Montana State University

L&S faculty, staff and students receive college's top awards on April 16

April 4, 2013

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The Montana State University College of Letters and Science will honor the recipients of the college's annual awards at a ceremony from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 16, in SUB Ballroom A.

Marcy Barge, Department of Mathematical Sciences, and Susan Cohen, Department of History and Philosophy, will receive the Letters and Science Award for Meritorious Research and Creativity.

Barge is a widely published researcher whose contributions to the field of dynamical systems and topology are recognized nationally and internationally. His current research program is focused on tiling theory and its connection to dynamical systems. During his career, he has published 59 papers in many of the most prestigious journals available to pure mathematicians. Despite the fact that grant support for pure mathematics is low, Barge has been the PI or co-PI for NSF grants totaling more than $1 million during his career.

Cohen has an extensive and mature research project focused on the analysis of settlement patterns, the rise of urbanism and international interconnectedness during the second millennium B.C. in the eastern Mediterranean. In particular, her work is commended for her combination of primary fieldwork and excavation with data analysis and synthesis of the results with other historical and archaeological evidence. Cohen is the author of six books and seven refereed journal articles.

Michael Babcock and Shawna Heiser, psychology, will receive Letters and Science Outstanding Teaching Awards.

Babcock is an expert in neuropsychology, which is a combination of biology, physiology and behavioral psychology. He excels at nurturing student discovery by including students in every facet of his scholarship, including teaching, research and outreach. In order to promote student interest and comprehension, Babcock strives to incorporate multiple teaching media and the latest technology in the classroom. His commitment to engaging students in research extends beyond the classroom and into his research laboratory. 

Heiser is one of only a handful of professionals in Montana who are Board Certified Behavior Analysts, and her students benefit greatly from her expertise in assessing and treating behavioral problems. In particular, she is commended for her dynamic classroom presence, her great knowledge of the subject she teaches and for helping students integrate their classroom learning into their daily lives through community service. She transformed two courses into online versions to make them more widely available.

Natalie Scheidler, Department of History and Philosophy, and Olga Vsevolozhskaya, Department of Mathematical Sciences, have won Letters and Science Graduate Student Teaching Awards.

Scheidler has been a GTA for several history courses, and her colleagues say that she is not really an assistant, but rather a teaching partner or co-instructor. She consistently receives high praise from her students, who feel that she genuinely cares about them, listens to them and finds creative ways to help them learn. She does an excellent job of preparing for and teaching courses, while maintaining her own excellent scholarship and community service.

Vsevolozhskaya has taught four different math and statistics courses, and no other GTA in recent memory has taught such a diversity of courses. Faculty members in the department note that she excels at explaining complicated concepts to students, constantly works to improve her courses, and does her work with little or no supervision. While teaching all of these courses, she has also been very productive on her dissertation research, has two manuscripts under review and has presented at several conferences.

Cassandra Balent, Department of History and Philosophy, and Sarah Barutha, Department of Physics, will be honored with L&S's Kathy Griffith Employee Excellence Award.

Balent has been serving as the "operations manager" in the Department of History and Philosophy for two years. She is responsible for a wide range of tasks, from fiscal management to event planning, from organizing faculty searches to organizing promotion and tenure dossiers. Her colleagues especially appreciate her leadership, attention to detail and positive attitude. Balent is commended for making significant contributions to the success and enhanced image of her department.

Barutha has been the office manager in the Department of Physics since 2007. Her responsibilities range from human resources to budgets and budgetary reporting, from book orders to classroom assignments and scheduling. She does all of this for a department of more than 200 individuals, including faculty, research professionals, staff and students. Her colleagues greatly value her willingness to lend a helping hand, and her positive, patient and kind demeanor.

Derek Brouwer, history, and David Halat, chemistry and math, will receive the Dean's Award for Academic Excellence. This award is presented to the top two seniors in the college.

Brouwer is described as a talented and accomplished student who excels in the classroom as well as in extracurricular endeavors. As an undergraduate student, he served as a teaching assistant, including grading, tutoring and leading classroom discussions. Faculty in the department view him as an intellectual colleague rather than just a bright student. In addition to his exceptional work in the classroom, he has also made significant contributions during summer internships and serves as editor-in-chief of the Exponent.

Halat is commended for his excellent scholarship, which has been recognized with several prestigious awards including a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. It is expected that he will have four publications by the time he graduates. In addition to his academic accomplishments, he has been an indispensible student leader in both departments. He has been a tireless volunteer for community outreach events such as NanoDays and Frankenscience, as well as serving in leadership roles for several student groups.

Jody Sanford (406) 994-7791,