2016-2017 College Faculty Excellence Award Winners

CALS Faculty Excellence Awards - Dr. Laura Barrio-Vilar, Dr. Tansel Karabacak, Dr. Linda Holzer

We are pleased to announce the selection of the Faculty Excellence Awards Winners for the College of Arts Letters and Sciences. It gives us great pleasure to honor our colleagues from the Departments of English, Physics & Astronomy, and Music:

Dr. Laura Barrio-Vilar

RS2078_2017-03-02_faculty-excellence_ltt9251-3Dr. Barrio-Vilar has been at UA Little Rock since 2011. She was instrumental in bringing the Green Dot Violence Prevention Initiative to campus and serves on the board of Safe Zone. Her continued activities include developing Green Dot Steering committee’s bylaws, recruiting for Green Dot’s Steering Committee and Student Advisory Council, from faculty, staff and students and offering regular bystander intervention training sessions.

Dr. Barrio-Vilar is active in endeavors in the larger Little Rock community. Her students have contributed a total of 831.5 service hours in 15 different organizations in the area through her innovative approach to service-learning. Through course work, she helps students connect the concepts and texts covered in class with their experiences in the community. In addition, they develop new career skills and network with potential employers.

“The things that I have learned in class I can truly relate to my everyday life.” one student said. “The text and the service learning go hand-in-hand with relations to real life issues.”

Dr. Barrio-Vilar has shown her commitment to the Little Rock community and the state of Arkansas in general. Her most recent outreach work has been translating and narrating five different segments for the Arkansas Civil Rights History mobile app, which allows users to discover the history of Arkansas Civil Rights. She is a regular moderator for the Arkansas Literary Festival and is active in outreach to high school students.

Dr. Barrio-Vilar has also been instrumental in a number of other important roles on campus, taking on voluntary duties and offices, giving regular training presentations, attending meetings, serving on task forces and committees, and advising student organizations. She has been active with the Chancellor’s Committee on Race and Ethnicity since 2012 and is a faculty affiliate of the Anderson Institute on Race and Ethnicity.

From an abbreviated list of her service to the university, college and community excluding what is noted above, we counted ten semesters on 4 additional committees—chairing the Faculty Awards and Scholarships Committee since fall ’15; and 9 presentations, workshops and panel moderations.

She is truly an example of commitment and dedication to students, to education, and to the community.

Dr. Tansel Karabacak

RS2078_2017-03-02_faculty-excellence_ltt9251-2Dr. Karabacak is a physicist, chemist, material scientist, and engineer all rolled into one. This allows him to take a broad, optimal view of a problem and develop innovative ways to address it.

Shortly after he joined UA Little Rock in 2006, Dr. Karabacak set up a new thin films and nanostructures laboratory that utilizes state-of-the-art fabrication, testing equipment, and computational tools for analysis and modeling studies. This lab attracted numerous scientists for collaborative research projects and provided research opportunities for several graduate, undergraduate and high school students in Central Arkansas.

Students and research associates working with him always express their high satisfaction with his supervision. He balances planned work and close guidance with encouragement to follow their inspiration and new innovative ideas.

His studies have led to 83 journal papers, 39 peer-reviewed conference proceedings, two book chapters, and two patent disclosures since he joined UA Little Rock in 2006. He has presented or co-authored 175 invited talks and conference presentations. Most of his papers are published in high impact journals such as Advanced Materials, ACS Nano, ACS Catalysis, and Physical Review Letters. Seven of his PhD students and one MS students have graduated with a strong record of publication.

Dr. Karabacak  is very active in pursuing external funding. He has secured 14 grants as PI and Co-PI, corresponding to about $7.7M in external funding with his actual portions totaling ~$2.2M. He has collaborated with about 20 faculty members within UA Little Rock and 55 national and international researchers outside the university. Dr. Karabacak also has projects with 10 companies—3 in Arkansas—and established connections with 20 program managers from federal funding agencies.

Dr. Karabacak has distinguished himself as a leader in thin film and nanostructured materials research while emphasizing collaboration, diversity and an interdisciplinary approach in all of his activities.

Dr. Linda Holzer

RS2078_2017-03-02_faculty-excellence_ltt9251“What impresses me the most about Dr. Holzer” her recommender writes, “is that it doesn’t necessarily matter what she is actually doing, Dr. Holzer is always teaching. By teaching, I mean, she is continually working to make the learning experience a better one.”

Her dedication to seeing her students become successful was the basis for her 2012 Off Campus Duty Assignment in which she examined success and creativity at various music studios and the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University. It is noteworthy that she chose to spend her sabbatical focusing on teaching, rather than preparing for a solo recital or carrying out a research project. When she returned to campus, she created a new, interdisciplinary course with a professor in EIT titled “Strategies for Innovation” that examined creativity in different forms. It attracted undergraduate and graduate students from three different colleges!

Dr. Holzer was an early adopter of technology in the classroom. Her dedication to quality on-line teaching is reflected by her earning Quality Matters certification for her blended Piano Pedagogy course in 2011. She uses her website frequently to augment her face-to-face classes and private lessons. More importantly, Dr. Holzer remains current with the technology and has frequently assumed responsibility for installing software updates in the music computer labs or suggesting hardware upgrades.

Close to half of the piano majors Dr. Holzer has taught and supervised continued on to the graduate level. She understands that most of her students might not grace the concert stage and so she carefully instills an awareness of the role of music outside of academia. As a result, quite a few of her students are active musicians in Central Arkansas teaching music at all levels and performing as accompanists and musical directors at churches and worship centers.

What makes Dr. Holzer an excellent teacher is her desire for her students to really learn, understand, and use whatever material she is teaching. She meets her students more than half way: she gets to know each and every one of them so she can make sure they have the best environment for learning.

Every year, Dr. Holzer applies herself, working diligently to find innovative ways to provide high-quality learning experiences for her students and to stay well informed about developments in her fields. A talented professional musician, Dr. Linda Holzer excels as a teacher.


Please join us in acknowledging the excellence of their contributions to develop the intellect of students; to discover and disseminate knowledge; to serve and strengthen society by enhancing awareness in scientific, technical, and cultural arenas; and to promote humane sensitivities and understanding of interdependence.

Posted in: Bright Spots, Department of English, Department of Music, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Faculty, Faculty Spotlight, News
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