America’s universities must think beyond graduation rates and student success while in school, and provide more focus on supporting career success, Ruth Watkins, a national higher education leader, said Tuesday while at Oregon State University.

Watkins, president of national education nonprofit Strada Impact and former president of the University of Utah, was the keynote speaker at OSU’s 2022 University Day event, an annual gathering of university faculty and staff to mark the start of the academic year.

More than 600 people attended the program either in person or through a livestream. New OSU President Jayathi Murthy, who began her service Sept. 9, welcomed Watkins to OSU.

Watkins said that while institutions of higher education often tout high first- and second-year retention rates and four- and six-year degree completion rates, few universities and colleges know how to track how successful their students are after graduation

She referred to national surveys conducted by Strada that show only half of current college students believe their education will be worth the cost. She shared statistics from another study that followed college students after graduation and found that 10 years later, 3 in 10 were “underemployed,” such as working in jobs that did not require their degree.

In terms of income, the studies showed the benefits of a college degree are not experienced equally: Students of color, first-generation students and female students are 10-13% less likely to be in jobs earning more than $40,000 compared with white, non-first-generation and male students, respectively.

Watkins admitted that success in life can be measured in more ways than what a job pays.

“What about personal fulfillment, civic engagement? Of course, it all matters,” she said. “But it matters more once you’ve hit a floor of economic stability. If you don’t have that, it’s pretty hard to imagine personal fulfillment coming into the equation.

Watkins said that one of the biggest factors in students securing gainful employment and higher income post-college is being able to participate in a paid internship while attending college. 

But she said less than one-third of bachelor’s degree recipients report having had a paid internship during their undergraduate years. She added that engineering, computer science and business students were much more likely to participate in a paid internship than students majoring in the humanities, social sciences, education or health care fields. 

Watkins urged faculty and university leaders to take action, such as guaranteeing a paid internship for every Pell grant recipient who otherwise might not be able to afford to participate in a non-paid internship or providing short-term technical certificate training opportunities for liberal arts students.

“Until we have these broader institutional fixes, it will be difficult for us to address these equity issues,” she said. “There is very tangible evidence of it making a big difference in students’ lives, so I want to get you thinking about how you can build these things in, particularly to reach those students who face the greatest barriers.”

Watkins’ presentation was recorded and will be posted on OSU’s University Day website

During the University Day celebration, a number of awards were announced for faculty  and staff. Here is a list of this year’s winners

The Excellence in Postdoctoral Mentoring Award is awarded annually to the faculty member who best exemplifies the role of a mentor and who has provided exceptional mentoring to one or more postdoctoral scholars during the previous year. This year’s recipient is Jennifer Field, a professor with the Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology in the College of Agricultural Sciences

Field is considered a pioneer in the area of PFAS occurrence and behavior and has focused on groundwater contaminated by fire-fighting foams and PFAS in municipal wastewater treatment systems and in municipal landfill. Field has successfully trained 19 PhD students, as well as many undergraduate students and postdocs, and all of them currently work in their chosen scientific fields.

One nominator wrote, “Since joining Jennifer’s group, I was provided with opportunities to participate in different research projects, which is aligned with my personal professional development goal for this position. The collaborative nature of these projects meant that I had the chance to work with toxicologists, exposure scientists, engineers, and fellow analytical chemists, including those from Japan.”

Her nominator continued, “Jennifer demonstrated her determination to provide educational opportunities to members of her group, even in the face of pandemic. During the initial lockdown phase, Jennifer had the initiative of inviting her colleagues from across the world to virtually present to our research group. Our group benefitted from these interactions, as we were able to stay engaged with environmental chemistry research even during lockdown. Further, these interactions also gave us the chance to network with researchers, which was essential particularly because most conferences were held virtually during the lockdown.

Another nominator says, “Mentoring her students and postdoc through research and exposure opportunities has proven and continues to be an outstanding investment in their futures.  Trainees take a good deal of mentoring and our trainees arrive with different levels of maturity which requires all of us to be tuned into their needs and mentor accordingly, Dr. Field recognizes this and has been a leader in our department to help these challenges.  Dr. Field’s leadership role in the department to develop new approaches inspires other faculty in our department. “

The Herbert F. Frolander Graduate Teaching Assistant Award recognizes graduate students who have excelled in their capacity as teaching assistants. For 2022, this honor is given to Valeri ‘Val’ Sawiccy, a PhD student in the Department of Integrative Biology with the College of Science.

Sawiccy has taught four upper division and lower courses at OSU on campus and remotely, including Invertebrate Biology and Human Anatomy and Physiology lecture and labs. As a part of these experiences, she created a CURE curriculum for students to conduct original research on sea anemones, and adapted the online Biology series to use inclusive language to better represent the student body.

One nominator wrote, “In her work, she has created equitable experiences for diverse students. Specifically, she adapted the physical environment to make learning from microscopes, cadavers and physiological experiments possible for students with limited mobility. She developed appropriate lab exercises that allowed all students (including those from more modest cultures) to participate and accomplish the learning outcomes. She revised the curriculum to incorporate anti-racist ideas and address health inequities that derive from systemic oppression. She carried these adaptations and progressions into her work to develop remote curricula during the 2020-2021 school year, improving the student experience during that time.”

Another nominator wrote, “When a student with cerebral palsy who could neither stand nor control their limbs, yet was immensely engaged and interested in the content enrolled in our course, I assigned Val to teach that student’s section. I know she had the experience, ingenuity and communication skills to make adjustments as needed and support the student’s learning experience. Val did not disappoint. She clearly communicated with me the student’s needs (e.g. a lower work surface to allow her to use the oculars of the microscope, access to a camera and laptop so the student could see the donor bodies from a distance, etc.) and built a strong rapport with the student with whom she spent extra time outside of lab to better support them.”

The Promising Scholar Award recognizes junior faculty whose outstanding scholarship has been recognized by peers, and who have demonstrated a high level of accomplishment over a relatively short period of time at OSU. The 2022 recipient is Elizabeth Tomasino, associate professor with the Department of Food Science and Technology in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

Tomasino has established herself as a world leader in the understanding of the impact of smoke on grapes and wine, a particularly important area of research given the increased threat of wildfires to grape crops in the  U.S. She has been highly successful in gaining competitive grants from a variety of funding agencies, and her research into lipids and chiral aroma compounds  has resulted in discoveries challenging existing dogma and leading to a significantly better understanding of wine chemistry and sensory perceptions.

“The recent wildfires have significantly impacted the wine grape growing regions on the west coast of North America with many wineries and vineyards not picking fruit or producing wine. In response to this emerging crisis, Dr. Tomasino acted diligently by building a multidisciplinary and multi-institutional team and leading the efforts to identify intervention technologies for preventing absorption of volatile smoke compounds into grapes,” one nominator wrote. “Currently, no successful strategies are available to the grape and wine industries in this emerging issue. Dr. Tomasino’s leadership and creative research will not only generate new scientific knowledge and research methodology, but also provide enormous impact to the wine industry for reducing food loss and improving sustainability in wine production.”

Another nominator wrote, “In the last few years, Dr. Tomasino has become an authority on ‘smoke taint’. Smoke taint refers to off-aromas formed in wines produced from grapes exposed to brush or bushfires and has been of increasing concern to winemakers in Oregon and elsewhere. Although smoke taint has been an increasing challenge in the past decade, the severe forest fires of 2020 have made it clear that this will be one of the top challenges facing West Coast winegrape producers in the coming years.”

The OSU Impact Award for Outstanding Scholarship recognizes OSU faculty who have demonstrated outstanding scholarship in a specific project or activity resulting in substantial impact beyond the university setting. This year’s recipient is Christopher Beaudry, a professor of chemistry in the College of Science.

In 2019, Beaudry published a groundbreaking paper, and later a 2021 patent, on the chemical synthesis of an FDA-approved leukemia drug called HHT. His synthesis of the drug will literally change the landscape for treating chronic myeloid leukemia in the U.S. HHT is a very potent but also very expensive drug, currently obtained by extraction from an Asian plum yew tree, a tedious and costly process. Beaudry was able to synthesize it in weeks in his lab. His discovery could help lower the cost, satisfy demand and create a more potent drug with fewer side effects.

A nominator wrote, “With the success of the synthesis, the price of HHT can be reduced from $28,000 to $1 per milligram! Dr. Beaudry’s lab can make all the necessary amount for a whole year’s supply in the whole United states, with the dedication of just one graduate student in just a few months! Moreover, the laboratory is creating many different modifications to the molecular structure, and they may as well find a more potent drug, or a more generally applicable drug for other types of cancer.”

“The chemical insight and creativity demonstrated by Prof. Beaudry is truly at the highest level,” another nominator  said. “Most  young synthetic chemists choose to work in areas where their structural targets are well-defined, and where  many  leaders  in  the  field  are  already  working.  Prof.  Beaudry took the path  less  travelled.  Instead, he elected to study targets where the stereochemical problems were at best unusual, and at worst ambiguous.  Such choices require courage. This is brilliant work in the heart of chemistry by any measure.”

The OSU Faculty Excellence in Online Teaching Award recognizes faculty who devote a significant amount of time to online teaching and online course development of for-credit courses. This year’s recipient is Marita Barth, a chemistry senior instructor II in the College of Science.

Barth was hired as chemistry’s first instructional faculty member with a defined focus on Ecampus instruction. Since then she has played a foundational role in the growth and development of the program. Her courses have a very high rate of success, and student assessments indicate they’re learning chemistry and having a great experience doing so

A former student wrote, “Not only is she personally supportive and encouraging, but the fundamental structure of her classes, the work she assigns, and how she assigns it is designed for student learning and success. She provides study questions and, in a separate document, a detailed explanation of how to solve them, so we can all see how it’s supposed to be done in case we get stuck. It took me a while to realize why I liked the lectures in my chemistry classes so much more than the lectures in my other classes, but then I realized: Dr. Barth records lectures as though she’s actually teaching a room full of real people.

Another nominator wrote, “I would like to note two pieces of evidence that Marita’s contributions have enhanced effectiveness in the online learning environment.  Marita’s colleagues have adopted her innovations and practices in their courses and Marita’s students have noted that Marita has shaped their teaching careers.”

The OSU Exemplary Employee Award honors professional faculty members and classified staff members for their outstanding performance.  This year’s professional faculty members are Catherine (CJ) Clevinger and Amy Derby.

Clevinger is director of Pre-Award Research in the Office of Research in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences. Her responsibilities include performing both pre- and post-award sponsored activities and providing “cradle- to-grave” contract/grant and financial management for faculty and principal investigators. She is the lead for pre-award activities and serves as the primary information and operations resource for PIs in the development and submission of research applications.

A nominator says, “It is not an exaggeration to say that many of our grants, and grants from our College, would not have been awarded or even submitted on time without CJ’s remarkable efforts. CJ is an integral and invaluable part of our research team. She is widely respected and appreciated and is critical to the funding successes in the college. She can always be counted on to accurately answer questions directed to PIs from OSRRA in critical moments before a submission deadline and often before the PI even has a chance to respond. Because of her diligence and attention to detail, submissions regularly go through with few issues.

Another nominator said, “Catherine is an expert on her college’s funding agencies and their submission portals. Also, she is an expert on OSU grant processes and policies. This expertise creates great efficiencies in proposal submission. Her college submits hundreds of proposals per year and her proposals are some of the easiest to submit. They require infrequent corrections and are promptly updated when needed.”

Derby is the sole OSU Extension faculty member in Wheeler County. As an Outreach Program Coordinator, Derby  leads and manages positive youth development initiatives, including a robust traditional 4-H club and volunteer program, as well as summer camps and in-school STEM and Ag in the Classroom programming. In addition, she coordinates and offers programming that supports Wheeler County’s family farmers and ranchers, the primary economic sector in this county. Amy also serves as the Wheeler County Local Liaison.

“Through COVID-19 Amy continued to be creative with ways to bring the community together and keep 4-H families in touch by offering online support sessions, creating STEM kits to send to every elementary student in the county, plan out our 4-H fair (in a safe manner), and created our first free drive-thru Holiday Light Festival to help boost morale and fun for everyone,” one nominator wrote. “By being part of the community and willing to listen, she is better able to gauge how we, as OSU Extension & 4-H, can support our community as a whole.

Another nominator said, “Her leadership of the volunteers and 4-H youth continues to be invaluable to the Wheeler County 4-H program. Amy invests tremendous energy and efforts in mentoring and guiding 4-H youth in accessing leadership opportunities. My special needs daughter participated in the 4-H program and Amy made every effort on the county, regional, state and national level for my daughter’s inclusion and successes. Amy is instrumental in delivering the Tri-County 4-H Sumer Camp, Wheeler County Fair, 4-H projects and programs and the High Desert Leadership Retreat. She continues to serve as a mentor and friend to her 4-H youth and community.”

The classified staff members receiving The OSU Exemplary Employee Award are Tammy Gigoux and Carla Stables.

Gigoux works as a veterinary technician in our Student Teaching Lab. She is responsible for setting up labs, including providing cadavers or tissues, surgical and other clinical supplies and maintaining and ordering these supplies. She also is involved in organizing live animals for multiple labs and interacts with owners or caretakers of these animals, which include university-owned animals, shelter cats and dogs, animals owned by students, staff or faculty or other privately owned animals.

One nominator wrote, “Tammy has provided excellent service to students and faculty not just by making sure that labs are set up correctly, but also by providing compassionate and one-on-one instruction to our students. I have witnessed her many times patiently guiding a student through the process of placing an intra- venous catheter in a pony that may or may not be standing still for the procedure. In these situations, she keeps her calm, helping the student to stay calm, too and models patience and compassion.”

Another nominator said, “She is always pleasant, kind, and willing to help, making the student teaching laboratory a positive learning environment. She demonstrates both extraordinary leadership and problem-solving skills on a daily basis, working to manage multiple courses using the laboratory space. It is literally a jigsaw puzzle of activities, with multiple live animal surgery labs, clinical skills labs, anesthesia labs, and elective courses using the shared lab space every day throughout the week, all quarter long, all academic year long.”

Stables works with Yamhill County Extension clientele and volunteers, and supports the Master Gardener program.

“She makes sure everything is running smoothly and works tirelessly to find creative solutions to problems,” one nominator wrote. “She has really shined through the pandemic, creating an online graduation program two years in a row. The programs have included music, bitmojis of the Master Gardeners, and trivia which were incredibly interactive, bringing excitement to a virtual ceremony. Her connection with Master Gardeners has helped to retain many volunteers during COVID when we were operating remotely. She patiently assisted many non-tech savvy volunteers with learning Zoom, so that they could continue to participate in our program. The volunteers thought she was so helpful that they referred her to volunteers in other counties who also needed help.”

Another nominator wrote, “Carla continually mentors Master Gardeners in all aspects of technology, program details as well as champions the new program participants from start through graduation. She goes out of her way to reach out to MG’s and works to assist in supportive, creative solutions to problems. A specific example is helping everyone plan ahead and matching volunteer hour requirements with activities that are comfortable and promote learning for each volunteer. She cares that the volunteers have an inclusive, quality experience. Carla’s teamwork is invaluable to the 4-H, Snap-Ed, field crops, forestry and seed certification faculty and staff. All of these co-workers know they can rely on her for anything including event support, ordering supplies, copies, creative suggestions or just a willing ear. She is instrumental to me in sustaining budget needs by researching the most cost-effective supplies and being consistently mindful of potential waste.”

Excellence in Undergraduate Research Mentoring by a Faculty Member Award recognizes outstanding undergraduate research mentoring by OSU faculty members. The current faculty member must have provided significant mentorship to undergraduate students in research-related endeavors at OSU within the past three years. This year the award goes to Maureen Walczak,  assistant professor in the College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, and director of the NSF Marine Sediment Sampling Facility.

Walczak began mentoring undergraduate students as a post-doc, assembling a bi-annual cohort of mostly young women of color to participate in seagoing oceanographic research and marine geology. She has mentored four cohorts of students in this model, and many have gone on to graduate programs in the field. Colleagues say her work has changed the demographics of the marine geology community.

A former student says, “Throughout the past year of working with Mo, she’s been nothing but caring and supportive. Besides all of the important lab skills she taught me that helped me get into graduate school, she has gone above and beyond supporting me and the rest of her students in and out of the classroom. She paid for my entrance into the GSA so I could present  my preliminary results and network, she got me onto a weeklong research expedition which was one of the coolest things I’ve done here at OSU, and she even dropped off some groceries for me during the Fall when I had a pretty intense case of COVID-19.”

Another student wrote, “Mo Walczak seems to be more of a fairy godmother than simply a professor, or research advisor. She makes the educational and experiential dreams of numerous students come true. From undergraduate students seeking research opportunities, graduate students looking for a personable advisor, to old students seeking guidance and support, Mo is there ready to make it all happen. She has a gift for making each individual student feel like the focus of all of her attention while simultaneously supporting 3-10 students at the same time. She is nothing short of an inspiration. Might I even say super hero.”

The Excellence in Undergraduate Research Mentoring by a Graduate Student Award recognizes outstanding undergraduate research mentoring by OSU graduate students. Current graduate students must have provided significant mentorship to undergrad students in research-related endeavors at OSU within the past three years. The recipient for 2022 is Jesse Laney, a fourth-year PhD student in the Integrative Biology program in the College of Science.

Laney has mentored 16 students total in a wide range of different settings and on a diversity of topics. He has worked closely with undergraduates on museum curation, database management, and taxonomy updates. He has also engaged undergraduates in the research laboratory, teaching them the skills of stable Isotope sample prep, specimen identification, and microscopic imaging. He has even worked with undergraduates on Steens Mountain to assist with research on small mammals and songbirds

A former mentee wrote, “While working together in the field, Jesse took time to not only explain his own research questions but to encourage myself and the rest of the team to ask our own.  We discussed what good questions of interest would be, and how one could go about conducting research.  He took time with each of us to discuss our future career plans and how to best go about achieving our goals.  It was in large part thanks to Mr. Laney that I decided to continue my education past my bachelor’s degree.”

Another mentee wrote, “Jesse goes above and beyond in this sense. He doesn’t want his mentees to simply gain a skill; he wants them to be involved and understand the research he conducts and the questions he asks. Jesse has created PowerPoints solely for presenting and explaining his research so his mentees would have a more in-depth understanding of what they are actually contributing to. Because of this, I have felt more included and excited in his research but also inspired to incorporate his research methods and process into my own undergraduate honors thesis.

The Excellence in Undergraduate Research Mentoring by a Post-doc Award recognizes outstanding undergraduate research mentoring by OSU postdocs. The award honors postdocs who have provided significant mentorship to undergrad students in research-related endeavors at OSU within the past three years. This year’s recipient is Devrim Kaya, a postdoc in the School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering in the College of Science

Kaya is active in OSU’s statewide waste water surveillance program for SARS -CoV-2. She plays a key role in onboarding undergraduates and mentoring them as they conduct molecular analyses of waste water samples. She trained students in PCR testing, made herself available for all questions and assistance, and provides rapid encouragement, motivation and support for students as they work in the lab

A nominator said, “Through Devrim’s efforts, we now have a well-trained cohort of undergraduate researchers capable of creating data of the highest quality. All of her undergraduate students take great pride in knowing that their data is looked at regularly by leaders across the state of Oregon including OSU’s president, Oregon’s governor and, of course, the Oregon Health Authority.  This, along with Devrim’s consistent and encouraging mentoring, has given the students great confidence in their own abilities and encouraged a sense of belonging, both at OSU and in the engineering field.”

A former student said, “Devrim mentors through weekly meetings where we discuss ongoing research, and she provides guidance and answers questions. During these meetings I am comfortable asking her even simple questions that I probably should know. She never makes me feel inadequate about what I do not know. She makes me feel like I belong in the science community. I was always intimidated by people in science but she has shown me there is a place for me and I can go far in science with her in my corner.

The Outstanding Diversity Advocate Award recognizes members of the OSU community who contribute to and enhance the environment of OSU through consistent and sustained efforts to improve opportunities for the diverse communities we serve. In 2022, the award goes to Vrushali Bokil, Ana Ribero and Tenisha Tevis.

Vrushali Bokil is associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Science as well as its interim dean, and is a professor of mathematics. She is an expert in computational and applied mathematics, numerical analysis and mathematical biology. Bokil led the writing of a plan to recruit a cohort of diverse faculty and associated students in the area of health science to OSU. She chaired the College of Science’s Diversity Action Plan, has participated in numerous other diversity-oriented groups and commissions, and taught a version of the ADVANCE program to graduate students and faculty in mathematics. She also founded the Association for Women in Mathematics OSU student chapter.

“Professor Bokil is not asking colleagues to do extra work for diversity; rather, she is helping us refine the work that we are already doing so that it is more inclusive and equitable.  By not relying on specific individuals to initiate the efforts each year, long term sustainability is significantly enhanced. The curriculum is developed in such a way that faculty can readily put it into action,” one nominator wrote

Another nominator said, “Dr. Vrushali Bokil has achieved success in teaching, research and advocating for diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. She is a strong role model for women in Science & Mathematics, looking to forge their own unique path to breaking barriers in STEM. As Associate Dean, she is continuing to lead the College of Science's efforts in diversity, equity, and inclusion. I believe that no one at OSU is more deserving of the Outstanding Diversity Advocate.”

Ana Ribero is an assistant professor in the School of Writing, Literature and Film in the College of Liberal Arts. She has been active in attracting and recruiting students of color to the MA program at OSU, including building a strong connection with UO’s English department. She has also proposed new course that explicitly engage diversity, social justice and racial equity, and is the recipient of many awards for  her  research  on breaking barriers in research, feminist mentoring and other works.

“Even with the rigors a pre-tenure position brings with it, Ribero has made herself accessible and approachable to students of color, offering her time and expertise to both undergraduates and graduates alike, not only in Rhetoric and Composition, but also in Literature and Creative Writing,” one nominator wrote. “The results of her effective mentorship can be seen in where these students are at now. She has helped place numerous students in their top program of choice."

Another nominator wrote, “Professor Ribero has been foremost in responding to our School’s acknowledged lack of diversity, one that is felt keenly and vocally by our students. For instance, she volunteered to design and teach an experimental course called “Anti-racism in English Studies” that gives OSU undergraduate and graduate students an opportunity to engage with scholars of color via a series of guest lectures. She designed the syllabus to include scholars across literary studies and rhetoric and composition, helping students understand the role that race and racism has played in these disciplines.”

Tenisha Tevis is an assistant professor in the College of Education. Tevis serves as co-chair of the President’s Commission on the Status of Black Faculty and Staff Affairs, which, in its first year has revitalized the Black Graduate Student Association and engaged Black faculty and staff in meaningful community building and professional development. The Commission held an inaugural Black Affairs Summit that offered the entire region topics centering Black issues while raising OSU’s profile as a leader in advocating diversity throughout the state.

“Dr. Tevis empowers students to engage difference through her teaching. For instance, she teaches a course in the honors college entitled: What is a Good Society? This course incorporates materials from the humanities, social sciences, and education and invites students to engage in self-examination and look at the relationship between athletes and activism, ethics and religion, and the role of identity politics in today's society,” one nominator wrote. “This course is an example of how Dr. Tevis has committed to helping all students engage in the work that will enable them to not only understand, but to actively work towards a socially just society.

Another nominator wrote, “Dr. Tenisha Tevis plays a leading role in teaching, mentoring, leadership, research particularly with the African American community in Oregon at Oregon State University. She has also helped the White Euro-American faculty come to better understand how Anti-Blackness is pervasive in the DNA of Oregon State University. This consciousness raising among White faculty has  meant structural changes are now beginning to happen in various colleges across  Oregon  State  University. She has worked tirelessly to advance the mission of OSU through consistent and  sustained efforts to improve opportunities for African American students, faculty, and  staff.”

The purpose of the OSU Professional Faculty Excellence Award is to distinguish exceptional service of a faculty member in a role other than the traditional areas of teaching, research or extension. That honor in 2022 goes to Cynthia Leonard, academic advisor with the Marine Studies Initiative.

Leonard navigates student advising for the Marine Studies undergraduate degree program and serves as OSU’s point person for recruiting and advising students who are interested in an OSU marine-related degree. She helped build the Ocean11 student organization to one of the largest and most active student clubs on campus, with more than 500  members. She also helps hold an annual leadership retreat for group members.

One student wrote, “Cynthia has never failed to be a source of positivity in all aspects of club involvement” and “a significant reason why I continued to stay involved in the club is because of the amount of work Cynthia put in to make me feel like I belonged.”

Another  wrote, “Cynthia is excellent because she pushes me to be a better version of myself both in and out of the club. She helps me prioritize goal setting and comradery with my fellow leaders. Cynthia’s commitment to the club is nothing short of excellent.”

A nominator said, “It is a monumental task to forge new, meaningful pathways for OSU students to gain experience in  ocean and coastal issues and exercise  collaborative and inclusive leadership skills in these arenas. Cynthia has always welcomed the strategic aims of the Marine Studies Initiative. She approaches this university-wide programmatic development with care, curiosity, creativity and competence.”

“I cannot share how vital Cynthia’s efforts were during the pandemic,” another nominator wrote. “She was instrumental in the continuity of involving both in-person and remote experiences for our students while meeting COVID challenges, resumption plans and guidelines. I’m sure many students have Cynthia to thank to keep their spirits up and their light going as they pursued their degrees, attended courses, and fought to stay engaged.”

The purpose of the International Service Award is to recognize exemplary, on-going contributions of OSU faculty and staff to the internationalization of the university by enhancing student, faculty, and staff awareness and participation in international education, research, and related activities. Michele Justice, director of international programs with the College of Forestry, is this year’s recipient

Justice helps manage a suite of internships, active exchange programs and short term study abroad programs for COF students, and  under her leadership, the number of forestry students participating in short term study abroad programs has increased more than 1000 percent. She has secured multiple grants to support College of Forestry internationalization, and helped to establish a more than $250,000 fund supporting students seeking international experiences. She has also headed COF’s DEI initiative since August 2019.

One nominator wrote, “As a result of Michele’s efforts, around 18 OSU students per year have the opportunity to go to Borneo to learn about forest conservation issues of global importance. I still keep in touch with many of the students who have taken the class;  they regularly note that it was a life-changing experience, and often note that Michele was key in program development (she also attended the class in-country on several occasions, effectively serving as an additional instructor).”

A former student said “Michele showed me frequently that she cared about my success and the success of my peers. She learned what I wanted to do professionally and found perfectly tailored internships on opposite sides of the world. She got to know me well during our time in Borneo and knew that I would enjoy and benefit from another trip. Above all else, these international programs are what I will remember most about my time at OSU. I owe Michele Justice so much for bringing those programs to my attention, introducing me to the idea of international internships, organizing said internships, and being a friend and mentor.”

The Postdoctoral Excellence Award recognizes exceptional postdoctoral scholars, fellows or research associates for their exceptional contributions to their research field, OSU and the greater postdoctoral community. This year’s recipients are Claire Couch  and  Shahram Torabian.

Claire Couch is a post-doctoral scholar with the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife in the College of Agricultural Sciences. Her research focuses on evaluating premature senescence (the cessation of cell division related to aging) in wild, spring-run Chinook salmon populations that involves both laboratory and field components. Part of her work involves comparison of gut microbiomes between captively raised juvenile salmon and wild salmon, which has significant implications for fishery managers throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond. She is truly bridging the gap between research and practical application. Her work also has implications for other species including humans and scientist are increasingly recognizing the relevance of gut microbiome to human health.

Her nominators wrote, “Together we have over 100 years of collective experience working with post docs. She stands out amongst the best that we personally have had that include truly outstanding post docs, many now full professors at national and international universities. Given our experience, we base this opinion on a thousand or so post docs.”

They added, “Claire also believes strongly in giving back to the OSU community and has demonstrated her commitment by participating as a member of the Oregon Hatchery Research Center Director search committee. She helped found an organization at OSU focused on preventing harassment and sexual violence in field-based research. Claire is also truly committed to doing good science. She exhibits the traits one wishes for in a colleague. She is also a good ambassador for OSU, as recently exemplified by a recent presentation to a state-organized board on science needs.”

Shahram Torabian is a post-doctoral scholar with the Hermiston Agricultural Research &  Extension Center. He is involved in many projects, including improving nutrient management such as nitrogen and potassium for potato cultivars; application of plant growth regulators in wheat and bluegrass to improve yield; alfalfa and grass intercropping; integrating adzuki bean as a new crop in the Columbia Basin, and potato soil health.

His nominator said, “I admire him because he does not limit himself, which is interesting for students and researchers that have a chance to work with him and be familiar with different topics. Working with him is the best chance for students and technicians to  improve their skills, abilities and knowledge, which is critical for their professional future.”

“He is very well organized, and he is good with dealing with many tasks at the same time,” his nominator added. “Working with Dr. Torabian is enjoyable because we always have a lot of brainstorming and come up with some new ideas, which are either tested in research  or included in proposals.”

The Richard M. Bressler Senior Faculty Teaching Award is given to an individual with longtime service to Oregon State University who has demonstrated a major commitment to undergraduate instruction over an extended period of time. This year’s recipient is Dwaine Plaza, a professor in the School of Public Policy in the College of Liberal Arts.

Despite achieving full professor status, Plaza continues to  teach first year students in large introductory classes. He receives numerous awards for his teaching, and served as a CLA Master Teacher from 2008-2010. He has developed and led five international study abroad experiences to Cuba and Canada  since 2013. During the pandemic, he developed an international virtual learning course for first year students, connecting them with students in Aruba. He is also an unwavering champion for students of minoritized backgrounds.

A nominator wrote, “When anything happens at OSU around supporting students, Dwaine has always said “yes, count me in.” I’ve known lots of faculty who match his level of enthusiasm and engagement periods of time, especially early in their careers, but tend to find the commitment and the passion hard to sustain as careers move forward. Not so with Dwaine. I don’t know of anyone who has remained more committed to student mentoring, advising, teaching and general support over the course of an entire career than he has. He’s just kept going and going in the service of students. I find his commitment, creativity, passion and energy to be inspiring.”

A former student wrote, “I remember one particular day during midterms I was overwhelmed and struggling with my mental health. Dr. Plaza noticed my stress and went out of his way to check in with me after class. This moment where a high status professor took time to directly care for me as a student will always stand out to me throughout my academic career. It was the moment that made me feel as though I truly belonged at OSU. Dr. Plaza’s teaching style and classroom environment has also allowed me to reevaluate how I interact with and view society. Aa a white woman who grew up in a non-diverse area, his classes give me the opportunity to listen to many perspectives and voices that I have not previously been exposed to.”

The purpose of the Outstanding Faculty Research Assistant Award is to recognize scholarly achievement and a level of innovation and effort that far exceeds expectations. This year’s recipient is Vanessa Schroeder, senior faculty research assistant with Animal and Rangeland Sciences in the College of Agricultural Sciences. 

Schroeder is an Extension faculty research assistant who was hired to address applied research and outreach needs associated with declining populations of greater sage-grouse and sagebrush habitat management and restoration in Eastern Oregon. She has helped OSU Extension become increasingly recognized among partners and stakeholders as a key player. Her research program is centered on juniper management and cattle grazing, and she has become known as an expert in sagebrush-obligate songbirds.

“Largely through the partnerships she has cultivated, Vanessa has developed a collaborative research program with the Bureau of Land Management, ranchers, and other agency partners focused on developing an improved understanding of linkages between wildlife and western juniper management in southeast Oregon.  This partnership has resulted in a multi-year agency funding opportunity that is supporting a large-scale research project, the results of which will be used to enhance and justify management practices to address a primary threat to the sagebrush ecosystem and its dependent wildlife,” a nominator wrote.

Another nominator wrote, “She has proven to be a dependable and insightful collaborator and demonstrates excellence and thoroughness in all areas of her work.  Her contributions have added value to the management of rangelands in eastern Oregon by presenting scientific information in a usable and relatable format that can be readily employed by resource managers and stakeholders with a variety of backgrounds. Ms. Schroeder seeks to understand the needs of diverse stakeholders and is adept in balancing their competing interests and values without bias. This trait sets her apart as a scientist and has earned her the trust of a wide range of stakeholders.”

The D. Curtis Mumford Faculty Service Award recognizes individuals for exceptional, ongoing, dedicated and unselfish concern for and service to OSU faculty. This year’s honoree is Chunhuei Chi, professor in the Center for Global Health with the College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

Over the last year, Chi has brought visibility and global recognition to the university by giving more than 240 interviews to news media around the globe regarding the novel coronavirus. Before lockdown, he provided a university seminar on COVID-19 and  pandemics, and has given multiple presentations internationally, including participating in a webinar with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 

“He has been sought out by major national and international news outlets including the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, the Independent, Al Jazeera and many others. His expert words of science-based caution have been translated into multiple languages for outlets in Germany, Brazil, Taiwan and more,” a nominator wrote. “And yet he still finds time to talk to local reporters, and even to students and school-age children who write to him with questions about the pandemic. He has given lectures and presentations to audiences large and small across the globe, and he has done it all with kindness.

Another nominator wrote, “Chunhuei’s contributions don’t fit into conventional academic award criteria, but there is no doubt that his expertise and service have had a substantial impact. As an expert in international health policy and director of the OSU Center for Global Health, he has made himself available to the media and disseminated scientific information in ways that are accessible to all. He has given over 300 interviews, published in international, national and local news outlets, which has brought much-needed visibility to the public health expertise here at OSU. Importantly, Chunhuei has been “ahead of the curve” (no pun intended) when it comes to best practices for reducing transmission of the virus and protecting communities.

The OSU Alumni Association Distinguished Professor Award is given to the person who demonstrates outstanding professional achievement through teaching and scholarship, service to the university and the community, and professional leadership, nationally and internationally. This year, the recipient is Yanyun Zhao, a professor in Food Science and Technology with the College of Agricultural Sciences.

Zhao leads the Sustainable Food Processing and Packaging program. She is an internationally prominent researcher and trailblazer, and her pioneering work, including  10 OSU patents, aims to reduce the food industry’s dependence on single use plastic packaging along with upcycling of food waste to reduce methane release. Additionally,  her work in edible coating has been recognized extensively for its impact to US agriculture

 A former student said, “While she encourages her students academically, Dr. Zhao also supports every person as an individual. Upon entering her lab, I immediately felt genuine care and concern for my wellbeing and career, which only continued as I embarked upon challenging research questions and investigations. Dr. Zhao shows her graduate students a beautiful balance of trust and guidance; accepting and permitting failure, constantly encouraging individual pursuits, and ensuring necessary functions are performed on schedule.

A nominator wrote, “Currently postharvest loss of fruit and vegetables is estimated 40-50% worldwide. In the United States today, about 52% of fruit and vegetables are wasted, including 20% lost during production, and 15% lost during postharvest handling, storage, distribution and retail (supermarket losses in the US were estimated at $15 billion annually in unsold fruit and vegetables alone). Dr. Zhao’s edible coating technology can reduce these losses significantly. Her new technology overcomes the inherent problems with existing coatings including water sensitivity, limited water and gas barrier properties, and poor stability under varied storage temperature and humidity conditions.”

The OSU Academic Advising Award recognizes undergraduate academic advising by professional faculty rank as well as fixed-term academic rank faculty whose primary role is advising, and acknowledges advising as a profession making a pivotal contribution to the OSU community. In 2022, the honoree is Laura Relyea, academic advisor in the School of Public Policy, with the College of Liberal Arts.

Relyea is very familiar with institutional settings and systems, and due to her expertise, she recently educated her School on the CLA core overhaul and how changes would impact students in the future. She is proactive in diversity efforts and advocates for  students who need accommodations due to disability. She is known among colleagues for her professional, hard-working attitude and her attentive approach to helping students.

One nominator wrote, “Laura consistently checks in with students, she knows which of our students are struggling, she knows which of our students are interested in graduate school, which plan to work after graduation, which need a little extra help. She runs audits on students each term to see who needs what and how she can help. She is a cheerleader for the students to the faculty and for the faculty to the students.”

A former student wrote, “Through the first Zoom meeting to our most recent interaction, it is blatantly obvious that she truly cares about students. She guided me through an Academic Fresh Start, checked in on me throughout my first couple of terms back to makes  sure I was successful, and gave professional advice as I searched for new employment opportunities.

“Laura has a great attitude that rubs off on students and faculty alike. We all enjoy visiting with her,” a nominator wrote. “She is always willing to help. To her, student, faculty and program success is her success.

The Student Learning and Success Teamwork Award recognizes departments or interdisciplinary groups at Oregon State University that have demonstrated exceptional teamwork in creating and sustaining an exemplary teaching and learning environment to advance the university’s strategic goal of student success and excellence.

This year’s award goes to the Principles of Biology Instructional Team, including Carmen Harjoe, Lori Kayes, Jeff Anderson, Meta Landys, Jeff Chang, Nathan Kirk, John Fowler,  Sulochana Wasala, Noah Silva de Leonardi and Nat Young, with Integrative Biology and Botany and Plant Pathology in the College of Science and the College of Agricultural Sciences.

The team is responsible for fundamentally redesigning and reinvigorating the Principles of Biology Course series. It serves over 1,000 students a year, representing nearly every undergraduate college at OSU. The redesign of this essential baccalaureate core series has shown innovation and excellence in teaching that has resulted in increased student success based not only on improved grades, but more importantly on improved learning outcomes. It was the first time this series has been realigned in nearly 35 years.

“The Principles of Biology Instructional Team came together to completely redesign this course series in alignment to “provide an excellent teaching and learning environment” by restructuring the series to align more closely with our peer institutions in the state,”  one nominator wrote. “Currently, we anticipate course-by-course alignment with half the four-year institutions and community colleges in the state. This alignment has already created a huge impact on our transfer students who now receive credit for one or more courses in the series if they have taken them elsewhere when they might have had to take all three courses previously.”

Another nominated added, “I want to mention one last enormous benefit to all our OSU students from this series redesign. We know from best practices that life science students need to have the theoretical concepts and a framework formed so that they can scaffold their increasing biological knowledge as they advance through the major. Yet, equally important is to see theory put into practice. That is, experiential learning is so vital to a wholistic understanding of the natural world. This team chose to abandon commercially available lab manuals and to create their own laboratory exercises. They were guided and driven by the critical need to have realistic experiential laboratory exercises through active investigative learning.

The OSU Faculty Teaching Excellence Award honors unusually significant and meritorious achievement in teaching and scholarship that enhances effective instruction. In 2022, the recipient is Lindsay Biga, senior instructor in Integrative Biology with the College of Science.

Biga teaches large enrollment courses to a wide diversity of students in a variety  of majors, including those in public health, engineering and science. Additionally she coordinates a stand-alone 3 course lab series and trains graduate teaching assistants to teach in it. Her emphasis is on highly structured classes using high impact, inclusive teaching practices. Each year she also recruits and mentors an undergraduate teaching  team of 20 to 50 students.

One nominator wrote, “As her courses have matured, Dr. Biga has continued to incorporate topical and relevant material, responding both to scientific and social issues. In the past year, when discussing the replication of genetic information in cells, Dr. Biga incorporated elements from the novel COVID-19 vaccine methodology. By providing students a way to apply their own knowledge to this new vaccine approach, she helped her students not only understand the course content (DNA replication), but also appreciate how the vaccine works (or does not). This knowledge serves not only her students, but empowers them to critically evaluate the broad claims made about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines. 

Former students wrote, “As learning assistants, we saw how Dr. Biga takes her teaching seriously, and will work above and beyond what most would consider sufficient. As learning assistants, we always felt prepared to answer any questions that students had, due to Dr. Biga’s efforts to educate assistants in weekly meetings. Dr. Biga taught us how to not just teach, but engage students in a fun and personable fashion that encourages growth and learning outside of class time.”

The Beaver Champion Award is Oregon State University President's award for outstanding effort and achievement of excellence, extra effort beyond that requested, and performance of the highest quality. Toni Doolen, Honors College dean, and Christine Pollard, director of FORCE Laboratory at OSU-Cascades, are receiving the 2022 Beaver Champion Award for exceptional university service

Doolen is being recognized in honor of her outstanding academic leadership throughout OSU and her work with the university’s Human Resources office to create an inaugural managerial competencies framework. The managerial competency framework describes requirements for supervisors and managers to succeed in their academic and administrative functions, serve employee needs, contribute to OSU’s goals for student success and help to advance inclusive excellence throughout the university.

She is a professor in the School of Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, where she also has been associate head for undergraduate programs, and served as dean of the College of Education from 2017 to 2021.

As Honors College dean, Doolen collaborates with all OSU colleges and works tirelessly to increase the number and diversity of high-achieving students enrolling at and graduating from OSU.

Pollard, who has a Ph.D in biomechanics and a Masters in physical therapy, led the creation and launch last year of OSU-Cascades’ Doctor of Physical Therapy Program – the Bend campus’ first doctorate program.

The program has enjoyed immediate and significant success. The program has an annual goal of enrolling 45 students and has attracted application interest for the next academic year from more than 500 students. Physical therapy doctorate students engage daily with Pollard, other OSU academic faculty and staff members, and 20 associate faculty.

Pollard joined OSU in 2011 to develop and lead the OSU-Cascades kinesiology program. She founded the campus’ FORCE biomechanics lab in 2013 and engages in research related to lower body extremity injuries.

Pollard is a highly collaborative leader and strongly supports student success.