News Archives: Faculty

HPU faculty members attend TSCA state convention

Two faculty members of Howard Payne University’s Department of Communication attended the Texas Speech Communication Association’s (TSCA) state convention held recently in Amarillo. The faculty members, Dr. Julie Welker and Richelle Hair, both had an opportunity to be on a discussion panel.

Dr. Julie Welker, chair of the Department of Communication and professor of communication, served on a panel titled “Online Communication Classes as Echo Chambers: Are We Killing the Face-to-Face Experience?” which addressed the current enrollment trends of online communication courses. Dr. Welker’s presentation focused on ways to increase student success in online classes, including student training for taking online classes, better pedagogical practices in online education and improving interpersonal communication online.

“Technological increases don’t automatically transfer over to better online communication, despite the perception that it might,” she said. “As student demand for online courses increases, our online classrooms must be a place where good, insightful communication and learning occurs.”

Dr. Welker has been attending the convention for several years and believes the conference is important for communication educators. She also serves on the Bylaws Committee for the TSCA.

“Both secondary teachers and professors at higher education institutions benefit from the rich programs and training opportunities the conference provides,” she said.

Richelle Hair, instructor of communication, served as the chair of the panel titled “Squashing Echoes – Title IX in Higher Education and Sexual Harassment in Secondary Education.” Hair served as the facilitator for this discussion, focusing on how Title IX plays a role in minimizing sexual assault and harassment in both secondary and higher education.

“Faculty must understand the importance and implications of Title IX,” she said. “This is a significant issue that has implications for our students and faculty alike. Students, faculty and staff need to understand their role in reporting.”

Hair added that she was thankful for the opportunity to attend the TSCA conference this year.

“The programs were insightful and I enjoyed collaborating with faculty from other universities,” she said. “TSCA has a warm and inviting environment and I felt I had an open seat at the table to share and learn with my colleagues.”

TSCA is the largest state professional communication association in the nation. Membership in TSCA is open to any communication educator, communication student, communication consultant or individual interested in learning about the field of speech communication. All levels of instruction and areas of interests are represented in the association.

The benefits of membership in TSCA include updated professional awareness, networking with other professionals, and exposure to innovation, teaching methodologies and scholarly works relevant to the discipline of speech communication.


Cutline: HPU’s Dr. Julie Welker (left) and Richelle Hair recently attended the TSCA state convention.

HPU personnel complete doctoral degrees

Dr. Jodi GoodeBROWNWOOD – August 15, 2018 – Two members of Howard Payne University’s staff and faculty earned doctor of philosophy degrees at the end of the spring 2018 semester.

Dr. Jodi Goode, assistant vice president for informational technology services and chief information officer, completed her degree in information systems – security from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She also holds a Master of Science degree in information systems from Tarleton State University in Stephenville.

“Dr. Goode’s research into cybersecurity has directly enhanced HPU’s operation, and her resulting expertise and winsome spirit have made her an internationally sought-after conference leader on the subject,” said Dr. W. Mark Tew, HPU’s provost and chief academic officer. “She accomplished her doctoral research while successfully leading the university’s software conversion and also serving in a faculty role.”

Dr. Jennifer McNieceDr. Jennifer McNiece, assistant professor of government, director of international studies and academic travel, and acting Brand Chair, completed her degree in business administration from Northcentral University in San Diego, California. She also holds the Master of Arts degree in economics and the Master of Public Administration degree, both from Texas Tech University in Lubbock. She is a graduate of HPU through the Guy D. Newman Honors Academy program.

“Dr. McNiece has provided exceptional leadership to the university and completed her doctoral work, all while advancing the university’s international studies program,” said Dr. Tew. “We’re thankful for the work she does with students in and out of the classroom and for her commitment to professional and personal development.”

Dr. Tew stated he was proud not only of the academic accomplishments of Dr. Goode and Dr. McNiece, but also of their outstanding service to the university on a daily basis.

“The earning of these degrees represents the culmination of years of hard work,” he said.


Cutlines: HPU personnel Dr. Jodi Goode (left) and Dr. Jennifer McNiece (right) completed their doctoral degrees at the end of the spring 2018 semester.

HPU faculty member’s recent books highlight theological traditions

Dr. Derek HatchBROWNWOOD – July 23, 2018 – Writings on theology by Howard Payne University’s Dr. Derek Hatch, associate professor of Christian studies, were recently released in two books. One book is a tribute to his mentor and prior professor that contains essays by Dr. Hatch and other scholars. The second book, written solely by Dr. Hatch, argues that Baptist theology should embrace the depth of the whole Christian tradition.

Dr. Hatch joined the HPU faculty in the fall of 2011 as part of the School of Christian Studies. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on subjects including the Bible, theology and Christian ethics. He and his wife, Sarah, live in Brownwood with their four young children and are members of First Baptist Church.

As a tribute, “Weaving the American Catholic Tapestry: Essays in Honor of William L. Portier,” was co-edited by Dr. Hatch and Timothy R. Gabrielli. It is a festschrift, which is an honorary book composed of a collection of essays to honor a particular scholar book 1toward the end of his or her career. Dr. Portier, the man whom the book honors, served as Dr. Hatch’s Ph.D. dissertation supervisor. He is a scholar of American Catholicism at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio, and serves there as professor and the Mary Ann Spearin chair of Catholic theology.

“The title of the book comes from the symbolism of different strands woven together to make a single tapestry just as Dr. Portier wove together his  different interests and aspects of American Catholicism,” said Dr. Hatch.

The book, released in 2017, contains essays from 15 scholars who were colleagues, previous students and scholars who respected Dr. Portier’s work. It took four years to complete, from idea to print.

“It was definitely a labor of love and great way to show the love and deep respect that we all have for William Portier,” said Dr. Hatch.

Another book, “Thinking with the Church: Toward a Renewal of Baptist Theology,” was written exclusively by Dr. Hatch. It was released earlier this year through Cascade Books and is part of a series by the publisher called “Free Church, Catholic Tradition” written for Free Church Protestants, of book 2which Baptists are a part. The book series is designed to help people engage the wider Christian tradition. Reflecting biblically, theologically and liturgically on Jesus, the book offers tradition and catholicity as major themes.

“To take Jesus seriously is to take the whole tradition seriously, including all Christian thinking from the apostles forward,” said Dr. Hatch. “Baptists are an important part of that, but they only came on the scene in 1609 – a mere 400 years ago.

Because of this, he went on to say, as Baptists see themselves participating in the whole church, they find new light for understanding the Bible, the life of the church and questions of religious freedom.

Although this book began as his doctoral dissertation, Dr. Hatch said it turned out to be a more heavily revised version of his actual dissertation.

“Your audience tends to change when writing for a dissertation or for a book,” he said. “Also, an author’s thinking evolves over time in that he or she thinks of better ways to say things and learns more as time goes on.”

Dr. Hatch uses his love and study of theology not only to research topics for scholarship but also in his teaching so that his students will be a benefit to the church as a whole. He aims to recognize theology in the many facets of his life including parenting, teaching, research and writing.

“A theologian at his or her best is a theologian for the church,” he said. “My love of theology is not limited to only one area of my life. I don’t think I would be a good teacher or person if I wasn’t always writing and pushing myself in scholarly endeavors and research in theology.”

These and other books to which Dr. Hatch has contributed or written are available for purchase on For more information, contact Dr. Hatch at or 325-649-8135.


Cutline: Scholarly works by Dr. Derek Hatch, associate professor of Christian studies at HPU, are featured in two recently published books.

Four join HPU faculty

new faculty fall 2015 for webBROWNWOOD – September 4, 2015 – Howard Payne University started the fall 2015 semester with four new faculty members. Joining HPU were Dr. James Finch, professor of business administration; Rafael Franco-Cuevas, instructor of Spanish; Leslie Greaves, instructor of nursing; and Dr. Derek Smith, associate professor of chemistry.

“We’re pleased to welcome these four additions to the university’s extraordinary faculty,” said Dr. W. Mark Tew, provost and chief academic officer.

Dr. James Finch received his Bachelor of Science degree from Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1980; his Master of Business Administration degree from The Ohio State University in 1984; and a Doctor of Philosophy degree, also from The Ohio State University, in 1987. His past experience includes serving in a variety of positions, most recently professor of business administration, at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Rafael Franco-Cuevas received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California in 1981 and his Master of Arts degree from California State University in 1993. Previous experience includes various positions related to the Spanish language and Hispanic literature and culture. He also served as Spanish instructor for both Pima Community College District and The University of Arizona South.

Leslie Greaves received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in 2000 and her Master of Science in Nursing degree in 2013 from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. Her past experience includes serving in a variety of positions at Hendrick Medical Center in Abilene, such as patient safety officer and patient safety services supervisor, education supervisor, clinical educator/training center coordinator and staff registered nurse. She has also taught various nursing courses since 2005.

Dr. Derek Smith received his Bachelor of Science degree from Angelo State University in 1991; his Master of Science degree from The University of Texas at Dallas in 1994; and his Doctor of Chemistry degree, also from UT Dallas, in 1996. Dr. Smith previously taught at HPU from 2007 to 2011. Other past experience includes serving as scientist at Hydrozonix and as a teaching assistant at UT Dallas.


Photo cutline: Four joined the HPU faculty during the fall 2015 semester. Left to right: Leslie Greaves, Dr. Derek Smith, Rafael Franco-Cuevas and Dr. James Finch.

HPU faculty member’s book recommended by FCA Magazine

john nickols with book for webBROWNWOOD – Aug. 7, 2014 – “The Last Three Outs,” a novel by John Nickols, assistant professor of history and political science at Howard Payne University, was recently recommended by FCA Magazine, a national publication of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The novel was the only work of fiction recommended by the magazine in its July/August issue.

“The Last Three Outs,” a baseball novel with Christian themes, tells the story of Danny Hill, a bright pitching prospect whose baseball career is suddenly threatened by a shoulder injury. According to Nickols, the book loosely parallels the life of Joseph in the Old Testament.

“Joseph’s story has always intrigued me,” Nickols said. “There were many injustices in his life, but God redeemed him in a much greater way. In a very trivial way, the same thing happens to Danny in my story.”

The book was published by Tate Publishing and is available at and Barnes & Noble.


Photo cutline: “The Last Three Outs” by John Nickols, assistant professor of history and political science at HPU, was recently recommended by FCA Magazine.