Colleges & Campus News

4 Honored as Pegasus Professors for Impact, Career Achievements

Josh Colwell, Naim Kapucu, Tison Pugh and Martine Vanryckeghem have been selected for the highest academic award a professor can receive at the university.

By Allison Hurtado '12 |
April 3, 2019

Four square photo of Pegasus Professors

Top left: Martine Vanryckeghem. Top Right: Naim Kapucu. Bottom Left:  Tison Pugh. Bottom Right: Josh Colwell. (Photos by Lauren Schoepfer '17 and Nick Leyva '15)

UCF celebrated faculty, staff and students today at the annual Founders’ Day Honors Convocation. Among the honorees are four Pegasus Professors and three Reach for the Stars recipients along with service awards and other campus achievements.

The Pegasus Professor award is the highest academic award a professor can receive at the University of Central Florida. During an entire career at UCF, faculty who are exceptional in every area — teaching, research and service — are recognized for their work. These awards are determined by the president, and recipients receive a $5,000 stipend and a $5,000 research grant.

Josh Colwell, Naim Kapucu, Tison Pugh and Martine Vanryckeghem have been selected as the 2019 Pegasus Professors who have impacted students, fellow faculty and the community through their research and dedication to education.

Josh Colwell

Department of Physics, Florida Space Institute, College of Sciences

Josh Colwell has been interested in space exploration and science since he was a child. His mother likes to joke that he was bit by the space bug when she was eight months pregnant and saw the launch of Gemini 1. His career started in research, but after 17 years at the University of Colorado he came to UCF to pursue his passion for teaching.

“One of my goals is to make science, physics and astronomy more accessible to people. I love seeing that light bulb moment with students.” — Josh Colwell

“One of my goals is to make science, physics and astronomy more accessible to people,” he says. “I love seeing that light bulb moment with students. I’m always looking for new ways to make complicated subject matters relatable and understandable.”

While Colwell loves his students, he’s also known for conducting experiments in what’s sometimes called the vomit comet — a plane that descends rapidly to create weightless conditions. Has he thrown up? Too often to count, but many of his students have fared better on the plane.

His research works to uncover the story of the solar system and the formation of habitable planets like Earth throughout the galaxy. Colwell has been involved in multiple NASA missions, most notably the Cassini mission that orbited Saturn 13 years sending back views of the ringed planet and its dozens of moons never seen before. He also hosts a podcast, Walkabout the Galaxy, which he calls “accidentally educational.”

His advice to students is simple: “Take advantage of the resources at UCF. Go see your teachers. They want to be asked questions, and they want to help you understand so you can succeed.”

Naim Kapucu

Director, School of Public Administration, College of Community Innovation and Education

Naim Kapucu came to UCF in 2003 fresh off of his doctoral program at the University of Pittsburgh with his dissertation about emergency and crisis management during 9/11. His father wanted him to become a politician and eventually a governor, but he told his father he would one day become “a professor of governors,” specializing in public administration and policy.

While his work on 9/11 became well-known, Kapucu planned to never touch emergency-management research again, but the opposite happened after his move to Florida.

“My passion is being an academic, scholar leader and having a big vision for our school.” — Naim Kapucu

“I’ve focused on leadership and emergency and crisis management,” Kapucu said. “My passion is being an academic, scholar leader and having a big vision for our school.”

For the past four years, Kapucu has directed the School of Public Administration. He’s led creation of six new degree programs, including the fully online Masters in Research Administration, and has brought top journals in the field to UCF. Kapucu’s leadership and relationships put the school’s programs on the map. The school has two U.S. News & World Report nationally ranked graduate degree programs: No. 7 emergency management and No. 8 nonprofit management.

The Emergency Operations Center at UCF was one of the first in the nation at a university – thanks to a grant that Kapucu helped secure.

“Coming to UCF was the best decision I ever made,” he says. “I tell students, faculty and staff to be yourself, know yourself and let other people be themselves. Have a vision with a solid plan to accomplish your goals. But keep in mind: In the world of public administration and policy, a vision without execution is hallucination.”

Tison Pugh

Professor, Department of English, College of Arts and Humanities

Tison Pugh is best known among students for his Harry Potter studies class, but that’s not what he’s most proud of. He arrived at UCF in 2001 after receiving his doctorate in English literature from the University of Oregon, and he has also published 19 books in 17 years.

“Two of the things I’m proud of is the minor in medieval and renaissance studies. And I was the founding faculty editor of the UCF undergraduate research journal, The Pegasus Review,” Pugh says. “These are curricular initiatives that will still be available to students after I’m long gone.”

“I always stress to students that I love literature and that I love to read and study it.” — Tison Pugh

Pugh hopes his enthusiasm and love for literature shines through in his teaching, even for any resistant students. He believes the key to keeping students engaged is to tap into their passions.

“I always stress to students that I love literature and that I love to read and study it,” he says. “I don’t think I would be a good professor if I didn’t do that for my students. When they start reading, they find the hidden humor — and once they find it — they are addicted to it as well.”

Martine Vanryckeghem

Professor, School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, College of Health Professions and Sciences

Martine Vanryckeghem began her work in fluency disorders in Belgium, which has shaped her international career. A fluency disorder involves the interruption in the flow of speaking, and the most common one is stuttering. Vanryckeghem is an expert in how to diagnose and treat stuttering in children and adults.

Her research in fluency disorders has led her to co-author standardized diagnostic tests for children and adults that investigate the emotional, behavioral and cognitive effects stuttering can have on an individual. Her work has been translated, researched and published in 30 different countries.

“The tests provide an inventory and give a good idea of the different dimensions that surround the person who stutters,” she says. “An individual who stutters typically thinks negatively about him or herself and will use coping mechanisms to not stutter. The tests give the clinician a good assessment of the disorder and how to treat it.”

Vanryckeghem credits her late husband with a lot of her success. They met while he was in Belgium giving a workshop.

“UCF made me an all-around citizen.” — Martine Vanryckeghem

“His high standards and scientific rigor served as a role model for me,” she says. “I have tried to continue to lead by that model and if I can use the Pegasus mythology, he was the wind beneath my wings.”

As for her students, Vanryckeghem hopes to make a small impact on their lives through academic and clinical instruction and research.

“UCF made me an all-around citizen. I don’t see myself as only an academician or researcher, I see myself as a faculty team member and leader – a UCF ambassador around the world,” she says.