BOZEMAN — Dedicated teachers, dynamic researchers and faculty devoted to the betterment of Montana are among the winners of the top Montana State University 2017 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 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 10, in Reynolds Recital Hall.
Spring Convocation events will continue that afternoon with a lecture by Brock LaMeres, Convocation speaker. LaMeres, who is an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of the Montana Engineering Education Center, will deliver "Transforming Engineering Education" from 2-3 p.m. in the Procrastinator Theatre.
Spring Convocation events will conclude that day with a Convocation reception and library open house, "Astounding Stories of a Super-Library," from 3:15-6 p.m. in the MSU Library.
All Spring Convocation events are free and open to the public. For more information, contact Julie Heard in the Provost's Office at 994-4373.
Rufus T. Firefly Award for Excellence in Innovative Service
Kristin Blackler, director of the Office of Sustainability, won the Firefly Award for Excellence in Innovative Service 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.
As the inaugural director of the Office of Sustainability, Blackler has been a progressive force for sustainability since joining the university in 2013. Blackler helps students and other staff to understand land-scale concepts such as sustainability in small, easily digestible pieces, and then also understand how those pieces fit into the larger picture of sustainability at Montana State.
Her supervisor and colleagues say she has improved Montana State through her passion for sustainability, as well as for her passion for the success of MSU’s students. Specifically, Blackler has worked to improve MSU’s recycling efforts, not only in the daily operations of the university, but also at athletic and other events. In partnership with MSU Facilities Services, Blackler has also worked to improve waste diversion rates at MSU. Those rates are up from 11 percent in fiscal year 2013 to more than 19 percent in fiscal year 2016 (an amount that equals more than 430 tons of waste being diverted from the landfill). New and creative recycling receptacles and signs, along with strategic placement, have contributed to the success of this program. Blackler has also helped with efforts to improve MSU’s bike-ability.
Blackler’s colleagues say her friendly, positive and collaborative leadership style, combined with her strong work ethic, make her a respected member of the MSU community. She also serves on a variety of committees, including the Campus Sustainability Advisory Council, and is active in professional organizations and local community service activities.
Excellence in Outreach Award
Monica Skewes, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, and Jeffrey Littlefield in the Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences won the Excellence in Outreach Award. Each will receive a $2,000 honorarium.
Skewes is recognized for her research and community engagement, as well as for her work as a frequent speaker and trainer at MSU and across the state, particularly in the areas of diversity and inclusion. As an investigator for MSU's Center for American Indian and Rural Health Equity (CAIRHE), Skewes has established close collaboration with community partners from the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes of the Fort Peck Reservation in northeastern Montana, establishing, among things, the Fort Peck Substance Abuse and Resilience Project. She is known for integrating themes of cultural humility and inclusion into her research, for presenting her findings in an accessible way, and for striving for equitable, trusting relationships with Montana's Native communities. In addition to regularly sharing her research with communities on the Fort Peck Reservation, she speaks frequently on issues of alcohol and drug addiction and offers cultural awareness and training workshops to MSU clubs and organizations.
Littlefield is recognized for his tireless service in managing noxious weeds around the state. As quarantine officer of the biocontrol facility at MSU's Plant Growth Center, Littlefield works widely with public lands agencies, private landowners, federal regulators and MSU researchers to find effective ways of using insects and other biological agents to contain noxious weeds. In addition to maintaining the MSU biocontrol facility and conducting field work, Littlefield regularly works with labs around the world to identify new and effective agents. Those familiar with his work at MSU since the late 1980s say that his outreach has had an extraordinary, long-term impact on thousands of acres of Montana's wild and agricultural lands.
Betty Coffey Outstanding Achievement Award
Karen deVries, an interdisciplinary instructor in women’s, gender and sexuality studies, will receive 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.
deVries has made significant accomplishments in incorporating women’s and sexuality studies perspectives into both existing and new courses, advising, mentoring, and programing at MSU. In the last three years, she has taught the majority of the foundational courses for the women’s, gender and sexuality studies minor. She has worked tirelessly to eliminate persistent barriers to female and LGBTQ faculty and students at MSU and within academia more generally and has worked hard to bring diverse speakers, including Angela Davis, to the MSU campus. Additionally, she has made important contributions to University Studies, the Department of Political Science, and the MSU Honors College.
Teaching Innovation Award
Michael Babcock, psychology, has won the Teaching Innovation Award, which honors a faculty member who has incorporated outstanding innovative teaching practices into his or her classes. Babcock will receive $2,000.
Babcock displays innovation by integrating multiple ways of presenting information to his students, capturing the minds of the students and motivating them to want to learn more. Because of his teaching methods, his students feel they better retain information. They say that his passion for his students is displayed by his adjusting to individual learning styles both in the laboratory and in the classroom and allowing students to come to the table with their own ideas and interests, promoting critical thinking. As one student said, “Mike is an amazing professor, adviser and mentor who celebrates and takes pride in all of the successes of his students.”
Anna K. Fridley Award
Todd Kaiser, associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has won the Phi Kappa Phi honorary's Anna K. Fridley Award, MSU’s oldest award for distinguished teaching. The award carries a $1,000 honorarium.
Kaiser is recognized for teaching a "popular and impactful" elective course on microfabrication, a process underlying the production of nearly all electronics and digital devices. By introducing students to a real-world cleanroom laboratory setting and teaching practical, hand-on skills, Kaiser has opened doors for numerous students who have graduated into jobs with Micron and other major electronics manufacturers. To develop the series of courses, Kaiser initially secured a prestigious, $160,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, which ultimately led to a unique summer course about solar cells created specifically for science teachers. Since joining the MSU faculty in 2000, Kaiser has developed a reputation for teaching at all levels with excellence, and he is noted for his accessibility to students. He has won six prior MSU teaching awards and has received more than $12 million for cleanroom facility development and research, which includes a recent project to test a radiation-resistant computing system on the International Space Station.
Spirit of Discovery Award
Blake Wiedenheft, assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the College of Agriculture and College of Letters and Sciences, has won the Spirit of Discovery Award, which recognizes faculty who have excelled in teaching and mentoring students in the Honors College. The award was made possible by support from Dr. Lew and Liane Vadheim of Miles City. The Vadheims’ son, Bryan, was MSU’s first Marshall Scholar. The award carries a $1,825 honorarium.
Wiedenheft, who serves on the Presidential Scholarship Committee, is known for being a dedicated and caring mentor able to recognize potential early on and as an advocate for the “diamonds-in-the-rough.” One of these students, Joshua Carter, said he was “blown away by how interested (Wiedenheft) was in involving a freshman, who had barely learned where his classes were, in his lab.” Carter, who would go on to win Goldwater and Rhodes scholarships, credits Wiedenheft’s willingness in allowing him to participate in research projects as an undergraduate as a large part of his success. In Wiedenheft’s lab, Carter contributed to research in the study of the molecular host defense mechanisms, called CRISPRs, used by microbes in their defense against viruses. This led the research team to the determination of the first crystal structure of the CRISPR associated complex for antiviral defense (Cascade). The discovery was published in the journal Science and highlighted on its cover. Carter also authored four publications, with two as first author, including a snapshot in Cell.
As a mentor, Wiedenheft’s students say he is committed to helping them discover their passions and interests while challenging them to stretch their limits, defy expectations and reap the fruits of their labor. Undergraduates in Wiedenheft’s lab have led their own research projects, presented their work at international conferences and are challenged to publish their research in scientific journals.
His mentorship continues post-graduation. Ryan Jackson, who was a postdoctoral student in Wiedenheft’s lab, credits Wiedenheft with teaching him how to succeed in scientific writing and providing him the financial means to attend professional workshops that honed his structural biology skills and allowed him to meet leaders in the field. He added that Wiedenheft helped him learn the art of grant-writing, leading him to win an award that funded his postdoctoral fellowship.
Wiedenheft also brings the spirit of discovery to the community through his outreach projects. He hosts a free summer program at MSU called the Montana Wild Virus Hunt that pairs high school students and science teachers in a team competition to isolate viruses.
Excellence in Online Teaching Award
Marvin Lansverk, English, 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.
Lansverk has a gift of mentoring students from afar. An early adopter of online teaching who started his first online course in 1995, Lansverk has built critical thinking into his online courses. He "break(s) through the digital wall" with various creative approaches, including incorporating a service-learning public storytelling element into his online courses. His design for his world mythology class, which is a diversity core course, is equally applicable to majors and non-majors, inviting them to approach the subject from a variety of academic disciplines as he shares with them some of the “best stories of the world.” Students learn the value of the humanities as they think and write in elevated and sophisticated ways--and to see how global stories from Gilgamesh to Star Wars are much more than simple entertainment. One of his online students wrote that Lansverk has a great gift: “His lifelong dedication to our success … makes him a cut about the rest. He truly cares for his students as people, and it shows in his teaching style.”
Women’s Faculty Caucus Distinguished Mentor Award
Mary Murphy, professor of history, has won the Women’s Faculty Caucus Distinguished Mentor Award recognizing extraordinary efforts in mentoring junior women faculty in the university and contributing substantially to the career development of one or more women faculty members. The award comes with a $2,000 honorarium.
Murphy is known as a conscientious mentor who is dedicated to improving the quality of the work lives of all women faculty in her department. Colleagues say they can go to Murphy for virtually any type of question or concern. They also say Murphy encourages them to speak up, to seek promotions and awards, to believe in their own potential, and to identify a set of tools and a roadmap for pursuing that potential.
Among other things, Murphy has advocated for and supported her female colleagues’ nominations for teaching and research awards; provided feedback on grant applications; and intentionally provided leadership opportunities for junior women faculty. In addition, colleagues say Murphy has gone out of her way in her position as chair of the promotion and tenure committee in her department to make junior faculty feel well-equipped for the tenure process.
In short, Murphy’s colleagues conclude, Murphy demonstrates great depth and breadth as a mentor, and she has had a “transformative” impact on the wellbeing of women faculty.
Cox Faculty Award for Creative Scholarship and Teaching
Jovanka Voyich-Kane, associate professor in MSU’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the College of Agriculture and the College of Letters and Science, is the recipient of the 2017 Cox Faculty Award for Creative Scholarship and Teaching. She will receive a $2,000 honorarium from the Winston and Helen Cox Family Endowment.
Voyich is recognized for her record of scholarship, teaching and research. A highly funded leading researcher in the field of bacterial pathogenesis, her work has furthered the knowledge of Staphylococcus aureus, a pathogen that causes a range of illnesses from minor to life-threatening. She has been published in some of the most prestigious scientific journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine, Microbes and Infection, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and the Journal of Infectious Diseases. To date, her work has been cited nearly 5,800 times in other publications. She has also received a number of national and regional awards over the past 15 years for her excellence in research, instruction and service. An internationally respected scientist, Voyich has been invited to present her research at conferences around the world.
During her 11 years at MSU, Voyich has also made significant contributions in teaching and mentoring with nearly 70 upper-division undergraduates, graduate students and WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho) medical students under her mentorship. The undergraduate and graduate students she instructs benefit from her ability to merge research with teaching, giving them hands-on experience in modern scientific research so they will be more competitive in the job market.
Students in Voyich’s WWAMI infectious disease course consistently give her excellent evaluations, often commenting that she makes a difficult subject interesting and easier to understand. In the past 10 years that Voyich has instructed the course, Montana WWAMI students have outscored their peers at other sites on the common final.
Along with her research and instructional efforts, Voyich serves on a number of MSU committees and as a reviewer or member on more than a dozen peer-reviewed journals.
Outstanding Academic Advising Award
Rebecca Mattix, teaching professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and Renee Hecox, academic adviser in the Department of Civil Engineering, have won the 2017 Academic Advising Award. Each will receive $2,000.
Mattix is known for helping hundreds of MSU students chart successful paths into professional veterinary careers. Having graduated from MSU in 1981 with a degree in animal science before going on to become a professional veterinarian, she brings first-hand experience of veterinary education and practice to her advising role. Since joining the MSU faculty in 1994, MSU's preveterinary program has grown from fewer than 70 students to more than 200. During that time, Mattix has developed a reputation for connecting with students individually, helping them through academic as well as personal challenges. As adviser to MSU's Preveterinary Club for 21 years, she has organized guest speakers, field trips and mock interviews to give students an edge in applying to professional veterinary programs and preparing for professional practice. She has also played an essential role in integrating MSU with the WIMU Regional Veterinary Program, which allows MSU students to complete their first year of veterinary school at MSU and their final three years at Washington State University. She has received the MSU Alumni and Bozeman City Chamber of Commerce Award for Excellence 11 times, has served as an elected member of the executive board to Montana Veterinary Medicine Association since 2009, including as president in 2015, and was recently appointed by Gov. Bullock to a second term on the Montana Veterinary Licensing Board.
Hecox is recognized for helping MSU students navigate the rigorous curriculums of the Civil Engineering Department, with a personal touch. For over three decades she has helped hundreds if not thousands of students, whether struggling freshmen, apprehensive transfer students or concerned seniors, achieve their ultimate goal of completing a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or construction engineering technology. She has played a key role in establishing the Civil Engineering Department's peer advising program, which connects freshmen and sophomores with juniors and seniors who share lessons from their academic experience. She also plays a leading role in helping students from Great Falls College MSU and MSU Billings transition to MSU's main campus to complete their degree in civil engineering or construction engineering technology. MSU's Civil Engineering Department has roughly 700 students, but Hecox has a reputation for taking time to listen to each.
Charles and Nora Wiley Faculty Award for Meritorious Research
Regina Gee, art history, has won this year's Charles and Nora L. Wiley Faculty Award for Meritorious Research. She 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, in recognition of an MSU faculty member who has made a single, especially significant research achievement or who has a recent body of research work exhibiting extensive and mature research activity.
Gee is a substantial and significant researcher of international influence in her field of the history of art of ancient Rome, yet she also involves herself in the life of MSU at all levels, working with colleagues on interdisciplinary possibilities and making innovations to MSU’s curriculum. One of the world’s experts of the frescoes of ancient Rome, incorporating disciplines as diverse as archaeology, chemistry and botany into her work, Gee worked tirelessly to bring to MSU an exhibit of 150 artifacts excavated from a site on the Bay of Naples where she conducts research. Through her efforts to encourage collaboration, that world-class exhibition, “Leisure and Luxury in the Age of Nero: The Villas of Oplontis Near Pompeii” fostered the integration of learning and discovery across a range of colleges and disciplines. The exhibit not only enriched the lives of the MSU community, but also the lives of thousands of visitors who came to MSU’s Museum of the Rockies to experience it – some from remote locations throughout the state and the world.
Vice President for Research Meritorious Technology and Science Award
Blake Wiedenheft, assistant professor in MSU’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the College of Agriculture and College of Letters and Science, has received the Vice President for Research Meritorious Technology and Science Award. The award recognizes an MSU faculty member who has made significant technological/scientific contributions and comes with a $2,500 honorarium.
An early-career scientist who received his Ph.D. from MSU in 2006, Wiedenheft has already established himself internationally as a leading researcher in microbial science, which is the study of the molecular host defense mechanisms, called CRISPRs, used by microbes in their defense against viruses. His pioneering work in CRISPRs, an acronym for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats,” has impacted biomedical and environmental microbiology, as well as biotechnology, since the CRISPR system has provided insights into new approaches for gene editing.
Wiedenheft has been published extensively in nearly 50 leading scientific journals, including Science, Nature and PNAS, and his high-impact work has been cited more than 3,700 times. He has also been successful at winning grants, including two non-overlapping, concurrent grants from the National Institutes of Health, and has served as co-principal investigator on a Gates Foundation grant.
Wiendenheft has been an invited lecturer at conferences around the world. In 2016, the director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences invited him to deliver the inaugural lecture for its new Director’s Early Career Scientist Lecture series, citing Wiedenheft’s cutting-edge CRISPR gene-editing system and his dedication to mentoring, education and outreach. He has garnered a number of prestigious awards, including the NIH Director’s Early Career Scientist Award in 2016, the Amgen Young Investigator Award and the MSU Alumni Foundation/Bozeman Area Chamber of Commerce Award for Excellence in 2015, and the Biophysical Society’s New and Notable Lecturer award in 2014.
Since joining MSU in 2012, Wiedenheft has put forth considerable efforts in technology transfer, including three CRISPR-related patent applications and funding through a private-industry research contract that is tied to these technologies, which can potentially eliminate genetic diseases, such as muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis.
Provost’s Award for Graduate Research/Creativity Mentoring
Neil Cornish, professor in MSU’s Department of Physics in the College of Letters and Science, has won the Provost’s Award for Graduate Research/Creativity Mentoring, which recognizes a faculty member who engages graduate students in this valuable learning process. The award comes with $2,000.
Since joining the MSU faculty in 1999, Cornish has served as adviser to 19 graduate students, eight of whom have earned their Ph.D., and has continuously maintained an active research group of three to five Ph.D. students. He is currently advising nine graduate students.
Cornish, who is also director of MSU’s eXtreme Gravity Institute, works to include his students as members of the world’s foremost international scientific collaborations, including the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) group. As members of LIGO, Cornish and five of his students played a part in what scientists worldwide called the “scientific discovery of the century,” when their research contributed to the first detection of gravitational waves. The discovery paper was published in the journal Physical Review Letters in 2016, confirming Albert Einstein’s relative theory of gravity. For their work, the LIGO collaboration won a Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics and the worldwide recognition launched Cornish’s students into highly regarded scientific careers.
Cornish well prepares his advisees by requiring them to present ongoing research at departmental seminars, as well as attend and give contributed research talks at national and/or international meetings before they graduate. They routinely present at the annual meeting of the American Physical Society and often at more specialized gravity meetings. Each year, a number of his students win competitive travel grants from the American Physical Society, MSU or NASA. Two of his students have won the prestigious Jocelyn Bell Award for best student talk at the Pacific Coast Gravity Meeting. His most recent Ph.D. graduate was named as one of five winners of the 2016 L’Oreal Fellowship for Women in Science.
Cornish has published 94 distinct peer-reviewed papers with graduate students reporting their work at MSU, all in well-respected journals such as Physical Review, Astrophysical Journal and Classical and Quantum Gravity. Several are published in Physical Review Letters and Nature, considered among the highest-impact publications. He has also overseen the publication of 34 peer-reviewed papers with two to five authors, including a current MSU student, as first author.
In addition to his own advisees, Cornish mentors many other physics students throughout the university and has served on 73 graduate committees for 53 different graduate students.
Fox Faculty Award for Accomplishment in Teaching, Research/Creativity and Mentorship
Nicolas Yunes, associate professor in MSU’s Department of Physics in the College of Letters and Science, has won the Fox Faculty Award, honoring excellence in teaching, research/creativity and mentoring. This is the first year for the award, which is sponsored by the Martin Fox family and the Office of Academic Affairs. It comes with a $3,325 honorarium.
Yunes, who joined the MSU faculty in 2011, has distinguished himself as one of the physics department’s best classroom instructors by introducing teaching methods in his freshman, graduate and honors-level courses that have boosted student performance. These methods include optional recitation sections and midterm student evaluations followed up by adjustments to his course.
Co-founder of MSU’s eXtreme Gravity Institute, Yunes’ research focuses on theoretical investigations of Einstein’s equations of general relativity and ways these equations might be experimentally tested. His prolific research program includes the pioneering of a new area of research that has drawn numerous other researchers from across the globe. Yunes has published 112 peer-reviewed articles in some of the highest-regarded scientific journals, including two in Science and seven in Physical Review Letters.
In what was perhaps his most notable achievement, Yunes, along with postdoctoral student Kent Yagi, discovered that neutron stars are approximately independent of what is inside the star, and that these relations are encoded in the gravitational waves neutron stars emit when they collide with each other. This means that observations of these waves could be used to investigate Einstein’s equations and the nature of spacetime itself. This discovery has spawned research across the world aiming to build upon this unanticipated window into the nature of gravity.
Committed to mentorship, Yunes supervises five advanced Ph.D. students and five first-year Ph.D. students. His first Ph.D. student to graduate is in Canada on a distinguished postdoctoral fellowship. Since coming to MSU, he has published 26 peer-reviewed papers with graduate students, with the student usually as first author. He has mentored six undergraduates, three now in graduate school and three who are still undergraduates, and has published three papers with undergraduates as first authors. Yunes’ students routinely present their work at national conferences and have garnered local and national awards, including prestigious fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science and the Onassis Foundation.
Yunes is also committed to outreach, bringing physics to the public by organizing and producing a variety of educational events, including the Celebrating Einstein science festival in 2013, the Rhythms of the Universe event in 2014 and a show that will premiere this year at Taylor Planetarium at Museum of the Rockies.
Provost’s Award for Undergraduate Research/Creativity Mentoring
Clemente Izurieta, assistant professor in the Gianforte School of Computing, won the Provost's Award for Undergraduate Research/Creativity Mentoring. He receives a $2,000 honorarium.
Izurieta, who joined MSU's computer science department in 2009 after working for 16 years at Hewlett-Packard and Intel, has mentored an impressive 120 MSU computer science students on matters of academic and professional development. In 2014, Izurieta worked with software engineering faculty at the University of Helsinki to establish the first Software Factory in the U.S. The self-sustaining program has connected students with more than 12 high-tech commercial partners to give them hands-on software development experience. Izurieta regularly teaches six undergraduate classes, including a two-semester series of capstone courses in which students propose and carry out projects that encourage technical, leadership, communication and management skills. He has co-authored more than 20 peer-reviewed papers with undergraduate students and has sponsored 30 undergraduates participating in the National Science Foundation's Research Experience for Undergraduates program, which funds student research projects each summer. Izurieta is also known for being an exemplary mentor and advocate for students who are underrepresented in the software field.
James and Mary Ross Provost’s Award for Excellence
Joan Broderick, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, will receive the James and Mary Ross Provost’s Award for Excellence in recognition of excellence in teaching and scholarship. The award comes with a $2,500 honorarium.
Broderick is an internationally recognized scientist in the area of metallobiochemistry as well as a highly successful teacher who routinely teaches at the advanced undergraduate/graduate level as well as the introductory level. Among the courses Broderick teaches is honors general chemistry I, the first science course taken by many Honors students at MSU and a pivotal course from which many students establish a strong grasp of fundamentals in science.
Broderick is well-known in the biochemistry research community for her thoughtful, scholarly approach to research. She combines many experimental approaches, including kinetic analysis, spectroscopy and protein chemistry to fully evaluate the enzymes with which she works. She is a talented problem-solver who logically moves through a series of experiments to reach important new findings and conclusions. She is also known for her technical expertise, as her experiments are extremely difficult to perform.
Broderick, who previously was named MSU’s first Woman in Science Distinguished Professor for her outstanding contributions to the understanding of radical reactions in biochemistry, has a sustained record of funding from the National Institutes of Health and Department of Energy, and she has published nearly 90 scholarly papers, many of them in top-tier publications.
President’s Commission on the Status of University Women Award
Ian Handley, associate professor of psychology, will receive 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.
Colleagues say Handley uses his scholarship to inform his social activism to bring about gender diversity and equality at MSU. They note he “shines as an agent for change” who uses his research knowledge to inform best practices. Handley’s research in social psychology examines people’s attitudes, including people’s attitudes toward gender bias. Handley was also a significant contributor to research testing an intervention to broaden the faculty search process at MSU. The research appeared in numerous media outlets, including Science News and Inside Higher Education.
As the co-lead for the ADVANCE Cultural Attunement team, Handley has overseen the development of the search toolkit, the nomination process for the women in science award, and the equity advocate selection/training and implementation. As the graduate program coordinator for MSU’s doctoral program in psychological science, Handley also is attuned to issues of inclusion, and he respects the unique barriers that women graduate students may face. In addition, as a professor who teaches a required 200-level undergraduate course in statistics and research methods, as well as a more advanced graduate course in statistics, colleagues say Handley helps female students to see the utility and relevance of the material, as well as to enjoy and excel as they learn it. “His success in teaching … is testimony to his incredible teaching contributions to MSU that also foster diversity and inclusion,” his colleagues write.
President’s Award for Excellence in Service Learning
Rebekah VanWieren, assistant professor in the Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology, has won the President’s Award for Excellence in Service Learning. The award recognizes a faculty member and community partners who use a service learning activity to meet a community need. For this award, VanWieren will receive $800.
VanWieren is one of just two faculty dedicated to teaching landscape design courses, and she excels at integrating service learning into the capstone course for landscape design students. This integration enables students to obtain relevant experience while instilling civic responsibility.
An example of a service learning integration project VanWieren designed is one where her landscape design students created and implemented a trail master plan for Missouri Headwaters State Park, partnering with Sacajawea Audubon Society, CRH-US, and Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. Her students utilized their knowledge and abilities in site and planting design gained through previous coursework to develop their plans. The experience involved interacting with the public, other design professionals, and city and park officials. It also involved preparing preliminary and final plans, cost estimates, and gathering feedback at stakeholder workshops. Community partners say that VanWieren and the students played a large role in enabling the first phase of construction of the trail project last fall: “Their plans and graphics provided us with an effective tool we could use to promote our project, secure some much-needed grant funding, and give our landscape architect a starting point to finish working drawings and secure permits to get our project off the ground.”
Colleagues say the service learning projects VanWieren leads are important and have a positive impact because they allow students to recognize and respond to real-world design challenges and make a difference in their landscapes. They also praise her ideas, her communication and her dedication.
President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching
Regina Gee, art history, has won the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. She will receive a $2,500 honorarium.
A master teacher as well as a world-class researcher, Gee worked for several years to bring the ambitious Oplontis Project to MSU, one of just three locations outside of Italy to exhibit the priceless artifacts. During that time, she worked with faculty across the MSU community to integrate the lessons of the Villa of Oplontis into coursework across a wide range of disciplines. The courses made personal the lives of the people who lived and worked in the Roman villa in 79 AD by creating vibrant and unexpected links between the ancient Roman Bay of Naples and our own contemporary Yellowstone region. With inspired teaching and storytelling, students have explored a broad range of topics, including volcanic activity, construction of cultural identity surrounding an agrarian landscape, tourism and other leisure activities, among other connections. She has been indefatigable in her willingness to deliver the lessons of Oplontis to students as well as visiting groups large and small, all the time conveying her dedication to the project, to teaching and student-centered learning and innovative education at MSU.
Contact: Julie Heard, MSU Office of the Provost, (406) 994-4373 or firstname.lastname@example.org