Montana State University

Archived Spotlight story

MSU faculty honored for teaching, research achievements

Dedicated teachers and dynamic researchers are among the winners of the top Montana State University 2003 faculty awards announced this week. The annual awards honor achievement in faculty research, teaching and creative projects. The awards will be presented at the University Honors Banquet on May 9 and recognized at MSU's commencement ceremony on May 10.

Cox Awards for scholarship and teaching

A nationally recognized researcher in the field of historical geography, a renowned expert on the philosophy of science and an internationally acclaimed scientist are recipients of the 2003 Cox Family Awards for Creative Scholarship and Teaching. William Wyckoff, earth sciences; Gordon Brittan, history and philosophy and Gwen Jacobs, cell biology and neurosicence, will each receive a $2,000 honorarium from the MSU Foundation supported by the Winston and Helen Cox Family Endowment as well as an $800 stipend to be used for the purchase of books dedicated in their honor at MSU's Renee Library.

In his nearly 17 years at MSU, Wyckoff has created a union of nationally recognized, innovative research and writing with teaching excellence. Throughout his career, Wyckoff has remained active in the research field of cultural and historical geography and has published three research books, "Creating Colorado," "The Mountainous West," and "The Developer's Frontier." The books have received national acclaim for their innovative thinking. They demonstrate in-depth historical research and new insights that have changed the ways historians and historical geographers view settlement patterns and frontier development. His textbook, "Diversity Amid Globalization: World Regions, Environment, Development," received the prestigious Texty Award in 2001 for the best new college-level textbook in the humanities and social sciences. He has won the Burlington Northern Foundation Faculty Achievement Award and the Outstanding Teacher-Scholar in Geography Award by the Association of American Geographers.

Regents Professor of philosophy Brittan animates philosophy and inspires his students to shoulder the burden of thinking great thoughts. His gift as a teacher rests on his ability to lead students through complex philosophical terrains and outfit them with the intellectual tools for finding their own way. He is a world-renowned authority on the philosophy of science and has written two major books on Kant and Descartes. A model of the scholar/teacher, Brittan has been at MSU since 1973. He believes that educators have a unique responsibility to strengthen informed public policy decisions and democratic practices. He was the first recipient of the Wiley Meritorious Research Award in 1978, awarded the Anna Fridley/Phi Kappa Phi Distinguished Teaching Award in 1990 and the Burlington Northern Foundation Faculty Achievement Award in 1993. He is also the director of the Wheeler Center and is founder of the Wallace Stegner chair committee.

Jacobs has been the head of the department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience at MSU since its inception in 2000. She is a pioneer and one of the most successful scientists in the area of neuroinformatics and neural coding. She is one of the principal investigators for the Center for Computational Biology. She is dedicated to innovative teaching and devotes time and effort to major infrastructural changes to the department's undergraduate and graduate curricula. She sat on the committee that reformed the core curriculum. Her interest in improving the core was to help students become better thinkers and to learn to think scientifically. She embodies a seamless interface between research science and the education mission of MSU. She is passionate about her science and the enthusiasm translates to the classroom. She realizes that excellence in research must be balanced with excellence in education to best serve students.

Wiley Awards

A leader in the field of slime, a superstar solar physicist and an innovative scholar of finance have won this year's Charles and Nora L. Wiley Faculty Award for Meritorious Research at MSU-Bozeman.

William Costerton, director of the Center for Biofilm Engineering; Dana Longcope, associate professor of physics; and Clark Maxam, associate professor of finance; will each receive $2,000 as winners of the 2003 Wiley award. Sponsored by the MSU Foundation, the prize is given in honor of the Wileys who were pioneer ranchers in Eastern Montana. Costerton is recognized for his revolutionary ideas about bacteria and for fathering a new field in microbiology called biofilms. After coining the term in 1978, Costerton has promoted the concept of biofilms more than any other person. He has been closely involved with almost all the major discoveries in that field, including the predominance of biofilms (or slime) in nature and in chronic infections, the resistance of biofilms to antimicrobial agents, the complex structure of biofilms, the role of cell signals in the formation of slime, and the distinct biofilm phenotype. Costerton is the most prolific and influential author in the biofilm field based on searches of the ISI Web of Science databases. He has organized numerous conferences and travels extensively to explain biofilms. He has mentored scores of graduate students, post-docs and collaborating scientists.

Longcope is dedicated to understanding the sun and is seen by some as the best scientist working in solar physics today. In recent years, he has received three prestigious awards that demonstrate his regard as one of the key theoretical physicists in that field - the Early Career Development Award from the National Science Foundation, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, and the Karen Harvey Prize from the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society. Longcope is a national leader in the organization and administration of solar physics research. Known for his elegant and innovative solutions to solar physics questions, he has attracted substantial funding for his research. He is praised for his approachability and work with undergraduates, graduate students and post-docs.

Maxam came to MSU with a unique perspective on research. After a successful career as a securities trader on the Chicago Board of Trade, he went on to earn his doctorate and distinguish himself as a prolific and original scholar who has redefined the understanding and application of the valuation of mortgage-backed and weathered-backed financial securities. His research has been published in numerous outlets and is held up as an excellent blend of theory and practical relevance to the business world. His peers in the college faculty recognized his achievements with the 2002 Dean's Award for Outstanding Performance in Research. Maxam has also received numerous recognitions for his ability to communicate his knowledge and experience to undergraduate business students. His collaborations have been with scholars, as well as practitioners in the field.

Provost's Award for Excellence

David Cherry, history, 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 fifth year, the Provost's Award recognizes excellence in teaching and scholarship.

Cherry combines an absolute dedication to student learning with a relentless effort to improve and reform undergraduate education at MSU. He has worked vigorously as project director of the Reinventing the Core curriculum reform movement. He led the formulation of a completely new core curriculum for MSU. As a teacher, students are deeply inspired by his teaching, his seriousness of purpose, his care for student learning and his openness to student ideas. As a teacher, he involves students in classroom discussion, respects students' opinions, is extremely knowledgeable, cares and makes himself available. He is regarded as an authority on ancient Rome and the expansion of the Roman Empire into North Africa. As a scholar, he has published three books about Ancient Rome: "Frontier and Society in Roman North Africa," "A History of Ancient Rome" and "The Roman World. A Sourcebook," written for student use in the classroom. He won the College of Letters and Science Outstanding Teacher award in 2001.

President's Excellence in Teaching Award

Sustained excellence in teaching characterize the recipients of the 2003 President's Distinguished Teacher Award. Professors Steven Eiger, Michael Beehler and Susan Dana each will receive a $2,000 honorarium.

Eiger has been a professor of cell biology and neuroscience and a member of the faculty of the WWAMI Education Program since 1996. He is known as an idealist, one who expects the best of himself and his students and is honest and uncompromising in his quest for excellence. Students are challenged to think, rather than to simply recall. He firmly believes that learning how to learn and how to use information is more important than simple recall. He gains the respect and efforts of his students by his enthusiastic, caring manner and knowledge of the material. He is an accessible teacher both physically and intellectually. "I believe being passionate about learning is paramount," writes Eiger. His goal is that students learn how to learn. He has won the Phi Kappa Phi Fridley Teaching Award and several Mortar Board teaching awards.

Beehler is a professor of literature and literary analysis and interpretation and has taught at MSU since 1985.

"I seek to make my classes a place where true thinking can take place," he said. "I continually strive to foster student excitement and pleasure in their own independent research. It is the students who keep me motivated and excited about my teaching."

Beehler asks his students to take responsibility for their education and to cooperate in a shared enterprise of discovery. His students engage with issues, struggle to comprehend complex material and debate the merits of ideas. Students note that he has an incredible ability to use examples and situations to clarify confusing and abstract ideas and that his lecture style and enthusiasm for teaching combine to make his classes fascinating and energizing.

Dana has been a professor of business at MSU since 1996. She is an instructor who consistently challenges students to be more intellectual and to value their own abilities and opinions by encouraging them to set their goals high. She has a genuine interest in her students and places high expectations on them in order to maximize the development of their decision-making, critical thinking and leadership skills. She considers students' personality types and learning styles in her lectures, discussions, projects and exams. She has three goals regarding teaching: stimulate students intellectually, motivate students to achieve beyond their own expectations and treat each student as a valuable individual.

"I try to create an environment in my classes where self-discovery is possible, encouraged and rewarded. My primary motivation is the reward I get from working with students, both in the classroom and in other settings. I am stimulated by the inquisitiveness of my students."

Betty Coffey Award

Microbiology professor Joan Henson has received 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.

Henson provides female students with the opportunity and guidance to allow them to blossom and excel in science. She has created courses and an environment that enhances the participation of women students in the sciences. As a researcher she has often used research funding to pay for women's salaries while they were training as students or postdoctoral associates. Her mentoring has extended beyond MSU to work with middle and high school students and teachers.

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.

Posted for May 2, 2003