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Research and Creative Activity Council

The Research and Creative Activity Council (RCAC) serves as an advisory committee to the Associate Provost for Research and Creative Activity. The RCAC provides counsel on a wide variety of matters relating to the research and creative enterprises of WKU faculty, staff, and students. The group is composed of the following members:


Dr. Austin Griffiths


Dr. Austin Griffiths is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Work at Western Kentucky University and the Director of the Center for Child Welfare Education and Research (CCWEAR).  He previously worked for the Kentucky Department for Community Based Services in adult and child protective services.  He is currently the Principal Investigator on a Medicaid funded project entitled the Kentucky Child Welfare Workforce Wellness Initiative and the majority of his research is focused on child welfare practice, training, and workforce development.

The Center for Child Welfare Eduation and Research can be found here



Dr. Evelyn Thrasher


Dr. Lily Popova Zhuhadar received her Ph.D. degree in Computer Science and Computer Engineering from the University of Louisville in 2009.

While earning her doctorate, she worked as a Research Scientist at WKU for six years (2007-2013). In 2013, she joined the GFCB Department of Information Systems. During her appointment, she submitted more than 12 grant proposals, internally and externally, with amounts ranging from $3,000.00 to $925,000.00. To date, she has been awarded eight grants with amounts ranging from $3,000.00 to $35,000.00.

Dr. Zhuhadar applied research is directed toward collaborating with colleagues from various disciplines in the USA and Europe to solve today's Big Data problems by using Data Mining methodologies. The impact of her research has been witnessed by its contribution to more than 50 publications in peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, and national/international conference proceedings. She published in many top journals such as Computers in Human Behavior (Elsevier), Journal of the Knowledge Economy (Springer), Social Network Analysis and Mining (Springer), Journal of Universal Computer Science (Technische Universität Graz), International Journal of Knowledge Society Research (IGI Global), and the International Journal of Hybrid Intelligent Systems (IOS Press). These publications have had a significant impact on her ranking on ResearchGate. She is above 77.5% of all ResearchGate members Worldwide1.

The National Science Foundation has invited her twice, in 2012 and 2016, to attend the NSF Summit Symposium Workshops. Dr. Zhuhadar was awarded the 2018 GFCB Research & Creative Activities Award, the 2017 GFCB PRIDA Award, the 2015 Dean Merits’ Award, and the 2014 WKU Office of Sponsored Programs Award for the Most Prolific Grant Proposer by College.

Dr. Zhuhadar is a fellow of the following associations: The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), The IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE), The AACSB International,the Association for Information Systems (AIS), the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).


Bruce Schulte


Dr. Bruce A. Schulteis the Associate Vice President for Strategy, Performance and Accountability at Western Kentucky University as well as the Executive Director of the WKU Research Foundation and a University Distinguished Professor noted for his studies on elephant behavior and conservation. For ten years, Dr. Bruce Schulte was the Department Head of Biology at WKU.  As AVP, he supervises the Center for Research and Development (CRD), which is directed by William “Jeff” Hook. He was co-chair of the WKU Strategic Plan Climbing to Greater Heights development process, and he chairs the Strategic Plan Implementation Committee. The WKU Strategic Plan set as a goal for Our Community & Beyond for WKU to serve as a Regional Lighthouse “to provide resources, attract talent, and nurture intellectual capital in the communities we serve.” One of the key strategies to achieve this objective is to “transform the WKU Center for Research and Development [CRD] into a true Innovation Campus that engages corporations in collaborative research, incubates faculty, staff, and student ideas, cultivates and grows local businesses, and provides a hub for entrepreneurial growth and investment.” In keeping with this goal and strategy, WKU has aligned supervision of the CRD, Intellectual Property, Technology Transfer, and Commercialization by WKU faculty, staff, and students under Dr. Schulte. In conjunction with WKU Administration, CRD Director Jeff Hook, the WKURF Board of Directors, the IP/TT/Commercialization staff, faculty/staff/student leadership, and community members, Dr. Schulte is directing the development of the WKU Innovation Campus. 


Jeffery Budziak


Dr. Jeffrey Budziak is an Associate Professor Political Science and currently serves as the Assistant Dean in the Potter College of Arts and Letters. He received his BA in Political Science from the University of Dayton, and both his MA and PhD. in Political Science from The Ohio State University. Dr. Budziak’s scholarly interests focus on American government, law and courts, and statistical methodology. His research primarily investigates the behavior and decision-making patterns of the United States Supreme Court and the United States Courts of Appeals. This research has been published in scholarly journals such as TheJournal of Law and CourtsPolitical Behavior, and Political Science Research and Methods, among others, and has been featured in press outlets like The Washington Post. His current research projects examine how writing style influences the treatment of legal opinions by future courts.  


Yvonne Petkus 

Yvonne Petkus, artist and Professor of Art in the WKU Department of Art & Design, was recently awarded the distinction of University Distinguished Professor after over twenty years of work and recognition in teaching, service, and studio research. Highlights include being awarded the University Award for Excellence in Research and Creativity, serving on high-level university committees, and working with students in developing their own, meaningful studio practices. Petkus earned her BFA in Painting from Syracuse University and MFA in Painting from the University of Washington.

As a process-driven artist, Petkus is invested in painting as a physical act of thinking and uses painting to explore ideas of struggle and persistence, the residues of trauma, and the forces of nature against the body. Her practice is intended as a strategy and as a mechanism to address the larger, most human of concerns while providing space for contemplation, reflection, and understanding.

 Petkus has presented her work in exhibition venues and conferences across the U.S. and internationally, and honors include artist grants and awards from the Kentucky Arts Council, the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and the Great Meadows Foundation. Competitive artist residencies and fellowships include an artist residency in New York at the School of Visual Arts, two RCAP-supported artist residencies in Iceland, and the 2017 Zuheir Sofia Endowed International Faculty Seminar Fellowship Program (ZSEIFS) in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Her ZSEIFS research led to intensive and significant programming for WKU that can still be experienced in-person on our campus through a visit to the courtyard of the Kentucky Museum, where two semi-permanent "wall-cut" murals stand, created during a week-long workshop with visiting artists from Bosnia.

Petkus also curated an international exhibition of work by twelve artists, Proof of Existence: An Exhibit of Work by Contemporary Artists of Bosnian and Balkan Origin, in 2018 and has since presented the results of this curatorial work and her own Bosnian-influenced studio research in venues around the country and world, including in Sarajevo at the KUMA International Center for Visual Art from Post-Conflict Societies' Conference on Contemporary Art, as a panel member for the Austria-based podcast Contemporary Matters, and in an ongoing schedule of solo and group exhibitions. Documentation of Petkus' work can be viewed at www.yvonnepetkus.com


Jenni Redifer


Dr. Jenni Rediferis an Assistant Professor within the Department of Psychology.  More recently she has been    appointed as the Assistant to the Dean for Research within the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences. She  received her B.A. in Psychology from Mesa State College (now Colorado Mesa University), and both her M.A.E.  and Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Florida.

 Her research examines cognitive factors related to student learning and achievement.  She is also the Lab Director of the Attention and Memory Lab which examines cognitive factors related to student learning and achievement.  The lab investigates how working memory capacity (the limited attentional resources we have available during  effortful tasks) influences problem-solving and retrieval of information from long-term memory. Part of this work investigates methods for teaching effective strategies to individuals with low working memory capacity (i.e., fewer attentional resources).  Effective strategy instruction can help students with low working memory succeed at tasks that tax working memory, such as reading comprehension and mathematical problem-solving. 

 Dr. Redifer has received over $287,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation and $7,500 through WKU’s Research and Creative Activities Program.  She also served as a Research and Creative Activities Program Review Committee member from 2015-2017.


Dr. Cate Webb


Dr. Cathleen Webb is presently serving as the Associate Dean of Research of the Ogden College of Science and Engineering at Western Kentucky University.  Dr. Webb recently completed twelve years as Department Head of Chemistry.  Prior to joining the faculty at Western Kentucky University in 2001, she taught for 11 years in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SDSM&T).

 Dr. Webb has had continuous and diverse external research funding (federal – NSF, NPS, USGS, BLM, EPA, and USFS, state and private) since 1991, with over 40 grants totaling over $3M, including an SBIR Phase I and Phase II grant from the EPA.  She has published over 40 articles, chapters, conference proceedings, and technical reports.  Her research area of specialty is environmental and geochemistry and impacts on water quality.

Dr. Webb is the Principle Investigator on two interdisciplinary NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs. One hallmark of these NSF REU programs is the target population of students, which are first-generation college students from the Appalachian region.  This is an important population of students at WKU; one particularly close to her personal values as an educator as she herself was a first generation college student.


Dr. Anthony Paganelli


Dr. Anthony Paganelli is the business and law librarian instructor for WKU Libraries’ Department of Public Library Services. He has been with the WKU Libraries since 2012 and has served in many different roles within the Department of Public Library Services. In 2020, he received his EdD from WKU. Further education includes a BS in Commercial Music and a paralegal degree from the University of North Alabama, a MA in Music History from Western Carolina University, and a MS in Music Composition/Theory and a MLIS from the University of Alabama.

Research interests includes the academic library role in blockchain technology, social entrepreneurship, and makerspaces. Further research in academic libraries involve innovative library services in embedded librarianship, personal librarianship, online and distance librarianship, and library learning modules. He was awarded an RCAP grant and the Innovation Research Instruction Award from the WKU Libraries’ Dean. In 2018, he was awarded the WKU Libraries Margie Helm award for Outstanding Faculty Performance.

Dr. Paganelli writes the column Legally Speaking for the Against the Grain journal and is a reviewer for the Journal of Academic Librarianship. He has frequently published and presented research topics on academic librarianship, as well as provided professional development. Dr. Paganelli also organized the WKU Libraries’ Human Library Event that involved numerous people in the community to share their personal experiences.


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 Last Modified 1/25/21