MSUToday
Published: Jan. 24, 2016

2016 Teacher-Scholar Awards

Lars Brudvig
College of Natural Science

Lars Brudvig’s research uses extensive field surveys and mechanism-oriented experiments to understand how humans impact ecosystems and their biodiversity; he then develops effective restoration measures to mitigate negative human impact through ecosystem restoration. His work covers a variety of ecosystems, including grasslands in the Midwest and pine forests in the southeast. Brudvig’s research has made important advances in predicting ecosystem restoration outcomes and the integration of restoration and landscape ecology, each of which is critical to achieving restoration at the large, landscape scales over which biodiversity conservation typically occurs. To facilitate these research efforts and the translation of his findings to conservation action, Brudvig partners with a number of land management and conservation agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, the Department of Defense, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and The Nature Conservancy.

Brudvig’s classroom is a model for student-centered, inquiry-based learning, where students develop as independent learners through innovative classroom instruction and engagement in field research. Specifically, students actively practice science, such as modeling, working with data, and hypothesis testing. In each of his classes Brudvig outlines what students should understand at the end of the course. He then allows students to fully explore each topic while simultaneously guiding the class so all course goals are covered rigorously. His exams even contribute to the learning process by requiring students to integrate concepts utilizing scientific practices.

His educational approach has proven successful among his students, who note
 that his courses “will continue to impact 
the rest of my education and pursuit of
 a career in science” and “have had the greatest impact on my life.” Additionally, his graduate students have garnered prestigious fellowships (including three NSF Graduate Research Fellowships), his undergraduates have been recognized with research awards, and the majority of his published papers have involved student or postdoc co-authors.

Brudvig has established a well-funded laboratory that has been supported by eight grants totaling more than $1.25 million (three NSF, two USDA Forest Service, one Project GREEEN). He has published 45 peer-reviewed papers in such journals as ‘Nature,’ ‘PNAS,’ ‘Science Advances,’ and ‘Nature Communications.’

Etienne Charles
College of Music

In the words of James Forger, dean of the College of Music, Etienne Charles is “one of the brightest minds in jazz performance and artistic creativity today.” A native of Trinidad, Professor Charles’s music exhibits a deep connection to his Caribbean roots, fused with a thorough grounding in the traditions of jazz.

As an artist, Charles is widely recognized as one of the rising stars in contemporary jazz. He has recorded and released two well received albums since his appointment at MSU (in addition to two previous albums), ‘Kaiso’ and ‘Creole Soul,’ both of which received positive reviews in the jazz and mainstream press, the latter topping the ‘Jazzweek’ album chart shortly after its release. Reviewing ‘Creole Soul’ for ‘JazzTimes,’ Britt Robson called the album “personal, cerebral, spiritual and joyful in its creative exploration of the roots of music and of a man,” while influential jazz critic Ben Ratli , writing in the ‘New York Times, notes that Charles “got [the album] about as right as he can.”

Charles’s research and creative output has resulted in substantial funding, including a Humanities and Arts Research Program grant in 2011. More recently, he was named as a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow and was recognized with a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship to support his work on a large-scale composition that draws upon traditional Caribbean forms.

As a teacher, Charles has been consistently effective in teaching applied
 jazz trumpet, ensembles, and jazz arranging and composition. His students have made tremendous progress as performing artists, with one winning the International Trumpet Guild’s annual jazz trumpet competition. Under his guidance, the Jazz Orchestra II 
has consistently performed at an exceptionally high level, surpassing that of top tier ensembles in many jazz programs around the country. In his arranging and composition courses, Professor Charles has been a strong advocate of incorporating advanced instruction technology.

In terms of service, Charles has served on several standing and ad hoc committees and helped coordinate the College’s “Latin is America” festival. Of particular note is his involvement with the Community Music School jazz program in Detroit, mentoring students and directing ensembles.

Richard Lunt
College of Engineering
College of Natural Science


Richard Lunt is a prolific scholar and entrepreneur who brings a deep passion for renewable energy research and education to MSU. A pioneer in renewable energy and energy efficient technologies, Lunt has developed exceptional excitonic materials for applications in enhancing solar harvesting and building efficiency. His research is expanding the possibilities for seamless deployment of energy harvesting systems, efficient light emitting systems, and the potential of excitonic electronic device functionality. His creative merging of the principles of chemistry, materials science, physics, and engineering has made all of his efforts possible.

Lunt’s commitment to student education is exemplified in the 30-plus undergraduate students he mentored in sustainable energy technologies in his research laboratory and though the Student Planning of Advanced Retrofit Technology Applications (SPARTA) group. Lunt is exuberant in his excitement for renewable energy and one of his students noted, “Dr. Lunt’s endless enthusiasm, tremendous knowledge base, and remarkable accessibility make him a truly outstanding professor and researcher.” He has also received previous teaching awards: the Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentor of the Year Award and the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Environmental Chemistry Mentor Award.

Lunt connects his renewable energy research to the course curriculum in a number of creative ways. He has developed an Energy Minor for the College of Engineering that focuses on key topics of fundamental laws that guide energy generation, utilization, conservation, engineering applications, and the impact of energy within a societal and geological context. This minor will provide students with a foundation in energy sciences that is applicable to many disciplines and will better prepare students for careers in energy. He also finds creative ways to integrate his energy/related research themes directly into the chemical engineering and materials science courses he teaches. Lunt’s ultimate goal is to captivate students in STEM by fostering scientific excitement and allowing students to see themselves as important contributors to solving science’s and engineering’s 
grand challenges.

Georgina Montgomery
Lyman Briggs College
College of Social Science

Georgina Montgomery is a highly innovative and widely recognized teacher–scholar. Her new book, Primates in the Real World: Escaping Primate Folklore and Creating Primate Science, represents a pacesetting monograph in African wildlife studies. The book traces primatology’s shift from expeditions designed to help overcome centuries-old myths to the field’s arrival
as a recognized science sustained by a complex web of international collaborations. Montgomery shows how individuals both within and outside of the scientific community liberated themselves from primate folklore to create primate science. An important contribution to the history of science and of women’s roles in science, Montgomery’s engaging narrative provides an accessible overview of this fascinating field of study while exploring the animal–human boundary.

Montgomery has made significant impacts on her students throughout their undergraduate careers, teaching a diverse slate of discussion-based classes from an introduction to the history, philosophy, and sociology of science to a capstone seminar concerning “The Human–Animal Boundary.” Her student evaluations have been uniformly excellent, regardless of whether the course was required or elective, aimed at freshmen or seniors, or located on campus or on a Study Away program in maritime Washington State. Her peers find that she provides a challenging and deeply engaging educational experience in which she consistently incorporates active, student-led, and experiential opportunities into her teaching. Montgomery charts a course outside standard teaching norms in her discipline, taking bold risks to provide an extremely vibrant and inclusive classroom environment. She passionately fosters a sense of engaged curiosity and inquiry among her students and helps them significantly improve their writing and communication skills.

Montgomery has fostered interdisciplinary teaching and research collaborations on campus and beyond. She has spearheaded the founding of the new Science and Society at State organization, a consortium of historians, philosophers, sociologists and scientists who will develop innovative pedagogies and scholarly work. She has singlehandedly raised the worldwide profile of MSU in these cutting-edge, interdisciplinary fields.

Sean Valles
Lyman Briggs College
College of Arts and Letters


Sean Valles is a philosopher of medicine, specializing in evidentiary and ethical issues 
in population health sciences. He has written a variety of papers for interdisciplinary journals, with audiences including philosophers, historians, physicians, and biologists. He connects broad philosophical and historical questions to specific policy decisions facing modern organizations or physicians and makes incisive recommendations for improvements in practice.

Valles’s work includes analyses of the theoretical assumptions in evolutionary medicine, the rhetoric in debates over the regulation of new genetic tests, and critiques
of the misuse of race concepts in public health programs. His superb scholarship has attracted national and international attention among both philosophers and medical practitioners, and he has garnered very signi cant funding from the National Science Foundation.

Valles uses his interdisciplinary approach 
to research to design humanities courses for science students. His courses help students to think critically about the philosophical, historical, and social aspects of science and medicine, such as the evidentiary standards used in testing pharmaceutical safety. Through his 2013–14 MSU Lilly Teaching Fellowship, he used learning goals from the University of California, Berkeley, Understanding Science model for teaching the nature of science, incorporating that content into an existing course, “Introduction to History, Philosophy and Sociology of Science,” as a means of enriching a cohort program for freshmen with low math placement scores.

Valles’s commitment to ensuring the excellence of his teaching is ongoing. Not surprisingly, he takes a scholarly approach 
to education by mastering new pedagogical techniques, engaging with scholars and teachers from other disciplines, and regularly translating his research interests into the classroom. He has been involved in successful grant proposals to acquire federal funding to develop interdisciplinary environmental science programs to conduct systematic, critical analysis of ethical concepts in the context of current environmental issues. He also co-founded the Consortium for Socially Relevant Philosophy of/in Science and Engineering. He has advised numerous philosophy graduate students on obtaining external funding, and has played a crucial role in curriculum development in Lyman Briggs. He is currently Co-PI on an NSF-funded interdisciplinary project, developing and evaluating ethics curricula for environmental science graduate students, and is currently pursuing a variety of collaborative projects with epidemiologists, STEM education scholars, and social scientists in the United States and Europe.

Joshua Yumibe
College of Arts and Letters 

Having arrived at MSU just three years ago, Joshua Yumibe has already reinvigorated
 the university’s longstanding commitment
 to the study of film and media and was instrumental in developing and launching the new B.A. in Film Studies at MSU. Under his guidance, the program focuses on cinema in its industrial and artisanal forms and provides a distinctive, in-depth grounding in a central medium of our globally networked visual environment that teaches students 
to engage the cinematic arts in ways that integrate filmmaking and critical studies.

Yumibe’s teaching combines passion for his subject, innovation, and intellectual rigor. From “Introduction to Film” to core courses in film history and film theory to advanced seminars on the evolution of color cinema aesthetics and technologies, and cinematic modernism and modernity, his classes are designed to encourage students to put film history and film theory in dialogue. He encourages active class participation by requiring students to post responses to class screenings and discussion questions electronically.

Yumibe’s research in film history and theory is internationally recognized. His groundbreaking book, Moving Color: Early Film, Mass Culture, Modernism, examines the earliest color films of the silent era—decades before The Wizard of Oz. In 2013, it was honored by the Cinémathèque française and by the Society for Cinema and Media Studies, which noted that “this inspiring book presents a vibrant history—[and] brings a startling moment in cinema’s genealogy to life.” In 2012 he was awarded a Leverhulme Trust Research Grant that funds the study of the chromatic modernity of the 1920s. His most recent collaborative book is Fantasia of Color in Early Cinema with a foreword by Martin Scorsese (2015), which among other accolades has been reviewed in The Atlantic and featured at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Yumibe’s dedication to film culture and history are also manifest through the variety of events he has organized at MSU, from bringing to campus renowned producer Christine Vachon and coordinating numerous lectures with filmmakers and scholars at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum to organizing outreach efforts with the Traverse City Film Festival and the Ann Arbor Film Festival. Yumibe’s critical engagement with, and promotion of, film culture at Michigan State exemplifies the dynamic range and depth of the university’s teacher–scholars.