UF Announces Annual Awards

“Above and Beyond” and “Exceptional and Rare” Awards Given

Cedar Falls, Iowa – April 28, 2024  United Faculty, the faculty labor union at the University of Northern Iowa, awarded two Contingent Faculty Above and Beyond Awards, worth $1000 each in honor of exemplary non-tenure track faculty members. The winners:

Elena Dobrila, from the Department of Languages and Literatures, specializes in Spanish language acquisition courses, coordinates Elementary Spanish courses and serves as the advisor for the Spanish and Spanish-Teaching majors. She first began teaching at UNI in 2009.

Penny Wang, from the Department of Languages and Literatures, has served as a term faculty member (now Assistant Professor of Instruction) since 2014, with a program assignment in TESOL. Her primary teaching responsibility is the Chinese language classes that are part of the Chinese Studies Certificate.

United Faculty recognized six assistant professors with the special “Exceptional and Rare” award, not only because these colleagues are exceptional and rare, but also because they have, importantly, exceeded the expectations of their department’s standards and criteria, and they have the full support of their department heads and deans. Each received $500 with the award.

  • Gabriel Dickey (Department of Accounting)
  • Rebecca Dickinson (Department of Social Work)
  • Ryan Flugum (Department of Finance)
  • Michael Graziano (Department of Philosophy and World Religions)
  • Terence Moriarty (Department of Kinesiology and Athletic Training)
  • Ai Wen (Department of Biology)

United Faculty also presented several other awards.
• UF Member of the Year: Tom Hesse (Department of Philosophy and World Religions), UF Treasurer
• UF Department Head of the Year: Susan Hill (Department of Philosophy and World Religions)
• UF Administrator of the Year: Jennifer Cooley (Interim Dean, College of Humanities, Arts and Sciences)

The awards were presented at UF’s annual faculty picnic, which as held indoors for its “Sunday Fun Day” for faculty and their families at UNI’s Wellness and Recreation Center.

For more about United Faculty, see https://ufaculty.uni.edu/.

Photo Gallery of Faculty Appreciation “Sunday Funday” on Sunday, April 28 at the UNI Wellness and Recreation Center.


  • Together we are stronger. Your solidarity helps us achieve more for ALL faculty.
  • UF enjoys broad support among faculty. In our Fall 2018 recertification vote, 547 faculty voted yes to support UF and only 17 voted no. In the following recertification vote in Fall 2020, 97.5% of those voting supported UF with a YES vote! And again, in Fall 2022, 97% of faculty voting supported United Faculty.
  • UF collaborates effectively with other faculty leaders and administration to solve problems, create fair policies, and to protect your rights and fair working conditions
  • As UNI confronts falling enrollments and budget challenges, as a new faculty evaluation system is rolled out, and as our general education curriculum is revised, the potential for serious threats to faculty abounds. We need a strong union to stand up for faculty, and we need you with us.
  • More than 80% of our dues go to our membership in American Association of University Professors (AAUP) or our legal counsel. Both of these have been powerful assets and critical allies.


  • UF fought to protect your health and safety during the COVID pandemic.  We advocated for you on the COVID Response Team, filed OSHA complaints, took your concerns to the press, and assisted individual faculty for health accommodations. Tragically, there have been nearly 10,000 COVID deaths in Iowa through September 2022, but we are glad that UNI faculty were kept safe from serious illness during this difficult period.
  • UF supported Dr. Steve O’Kane when he was disciplined for his class masking policy. On Sept. 23, 2022, an external arbitrator ruled that UNI violated the Faculty Handbook when it imposed a “needs improvement” evaluation rating on Dr. O’Kane as part of his discipline and made a directive to rescind that rating and replace it with the one his Department Head assigned.
  • UF leaders’ work in collaboration with other faculty and administrators Faculty Handbook Committee has resulted in:
    1. A new handbook chapter that preserves due process rights for faculty who are disciplined or terminated. Pressure from a case letter from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) that UF solicited on behalf of Dr. O’Kane was instrumental in instigating and approving this policy.
    2. A new promotional ladder for temporary, term, and renewable term faculty that went into effect in 2023. (If you are a temporary, term, or renewable term faculty member and would like our advice or assistance on promotion, please contact us.)
    3. New handbook language for more flexible office hours (such as online hours) as a new post-COVID norm.
    4. New timetable language so that annual PAC evaluations of renewable term faculty are not required after six years.
  • UF collaborated with the University Benefits Committee to reduce costs to the plan, resulting in only small increases to health care premiums for two years.
  • Preserved faculty ownership of online curriculum and secured paid summer training for online pedagogy and curriculum development.
  • UF communicated faculty displeasure with the lengthy paperwork for filling out the annual Faculty Activity Report, and worked with the Provost’s office to substantially reduce annual reporting requirements.
  • UF has assisted and advocated for more than 120 individual faculty-related issues ranging from major discipline, discrimination, termination, denial of tenure, evaluation issues, insurance issues, teaching assignments, office assignments, OCEM investigations, travel questions, search issues, and many other smaller issues.

These accomplishments, and more, are why 97% of the voting faculty supported recertification for United Faculty in 2022. We never stop working to ensure that UNI supports faculty development, rewards faculty excellence, and safeguards faculty academic freedom. Not a member? Contact President Chris Martin for details on how to join at martinc@uni.edu.


  • Early tenure and promotion
  • Over-enrolled class compensation
  • Expansion of benefits
  • Academic funding

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