Montana State University

MSU honors top faculty

April 27, 2004 -- by Carol Schmidt, MSU News Service

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BOZEMAN -- Dedicated teachers, dynamic researchers and faculty devoted to the betterment of Montana are among the winners in the top Montana State University 2004 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 University Honors Banquet on May 7.

Cox Awards for scholarship and teaching
An authority on women during Shakespearean times, an expert on auditing and fraud detection and an internationally recognized physicist are the recipients of the 2004 Cox Family Awards for Creative Scholarship and Teaching. Sharon Beehler, professor of English, Bonita Peterson, accounting professor and Aleksander Rebane, a physics professor, each will receive a $2,000 honorarium from the MSU Foundation as well as an $800 stipend to be used for the purchase of books dedicated in their honor at MSU's Renne Library.

Beehler is an award-winning professor, mentor and scholar of the Renaissance and a prolific author. Beehler has written scores of scholarly articles and edited two books: "Shakespeare and Higher Education" and "Women, Violence and the English Renaissance: Essays Honoring Paul Jorgensen." She is known for her "elegant interweaving of scholarship and teaching" in the classroom. Colleagues say that Beehler has "touched thousands of students" with her inspired teaching of upper-division students in the English Teaching option in addition to mentoring undergraduate and graduate students.

A tireless researcher in the area of auditing and fraud detection, as well as a master teacher, Peterson is dedicated to excellence and ethics in public auditing. A nationally recognized scholar, Peterson is said to construct "a seamless integration of scholarly pursuits with her senior- and graduate-level teaching." Problem sets and other educational material in advanced auditing and fraud that she has developed have received national attention. Peterson's meticulous teaching is said to be a major factor in the high first-time pass rates of MSU accounting students on the CPA exam.

A member of MSU's Optical Physics Group, Rebane is a prolific researcher who also displays patient and careful attention to student learning. An innovative, enthusiastic and thorough teacher to both graduate and undergraduate students, Rebane is said to inspire a broad understanding of science in his physics courses. A principal in MPA Technologies of Bozeman, an economic development vehicle for MSU-based technologies, Rebane has made critical contributions to technology transfer and entrepreneurship. Rebane lectures throughout the world on non-linear optics and opto-electronic materials. Rebane also finds time to be a prolific author of books and journal articles. He has several foreign and U.S. patents. Rebane was awarded International Commission for Optics Prize in 1993 and the Leopold Ruzicka Prize in 1996. He was a 1999 recipient of MSU's Wiley Award for excellence in research

Wiley Award winners
A pioneer in the field of magnetism and a researcher who studies the link between school leadership and learning have won this year's Charles and Nora L. Wiley Faculty Award for Meritorious Research. Yves Idzerda, physics professor, and Joanne Erickson, professor in the Department of Education, will each receive $2,000 as winners of the 2004 awards. Sponsored by the MSU Foundation, the prize is given in honor of the Wileys who were pioneer ranchers in eastern Montana.

Idzerda was an internationally known researcher before coming to MSU in 2000, and his reputation has continued to grow. Co-director of MSU's new Center for Bio-Inspired Nanomaterials, Idzerda's research focuses on the properties of magnetic materials. The techniques he developed in the laboratory are now used worldwide. He is known as an outstanding lab director and the clear leader of the next generation of condensed matter physicists in MSU's physics department. He has 107 refereed publications in print or in press. He will be the general chairman this year of the world's largest meeting for the magnetism community.

Erickson, who has been at MSU since 1998, received her undergraduate and master's degrees from MSU-Northern and doctoral degree in education from MSU-Bozeman. She has taken her experience as a teacher, school administrator and staff member in the Montana Office of Public Instruction and used it since being at MSU-Bozeman to design research on the link between leadership and student learning. She spearheaded the State Action for Education Leadership Project, a national initiative to change educational leadership and bring educational opportunity to all children. She built coalitions throughout the state. As a result, the Montana Board of Education adopted a number of major policy changes in certification and the design of internships and mentoring for new principals and superintendents.

The James and Mary Ross Provost's Award for Excellence
John Brittingham, architecture, is the recipient of the James and Mary Ross Provost's Award for Excellence. He will receive a $2,500 honorarium for the award. In its sixth year, the Provost's Award recognizes excellence in teaching and scholarship.

Brittingham is an accomplished professor and an award-winning architect with experience in some of the most prestigious architecture firms in the country. He has served as the coordinator for the first-year design studio program in the MSU School of Architecture. The sole proprietor of SIGHTarchitects, Brittingham also designed a sequence of courses that integrates research and creative activity into his teaching, and he developed the curriculum for Introduction to Design, the largest University Core class with more than 400 students. Brittingham's research on the work of the architect Richard Neutra in Montana has received national and international attention, as evidenced by an article to be published in the June issue of Architectural Digest. Brittingham is a past recipient of a President's Excellence in Teaching Award.

MSU Excellence in Outreach Award
MSU horticulturist Bob Gough, known as "Dr. Bob" throughout Montana, and Joel Jahnke, who has shared his passion for Shakespeare with every community in Montana and many in surrounding states, have been selected as the inaugural recipients of the MSU Excellence in Outreach Award. Each will receive a $2,000 honorarium.

Earlier this year, Gough, MSU Extension Service horticulturist, was named a fellow of the National Association of Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture, the first person to be chosen for that honor based on Extension Service teaching. In addition to research and teaching, Gough is known throughout Montana as "Dr. Bob" in his regular radio program and newspaper column, as well as through television programs, Internet resources and hundreds of Extension publications. The cultivator of a thriving Montana Master Gardener Program, he travels thousands of miles each year, teaching Montanans in many growing zones how to be better gardeners with expert, no-nonsense advice.

Jahnke, professor of theatre arts and artistic director of Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, has dedicated much of his long career at MSU to expanding the reach of the state's only professional theatre program that produces Shakespearean plays and the only company that offers its performances to the public for free. Since Jahnke became the company's artistic director in 1981, Shakespeare in the Parks has grown from an amateur, 41-city tour to a nationally known professional theatre company that presents an eight-week tour of 68 performances to approximately 25,000 people each summer. Whether performing in Birney or Billings, the company has become a major summer event in communities of all sizes across the region. More recently, Jahnke established Shakespeare in the Schools, a program that brings the bard to middle and high schools throughout Montana.

Provost's Award for Undergraduate Research/Creativity Mentoring
Philip Stewart, deputy director of the MSU Center for Biofilm Engineering and professor of engineering, has been awarded the inaugural Provost's Award for Undergraduate Research/Creativity Mentoring. He will receive a $2,000 honorarium.

Since coming to MSU in 1991, Stewart has mentored 25 undergraduate students in substantial research projects all centered on bacteria that grow in communities called biofilms. The MSU Biofilm Center is recognized internationally for its research, and Stewart has eagerly drawn undergraduates into the center's world-class studies as early as their sophomore years. By getting them started early, Stewart helps them develop their skills over time. Students say they have loved working with Stewart. These students have produced published works, with some listed as the lead authors. Two undergraduates have been recognized with national awards--a Goldwater Scholarship and a Whitaker Graduate Research Fellowship. Eight are pursuing their research in graduate school.

The Meritorious Technology/Science Award
Gary Strobel, a professor of plant sciences, has received the first Meritorious Technology/Science Award given at MSU, which carries a $2,500 honorarium. The award is designed to honor MSU faculty members who have made one or more significant technological/scientific contributions. Their discoveries will likely be transferred to the private sector or have already been transferred. The discoveries have the potential to be useful or are already useful products or processes.

Strobel has studied the relationship between plants and their microorganisms for 45 years. His discoveries have affected a number of areas including agriculture, health and the environment. He has published more than 300 scientific papers and lectured to audiences on all continents except Antarctica. He has 29 current patents or patent applications. He has trained more than 100 foreign students, postdoctoral graduates and technical experts in the last 40 years.

President's Excellence in Teaching Award
Sustained excellence in teaching characterize the recipients of the 2004 President's Excellence in Teaching Award. Professors Stephan Custer, Yuka Hara and Bok Sowell each will receive a $2,500 honorarium.

Dedicated to teaching since his junior year at Lawrence University, Custer, professor of geology, loves teaching and strives to excite students about learning. He engages them with energetic lectures that incorporate his theatre experience. He requires lots of fieldwork and writing, so students will understand what they're doing and be able to apply their knowledge after college. Custer led the development of MSU's snow science curriculum that has attracted students from all over the United States. He participated on the board that began MSU's master's program in science education.

Hara, modern languages, honed her skills of teaching Japanese language into a near art form by creating an atmosphere in which students taste then savor the fruits of their hard work. Hara is an emissary of the Japanese language and culture and creates a Japanese atmosphere in the classroom that, she says, is a kind of stage and the students are the stars. Hara grew up in Japan, taught in a rigorous private school then came to the U.S. and taught in a Japanese immersion program before coming to MSU. Under Hara's tutelage, numerous MSU grads have taken jobs or furthered their education in Japan. Students rate Hara and her high-octane teaching style as one of the best at MSU.

Sowell has been named as the most effective teacher in MSU's Animal and Range Sciences Department by more students in exit interviews than any other faculty member (38 percent of seniors), says one of his peers. He is known to modify his teaching methods for different levels of students. For example, his nominators say he introduces freshmen to entertaining aspects of range science while familiarizing them with the basics of scientific analysis; stimulates juniors to question the assumptions behind research; and challenges graduate students to critically analyze recently published research studies. He requires disciplined writing to promote critical thinking, but doesn't forget that science is founded upon curiosity and in-the-field observations.

Betty Coffey Award
Christian Sarver, director of the Victim Options in the Campus Environment (VOICE) Center has been selected to receive the Betty Coffey Award. The award is given to a member of the MSU community who demonstrates achievement in incorporating women's perspectives in the curriculum and achievement in developing academic programs that contribute to the elimination of persistent barriers to the success of women. Seven years ago, Sarver created the MSU VOICE Center. The center assesses campus needs for victim services, creates awareness and prevention programs to increase student awareness about violence and provides administrative response to victims. She developed a 24-hour crisis hotline, developed a curriculum to train volunteers to provide crisis services to victims of sexual and domestic violence and wrote a campus policy for the response to victims and perpetrators. The Betty Coffey Award was established in memory of Betty Coffey, an engineering professor from 1977-1984 who was noted for her teaching excellence and her contributions to women's equity.

Contact: Pat Chansley (406) 994-4373