Montana State University

MSU honors top faculty and staff

January 3, 2014 -- MSU News Service

MSU honors top faculty and staff

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Dedicated teachers, dynamic researchers and faculty devoted to the betterment of Montana are among the winners of the top Montana State University 2014 faculty awards announced this week. The annual awards honor achievement in faculty research, teaching, outreach and creative projects. The awards will be presented at the MSU Spring Convocation, set for 9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 7, in Reynolds Recital Hall.

The Cox Family Faculty Excellence Award
William Ruff, education, is the recipient of the 2014 Cox Family Award for Creative Scholarship and Teaching. He will receive a $2,000 honorarium from the Winston and Helen Cox Family Endowment.

Ruff, an associate professor of educational leadership, has an impressive record of scholarship and teaching in the area of rural and American Indian educational leadership. Ruff helped design the Indian Leadership Education and Development program, or ILEAD, which is designed to train American Indian educators and improve schools on and near Indian reservations in Montana and several neighboring states. Under Ruff’s direction, the program has won a series of grants totaling $3.5 million and placed dozens of American Indian administrators in schools serving American Indian populations. Ruff is also credited for developing a groundbreaking indigenous educational leadership model that addresses the need for a distinctly American Indian approach to leader development. He is also recognized for successfully integrating research and teaching in rural and American Indian contexts.

Wiley Award for Meritorious Research and Creativity
Joseph Shaw, electrical and computer engineering, has won this year's Charles and Nora L. Wiley Faculty Award for Meritorious Research and Creativity. He will receive $2,000. Sponsored by the MSU Alumni Foundation, the prize is given in honor of the Wileys, who were pioneer ranchers in eastern Montana.

Shaw is a leader in the development and application of optical remote sensing systems to study the natural earth environment, including radiometers, polarimeters, and LIDARs, or Light Detection and Ranging systems, as well as the photography and science of optical phenomena in nature. Recently, Shaw’s work in the Optical Remote Sensor Laboratory has sought to harness research on infrared imaging of clouds to help NASA develop a better method for communicating with its vehicles in the far reaches of the solar system. Shaw is known for a variety of projects that range from use of LIDARS for applications ranging from measuring clouds in climate science to mapping invasive lake trout for protection of Yellowstone Lake. He has led his group's development of optical aurora detectors to send cell phone text messages alerting people when they can see an aurora. Shaw is a fellow in the Optical Society of America and the International Society of Optics and Photonics, both organizations representing researchers in fields ranging from vision science to fiber optics to lasers and remote sensing. Shaw is serving as the director of the Optical Technology Center at MSU, the organization that seeks to promote and harness the university’s educational opportunities to help support and grow the fields of optical science and engineering.

James and Mary Ross Provost's Award for Excellence
Mary Cloninger, chemistry and biochemistry, received the 2014 James and Mary Ross Provost’s Award for Excellence, which recognizes excellence in teaching and scholarship. She receives a $2,500 honorarium for the award.

Cloninger is recognized as a first-rate researcher who consistently and effectively teaches and mentors undergraduate students. She regularly teaches an introductory chemistry course for non-majors, serving a variety of students including dietetic, pre-veterinary, broadfield science secondary, biotechnology and chemical engineering majors. She has mentored more than 40 undergraduates in her lab. She conducts cutting-edge research that involves national and international collaborators and has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation since 2001.

Academic Advising Awards
Ada Giusti, modern languages and literatures, and Karen Steele, University Studies, won Academic Advising Awards. Each receives a $2,000 award.

As MSU's sole tenure-track French professor, Giusti has more than 60 advisees each year. Underlying her work is the philosophy that everyone needs support to reach their goals, and she works tirelessly to provide that support for her students. She emphasizes research projects for language students, working diligently and consistently to find those opportunities, and she has mentored more than 30 undergraduate scholars. She established a volunteer service project for her students in Mali, Morocco and France, enabling students to serve and learn about other cultures while perfecting their skills in speaking French.

A University Studies academic adviser and MSU's National Student Exchange coordinator, Steele has been advising at MSU for a decade. A structural engineer by training, Steele earned a master's degree in education and found a passion working with students. She is recognized for her ability to connect with students on a very personal level and for her caring attitude and dedication to MSU's students. Steele is currently serving as the chair of the National Student Exchange National Council.

Betty Coffey Award
Kristen Intemann, history and philosophy, received the Betty Coffey Award in memory of an engineering professor who was noted for her teaching excellence and championing of women’s equity and minority issues in the curriculum. The award comes with a $1,000 honorarium.

Intemann, an associate professor of philosophy and co-chair of the Women’s and Gender Studies Committee, is recognized for successfully integrating scholarship and engagement at MSU and in the larger philosophy community. Her scholarship, teaching and service activities are all directed toward incorporating feminist theory and women’s perspectives into the curriculum, as well as eliminating persistent barriers to women on the MSU campus and within academia in general. She is committed to developing new courses that use feminist theory and focus on gender, race and class.

President's Award for Excellence in Service Learning
Diana Cooksey, land resources and environmental sciences, won the President's Award for Excellence in Service Learning. She will receive $800.

Cooksey is a GPS lab manager/spatial sciences instructor in the land resources and environmental sciences department. Her community partners are Jon Henderson with the City of Bozeman GIS Department and Nate Bashkirew with the City of Bozeman Fire Department. Since 2003, the City of Bozeman has worked with Cooksey and the Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences to develop a collaborative project that benefits both students and the community. Each semester, several areas of concern are identified and mapped to allow stakeholders the ability to improve on an existing program. For example, as part of Cooksey’s course on mapping and a project known as E-911, students have worked to map high-density housing developments in the community to aid in emergency response. They have also worked with local irrigators to inventory water resources in the Gallatin Valley. The partnership is recognized as both a benefit to the community and as a powerful tool to help motivate students to do their best.

Phi Kappa Phi Award
James Becker, electrical and computer engineering, and Kevin O’Neill, land resources and environmental sciences, won the Anna K. Fridley Distinguished Teaching Award given by the Phi Kappa Phi honorary. Each will receive $750.

Becker is described by his fellow Electrical and Computer Engineering Department faculty as setting the standard for teaching excellence and for consistently showing his skills as a scholar and mentor. Becker, whose research and teaching interests include microwave, millimeter wave and nano-electronics, as well as micro- and nanofabrication, does not shy away from bringing new students into the discipline. In entry-level courses, his students regularly demonstrate competence and confidence in their coursework, and in their evaluations they consistently comment that Becker has motivated, encouraged and supported them in their work. Becker has been devoted to studying active learning methodologies and distance education. Becker has received funding from the NSF and is a 2004 recipient of the NSF CAREER award and is a senior member of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, The IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society, and the IEEE Solid State Circuits Society. He has served as an Associate Editor of the International Journal of Antennas and Propagation. 

O’Neill has served as a professor at MSU since 1990 and as a research associate from 1985-1990. Colleagues say he is committed to high standards, quality course content and engagement with students. He is also recognized for his dedication to student learning, innovation in the classroom and passion for interdisciplinary collaboration. Students say he consistently challenges them and encourages them to think critically about science. His research is focused on insect behavior and ecology, with emphases on studies of pollination ecology and foraging and parental strategies of bees and wasps. He is also the author of three books on wasp behavior. His previous awards include the James and Mary Ross Provost's Award for Excellence and the President's Excellence in Teaching Award.

Teaching Innovation Award
Chris Bahn, chemistry and biochemistry, has won the Teaching Innovation Award, which honors a faculty member who has incorporated outstanding innovative teaching practices into his or her classes. Bahn will receive a $2,000 award.

Bahn has served as a lecturer in the MSU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry for about 10 years. Colleagues say that during that time, he has always been recognized for his willingness to try new methods and embrace new technologies that help students learn, as well as for his enthusiasm and effectiveness as a teacher. Among other innovations, Bahn uses pencasts, lecture captures and guided inquiry lab exercises in his courses. Bahn has also received many accolades for teaching, including receiving in 2011 the President’s Excellence in Teaching Award, which is the highest award for teaching that one can earn at Montana State.

Excellence in Online Teaching Award
Brock LaMeres, electrical and computer engineering, has won the Excellence in Online Teaching Award honoring faculty who have provided outstanding teaching, course development, mentoring of students and service to online education. The prize comes with a $2,000 honorarium.

In addition to receiving exceptional teaching evaluations for his online courses, LaMeres has produced empirical data comparing the learning effectiveness of online courses to those delivered using the traditional face-to-face method. His work was recently published in the IEEE Transactions for Engineering Education, the most prestigious journal in his field for education-related research. LaMeres also developed “remote laboratory” technology that allows students to control laboratory equipment on campus from any other computer. It allows students to complete the laboratory component of a course without having to come to campus and promises to expand the online offerings of engineering courses throughout the state. LaMeres has received funding from the National Science Foundation, NASA and the Montana Space Grant Consortium to support his online efforts. In addition to working with online learning at MSU, LaMeres also runs a research program that was recently awarded a grant from NASA to develop a satellite containing a new, radiation tolerant computer that his team built.

Provost's Excellence in Outreach Award
Sandy Bailey, professor and Extension family and human development specialist, and Joel Schumacher, agricultural economics/economics, were selected as the 2014 recipients of MSU's Provost's Excellence in Outreach Award. Each receives a $2,000 honorarium.

Since 2001, Bailey has served as the MSU Extension Family & Human Development Specialist. In that role, she has developed many effective programs and innovative partnerships, including the successful Montana Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Project. Bailey began the program after finding that, due to family crises, more grandparents were taking on a primary parenting role for their grandchildren. In addition to other methods of support, the program trains support group facilitators and offers educational conferences and other resources for grandparent caregivers. Bailey also conducts research with the Montana Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Project.

Schumacher has made outstanding contributions in two vital areas of Extension education: personal finance and energy, especially alternative energy. Schumacher has established himself as one of the top Extension specialist education experts in the country on alternative energy. In the process, he has worked closely with American Indian communities through a collaboration with Fort Peck Community College. One of his most significant contributions in the area of financial planning is his collaboration with Extension Economics professor Marsha Goetting to develop the “Solid Finances” employee education seminar series. The program was initially developed for MSU-Bozeman employees, but it has since spread across Montana.

Provost's Award for Undergraduate Research/Creativity Mentoring
David Dickensheets, electrical and computer engineering, has won the Provost's Award for Undergraduate Research/Creativity Mentoring. He receives a $2,000 honorarium.

Dickensheets was recently recognized and honored by his colleagues, who named him MSU’s first College of Engineering Distinguished Professor. In addition to an array of accomplishments – he has developed microdevices used for confocal optical microscopy for medical imaging and invented the first micromachined confocal microscope for endoscope-based medical microscopy, among other things – Dickensheets distinguishes himself for his outstanding record of providing opportunities for undergraduates to learn from and experience the challenges and rewards of laboratory research. Since coming to MSU in 1997, he has personally mentored at least 25 undergraduate students in hands-on research projects that were part of his externally funded research program. He takes the time to include them on the nuts and bolts of conducting research, and he has dedicated himself to spending at least one hour per week with each of his students, undergraduates and graduates alike. The payoff has shown in McNair and Goldwater scholarship winners, as well as in the fact that many of these students remain affiliated with the research group for two or three years. In addition to being widely published and a respected editor, Dickensheets has chaired numerous conferences and is a senior member of IEEE.  

Provost’s Award for Graduate Research/Creativity Mentoring
Statistics professor John Borkowski has been selected for the Provost’s Award for Graduate Research/Creative Mentoring, a new award that gives him $2,000 cash. The award recognizes faculty members who actively and creatively engage graduate students in their learning experience.

Borkowski has had a significant impact on the research and creativity of graduate students locally and internationally. He has chaired the graduate committees of seven doctorate students and three master’s degree students at MSU and co-chaired 10 students at their home institutions in Asia. He has served on the final committees of 110 graduate students at MSU. Borkowski also supervises approximately 70 graduate students as chair of the graduate program in the Department of Mathematical Sciences. His work at enhancing graduate success and education in statistics has led to him being named a College of Letters and Science Distinguished Professor, a Fulbright Scholar and the recipient of a 2013 honorary doctorate from Thammasat University in Thailand. He has published more than 59 peer-reviewed articles, including 29 with credited student authors.

President's Commission on the Status of University Women Award
Jessi L. Smith, psychology, received the President's Commission on the Status of University Women Award given to a member of the faculty or staff who has established a record of working to improve issues related to gender, equity and diversity on any of MSU's four campuses. The award includes a $2,000 honorarium.

Smith is the principal investigator of a $3.4 million NSF ADVANCE grant that is broadening the participation of women faculty members at MSU and has been instrumental to many campus innovations that improved the lives of both men and women at MSU. Her service aligns with her own research that focuses on motivation, goals and stereotypes as they relate to gender and achievement. She is a prolific writer who has published scores of research articles in top-tier peer reviewed journals, several book chapters and an edited book.

Vice President for Research's Meritorious Technology/Science Awards
Brent Peyton, chemical and biological engineering, has received MSU’s Meritorious Technology/Science Award. It carries a $2,500 honorarium and recognizes MSU faculty members who have made at least one significant technological or scientific contribution that could be transferred or already has been transferred to the private sector.

Peyton researches chemical and biological processes that cover a range of fields with significant potential impacts on industrial and environment processes. One of them transforms selenium into an insoluble form, improving mining operations in British Columbia and significantly reducing downstream pollution. Another uses baking soda to enhance biodiesel production from algae. The technology for that is currently being licensed to a company that has committed more than $300,000 in the last two years to advance the technology for a variety of commercial uses. A third technology, this one applied by the Center for Biofilm Engineering, involves a bacteria that thrives in high salt environments.

Women's Faculty Caucus Distinguished Mentor Award
Suzanne Christopher, health and human development, received the Women's Faculty Caucus Distinguished Mentor Award. It carries a $2,000 honorarium. The award recognizes an MSU faculty member for mentoring junior women faculty members by helping them negotiate the promotion and tenure process, encouraging their research and teaching activities, and providing "whole woman" role models.

Christopher is praised for her effective style of mentoring that is characterized by a personable, approachable manner in combination with personal and intellectual skills that contribute to her leadership in research and scholarship. Her noteworthy collaboration with junior colleagues on grant proposals and publications has been pivotal for the development of several faculty members and research programs. An example of her innovation is her development of a grant-writing boot camp for early-career researchers. Her capacity to provide constructive guidance and encouragement, all in a spirit of friendliness and generosity of spirit, created a welcoming community for the young scholars who continue to meet long after the workshop ended.

President's Excellence in Teaching Award
Robert Mokwa, civil engineering, was awarded the 2014 Excellence in Teaching Award. He will receive a $2,500 honorarium.

As a teacher with a strong commitment to student success, Mokwa has always been interested in helping students at all levels develop their problem solving skills within the context of real-world problems and their engineering solutions. Mokwa has worked hard to improve the teaching and learning environment at MSU, securing grants to study teaching methodologies. To improve student understanding and stimulate student interest, he has incorporated various technologies into the classroom, such as the use of a CT, or computed tomography, scanner to study the properties of geotechnical materials. He has shared many of his teaching methods on the national and international level. In addition to working within his department to improve online learning opportunities, Mokwa has taken up a significant role in curriculum development at the university as a member of the MSU Academic Programs Working Group and the University Programs and Curriculum Committee, as well as during his time with the MSU Faculty Senate, for which he now serves as chairperson.

Women in Science Professorship
Joan Broderick, chemistry/biochemistry, received the inaugural Women in Science Distinguished Professor award honoring an outstanding faculty woman in the sciences who champions equity and diversity and who has excelled in research accomplishments, teaching and mentorship as well as contributions to the state of Montana and/or Montana State University.The recipient receives an annual award of $4,000 for two years. 

Broderick is a bioinorganic chemist and serves as an important role model to women in science everywhere. She is a distinguished researcher, successful in obtaining funding from NIH and DOE. Likewise, she has a substantial publication record, with 64 peer-reviewed papers. A committed teacher, she teaches introductory level courses, advanced level courses, and she is engaged in supervising doctoral students. Her outreach and mentorship to both women science students and women junior science faculty is notable, visible and well-respected

Rufus T. Firefly Award for Excellence in Innovative Service
Jeff Butler, director of Facilities Services, won the Firefly Award of Excellence given to an employee who holds a professional position within the university system and who has demonstrated tangible innovation, positive and broad impact on student experience, and/or leadership distinguished by role modeling in a professional capacity. The award carries a $1,500 honorarium.

Butler received both his bachelor's and master's degrees at MSU, and he has worked in progressively more responsible managerial and leadership capacities at Facilities Services. He developed a system to assess the condition of campus facilities and to track the management of those systems. His system was so successful that other MSU campuses started using it, and eventually it was made available at the state and national level. He is one of the founders of Leadership MSU.

For more information about MSU's 2014 Spring Convocation, see:

Contact: Lisa Duffey, (406) 994-4373 or