Chancellor’s faculty awards announced
A dozen faculty members are recipients of the 2013 chancellor’s awards for distinguished teaching, research and public service.
Distinguished teaching award winners are Marah Gubar of English, Steven R. Little of chemical and petroleum engineering, Bryan A. Norman of industrial engineering, Regis R. Vollmer of pharmaceutical sciences and Brett Wells of French and Italian languages and literatures.
Distinguished research award winners are senior scholars Tia-Lynn Ashman of biological sciences, Kirk Savage of history of art and architecture and Peter L. Strick of neurobiology, and junior scholars Lisa M. Bodnar of epidemiology and Shaun M. Eack of social work.
Distinguished public service award winners are Harry Gruener of law and Jeffrey Shook of social work.
Each award includes a $2,000 cash prize to the faculty member and a $3,000 grant to his/her school in support of his/her activities in teaching, research or public service.
Awardees, who received letters from the chancellor earlier this month to notify them of their selection, will be honored at a reception later in the term and will be recognized tomorrow during the University’s annual honors convocation.
The Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award recognizes teaching excellence. Up to five awardees are chosen per year.
Faculty members who have served full-time at the University for at least five years and have been active as a teacher are eligible. Previous winners are not eligible.
Gubar, an associate professor of English in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and director of the English department’s children’s literature program, was recognized for her contributions to the program’s curriculum and her advocacy for a new direction for studying children’s literature in the wider context of childhood studies.
The chancellor cited her “innovative teaching initiatives” including her interactive web site “Representing Childhood” and use of pertinent news articles and contemporary examples to supplement class topics.
“As evident from your very positive student evaluations, which include discriminating comments of praise and appreciation, your commitment to teaching and creating engaging learning situations is deeply appreciated by your students,” the chancellor wrote.
Steven R. Little
Little, chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering in the Swanson School of Engineering, was recognized for his impact on his department’s teaching mission.
“As one of only 14 individuals nationally to be named a 2012 Camille Dreyfus Teacher Scholar and as a plenary speaker at the 2012 Beckman Scholars symposium, your positive influence on the undergraduate learning experiences of your students is evident,” the chancellor wrote. “Your excellent student evaluations, including those given in one of the most challenging courses of the chemical engineering major, make clear that your students have greatly benefited from your commitment to teaching.”
The chancellor also noted that undergraduate research opportunities in Little’s lab have led to local and national awards for some of those students.
Bryan A. Norman
Norman, an associate professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering, was recognized for his impact on the teaching mission of the department.
The chancellor noted that Norman received the Swanson School’s 2011 teaching award and was a faculty honor awardee chosen multiple times by industrial engineering students.
In addition, Norman received support from a department-wide National Science Foundation grant to better integrate the curriculum and to develop a team-taught Unstructured Problem Solving course.
The chancellor wrote: “Your use of case study data prepares engineering students for real world situations and helps them to develop the skills they will need to become leaders.”
Regis R. Vollmer
Vollmer, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences in the School of Pharmacy, was recognized for his impact on the pharmacy school’s teaching mission.
The chancellor noted that Vollmer, who has taught at Pitt since 1977, received the 1986 Hygeia Award for Teaching and the student-selected 2000 Teacher of the Year Award.
“You have implemented a number of innovative teaching initiatives including web-based videos of clinical procedures, simulation workshops at the Peter M. Winter Institute for Simulation Education and Research, and modules on experimental methodology that have significantly increased the efficacy of clinical learning and education within didactic lectures,” the chancellor wrote. “Your commitment to teaching basic physiology and pharmacology alongside patient care applications enables your students to gain the skills they will need to be caring and effective pharmacists in a variety of clinical and research practice settings.”
Wells, a senior lecturer in the Dietrich school’s Department of French and Italian Languages and Literatures, is director of undergraduate studies in French and the study-abroad adviser in French.
The chancellor recognized Wells’s high student ratings and grasp of French, noting that Wells earned the highest achievement level in a recent American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages oral proficiency interview.
“You have positively influenced the development of students to be both French-speakers who can function linguistically and culturally and more broadly to help them start to become independent learners,” the chancellor wrote, also citing Wells’s revision of the department’s business French course to include real-world activities such as writing business plans and making professional presentations in French.
The Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award annually recognizes outstanding scholarly accomplishments of members of the University’s faculty. Any tenured or tenure-stream, full-time faculty member who has served at least three years at Pitt is eligible. Up to five awardees are chosen in junior and senior scholar categories.
Senior scholar awardees include faculty members who have achieved pre-eminence in their field and have compiled a substantial and continuing record of outstanding research and scholarly activity.
Ashman, professor of evolutionary ecology and associate chair in the Dietrich school’s Department of Biological Sciences, was recognized for her contributions to the fields of evolutionary biology and ecology and a publication record that includes Science, Nature and other prestigious scientific journals.
The chancellor wrote: “The selection committee noted that you have made major contributions to the field of ecology and the evolution of plant productive systems, particularly in the areas of the role of biotic interactions in the evolution of floral phenotypes and structuring of plant communities and the ecology and evolution of separate sexes and sex chromosomes. Moreover you have received international recognition for your contributions to the field of evolutionary biology, which are considered to be central to the understanding of the generation and maintenance of earth’s biodiversity.”
Savage, a professor in the Dietrich school’s Department of History of Art and Architecture, was recognized for his contributions over the past 25 years to his field, including his scholarly work on public monuments within the larger theoretical context of collective memory and identity.
Taking note that Savage’s first book, “Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War and the Monument in Nineteenth-Century America” won the John Hope Franklin Prize for best book published in American studies, the chancellor wrote: “The committee observed that your work has received high praise not only for its path-breaking originality and rigorous research, but also for the elegant clarity and broad accessibility of your prose. Moreover, your outstanding work led to your service as a public historian and planning commission consultant for the National Mall, as well as being asked to lend your expertise to other public monument planning projects in the United States and Europe.”
Peter L. Strick
Strick, a Distinguished Professor and chair of the School of Medicine’s Department of Neurobiology, also is a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and co-director of the Center for Neuroscience and the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition.
The chancellor noted Strick’s recent election to the National Academy of Sciences and his membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and cited Strick’s international recognition for studies of the motor system of the brain.
The chancellor wrote: “The selection committee was deeply impressed with the work you have done that has shed light on the fundamental neural circuitry underlying motor controls, which has opened up entire new subfields of study of the brain.”
He cited Strick’s leadership, which also includes being director of the Systems Neuroscience Institute, director of the Neuroscience Imaging Center and scientific director of the University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute.
Junior scholar awardees are faculty who, by virtue of the quality of their early contributions, have demonstrated great potential as scholars and have achieved some international standing. Candidates must have received their highest degree no more than 12 years before their nomination.
Lisa M. Bodnar
Bodnar, an associate professor in the Graduate School of Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology, holds a secondary appointment as assistant professor of psychiatry in the School of Medicine. The chancellor recognized Bodnar’s expertise on the effects of maternal nutrition on pregnancy outcomes.
“The committee commended you for successfully leading interdisciplinary collaborations to examine how exposures to factors such as diet, multivitamin use, iron deficiency anemia, vitamin D deficiency, obesity and gestational weight gain relate to adverse birth outcomes,” the chancellor wrote.
“The committee also was deeply impressed by your versatility in applying the best study approach to break new ground to answer each specific question, noting that your current research on vitamin D and maternal weight promises to provide new insights into the serious, intractable racial disparities in birth outcome in the United States.”
Shaun M. Eack
Eack, an assistant professor in the School of Social Work, has research interests in schizophrenia and autism.
The awards selection committee praised him as a “rising star in social work and psychiatric research,” taking note of his abilities in statistical methods and research-study design.
The chancellor wrote: “The selection committee was very impressed by your work focusing on developing new social work interventions in the areas of schizophrenia and autism with an interest in how fundamental brain mechanisms in these disorders can be enhanced through social work interventions and structured in order to evoke a desirable biological impact. The committee highlighted the fact that your work pursues several lines of research, including neurocognitive aspects of schizophrenia, psycho-education and socio-cognitive interventions.”
The Chancellor’s Distinguished Public Service Award recognizes outstanding public-service contributions by Pitt faculty.
Public service is defined as the use of University and academic resources to address social problems and to improve the general welfare of humankind.
Any full-time faculty member who has served for at least three years at the University is eligible. Up to five awardees are chosen each year.
Gruener, a clinical associate professor in the School of Law, was recognized for his work as director of its family law clinic.
The chancellor noted that Gruener structured the clinic to serve a large number of pro se litigants in Family Court, “individuals who would not otherwise have the benefit of the advice and aid of an attorney in personal matters of great importance to them.”
Nordenberg also noted that Gruener’s close work with Family Court judges not only ensures that clinic students’ efforts are “most effectively targeted and utilized” but also helps the judges perform their work more fairly and efficiently.
Shook, an associate professor in the School of Social Work, was recognized for his work with juveniles in the legal system, particularly those who have been tried and sentenced as adults.
The chancellor noted that Shook’s interest began as an intern in law school representing youths in a maximum-security juvenile facility and at the American Bar Association, where he worked on issues related to conditions of confinement and legal representation of young people in the juvenile court system.
Shook since has worked to improve the treatment of adolescents in the justice system as part of a network of advocates seeking to change juvenile-sentencing policy.
“One of this network’s most significant accomplishments has been the creation of a movement aimed at reforming sentencing policy, and more broadly, working to improve law, policy and practice for children and youth across a broad range of issues,” the chancellor wrote.
—Kimberly K. Barlow