Agee, Zeng, White, Psychology win NU honors

Mar 25th, 2010 | By | Category: Campus News, Issue, March 25, 2010

Three UNL professors and one campus department were selected among the 2010 winners of the university’s most prestigious awards for research, teaching and engagement.

“It’s important that we take this opportunity to recognize the outstanding work done by our faculty members,” said James B. Milliken, NU president. “The strength of the university depends on its faculty, and we have some of the country’s best on our campuses. Their efforts in teaching, research and engagement make a real difference in people’s lives.”

The awards will be presented at a luncheon later in the spring.

UNL winners will be featured in upcoming issues of the Scarlet.

The winners from UNL are:

Outstanding Research and Creative Activity award (ORCA): recognizes individual faculty members for outstanding research or creative activity of national or international significance.

Jonis Agee, Adele Hall Professor, Department of English: Agee is the author of 13 books, including novels, short fiction collections and poetry books. Her novels “Sweet Eyes” and “Strange Angels” both were named New York Times Notable Books of the Year, as was one of her collections of short fiction, “Bend this Heart.” Agee also won the Mark Twain Award for 2008, given for distinguished contributions to Midwestern literature. At UNL, Agee started the Nebraska Summer Writers’ Workshop, which has grown in size and stature under her leadership and was designated as a Program of Excellence by the College of Arts and Sciences; and she has been a valuable mentor and teacher to students at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Xiao Zeng, Ameritas University Professor, Department of Chemistry: One of the university’s most respected scientists, Zeng has earned international attention for his work as a theoretical chemist. He has discovered a new form of ice (dubbed “Nebraska Ice”), which was created in high-pressure nanotubes; and his work in nanomaterials has earned him the nickname “Lord of the Nanorings.” Zeng is one of UNL’s most productive scholars, with 237 publications, and many of his papers appear in journals of international stature such as Nature. He also has built a record as an outstanding instructor, having graduated five masters and five doctoral students and trained eight postdoctoral co-workers at the time of his nomination. Zeng has been a Guggenheim Fellow and in 2004 received the Sigma Xi Outstanding Young Scientist Award.

Outstanding Teaching and Instructional Creativity Award (OTICA): recognizes individual faculty members who have demonstrated meritorious and sustained records of excellence and creativity in teaching.

Laura White, Professor, Department of English: In a department known for teaching excellence, White’s evaluations are consistently at the top, with students praising her intelligence, rigor and ability to make course materials exciting and relevant. White has taught 22 different courses at the undergraduate level and eight at the graduate level – perhaps the most variety in the department. One of her most significant contributions has been her leadership in designing and directing the 19th Century Studies Program, an interdisciplinary graduate specialization program based in English, history and modern languages with participation from art, art history, music, theatre and libraries. The program has sponsored numerous speakers and a monthly event for faculty and graduate students to discuss their research.

University-wide Departmental Teaching Award (UDTA): recognizes a department or unit within the university that has made unique and significant contributions to teaching efforts. The honored department is awarded $25,000 to be used in a manner the department sees fit, such as for travel to a conference, instructional equipment or improvements to a classroom or student resource center.

Department of Psychology: The department is one of the university’s most wide-ranging, attracting students who major in psychology as part of general liberal arts education as well as students who intend to pursue graduate work in fields such as psychology, dentistry, law, education, social work, medicine, physical therapy or religion. At the time of its nomination, the department included 26 faculty, 34 graduate teaching assistants and 801 undergraduate majors. Psychology is the largest undergraduate major in the College of Arts and Sciences and the second-largest at UNL. In addition, the department is home to one of the largest and premiere doctoral programs at the university, with more than 100 graduate students across six specializations. The department provides a significant level of teaching to non-psychology majors as well.

In its 120-year history of leadership and innovation, the psychology department has contributed a number of “firsts,” including one of the earliest – if not the first – formal teaching of psychology west of the Mississippi and one of the earliest psychological laboratories in the country and the first devoted to training undergraduates. More presidents of the American Psychological Association (six) have been undergraduate alumna of the University of Nebraska than any other institution; and UNL’s law-psychology program, established in 1974, was the first dual-degree (J.D.-Ph.D.) program of its kind.

Undergraduate students in the psychology department are regular recipients of prestigious scholarships and awards, such as Chancellor’s and McNair scholarships and Mortarboard and Innocents honor societies. Graduate students have received more than 100 major internal and external recognitions since 2005. And the department’s faculty, graduate students and staff have received more than 60 teaching awards and recognitions since 2000.

Other university-wide award winners are:

OTICA – Paul Paulman, professor, Family Medicine; assistant dean of clinical skills, University of Nebraska Medical Center.

IDEA (Innovation, Development and Engagement Award) – Phyllis Markussen, chair of Family Studies and Interior Design; professor of interior design, UNK; and Byers “Bud” Shaw, M.D., professor of surgery; medical director of the advanced clinical applications project, UNMC.

Award recipients are selected by committees of outstanding peers. The IDEA recognizes faculty who have extended their academic expertise beyond the boundaries of the university in ways that have enriched the broader community.

— University Communications

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