Montana State University

L&S faculty, staff and students to receive college's top awards on April 25

April 1, 2011

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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 Monday, April 25, in SUB Ballroom A.

Jessi Smith, psychology, and Piet Martens, physics, will receive the Letters and Science Award for Meritorious Research and Creativity.

Smith is a widely published researcher in the field of social psychology. She has a successful record in obtaining grants from major funders such as NSF and NIH, acknowledging the significance of her research program. Her research is recognized for its influential contributions for both theoreticians and practitioners in social psychology.

Martens is an internationally recognized researcher in solar physics, space physics and stellar astrophysics. He is the co-founder of the Virtual Solar Observatory and is designing software to manage the data being collected from the Solar Dynamics Observatory. His work has been published in the most prestigious journals in his field, and he has consistently obtained funding from major sources such as NSF and NASA.

Sara Rushing, political science, and Susan Gibson, cell biology and neuroscience, will receive Letters and Science Outstanding Teaching Awards.

Rushing, an assistant professor, primarily teaches courses in political theory -- a notoriously difficult subject to teach at the undergraduate level. She is known for her use of a variety of teaching techniques to engage students, using current events to illustrate concepts covered in readings, and for her exceptional organizational skills. Rushing's colleagues frequently seek teaching advice from her, and her students rave about their classroom experiences.

Gibson, a permanent adjunct instructor, has been teaching at MSU since 1981. She teaches anatomy courses to both undergraduate and medical school students. One of her courses--an advanced anatomy course--has a waiting list of two years and is one of the only hands-on intensive human dissection courses in the country. Gibson also provides experiential learning experiences by taking students to Mongolia each summer to provide much needed healthcare in rural communities.

Corinne Casolara, mathematical sciences, and Taylor Moorman, English, have won Letters and Science Graduate Student Teaching Awards.

Casolara consistently receives excellent teaching evaluations, and her colleagues commend her for her enthusiasm, excellent organizational skills, knowledge of the material and her ability to engage students.

Moorman is commended for work in the classroom--particularly her ability to convey materials in a clear and engaging manner, and for her mastery of a variety of effective teaching techniques¬--while maintaining her own excellent scholarship.

Tracy Knudson, modern languages and literatures, and Jennifer Storment, microbiology, will be honored with L&S's Kathy Griffith Employee Excellence Award.

Knudson has been employed as an administrative assistant in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures for approximately 13 years. She excels in her role as the first point of contact and public face of the department. Students, in particular, appreciate her patience, knowledge, organizational skills and positive attitude. She regularly seeks out professional development opportunities in order to improve office operations and to help support their students.

Storment has worked in the Department of Microbiology since she was a student employee in 2006. In her position as an administrative assistant, her colleagues commend her for her innovative approach to daily tasks, particularly for streamlining and organizing the department's complex accounts payable system. She is also praised for her professional, friendly and helpful interactions with students, parents and departmental guests.

Finally, Deborah Blanchard, English, and Emily Kobos, chemistry and biochemistry, will receive the Dean's Award for Academic Excellence. This award is presented to the top two seniors in the college.

An English faculty member ranks Blanchard "at the very highest level for intellectual ability and promise for success beyond her undergraduate career." Blanchard is also a McNair Scholar, further demonstrating her strong academic potential and commitment to pursuing an advanced degree.

Kobos is commended for her academic achievements in the rigorous chemistry curriculum and as a member of the honors program, and also for engagement in research and service activities. A chemistry faculty member wrote that Kobos' research "has led to numerous presentations and scholarships; her record in service shows a level of devotion and leadership that sets a pace for everyone at MSU."

Jody Sanford, 994-7791, jody.sanford@montana.edu