2021 iSchool Staff and Faculty Awards Highlight Outstanding Contributions


The San José State University School of Information conferred its 2021 slate of awards recognizing faculty and staff members for outstanding contributions on March 16 of this year. Candidates were nominated by fellow iSchool staff and faculty members and by self-nomination and selected by Interim Director Linda Main.

This year’s award recipients included a few repeat winners. Both Dr. Pat Franks, who was awarded Outstanding Professor, and Jason Kaltenbacher, the Outstanding Lecturer awardee, won the same awards last year. “I absolutely had to honor the input of everyone who wanted Pat to be given this award,” said Main, citing the overwhelming support for Franks. “Sadly, we won’t be able to award it to Pat again,” she added. Franks, who is the coordinator for the Master of Archives and Records Administration degree program and teaches several courses, is retiring at the end of the semester.

Main praised Kaltenbacher, another second-time winner, for his wide-ranging contributions in the MS in Informatics program, advising and teaching. Kaltenbacher teaches classes in all three of the iSchool’s programs (Informatics, MARA and MLIS), and is both a certified archivist and certified records manager. Main described how Kaltenbacher “cheerfully takes on” additional projects, such as helping with the university-wide assessment for the Informatics program.

Assistant Professor Virginia Tucker, who was recognized with an award for Outreach and Collaboration last year and received the Outstanding Professor award in 2018, now has a trifecta of honors with this year’s Distinguished Scholar award. In addition to overseeing the Gateway PhD program and coordinating INFO 202 Information Retrieval Design, Tucker has produced a plethora of scholarly work including a book, many scholarly articles and conference presentations on topics ranging from taxonomy to learning portals.

Wrapping up the faculty award winners were the Outstanding Teacher winner Lecturer Wayne Disher, who Main called “a huge asset to our school,” and Director of Online Learning Debbie Faires, who received the Distinguished Service Award for her long service to the school. One of the nominators described her as “the face of the iSchool,” and Main called her a “foundational person.” Faires teaches several classes but is best known for INFO 203 Online Learning. Like Franks, Faires is also saying farewell this year after a long career at the iSchool.

Student Services Coordinator Gina Lee also won a Distinguished Service award and was singled out for her problem-solving and support skills, particularly for her ability to help both students and faculty members maneuver their way through SJSU’s procedures. Kristina Luna, the iSchool’s administrative service manager, was also honored with a Distinguished Service award. “Where would we be without Kristina?” Main posed the rhetorical head-scratcher. 

The impact of COVID-19 emerged in the final award. Jeff Frank, senior customer service coordinator for access at King Library, received a Special Recognition award “for his continued excellent service…particularly for WISE and PhD students.” Frank was instrumental in ensuring that students who are part of iSchool programs but not enrolled in SJSU were able to access the library materials they needed.

Main expressed her appreciation for the staff and faculty members’ “thoughtful input about your colleagues,” as well as praising the accomplishments of the award winners. She regretted that last year’s reception with its “food, drink and general merriment,” wasn’t possible this year. Instead, this year’s awards presentation was recorded and then shared with iSchool staff and faculty members. Main hopes the awards ceremony will be an in-person event again in 2022.

The list of current and past award winners is available on the awards web page, along with the criteria for each award. Congratulations to all of the award winners whose many contributions to the iSchool were honored this year!