emerita of Alpha Kappa Delta, the international sociology honor society, and serves on the advisory board for the American Sociological Association’s Department Resources Group.

Her research interests center on that which makes for a good society, including Catholic sisters’ work on behalf of diverse communities, family business virtues, global families and migration, and middle class families and their neighborhoods.

Dr. Lisa Waldner, professor of sociology and chair of the department, nominated Karraker for the John Ireland Presidential Award. In her letter of nomination she wrote:

Dr. Karraker is a popular instructor in our department. Her classes are in demand and she routinely earns a rating of either outstanding or meritorious for her teaching. …

She advises both majors and first-year students and is known for her attention to detail and conscientiousness. More importantly though, she routinely mentors students and creates opportunities for students to develop professionally. … She is a role model in our department for how to create engagement opportunities for our students in the broadest sense possible. Besides research, she has used service learning to connect students to our community through both Catholic Charities and the Dorothy Day Center. …

She has been able to create publishing opportunities for students, alumni, staff and other faculty mainly because she is a productive scholar. In the past two years she has published four books, two of which are in second editions. …

Dr. Karraker is an outstanding example of the teacher-scholar model because she clearly understands that these are not mutually exclusive activities as teachers are often outstanding scholars. Dr. Karraker is both … .

Karraker published Families with Futures: Family Studies into the 21st Century (2nd ed.) in 2012. In 2013 she published Global Families (2nd ed.); The Other People: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Migration; and Diversity and the Common Good: Civil Society, Religion, and Catholic Sisters in a Small City.

Karraker commented on winning the award: “Over my desk I have a quote from Parker Palmer’s The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life: ‘I am a teacher at heart, and there are moments in the classroom when I can hardly hold the joy!’ Likewise, the occasion of the John Ireland Award leaves this Lutheran girl feeling truly blessed to be at a place where I can learn and serve with students and colleagues who aspire to the common good in society.”

Dr. Sameer Kumar

Kumar holds five degrees: B.S., mathematics, physics and chemistry, University of Delhi; M.S., mathematics, University of Delhi; M.S., computer science, University of Nebraska; M.S., industrial engineering and operations research, University of Minnesota; Ph.D., industrial engineering, University of Minnesota.

Dr. Sameer Kumar

Dr. Sameer Kumar

He has taught courses in both the School of Engineering and the Opus College of Business. As a professor in the School of Engineering from 1997-2002, Kumar designed, developed and delivered 10 courses and was the senior adviser in 21 master’s theses. As a professor in the College of Business, he designed and developed several additional courses for the Operations and Supply Chain Management Department, including the current course of Supply Chain Management at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Since 1994, Kumar has published more than 200 peer-reviewed journal articles; in addition, he has published seven books and 20 conference proceedings. He is an associate editor of Decision Sciences, the North American editor of Supply Chain Management Journal, and he serves on eight additional editorial boards. He is also an adviser for Taylor and Francis publisher’s book series on “Supply Chain Management, Operations and Systems Engineering.”

His research specialties include: supply chain management, quality management, new product development, production and service cost economics, global operations technology management, systems engineering and systems optimization, and risk management.

Dr. John R. Olson, professor and department chair, Operations and Supply Chain Management, nominated Kumar for the award, citing his long-term dedication to the University of St. Thomas and excellence in teaching and research. In his letter of nomination he wrote:

Dr. Kumar’s teaching evaluations (IDEA and SROT) are consistently among the top in the department both in terms of the teaching effectiveness and course effectiveness scores as well as student written comments. … Dr. Kumar’s students convey frequently that Dr. Kumar is genuinely interested in their learning experience and indicate his courses are both relevant, impactful and challenging. …

Demonstrating his dedication to active learning, Dr. Kumar will often sponsor and lead independent study projects. … These projects are done in addition to his normal teaching load. …

Dr. Kumar has spent his entire career studying the organizational supply chain in many industries ranging from manufacturing environments, healthcare systems, and governmental industries. … In addition to the quantity of research, the quality of research has also been extraordinary. Many of his manuscripts are published in leading academic journals in the area of supply chain management and technology innovation. His research has been featured as best paper in discipline and has won several awards. …

Much of his recent research is dedicated to improving processes in the healthcare industry, thereby making both the cost and ease of delivery of healthcare more universal and accessible to all those in need. …

I can think of no other faculty member who embodies the teacher-scholar model of the John Ireland Presidential Award more than Dr. Kumar.

“I am passionate about finding out how and why things work the way they do, and how to improve and streamline operations to promote efficiency in business operations – whether in the manufacturing of a product, or the delivery of a healthcare service. A common theme in my quest for knowledge has been the basic principle of the universality of a system. What makes a system unique is its environment. This finding has enabled me to categorize problems, designs, models, methodologies, and solution techniques at macro and micro levels, and develop innovative solutions,” Kumar commented on winning the award. “Complex problems can be broken into smaller related problems and their solutions designed in a more focused and modular fashion. These solutions can be replicated across multiple domains; thus, the research can be conducted in interdisciplinary and interorganizational modes. As a professor, I strive to bring my findings from multidisciplinary research to the classes I teach. I hope that my knowledge and understanding in the growing field of supply chain management can help many businesses and organizations understand practical ways to improve the creation and delivery of products and services.”

 John Ireland Presidential Award recipients

  • Dr. Stephen Brookfield, School of Education, 2008
  • Dr. Terence Nichols, Department of Theology, 2008
  • Dr. Mary Reichardt, Department of Catholic Studies, 2008
  • Dr. Thomas Sullivan, Department of Philosophy, 2008
  • Dr. John Abraham, School of Engineering, 2009
  • Dr. Kendra Garrett, School of Social Work, 2009
  • Mr. Neil Hamilton, School of Law, 2009
  • Dr. Mark Stansbury-O’Donnell, Department of Art History, 2009
  • Dr. Matthew George, Department of Music, 2010
  • Dr. Teresa Rothausen-Vange, Department of Management, 2011
  • Dr. Bernard Brady, Department of Theology, 2012
  • Dr. Meg Wilkes Karraker, Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, 2013
  • Dr. Sameer Kumar, Department of Operations and Supply Chain Management, 2013