UHV presents faculty awards for teaching, research, service excellence

Justin Bell
Mark Ward
Katherine Bacon

Three University of Houston-Victoria faculty members from the fields of philosophy, communication and counseling recently were recognized for their efforts to help students and the university through teaching, research and service.

The faculty members are selected by their colleagues and students each spring for the prestigious awards. This year’s winners are:

  • Teaching Excellence Award – Justin Bell, director of the UHV Honors Program and an associate professor of philosophy
  • Research and Scholarly Activity Excellence Award – Mark Ward Sr., associate professor of communication and director of the UHV Speech Program
  • Distinguished Faculty Service Award – Katherine Bacon, assistant professor of counselor education

Each winner will receive a plaque and a monetary award. They also will be honored during UHV’s two graduation ceremonies May 12 at Faith Family Church, 2002 E. Mockingbird Lane. The 9 a.m. ceremony will be for graduates of the schools of Arts & Sciences and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. The 1 p.m. ceremony will be for graduates of the School of Business Administration. A live-streaming broadcast of the ceremonies will be available at

David Cockrum

“These three outstanding faculty members are deserving of these awards,” said David Cockrum, UHV interim provost and vice president for academic affairs. “They exemplify all the talented faculty members we have at UHV who are dedicated to preparing our students for success.”

The Teaching Excellence Award was established in 1993. UHV students nominate professors who exemplify innovative, high-quality instruction relevant to their lives and careers.

For Bell, receiving this award was affirmation from his students that they see real value in his teaching approach. He strives for friendliness, facilitation of honest discussions and demonstrating the value of being a lifelong learner, he said. This creates an environment of openness to fresh ideas and new ways of thinking.  

“I am humbled by the fact that the nomination process was driven by my students, and that means a lot to me,” he said. “In the classroom, I try to emphasize how their own values and experiences in life matter in terms of how they grow and develop, and I think that resonates with them.”

Bell emphasizes that people live in a world that demands philosophic thought. All people must find meaning and navigate the world in their own ways, he said. He believes that his students are successful when they reflect clearly and honestly on what makes their lives meaningful and what they should do when confronted with the complexity of the world. It is through engagement that students can begin to apply what they learned in college and to live in rich and meaningful ways.  

The Research and Scholarly Activity Excellence Award recognizes professors who have made outstanding research contributions to their scholarly communities. Ward believes that scholarship and teaching are intimately linked, and teachers must pursue knowledge themselves to encourage that same pursuit in their students.      

“The more we stay on top of our fields and the more we contribute to our fields, the more learning we can bring to our classrooms and to our students,” Ward said. “The university’s teacher-scholar model encourages excellence by faculty members in both teaching and research, a synergy that improves the classroom experience and makes UHV a place where students can learn more effectively.”

Ward’s research focuses on how communication and media are used in religious contexts, especially in the evangelical Christian community. He has published five books as well as numerous academic journal articles and book chapters on the subject. Last fall, his two-volume series, “The Electronic Church in the Digital Age: Cultural Impacts of Evangelical Mass Media,” was nationally recognized with the Clifford G. Christians Ethics Research Award.

“Maintaining an active research agenda requires passion,” Ward said. “It takes time, effort and a feeling of personal connection to your subject, and my goal is to bring that same passion for learning to the students I teach.”

UHV faculty members also annually recognize a peer with the Distinguished Faculty Service Award. This faculty member must admirably serve both the university and community. Bacon has been an advocate for the foster care community for decades and is being recognized for that and more.

For Bacon, being acknowledged for something that has been a top priority in her life means a great deal, she said.

During her time at UHV, Bacon has served the university’s counselor education program, counseling profession and Victoria community. She serves as liaison to the Licensed Professional Counselor board for the state, faculty senator for the university, internship coordinator for the counselor education program and is a large contributor in securing external grants that helped increase program enrollment.

Bacon’s passion to make a difference in the community took off with her launch of the Parris Foundation, which advocates for survivors of crime and provides free counseling services, tutoring and college and career readiness, in honor of her son’s memory.

“I wouldn’t have been able to make an impact on my own without a community of people who also are committed to service in the counseling profession and the community,” she said. “It truly requires a team to make a difference.”

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Ashley Strevel 361-570-4342