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West Virginia University Foundation

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MORGANTOWN, WV -

The West Virginia University Foundation has named its 2013 recipients of the WVU Foundation Award for Outstanding Teaching: Fonda Holehouse (agricultural and resource economics), Anne Lofaso (law), Richard Riley (accounting), Jennifer Robertson-Honecker (chemistry) and Matthew Valenti and Powsiri Klinkhachorn (both Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering).

The six faculty members were honored April 11 during the Week of Honors. The WVU Foundation began giving out the awards in 1985 as a way to celebrate faculty who have established patterns of distinguished teaching and exceptional innovation in teaching methods, course and curriculum design, and instructional tools. 

Holehouse is an attorney and graduate of the WVU College of Law. She began her teaching career at WVU as an adjunct professor and now teaches environmental, agricultural and business law, as well as entrepreneurship courses in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, the College of Business and Economics and the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources.

She also is developing a major in energy and environmental management, which incorporates courses in energy, the environment, entrepreneurship and economics. 

Lofaso came to WVU in 2007 and teaches courses including employment law, labor law and jurisprudence. She earned two law degrees — a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. from Oxford — and earned her bachelor's degree from Harvard University.

Riley, at age 29, was chief financial officer of a successful business but wasn't sure if he was moving in the direction he wanted to move. After consulting with two of his mentors, one at WVU and another at Wheeling Jesuit University, Riley decided to pursue a Ph.D. and move into the world of academia.

Riley, the Louis F. Tanner Distinguished Professor of Public Accounting at WVU, has been at WVU for 15 years.

He is best known for developing courses such as fraud and forensic accounting investigations, which challenge students to investigate and find solutions for real-life fraud cases. 

He also teaches marketplace business simulation, which requires a student team to manage a personal computer manufacturing company in competition with other student teams. 

Riley was also one of the authors of "Forensic Accounting and Fraud Examination," a popular forensic accounting textbook, and helped establish a new Ph.D. program in forensic accounting.

Robertson-Honecker thought that after she earned a master's degree at WVU that she would go back to teaching high school science. But she stayed for a Ph.D. and then was hired as a teaching professor. 

Her students aren't only in college. Over a decade or so, she has reached more than 2,000 K-12 students in West Virginia. She is creating the first state middle school science fair competition to be held at WVU next year, and she developed an introductory chemistry course to teach education majors how to teach the subject.

In 2002, Valenti first taught a junior-level course required by every electrical engineering student. As the course had undergone a significant curriculum revision, Valenti couldn't identify a single textbook that adequately covered the diverse topics in the syllabus.

Viewing this struggle as an opportunity, he developed "The Signals and Systems Workbook," which he provided free of charge to students of his class.

Valenti earned his Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Virginia Tech. He also worked as an electronics engineer at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. In 1999, he came to WVU as an assistant professor. His teaching and research areas include wireless and cellular communication networks, communication and coding theory, and signal processing.

Upon arriving at WVU, he founded the Wireless Communications Research Laboratory, which focuses on the design and analysis of modern wireless networks. 

Since 1999, Valenti has also been an investigator on funded research grants in excess of $6 million, of which a significant fraction has been used to provide his graduate students with research assistantships and hire undergraduate researcher assistants.

Klinkhachorn, of the Statler College, teaches some of the most challenging courses offered through the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, but he is perhaps best known within the university community for his work in robotics. For the past three years, he has led a multidisciplinary team of students in a set of international competitions sponsored by NASA. He earned a bachelor's of science degree in electrical engineering, with honors, from King Mongkut's Institute of Technology in Bangkok in 1977. Two years later, he completed his master's degree and then in 1983 his Ph.D., both from WVU and both in electrical engineering.