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Jan. 23, 2017

2017 William J. Beal Outstanding Faculty Awards

Mary Breshnahan
College of Communications Arts and Sciences

Since joining the faculty in 1987, Mary Bresnahan has proven herself to be a world-class scholar, highly prolific in research and publications, including numerous international peer-reviewed publications; her peer-reviewed publications currently number 90. Creative and adventurous, Bresnahan has been at the forefront of research on health and intercultural communications. Her recent work in this area includes the importance of communicating the concept of brain death to family of potential organ donors; the efficacy of smoking prevention and cessation messages in China; and health-related stigmas, particularly in regard to lung cancer, HIV/AIDS, obesity, Hepatitis B and nutrition in the inner city. Her inquiry examines the psychological and communicative mechanisms underlying why and how people stigmatize and includes developing a theory of stigma as a transactional communication process.

Bresnahan’s commitment to mentoring her students has led to her training 159 graduate students since 1987 (48 doctoral and 111 master’s). In the classroom, she has taught thousands of undergraduates in cross-cultural communication, interpersonal communication and such specialized topics as bullying and stigma, both of which were informed directly by her cutting-edge research. Bresnahan currently serves six doctoral committees and one master’s committee.

Bresnahan’s contribution to University governance as well as her college and department has been substantial. She has served on the University Committee on Faculty Affairs, the College Advisory Council (1987-1992), the College RPT (Reappointment, Promotion and Tenure) Advisory Committee and chaired several department RTP Committees. She served as undergraduate coordinator from 1988 through 2002, and M.A. coordinator in communication from 2002 to 2014.

Bresnahan’s contribution to the profession has been substantial. She served as chair of the International and Intercultural Division of the National Communication Association for five years, and currently serves on four editorial boards, including “Communication Reports,” “Asian Journal of Communication,” “Journal of Intercultural Communication Research,” and the “Journal of Asian Pacific Communication.”

Sandra Crespo
College of Education

Sandra Crespo is recognized for her work as a mathematics educator committed to improving the mathematical experiences of underserved students and their teachers. She actively promotes mathematics as a collaborative and creative practice that requires a diversity of perspectives. Her research focuses on children’s imaginative ways of doing mathematics and the environments that support their creative practices as well as empowering mathematics’ teaching practices. She has conducted and published a series of classroom studies with collaborating teachers that make young students’ insights into complex mathematical ideas visible.

Crespo is well-known for her scholarly contributions to the curriculum and pedagogy of teacher education. She has been recognized for her scholarship on the curriculum and pedagogy of teacher preparation, specifically, how prospective teachers of elementary and secondary school mathematics can learn to teach mathematics in ways that are empowering to themselves and their students. Her co-authored book, “Smarter Together: Collaboration and Equity in the Elementary Mathematics Classroom,” is widely used as a main text in teacher preparation and professional development programs around the country. Her newly co-edited book, “Cases for Mathematics Teacher Educators: Facilitating Conversations about Inequities in the Mathematics Classroom,” is contributing to the national conversation on educational justice for underserved students.

To explore the potential of educational media to overturn stereotypes of who and what is considered smart in mathematics, Crespo has collaborated with educational media researchers. In a groundbreaking study focused on the Emmy-award winning public television series Cyberchase, she was able to demonstrate the positive impact of Cyberchase both in school outcomes and in students' positive self-perception of themselves as learners of mathematics. This project generated fifteen publications in peer-reviewed journals, book chapters, conference proceedings and conference presentations, most notably the 2011 article, “Television, Children, and Mathematics: Effects of Children's Interaction with Multiple Media,” published in the “International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations.”

Crespo’s scholarship has been recognized by the National Science Foundation CAREER award and through her election as editor of the “Mathematics Teacher Educator” journal, a joint publication of the two largest associations in mathematics education — the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators.

Richard Fracker
College of Music

Richard Fracker is a tenor renowned for his versatility both vocally and dramatically. He enthusiastically explores both traditional and contemporary repertoires and has performed regularly in opera houses and concert halls throughout the world, including New York's Metropolitan Opera, where he sang 160 performances in ten seasons, including fourteen Texaco “Live from the Met” international radio broadcasts and one national television broadcast; the Millennium Celebration Gala Concert; and two concerts in Central Park.

A committed music educator, Fracker has added greatly to MSU’s vocal performance program. When he first started at MSU in 2004, he inherited a vocal studio for which the quality of the singing had been judged as very weak. Within three years, Fracker had completely transformed that studio into one full of vibrant and talented students. His teaching and mentoring affected the singing of the College’s entire spectrum of voice students, from the best to the least talented and from the most experienced vocalist to the newest singer, all of whom began to demonstrate that they were on a par with their peers around the country. Under his leadership, MSU’s College of Music has developed a world-class vocal program. In May 2010, Fracker received the College of Music's highest honor, the Dortha J. and John D. Withrow Excellence in Teaching Award.

Fracker has presented vocal master classes and adjudicated performance competitions throughout the United States as well as in China and South Korea. His students have received awards in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and the George London Foundation and the Placido Domingo Operalia competitions. They have performed in prestigious venues throughout the country, including the Minnesota Opera, the San Francisco Opera and the Chicago production of Hamilton.

Fracker serves the university and his profession with enthusiasm and a commitment to excellence. He has served on and chaired the college advisory committee and regularly performed for MSU alumni and development events all over the country. He has also been active as a presenter, adjudicator and clinician for the Michigan Vocal Music Association.

Ann Larabee
College of Arts and Letters

Ann Larabee is a public scholar dedicated to promoting free inquiry and public discussion about national and international issues. She has devoted much of her career to understanding cultural responses to disaster and terrorism and the formation of radical ideas. Successfully crossing disciplinary boundaries, her work is known to researchers in history, political science, literary studies and the law. Her most recent book, “The Wrong Hands: Popular Manuals and Their Historic Challenges to a Democratic Society,” has been heralded as a brilliant study that asks essential questions about dissent and tolerance in democratic societies. As one commentator noted, “One of our best writers, Ann Larabee brings extensive research and splendid prose to bear on a topic vital to democracy.”

Larabee’s excellent writing, however, is not limited to the academic world; her popular history book, “The Dynamite Fiend: The Chilling Tale of a Confederate Spy, Con Artist, and Mass Murderer,” spent five weeks on the Nova Scotia bestseller list. She has often appeared on television and radio to share her expertise on topics such as terrorism, radicalism and censorship.

Larabee is editor of The Journal of Popular Culture, the study of which has a long tradition at Michigan State University, which houses one of the largest special collections in popular culture in the world. Larabee mentors graduate and undergraduate students as editorial assistants on the journal, takes them to conferences in the field and helps them develop their own work for publication. As one of her former students, now a tenured professor, stated, “To say that Dr. Larabee played a role in my academic and professional growth would be an understatement. Put simply, she was instrumental in my development as a scholar and teacher.”

Larabee has left her mark on the university through her many contributions to service, including the reorganization of academic governance and the formation of a popular culture concentration in the English Department. She helped found the annual Comics Forum at MSU, now in its seventh year, which brings together scholars, creators and fans to explore the medium of comics, graphic storytelling and sequential art.

Bradley Marks
College of Agriculture Natural Resources
College of Engineering

Bradley Marks is internationally known for leading a successful interdisciplinary research team focused on the microbial safety of ready-to-eat food products. An engineer by training, Marks has expanded his expertise to food microbiology and predictive modeling to meet the challenges of reducing foodborne disease outbreaks in meats, fresh-cut fruits and vegetables and low-moisture foods. In particular, his work is renowned for modeling the inactivation of foodborne pathogens and improving methods for the design, operation and validation of pathogen reduction processes for manufactured food products. His research lays the foundation for processing standards used by federal and state regulators of the processing industry.

Marks’ research has been continuously supported for more than twenty-three years by federal competitive grants, industry support and state and internal funding sources, including the USDA. He has written more than eighty-one referenced journal articles and has more than 270 total publications and presentations at national and international conferences.

Marks is well-known for his conscientious mentoring of undergraduates, graduate students and faculty colleagues, with former students employed throughout the U.S. food industry. One recent graduate wrote, “Dr. Marks was, by far, the most critical influence on my professional life due to his leadership skills and passion to see his students succeed.” Marks has taught twelve distinct courses over the past twenty-one years, including seven that he developed at the freshman, junior, senior and graduate levels. His unbounded enthusiasm for teaching has led to nine teaching awards at the department, college and national level, including four Withrow Teaching Awards, the MSU Teacher-Scholar Award, and a national teaching award from the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. Under his departmental leadership as the undergraduate program coordinator, undergraduate enrollment has tripled over the past decade.

It is rare for a faculty member at a research-intensive university to attain such a consistently outstanding record of achievement in all three of the land-grant missions of teaching, research and service. Marks has not only accomplished this feat but has received awards in each of these categories at the local, regional and national levels.

Edmund McGarrell
College of Social Science

Edmund McGarrell is known for his pioneering efforts to promote research and develop evidence-based strategies to reduce violence and enhance justice practices. As one of the nation’s leading scholars on violence prevention, McGarrell has successfully used scientific tools to measure violence and then devise interventions to reduce it. Since 2002, he has led an MSU team as the U.S. Department of Justice's national research partner for the Project Safe Neighborhoods program, which has involved research on gun, gang and drug-related crime and the impact of PSN as well as the provision of research-based training and technical assistance to PSN task forces coordinated by the 93 Offices of the U.S. Attorneys across the nation.

McGarrell has been recipient of numerous awards for his work, including the Distinguished Scholar Award from the Division of Policing of the American Society of Criminology and the O.W. Wilson Award from the Police Section of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. He has published more than 140 scholarly articles and book chapters and presented at more than 60 national conferences; his publications have been cited nearly 3,000 times. His external research funding includes 72 awards totaling more than $40 million.

McGarrell has significantly affected the professional lives of countless students. He has taught more than 20 courses across his career, with his recent work focused on doctoral education with seminars on communities and crime, crime prevention and risk utilization. He has worked to involve graduate students in collaborative research with community partners and served on thirty-eight dissertation and fourteen thesis committees, seventeen of these as chair. He has published extensively with students, guiding them as co-authors and co-investigators on research. A former student described McGarrell as an outstanding role model and pivotal contributor to his professional development “who helped him navigate in academic and research settings.”

As director of MSU’s School of Criminal Justice, McGarrell fostered its interdisciplinary strength by drawing faculty from a broad range of the social science disciplines. Currently, the school ranks in the top ten nationally.

Gary Mittelbach
College of Natural Sciences

Gary Mittelbach is an internationally recognized ecologist whose research has contributed novel and lasting insights into complex biological systems, particularly in regard to the ecological factors that contribute to patterns of diversity in natural landscapes. His laboratory catalyzed a new era in ecology, spearheading the move from observational to experimental approaches. Using aquatic systems to reveal the mechanisms and consequences of species interactions, his breakthrough research on freshwater fish showed conclusively that predation risk influences habitat use in prey and stimulated new thinking about how and why species coexist—one of the central questions in community ecology. Conducted at MSU’s Kellogg Biological Station (KBS), Mittelbach’s research established MSU as the epicenter for studies in aquatic ecology.

Mittelbach is among the world’s most cited researchers in ecology. He has published more than 100 scientific papers with more than 15,000 total citations; five of his papers have each been cited more than 1,000 times. Since 2004, four of his publications have achieved recognition from Web of Science as a Highly Cited Paper (in the top 1 percent in the field). In 2012, Mittelbach published the highly regarded textbook “Community Ecology,” which quickly became the leading text in the field, referred to in the journal Ecology as “a solid and effective introduction to most of the major questions of the field.”

Mittelbach is committed to educating the next generation of scientists. For more than twenty years, he has served as lead instructor in “Population and Community Ecology,” the primary ecology course for graduate students in MSU’s Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Behavior program. He pioneered the use of active learning techniques in the “Field Ecology and Evolution” course long before this pedagogical approach was in vogue. In this course, students are led through the entire field research process: reading and discussing papers from the primary literature, scouting field sites and designing a study, collecting and analyzing data and presenting their results in a talk. Students loved the course and the hands-on introduction to intensive research. Mittelbach has mentored twelve Ph.D. students from his lab, all of whom continue to make important contributions at academic institutions.

Charles Ofria
College of Engineering

Charles Ofria is recognized internationally for his research at the interface of computer science and evolutionary biology. He developed the Avida Digital Evolution Research Platform, wherein self-replicating computer programs are subject to mutations and selective pressures resulting in an open-ended evolutionary process. Because these digital organisms exist inside a computer, Ofria can easily study long-term evolutionary processes and, in turn, apply what he learns toward solving computational problems.

Ofria is one of the founders of the $50 million BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action at MSU, an NSF-supported center that allows engineers with an applied evolutionary focus to work with evolutionary biologists to create a theoretical foundation for both computational and biological research.

As part of his role in founding the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, Ofria developed a multidisciplinary course on Multidisciplinary Research Methods for the Study of Evolution, for the purpose of mentoring students on the research process at the intersection of fields. He covers communicating across fields, developing interesting research questions, performing literature searches, formulating and testing hypotheses (along with using simple statistics) and presenting research results so they are accessible to a range of audiences. Each year, multiple groups in the class publish their work after the end of the semester, with students universally agreeing that they have gained tremendous insight into the research process. Teaching reviews from other classes note his ability to convey abstract concepts in a practical manner, often through live-coding demonstrations, real-world examples and instructional technologies that provide students with instantaneous feedback. His teaching has been recognized with the MSU Teacher–Scholar and the Withrow Teaching Awards.

Ofria is the president of the International Society for Artificial Life and a member of the editorial board for “PeerJ Computer Science.” He is active in reviewing articles for a number of prestigious journals, including “Nature,” “Communications of the ACM: IEEE Proceedings of Artificial Intelligence” and “Journal of Theoretical Biology.”

Paul Thompson
College of Arts and Letters
College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Paul Thompson is one of the pre-eminent philosophers of agriculture and food ethics in the world. Widely regarded as having created the philosophy of agriculture as a discipline, Thompson has made seminal contributions to interdisciplinary conversations about risk, biotechnology, sustainability and food ethics, especially regarding the development of agricultural technoscience. In his most recent book, “From Field to Fork,” which won the Book of the Year award for 2015 from the North American Society for Social Philosophy, illustrates how food production and consumption are linked to ethical issues regarding social justice, the environment and risk. He constructs a map of the field that convincingly brings together often seemingly disconnected discussions concerning poverty, obesity, animal welfare, environmental protection and gene technology.

A prolific and highly influential scholar, Thompson has authored or edited sixteen books and has published more than 200 journal articles and book chapters. He published the first book length philosophical treatment of agricultural biotechnology in 1997, revising it in 2007. His 1992 book on U.S agricultural policy, “Sacred Cows and Hot Potatoes,” was used as a textbook for U.S. Congressional agriculture staff and won the American Agricultural Economics Association Award for Excellence in Communication. Thompson’s 2010 book, “The Agrarian Vision: Sustainability and Environmental Ethics,” proposed a new framework for addressing questions of sustainability.

Thompson is as innovative pedagogically as he is in research. For classes large and small, undergraduate and graduate, he has integrated experiences in the MSU agricultural and food research facilities on campus into his curricula, giving students an appreciation for the ethical issues on which he focuses. He has directed the dissertations of 17 students and has served as a committee member for 18 more. As a mentor and graduate educator, he works collaboratively with his students, preparing them to be successful and productive scholars in their own right. In the words of one former student, he has a “lasting, transformational impact on the individual lives of his students.”

Thompson’s contributions to MSU include designing the Environmental Philosophy and Ethics graduate specialization; he has also supported a number of programs on campus through his leadership with the Sustainable Michigan Endowed Program.

David Tomanek
College of Natural Science

David Tomanek’s research falls within a broad and vibrant area of materials research that seeks to discover and understand new materials that have the potential to disrupt the leading technologies for computing, sensing, communications and energy. His research has focused on the development and application of numerical techniques to study structural, electronic, transport and optical properties of surfaces, low-dimensional systems and nanostructures. Tomanek’s work includes the discovery of several new materials and nanostructures that may underpin next generation technologies ranging from quantum information to communications and computing. In particular he has made several important discoveries in the area of carbon nanotubes, which are one-dimensional wires with exceptional thermal, electrical, and mechanical properties. His work on carbon nanotubes and phosphorene has been particularly important, laying the groundwork for their use in a variety of emerging technologies. Computer simulations performed in his group have addressed self-assembly and physical properties of fullerenes, nanotubes, nanowires, polymers, layered systems, ferrofluids and metallic and magnetic clusters.

Tomanek’s work on nanotubes and other carbon materials led to his receiving the 2008 Japan Carbon Award for Life-Time Achievement and the Korean Lee Hsun Research Award for Materials Science. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and a recipient of the Alexander von Humboldt Distinguished Scientist Award. Tomanek, who is very engaged and influential in the international nanoscience community, is the author of a leading introductory book on carbon materials, “Guide through the Nanocarbon Jungle.” He gives a very large number of invited talks and organizes several conferences, all while maintaining the nanotube internet site — a leading international source of information in the area of carbon nanotubes.

Tomanek is an outstanding and innovative teacher at both the introductory and graduate levels. He has developed several new graduate courses, including a course on nanotechnology and most recently on electronic structure calculations. He has graduated fifteen Ph.D.’s, mentored nine postdocs and worked with seventeen undergraduate research students, including several supported by the NSF – Research Experience for Undergraduates in the Physics and Astronomy Department.