(Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include the Special Projects Award presented to biology professor Yangseung Jeong and corrects the group photo caption that misidentified him.)
A welcome tradition at MTSU’s Fall Faculty Meeting is the annual presentation of the MTSU Foundation Awards, which recognize, celebrate and reward university faculty members for their accomplishments in and outside the classroom.
The 2018 recipient of the foundation’s Career Achievement Award, considered the pinnacle of recognition for stellar MTSU professors, is Dr. Judith Iriarte-Gross, a professor of chemistry at MTSU since 1996 who is nationally known for her advocacy for girls and women in the sciences.
MTSU Foundation President Ron Nichols presented Iriarte-Gross, the director of the Women In STEM (WISTEM) Center at MTSU and the founder and director of Tennessee’s first Expanding Your Horizons in Math and Science girls’ STEM education workshop, with her award during the annual gathering in Tucker Theatre Thursday, Aug. 23.
Iriarte-Gross, who also serves as faculty adviser for MTSU’s Women In Science and Engineering student organization, has been a principal or co-principal investigator on six National Science Foundation awards and received an NSF grant in 2007 to provide information for Tennessee girls, parents, teachers and guidance counselors about STEM education and careers and to support the growth of Expanding Your Horizons, or EYH, conferences across Tennessee.
More than 7,200 girls from Tennessee, as well as portions of Kentucky, Alabama and Georgia, have so far attended EYH events at MTSU, and EYH conferences have expanded into Memphis, Morristown, Maryville, Chattanooga and Gallatin.
In accepting the award, Iriarte-Gross noted the importance that federal programs such as TRiO and Upward Bound played in helping a young, first-generation college student from a single-parent home enter higher education and pursue the sciences with the encouragement of teachers and mentors.
“I tell my students today, listen to your teachers, because they see something in you that you might not see,” she said.
When she and her husband, Charles, moved to Murfreesboro in 1996, Iriarte-Gross recalled that she noticed the absence of an EYH program for young girls anywhere in Tennessee. She went to work launching one on the Blue Raider campus; it will celebrate its 22nd edition this October.
“We are changing the future STEM workforce for Tennessee by showing girls that they can do anything,” she said.
Iriarte-Gross, a native of Washington, D.C., also was one of five MTSU professors who received a 2014-16 NSF ADVANCE grant to identify barriers that affect recruiting, hiring, retaining and promoting women STEM faculty at MTSU.
As a result of all her efforts, she’s been honored with numerous awards and accolades; in 2016, she was named a fellow of both the American Chemical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, two of the country’s premier scientific professional societies.
For her work in programs supporting girls and women in STEM education and careers, she also was a nominee for the 2014 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring.
Locally, Iriarte-Gross received the inaugural Athena International Leadership Award from Rutherford CABLE in 2014 and was named a 2015 Woman of Influence in the mentoring/inspiration category by the Nashville Business Journal.
Nichols also honored 14 more MTSU professors on behalf of the MTSU Foundation during the Aug. 23 gathering.
The five recipients of the foundation’s 2018 Outstanding Teaching Award are:
• Brian W. Frank, Department of Physics and Astronomy.
• James B. Hart, Department of Mathematical Sciences.
• Deanna R. Little, School of Music.
• Noël D. Lorson, Department of Art and Design.
• Lori Y. McClure-Wade, Department of English.
Frank also is the recipient of the 2018 Outstanding General Education Award, while Lorson also received the Outstanding Public Service Award.
The eight additional foundation award recipients for 2018 are:
• Outstanding Achievement in Instructional Technology Awards — Stephanie H. Dean, Department of Media Arts; Eric S. Detweiler, Department of English; and Molly G. Taylor-Poleskey, Department of History.
• Outstanding Public Service Awards — Katherine A. Green, College of Graduate Studies, and Preston J. MacDougall, Department of Chemistry.
• Distinguished Research Award — Qiang Wu, Department of Mathematical Sciences.
• Special Projects Awards — Yangseung Jeong, Department of Biology, and Tony V. Johnston, School of Agriculture and director of the Fermentation Science Program.
The MTSU Foundation also recognized 14 new faculty emeriti, a new dean emeritus and 49 newly promoted and/or tenured faculty members across campus. You can view the complete 2018 MTSU Foundation Awards program, which includes more details about the award winners and other honorees, here.
Before the awards presentations, MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee offered his annual “State of the University” address to a full house in Tucker Theatre, praising the university’s faculty and staff for continuing to improve student retention and graduation rates and encouraging the MTSU community to develop new strategies to help students reach their goals. You can learn more about McPhee’s address here.
— Gina E. Fann and Jimmy Hart (firstname.lastname@example.org)