March 31, 2015

Stassun wins Branscomb Award at Spring Faculty Assembly

Five faculty awards were handed out March 31 during Spring Faculty Assembly, including the Harvie Branscomb Distinguished Professor Award.

Keivan Stassun is congratulated by Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos for winning the Harvie Branscomb Distinguished Professor Award at the Spring Faculty Assembly March 31. (Joe Howell/Vanderbilt)

An astronomer who founded a program to help minority students earn Ph.D.s in the natural sciences won the Harvie Branscomb Distinguished Professor Award at Vanderbilt University’s Spring Faculty Assembly.

Keivan Stassun, professor of physics and astronomy, earned the title of Harvie Branscomb Distinguished Professor for one year, along with an engraved silver tray and $2,500.

“As a founder and co-director of the Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-to-Ph.D. Bridge Program, he has provided a strong foundation for historically underrepresented students in the natural sciences to pursue a Ph.D.,” said Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos. “This pioneering program has become a national model.”

Stassun was part of a group of astronomers who in 2007 detected for the first time a brown dwarf eclipsing binary system. He has attracted $15 million in research grants to Vanderbilt.

A total of five awards were handed out March 31 during the event in Langford Auditorium. Paul Lim, chair of the Faculty Senate, delivered opening remarks and assisted Zeppos in passing out the awards. David Michelson, assistant professor of the history of Christianity at Vanderbilt Divinity School, gave a short presentation, “Nineveh No More: Cultural Genocide in Contemporary Iraq and Syria.”

Bonnie Pilon, professor of nursing, was named the winner of the Alexander Heard Distinguished Service Professor Award.

Bonnie Pilon (right) accepts a hug after winning the Alexander Heard Distinguished Service Professor Award. (Joe Howell/Vanderbilt)

“The award recognizes scholarship that increases and informs our understanding of social challenges and honors faculty members who seek and propose solutions to the issues that confront humanity,” Zeppos said. “With health care reform at the forefront of America’s political and policy discussion, Bonnie’s dedication to finding and implementing effective solutions to ensure access for underserved populations and her utilization of multi-disciplinary teams in the delivery of this care make her an ideal recipient of the Heard Award.”

Pilon will carry the Alexander Heard Distinguished Service Professor title for one year and received $2,500 and an engraved silver tray.

Ted Hasselbring, a leader in the use of technology to enhance learning for students with mild learning disabilities, was awarded the Joe B. Wyatt Distinguished University Professor Award.

Hasselbring, Research Professor of Special Education at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of education and human development, received $2,500 and an engraved silver tray. He will carry the title of Joe B. Wyatt Distinguished University Professor for one year.

“His research is targeted toward helping those struggling with literacy and math skills and has yielded several widely used computer intervention programs that develop math fact fluency and deliver individualized phonics instruction and corrective feedback for beginning readers,” Zeppos said.

Hasselbring has secured grants totaling more than $36 million, Zeppos said.

Zeppos also announced the winners of the university’s top teaching awards.

David Lewis, William R. Kenan Jr. Chair of Political Science, received the Madison Sarratt Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. The prize rewards outstanding efforts in classroom presentation, concern for student learning, and clarity and fairness in the criteria used for awarding grades.

“A recurring sentiment in the (student) evaluations confirms that David holds high expectations and is a tough grader,” Zeppos said. “Interestingly, there were just as many who commented that although they might receive a less-than-perfect grade, it was well worth the enormous amount of knowledge gained from taking his class.”

Lewis received $2,500 and an engraved pewter cup.

Cynthia Paschal, professor of biomedical engineering and professor of radiology and radiological sciences, won the Ellen Gregg Ingalls Award for Excellence in Classroom Teaching which is funded by the Ingalls Foundation. She received an engraved pewter cup and $2,500.

“When asked to create a distinctive, engaging experience that could be an exemplar for undergraduate education at Vanderbilt, Cynthia responded by developing a service learning course and corresponding trip to Guatemala with students devoting their spring break to work alongside faculty to improve medical instrumentation,” Zeppos said.

“Students commented that they learned more about circuits and devices in Guatemala than they ever would in a classroom, and they praised the experience for giving them a sense of gratitude and an increased philanthropic vision,” he said.

Nominations for each of the teaching awards are made online by undergraduates of all schools and colleges, with final selection made by the chancellor.