March 28, 2023

SEC Announces 2023 Faculty Achievement Award Recipients

By: SEC Staff
SECU (Twitter: @TheSECU)

Universities thrive on great faculty members — the dedication to the classroom experience, the commitment to advance their disciplines and the determination to make a difference through service are indispensable.

For over a decade, the Southeastern Conference has used its SEC Faculty Achievement Award to honor these essential members of the campus community. This unique awards program was established in 2012 by the Conference’s presidents and chancellors and celebrates success in teaching, research, and service. One of the 14 recipients will be chosen as the SEC Professor of the Year, voted on by the universities’ provosts.

“We are proud to recognize the unique and impactful achievements of faculty in our conference, through the SEC Faculty Achievement Awards,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. “While we annually celebrate the accomplishments of 14 outstanding faculty members, one from each of our 14 institutions, we recognize that they represent thousands of SEC faculty who are doing phenomenal work every day throughout our conference.”

The 2023 recipients represent a variety of disciplines such as chemistry, engineering, music, business and environmental studies. They have published countless articles, received numerous awards, and presented academic lectures nationally and internationally. In addition, they have served as mentors to students and faculty while making a positive impact on their communities.

And now they are SEC Faculty Achievement Award Winners.


Meet the 2023 SEC Faculty Achievement Award Honorees


Dr. Andrew Raffo Dewar, Professor of Interdisciplinary Art at the University of Alabama, is a composer, soprano saxophonist, electronic musician, ethnomusicologist and arts organizer. He has given more than 200 performances that includes numerous high-profile venues such as the Venice Biennale di Musica and the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. His scholarly writing has been published in all the major academic jazz journals, while Dewar has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Chamber Music America and The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, among others.

Andrew Raffo Dewar


Dr. Min Zou, Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Arkansas, is a world-renowned expert in nanoscale surface engineering, nanomechanics and tribology. An elected member of the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Zou has garnered more than $30 million in external research funding, including the National Science Foundation Career Award. She holds seven patents with four more under review and has developed three novel technologies licensed for commercialization.

Dr. Min Zou stands in a lab setting wearing a white lab coat, writing in a notebook.


Dr. Shiwen Mao, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Auburn University, is a prolific scholar in wireless networking and multimedia communications. Mao is among the first researchers to work on developing the key technologies for 5G wireless technology and beyond. With more than $11 million in research funding, Mao has received the prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Award. Mao is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Asia-Pacific Artificial Intelligence Association, and European Alliance for Innovation.

Shiwen Mao stands to give a presentation.


Dr. Pamela S. Soltis, Distinguished Professor at the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida, is an internationally recognized ambassador whose research focuses on the broad field of biodiversity with an emphasis on plant diversity. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Soltis has served as an associate editor for seven scientific journals and a panelist for the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the European Research Council. Founding director of the UF Biodiversity Institute, she was principal investigator on numerous projects that have contributed to a resurgence of interest in natural history collections and their scientific potential.

Pam Soltis stands in a wooded area noting her field samples.


Dr. Steven Stice, D.W. Brooks Distinguished Professor in Animal Reproductive Physiology at the University of Georgia, uses stem cells to develop therapies and drug discovery tools with the potential to transform the lives of those suffering from neurological damage and disease. A Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, his work has been supported by nearly $125 million in funding from agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Defense. Stice co-founded five companies and holds 31 patents, while his innovative work has led to many first in the field of regenerative medicine.

Steven Stices wears a white lab coat as he stands in the doorway with eight students around him.


Dr. John Anthony, C. W. Hammond Professor of Chemistry at the University of Kentucky, has significantly shaped the field of materials chemistry. His award-winning contributions have made him one of the university’s most highly cited researchers, as he had four published articles highlighted as “Highly Cited in Field” by Web of Science. He has secured funding through the National Science Foundation, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and National Institute of Standards and Technology, where awards total nearly $6 million since 2016 alone.

John Anthony stands and talks to convention attendees in a crowded room


Dr. Nancy Rabalais, Professor of Oceanography and Wetland Studies at Louisiana State University, is an internationally recognized expert on Gulf of Mexico coastal ecosystems, specifically the low oxygen water area known as the “dead zone,” helping to initiate national policies to restore the degraded waters. A John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur “genius” awardee, she was recently elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Rabalais is the author of more than 150 refereed papers with more than 15,000 citations.

Nancy Rabalais stands on shore as a boat is in the background.


Dr. Kristine L. Willett, Professor of Pharmacology and Environmental Toxicology at the University of Mississippi, is an authority in using zebrafish as model organisms to study developmental, reproductive, and multigenerational effects of exposure to pollutants and cannabinoids. She was instrumental in working on environmental consequences and policy in the wake of disasters, including Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. She has received external funding from a range of sources, including some of the most competitive grants in the National Institutes of Health system.

Kristine Willett stands with a student as the look on at zebrafish samples.


Dr. Qian (Jenny) Du, Bobby Shackouls Endowed Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Mississippi State University, is a world-renowned expert in remote sensing, especially signal processing for hyperspectral image exploitation. She has been recognized as a fellow of the International Society of Optical Engineering and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Du has published more than 350 journal articles and 250 conference papers. She has twice been ranked among the most cited researchers in the world for the geosciences field by Clarivate Analytics.

Jenny Du stands in the front of a classroom, pointing at writing on a dry erase board.


Dr. Wendy M. Reinke, Curators’ Distinguished Professor in School Psychology at the University of Missouri, is recognized for her work in prevention of disruptive behavior problems in children, teacher consultation and school mental health. Her national recognitions include being selected as a fellow of the Association for Psychological Science and two divisions of the American Psychological Association. She has over $50 million in research funding and is supported by diverse organizations, such as, the United States Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences and the National Institute of Justice.

Wendy Reinke stands at a podium as she gives a presentation.


Dr. Robert E. Ployhart, Bank of America Professor of Business Administration at the University of South Carolina, is a distinguished scholar in the field of human resource management and organizational behavior. He has authored or co-authored more than 90 peer-reviewed scholarly articles, and he was twice recognized as being in the top one percent of highly cited researchers by Web of Science. Ployhart is one of a few researchers who is a fellow in both basic and applied professional scholarly societies, including most recently the Academy of Management.

Robert Ployhart stands in front of a class.


Dr. Tony Schmitz, Professor of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Tennessee, is an internationally recognized expert in machining dynamics and metrology. He has been awarded over $20 million in research funding, co-authored more than 55 journal articles, and published three books, including the leading textbook on machining. Schmitz was recently named an American Society for Mechanical Engineers Fellow and a member of the inaugural cohort of the American Society of Precision Engineering College Fellows.

Tony Schmitz stands with Tennessee students after the SEC Machining Competition.


Dr. Donald J. Darensbourg, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at Texas A&M University, is a noted expert in the mechanisms of organometallic reactions. A recent selection to the National Academy of Sciences, he is also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Chemical Society. He has more than 430 articles published in chemical sciences’ leading journals that have been cited over 21,000 times. A 40-plus year faculty member at Texas A&M, Darensbourg also holds professional appointments such as serving on the Editorial Advisory Board of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Donald Darensbourg looks at a computer with a student in his lab.


Dr. Nancy Carrasco, Professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics at Vanderbilt University, is an internationally recognized scientist known for her study of membrane transporters. Carrasco was the first to isolate the coding DNA for NIS, the iodide transporter protein that pulls iodide from the bloodstream into the thyroid gland. She is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Carrasco has received numerous national and international awards and served as president of the Society of Latin American Biophysicists.

Nancy Carrasco sits in a laboratory setting.


“The SEC Faculty Achievement Awards program is one of the SEC’s most established academic initiatives,” said Dr. LeNá McDonald, SEC Associate Commissioner for Academic Relations. “We are proud to be among the first Division I NCAA conferences to honor faculty, unrelated to sports, and we celebrate the work our universities and the contributions of their faculty.”