Newly Named Distinguished and Excellence Professors                           

Distinguished professorships honor some of UNC Greensboro’s most inspiring and productive professors, allowing them opportunities to pursue further research and also support students in meaningful ways.

These termed appointments, which include a stipend and research funding, are awarded to UNCG professors who demonstrate excellence, and who serve as mentors for other faculty and students.

Seven faculty members have recently been named distinguished professors or excellence professors, across a variety of disciplines.

Dr. Jennifer Etnier

Dr. Jennifer Etnier, in the Department of Kinesiology, holds the Morton Distinguished Professorship. Etnier’s research focuses on the cognitive benefits of physical activity. She is a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and the National Academy of Kinesiology and has received the Health and Human Performance Teaching Award, UNCG Alumni Teaching Excellence Award, School of Health and Human Sciences Teaching Excellence Award, School of Health and Human Sciences Graduate Mentoring Award, and the UNCG Graduate School´s Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award. She is president of the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity and a member of three editorial board for peer-reviewed journals. She recently received supplemental funding from the National Institute on Aging for the project “The effect of physical activity on cognition relative to APOE genotype (PAAD-II).”

Dr. Esther Leerkes

Dr. Esther Leerkes, the associate dean for research in the School of Health and Human Sciences and professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, is Jefferson-Pilot Excellence Professor. Leerkes’ primary research centers around parent-child relations in infancy and early childhood. Within this area, she has pursued three primary themes: identifying contextual, biological and psychological factors that contribute to sensitive maternal behavior, particularly in response to negative child emotions; examining links between maternal sensitivity and subsequent child outcomes such as emotion regulation, attachment security, behavior problems, adjustment to school, and obesity risk; examining the impact of parenting a child with unique temperamental characteristics on adult development, well-being, and relationships during the transition to parenthood. She also studies links between marital conflict and infant outcomes and the role of race in parental emotion socialization and related child outcomes.

Dr. John Stufken

Dr. John Stufken, who will soon join UNCG as the director of the new master’s program in informatics and analytics, has been appointed the Bank of America Excellence Professor. Stufken has authored more than 75 publications, many in top refereed statistics journals, co-authored/edited two books, given approximately 100 invited presentations at professional conferences plus 70 invited research seminars. He is a fellow of both the Institute of Mathematical Statistics and the American Statistical Association and an Elected Member of the International Statistical Institute. He will direct the Fall 2019 launch and subsequent expansion of the MSIA. Initially, Stufken will focus on recruiting high caliber faculty and students, partnering with local industries to create a strong capstone experience for students, and maintaining an active research program.

Dr. Connie McKoy

Dr. Connie McKoy, professor and director of undergraduate studies in the UNCG School of Music is a Covington Distinguished Professor. McKoy has 19 years of public school teaching experience as a general music teacher, choral director, and band assistant. Her research has focused on children’s world music preferences, music teachers’ cross-cultural competence, and culturally responsive pedagogy in music. She is co-author of “Culturally Responsive Teaching in Music Education: From Understanding to Application,” published by Routledge and is an active clinician for state, regional, and national music education organizations. She is a past president of the North Carolina Music Educators Association and is the Immediate Past Chair of the Society for Music Teacher Education, an affiliated society of the National Association for Music Education.

Dr. Andrew Willis

Dr. Andrew Willis, professor of music, is a Covington Distinguished Professor. Willis’ work explores the historical development of keyboard instruments and their performance practice while maintaining a commitment to the study, performance, and teaching of the widest possible range of repertoire. A past president of the Southeastern Historical Keyboard Society and a Trustee of the Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies, he served a finals juror of the Westfield International Fortepiano Competition in 2011. In UNCG’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, he teaches performance on instruments ranging from harpsichord to modern piano and, since 2003, has directed the biennial Focus on Piano Literature symposium, for which he commissioned, premiered, and recorded Martin Amlin’s Sonata No. 7 (2000). His recording of Op. 106 for the first complete Beethoven sonata cycle on period instruments was hailed by The New York Times as “a ‘Hammerklavier’ of rare stature.”

Dr Olav Rueppell

Dr. Olav Rueppell, in the Department of Biology, is the Florence Schaeffer Distinguished Professor. Ruepell uses honey bees to study the genetics of complex traits, genomics, social behavior, and aging. In addition, he has been addressing the urgent problem of honey bee health. He also is interested in how the complex division of labor among bee colony members evolves, how behavioral specialization is determined, and what consequences at the individual and colony level can be measured. Rueppell has received the prestigious Mid-Career Mentoring Award from Division of Biology of the Council for Undergraduate Research (CUR) and in the past 10 years, he has had 76 peer-reviewed publications in prominent journals. He has also successfully acquired many external grants from federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Agriculture, among others. His research group shares scientific experiences and knowledge about honey bee biology, the importance of pollinators, and science in general with school groups, beekeeping clubs, and other audiences at public events. His research group and others are working toward the construction of an expanded UNCG Pollinator Garden.

Dr. Michael Kane

Michael Kane, professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Psychology is Dr. Nicholas A. Vacc and Dr. Nancy N. Vacc Distinguished Professor. Kane is a cognitive psychologist studying the dynamic interaction between attention and memory, with special emphasis on individual differences. His research explores cognitive individual differences and the functioning of the core attention and memory processes that are broadly important to “real world” cognition. He has over 50 peer-reviewed journal articles published, an edited book on his specialty area, and numerous book chapters. Over his career, Dr. Kane has been a PI or co-PI on over $2 million in funded grants, including from the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH/NIH), and the United States Military. He was recently elected to a six- year term on the Governing Board of the Psychonomic Society, which is the largest organization specifically dedicated to cognitive psychology. He has served as associate editor for two of the top journals in cognitive psychology, “Memory & Cognition and Cognitive Psychology,” as well as being a consulting editor on four additional journals.


Copy and photographs drawn from various sources, compiled by Susan Kirby-Smith