NSU announces faculty tenure and promotion list for 2020-21


Nineteen Northwestern State University faculty have received tenure and 15 have received promotion effective with the start of the 2020-21 academic year. according to Dr. Greg Handel, provost and vice president for academic affairs. The Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System approved the tenure and promotion recommendations.

Faculty who received tenure were  Phyllis Lear, Daniel McDonald and Louis Collier Hyams of the School of Creative and Performing Arts, Dr. Nabin Sapkota of the Department of Engineering Technology, Dr. Donald Johnston, Lisa Wilhite and Sheri Wilson of the College of Nursing and School of Allied Health, Dr. Christopher Lyles and Dr. Jerry Brunson of the School of Biological and Physical Sciences, Dr. Christopher Gilson, Frank Hall and Michele Holcomb of the Department of Criminal Justice, History and Social Sciences, Dr. Judith Covington and Dr. Nicholas Richardson of the Department of Mathematics and Dr. Marcia Hardy, Dr. Eddie Horton, Carmella Parker, Dr. Curtis Penrod and Dr. Sarah Wright of the School of Business.

Those promoted to professor were Dr. Mark Melder and Dr. Tommy I. Hailey of the Department of Criminal Justice, History and Social Sciences and Hyams.

Promoted to associate professor were Lyles, Dr. Ann Deshotels of the College of Nursing and School of Allied Health, Lear, Gilson, Dr. Xinjia Chen of the Department of Engineering Technology, Dr. Melissa Aldredge, Dr. Eddie Horton, Dr. Curtis Penrod and Dr. Jason Powell and Dr. Danny Upshaw of the School of Business and Denise Bailey of the Department of Social Work.

D’Nissa Hester of the School of Creative and Performing Arts was promoted to assistant professor.

Brunson earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree at the University of Louisiana at Monroe and a doctorate at LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport. He previously taught at ULM and LSUHSC – Shreveport. Brunson held the Malcolm Feist Predoctoral Fellowship from the Institute for Cardiovascular Disease and Imaging at LSUHSC. Brunson has made more than a dozen presentations at state, regional and national conferences and has published articles in national professional journals. He is active in several professional organizations.

Covington joined NSU’s faculty in 2018 and has three decades of collegiate teaching experience. She holds the Dr. William Timon Endowed Professorship. An NSU alumna Covington was a 2015 recipient of the Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics. The award is presented by the Mathematics Association of America to up to three people annually. She is the only Louisiana recipient. Covington is an active speaker and presenter on the national level. She has served on the leadership team for Project NExT, a program of the Mathematical Association of America for 14 years – the longest term anyone has served. This is a national program for new and recent Ph.D. graduates in the mathematical sciences. Her father, Thomas Covington, was a long-time faculty member at NSU.

Gilson is a 2006 graduate of Northwestern State. He earned the M.A. and Ph.D. in history at Texas A&M University, completing a dissertation entitled “Strange and Terrible Wonders: Climate Change in the Early Modern World” in 2015.  His research focuses on the relationship between climate and history, particularly during the Little Ice Age of 1550-1850.  Other research interests include the environmental history of the Red River Valley and sustainability and urban planning in the American South.  Gilson has presented his research at the Symposium on Medieval and Renaissance Studies and at meetings of the Northeast Modern Language Association and the Association of American Geographers.  He teaches introductory and advanced courses in geography, world history and American history.

Hall is the Director of Institutional Effectiveness and an associate professor in the Department of Criminal Justice, History, and Social Sciences. Hall is a retired military intelligence colonel with 28 years of service in the U.S. Army. Hall has been at Northwestern for six years. While he does teach a few undergraduate courses in criminal justice, his primary teaching responsibilities are in the homeland security graduate program. He currently resides in Natchitoches with his wife, Sid.

Hardy received her Ph.D. from the University of California-Los Angeles. She is the recipient of the Barry Smiley Professorship Award and is a 2019  University of Alicante Spain Erasmus + Mobility Award recipient. Hardy received the 2018 Northwestern College of Business & Technology “Excellence in Teaching” Award and was honored in Trademark “Women of Distinction.” She served as a two-term Faculty Senate President at Northwestern State University. Hardy has numerous publications in the field of leadership and management. and is co-author of the  McGraw-Irwin book entitled, “EDI: A Guide to Electronic Data Interchange and Electronic Commerce Applications in the Healthcare Industry.”    

Holcomb is the coordinator of criminal justice and teaches courses in criminal justice and unified public safety administration and is involved in developing new courses for the Department of Criminal Justice, History and Social Sciences. She has been a member of Northwestern State’s faculty for six years after more than a decade of work in area coroners’ offices and experience in the field of corrections. Holcomb earned a bachelor’s degree at Louisiana State, a master’s at the University of Phoenix and a post master’s certificate in global security and intelligence from NSU. She holds membership in state and national emergency medical organizations.

Horton has been a member of NSU’s faculty for six years. He holds the Bryant and Heloise Lewis Endowed Professorship in Business. Horton’s focus area includes networking, network security and forensics. He oversees the new Cisco certification at NSU as well as the CompTIA certifications. He has teaching experience with both online and traditional classes.  Horton works directly with industry and education to grow current program at NSU and provide graduates who meet employer’s needs. He created the NSU Cisco Academy, CompTIA Academy and most recently the AWS Academy. Horton is the recipient of the FBD/ABIS (Federation of Business Disciplines/Association of Business Information Systems) paper of the year, to be published in the JRBIS (Journal of Research in Business Information Systems) journal.

Hyams is the coordinator for the MA in Art. Prior to arriving at NSU Hyams was an associate professor of digital art and multimedia at Georgetown University. He received a MFA in Integrated Electronic Arts emphasizing performance art from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, NY. He received a MA in weld metal sculpture and traditional fine arts from Northwestern State University and earned his undergraduate in photography and journalism from Louisiana Tech University. Hyams grew up as a service dependent in Thailand and Germany. His academic research in art and music has taken him to Brazil, Sweden, Belgium, France, Austria, Scotland, Ireland, Canada and Ghana. He leads the 50 Man Machine performance ensemble and the Prof Hyams Art Car Series founded with support from BMW and Mazda.

Johnston is an associate professor and the interprofessional research and instructional technology coordinator for the College of Nursing School of Allied Health.  He has led numerous doctoral and graduate students, both as a major professor and committee member. Johnston has worked with other universities and health system partners across Louisiana to increase and enhance nursing research capacity. He was awarded three NIH/AACN grants for the All of US Research program and was responsible for leading and coordinated events in Shreveport, Lafayette and Baton Rouge between state institutions.  His recent leadership experience working with nursing undergraduate faculty and Information Technology on iPad implementation, ATI proctored testing application development and ExamSoft Secure Assessment Software has enhanced the university.

Lear is a visual arts educator and art historian. At present her visual arts work utilizes textile and fiber. Lear’s field of research is the prehistoric American culture of Poverty Point. She studies one artifact specifically, Poverty Point Objects. She earned a bachelor’s at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, a master’s at NSU and LSU and an MFA from Louisiana Tech. Her research has been published in archaeological journals and her art has regularly been displayed around the country earning numerous awards. Lear was a recipient of the Derby Endowed Professorship.

Lyles is an associate professor and interim director of the School of Biological and Physical Sciences.   He obtained a B.S. in Biology from Northwestern State, a M.S. in marine and environmental biology from Nicholls State University and his Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Oklahoma. Lyles has 15 years of experience using chromatography and mass spectral analysis equipment to address both abiotic and biotic chemical changes in the environment.  More specifically, his research focuses on projects that elucidated the biochemical pathways for the degradation of recalcitrant compounds under anaerobic conditions.  Lyles also teaches general chemistry, biochemistry and microbiology along with respective laboratories.

McDonald is assistant director of bands and assistant professor of music at Northwestern State. At NSU, he directs the “Spirit of Northwestern” Marching Band, the “Purple Haze” Basketball Band, Wind Ensemble, Magale Concert Band and teaches courses in student leadership, music education and conducting. He earned a B.A. in music and a M.M. in instrumental conducting from the University of Connecticut. He has conducted and directed ensembles that have performed at the 2019 WASBE Conference (Buñol, Spain) and in venues throughout the United States and around the world. He serves on the national Athletic Bands Committee and is chair of the Louisiana chapter of College Band Directors National Association. He is active in several professional organizations.

Parker is an associate professor and coordinator of outreach and special projects for the School of Business at NSU.  She has been licensed to practice law in the State of Louisiana for over seventeen years. Parker teaches cyber business law, business law, international comparative management and other classes. She is a former assistant attorney general for the State of Louisiana and a former field counsel for an insurance company. Parker has a B.S. in business administration from the Louisiana Scholars’ College at Northwestern State.  She earned her Juris Doctor as well as a Certificate of International Studies from the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. Parker obtained her Master of Business Administration from the University of New Orleans.

Penrod started working at Northwestern State in the Office of Institutional Research in 2004. He worked there until 2014 when he joined the School of Business as an assistant professor and coordinator of computer information systems. Earlier this year, he became the senior coordinator of business programs. He has taught classes including introduction to computer information systems, spreadsheet applications, software development, database systems, multimedia communication and presentation, advanced database systems, web applications: client-side development and web applications: Server-Side Development. He holds an MBA from Louisiana State University – Shreveport, a GC in computer information systems from Georgia Southwestern State University, and a Ph.D. in business administration with a specialization in applied computer science from Northcentral University.

Richardson attended Louisiana Tech University earning a degree in computer science and decided for graduate school to go into applied computational analysis and modeling, which combines computer science and mathematics. He concentrated on developing computer simulations for mathematics and other sciences on the LONI supercomputers. Some of these simulations were purely computational while others had graphical components to aid in research and experiments. He taught mathematics at NSU’s Shreveport campus for three years before coming to the Natchitoches campus to teach mathematics and computer science. In computer science, he recently began using robots to teach students how to program.

Sapkota has been a member of Northwestern State’s faculty for six years teaching courses in industrial engineering technology and electronics engineering technology and serving on numerous university committees. He has published research in national and international professional journals and has made numerous professional presentations at a variety of conferences. His professional activity includes membership in several national and international organizations. Sapkota has provided consultations to local and national industries on process improvement using OR, industrial simulations and CI methodologies. He recently worked with a local industry on an ergonomics study report to improve operations and safety. Sapkota earned a bachelor’s at Regional Engineering College in Tamilnadu, India, and a master’s and doctorate at the University of Central Florida.

Wilhite is an assistant professor of nursing at Northwestern State. Her nursing career began at NSU where she earned a BSN in 1993.  She earned her MSN in Nursing Education from Northwestern in 2008 and her post master’s certificate from Northwestern in family nurse practitioner in 2013. Her nursing background is primarily woman’s health and clinical education. She currently serves as a board member for the Shreveport District Nurses Association.  Wilhite spends her free time with her husband and two sons as well as watching football and baseball. She is an active member in her church community and enjoys spending time outdoors with friends and family.

Wilson is the Deborah Olds Endowed Professor at NSU and previously held the Opal Wimberly Endowed Professorship. Wilson earned bachelor’s degrees at Wiley College and Grambling State University and a master’s at the University of Phoenix. Wilson has been a member of NSU’ s faculty for six years after working for eight years as a registered nurse. She participated in the Parkinson Foundation’s Edmond J. Safra Visiting Nurse Scholar Faculty Program. Wilson has made presentations for national groups and is active in professional organizations. She has contributed to the American Nurses Association Gerontology Review Course by writing and reviewing questions.

Wright holds a Ph.D. in business administration with an applied computer science specialization and a master’s in computer information systems.  Wright has taught CIS courses at NSU since 2002. Wright has five refereed journal publications, has published seven refereed proceedings and has presented at regional conferences. She has been co-principal investigator for two Board of Regents grants, and principal investigator for two State Farm Enhancement Grants.  The grants were fully funded and allowed the School of Business to create a mobile applications development lab, a networking lab and an AR/VR lab that provide students with hands on experiences to better prepare them for the workforce. Wright is working with the education department with the second cohort of middle school teachers participating in CLIPR/TEP Grant.

Aldredge holds a Doctor of Business Administration in Advanced Accounting and has over 25 years of teaching experience at the collegiate level. She currently serves as the coordinator of accounting for the College of Business and Technology at Northwestern State. In 2019, she received the NSU Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award and was awarded the Poindexter Foundation Endowed Professorship in Accounting. Aldredge is a certified public accountant with prior “Big 8” public accounting experience and is an active member of the Louisiana Society of CPAs where she serves on the Accounting Education Issues Committee. She is also a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and consults part-time as a CPA.

Bailey earned a bachelor’s degree from NSU and an MSW from Stephen F. Austin State University. She served in NSU’s Student Support Services office before joining the social work faculty in 2013. Her paper, “Sacred Duties: The Roles of the Children’s Aid Society and the New York Foundling Hospital in the Orphan Train Movement,” was accepted for presentation at The Orphan Train Interdisciplinary Colloquium at the University of Nebraska in 2018. She has presented four times at the Louisiana Studies Conference, which includes scholars in a variety of disciplines. Bailey serves as coordinator of the NSU Student Food Pantry and faculty advisor for the NSU Social Work Club. She was named NSU Faculty Advisor of the Year in 2019-2020.

Chen joined NSU in 2016.  Before joining NSU, he has been teaching in Louisiana State University and Southern University for more than ten years.  He also has two years of industrial experiences in information technology. Chen’s teaching and research interests are in the general area of electrical engineering and computer sciences.   He has reshaped several courses to enhance the hands-on ability of ET students and prepare them for industrial jobs.  Chen researches circuit systems, controls, communications, signal processing, machine learning, probability, and statistics with engineering applications.  He has published two book chapters and 18 peered review papers in internationally prestigious journals and 29 peered review papers in proceeding of international conferences.   

Deshotels has been a member of NSU’s faculty since 1992. She earned a bachelor’s at the University of Southwestern Louisiana, a master’s at NSU and a doctorate at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. She has published in national professional journals and has made presentations on the local, state and national levels. Many of those local presentations have been invaluable in promoting NSU’s nursing program. In 2018, Deshotels was named one of Louisiana’s Great 100 Nurses. At NSU, she has held the Coughlin-Saunders, Robert Rife Saunders and Rapides Regional Medical Center Endowed Professorships. She is active in several professional organizations.

Hailey began his career at NSU in 1994. Hailey teaches classes in introductory anthropology, archaeology and physical anthropology. Experiential learning is a key part of education, and Hailey has engaged students in projects and experiences throughout the U.S. and internationally. Hailey is developing the NSU Drone Initiative, recognizing the importance of remote technologies in many academic fields, and will incorporate classes from across campus to make the program applicable to career goals of a wide range of NSU students. He is working on the NSU Belize Initiative, which seeks to combine the efforts of several NSU departments and universities in Louisiana, Texas, and Belize to afford students the opportunity to establish far-reaching personal and professional connections and the type of personal development that can only come from international travel experiences.

Hester has taught at NSU as an adjunct and instructor since 2010.  She teaches vocal majors and minors and students in musical theatre. Hester held the Danny and Lenn Dohmann Prince Endowed Professorship in Voice in 2017. She earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Northwestern State. Hester has continued her education at the Taos Opera Institute and was selected to attend the International performing Arts Institute in Kiefersfelden, Germany. She is active in several national professional organizations. She regularly performs with the Natchitoches-Northwestern Symphony, the NSU Jazz Orchestra, Wind Symphony and Percussion Ensemble and in faculty recitals and concerts. Hester also performs with the Red River Chorale, the Kisatchie Sound and with her husband in the DAT Acoustic Act, a folk/acoustic duo.

Melder grew up in Natchitoches, the son of teachers Dr. Ellis Melder and Coach Trent Melder.  He served in the Marine Corps and after leaving the service, earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology at NSU and his master’s and Ph.D. at LSU in sociology. He has published and presented research on militia movements and racial differences in female perpetrated intimate partner homicide. He currently serves as head of the Department of Criminal Justice, History and Social Sciences at NSU and teaches courses on race and ethnicity, gender, crime, social movements and terrorism.

Powell is an associate professor of computer information systems. He has a Bachelor and Master of Computer Science from Stephen F. Austin State University and a Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of North Texas. His teaching focus is computer programming, databases, and data analytics, and his research interests include multidisciplinary applications of computer science. In 2020, he was elected as secretary of the Association of Business Information Systems and currently serves NSU as a faculty senator and the QEP coordinator for computer information systems.

Upshaw holds the David D. Morgan Endowed Professorship and is an associate professor of marketing in the College of Business & Technology. A graduate of Louisiana Tech’s D.B.A program, he also holds degrees in English (B.A., M.A.) and business (M.B.A) from The University of Louisiana at Monroe. Prior to employment at NSU, he owned a real-estate business, taught marketing at Spring Hill College, taught English at ULM, and worked in the insurance industry. Upshaw frequently publishes and presents at conferences, with recent articles featured in the “Marketing Education Review” and the “Journal of Marketing Development and Competitiveness.”  In class, he offers his students a compelling learning experience and fun, interactive environment.