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Sinex and Pynes Garner Awards at the 2014 Thomas E. Helm Undergraduate Research Day

April 17, 2014

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MACOMB, IL – The Western Illinois University Centennial Honors College presented two awards of excellence to faculty members during closing ceremonies for the 2014 Thomas E. Helm Undergraduate Research Day, held Wednesday, April 16 in the University Union.

The Centennial Honors College Awards of Excellence were created in 2012 to celebrate excellence in teaching and mentoring. This year's awards were awarded on the basis of activities completed between spring 2011 and fall 2013.

Excellence in Teaching
English and Journalism Professor Margaret Sinex was awarded the 2014 Centennial Honors College Award of Excellence in Teaching.

English and Journalism Department Chair Mark Mossman described Sinex as "a thoughtful instructor who is accessible to her students" and who is "able to get her students interested and, indeed, invested in the content of her courses."

Sinex's nominator, Hannah Porter (Macomb, IL), a sophomore music major, praised Sinex as an outstanding teacher, who "expected a lot from us" but created coursework that "did not feel taxing at all because of how artfully she wove writing into the curriculum."

"What was especially neat about her course was how we worked to make ties between what was happening in the time of the Arthurian legends and what is happening now. I never would have thought that we have so much in common with people from so long ago, but with such a great teacher, I was able to look at the legends on a deeper level," Porter said.

During the period under review, Sinex taught seven sections of her General Honors 101 course about King Arthur and developed the new Honors advanced humanities seminar, "Tolkien: Major Works."

"That means she has taught approximately 160 students of the Centennial Honors College over the past three years," Mossman noted.

Excellence in Mentoring
Philosophy and Religious Studies Department Associate Professor Christopher Pynes was awarded the 2014 Centennial Honors College Award of Excellence in Mentoring. Pynes was nominated for the honor by Honors College student Samantha Morrow (Rushville, IL), a senior history major minoring in pre-law honors and music business.

According to Philosophy and Religious Department Chair Gordon Pettit, Pynes "builds positive relationships with his students, whether it is helping them reconstruct arguments, prepare for the LSAT or learn how to play a logic game."

"Dr. Pynes has been an excellent resource for students planning to go to graduate school or law school, and he not only writes letters for them, but he helps them think through options they have and how to approach what is often a daunting task," Pettit said.

"In order to help me prepare for the LSAT, Dr. Pynes helped me to create a project that would allow me to study while also fulfilling course requirements," Morrow explained. "This dedication to our futures is what sets a professor like Dr. Pynes apart and exemplifies the Honors College's goal of shaping its students to be lifelong learners."

Pynes has supervised 16 in-course Honors projects in philosophy courses at the introductory and upper-division levels during the period under review. He has also supervised independent readings courses with other Honors students and incorporated student research in his own publications.

For more information about the Centennial Honors College, visit

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