March 27, 2024

SEC Celebrates Excellence in Teaching, Research and Service

LSU's Dr. Kenneth Schafer is one of the 14 SEC faculty members honored in the 2024 class.
LSU's Dr. Kenneth Schafer is one of the 14 SEC faculty members honored in the 2024 class.

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 campus community members. 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.

“The SEC Faculty Achievement Awards provide an annual opportunity to recognize and encourage the work of outstanding faculty members on our campuses,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. “Although we honor 14 individuals for their contributions, we know they are representative of all SEC faculty.”

The 2024 recipients represent a variety of disciplines from the sciences to creative fields. 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.

“The SEC Faculty Achievement Awards program is one of the SEC’s most established academic initiatives,” said Dr. LeNá Powe 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.”


Meet the 2024 SEC Faculty Achievement Award Honorees

Dr. Claire Major, Professor of Higher Education Administration at the University of Alabama – Major’s research focuses on teaching and learning in colleges and universities. An internationally recognized scholar, she is best known for her work on active learning and its effect on various student populations. Major established the Executive EdD program that features a format allowing higher education professionals to pursue a degree without interrupting their careers. Along with publishing books and presenting lectures, Major is working on multiple grant projects, including focusing on strengthening higher education across the Pakistani system of higher education.

Claire Major smiles for the camera as she sits at a desk holding a pen to paper.

Dr. Mary Lacity, David D. Glass Chair and Distinguished Professor of Information Systems at the University of Arkansas – Lacity’s research focuses on blockchain-enabled solutions, decentralized identity, metaverse, ethical uses of technology and service automation. She is world-renowned for her original qualitative research methodology called Action Principles. Her work appears in prestigious outlets like Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Review, and MIS Quarterly. She developed new blockchain courses and because there were no textbooks, Lacity co-authored one that is now used globally and waived all royalty fees. Her innovation continued with a new metaverse course, which is taught with virtual reality headsets.

Mary Lacity stands with another administrator to present an award certificate to a student.

Dr. Frank Bartol, Professor of the Department of Anatomy, Physiology & Pharmacology, Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies at Auburn University – Bartol excels in reproductive and developmental biology. His research on large domestic animals directly impacts production in animal agriculture and can translate to human conditions. He founded the AU Cellular and Molecular Biosciences program and advanced the Public and One Health program. Bartol contributed to domestic ungulate uterine developmental biology, developing the Uterine Gland Knock-Out Model. This helps scientists consider how the animal’s developmental trajectory affects their reproductive efficiency or fertility and fecundity in adulthood. Bartol also collaborated to coin the term lactocrine, which is the transmission of milk-borne bioactive factors from mother to offspring by consequence of nursing.

Frank Bartol stands and talks in a group with seven students.

Dr. Kristen Stoner, Professor of Flute at the University of Florida – Stoner’s expertise centers on flute performance, both as a soloist and as an orchestral performer. She has developed expertise in tangentially related fields, such as contemporary music by women and underrepresented composers, original composition and innovation in flute pedagogy. Stoner has performed in prestigious competitions around the country and has been an invited performer around the world, including the Opera Theatre of Lucca in Italy, the Christchurch Cathedral and Sydney Conservatorium of Music in Australia, as well as the Sunway University in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Kristen Stoner joins a large group of flute students for an outdoor photo

Dr. Jenna Jambeck, Regents Professor and Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor of Environmental Engineering at the University of Georgia – Jambeck is known for her work investigating the scale of plastic pollution and galvanizing efforts to address plastic waste. She is internationally recognized for her research on plastic waste in the ocean and for the Marine Debris Tracker app she co-created. She was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow in 2022 and received a National Geographic Fellowship in 2018, which led to an expedition to understand the migration of plastic waste in the Gagnes River in India. Jambeck’s work has shaped public policy and is continually sought after by the U.S. and other governments for advice and input. She is also the co-founder of the UGA New Materials Institute and heads its Center for Circular Materials Management.

Jenna Jambeck and two other people study plastic pollution on a beach.

Dr. Sherali Zeadally, University of Kentucky Alumni Association Endowed Professor and University Research Professor in the College of Communication and Information’s School of Information Science at the University of Kentucky – Zeadally has shaped the university’s research around cybersecurity, privacy, internet of things, and computer networks research. His prolific body of work has led to more than 500 peer-reviewed publications and numerous awards, honors, and prestigious fellowships. For the fourth consecutive year, Zeadally earned a spot on Clarivate’s Highly Cited Researcher Award in computer science list, which identifies scholars whose work has been cited most often in papers over the past decade.

Sherali Zeadally stands in front of a classroom teaching

Dr. Kenneth Schafer, Boyd Professor of Physics at Louisiana State University – Schafer is a leading researcher in Atomic, Molecular, Optical (AMO) Physics, specializing in laser-molecular interactions and dynamics. Schafer pioneered ultrafast laser physics, converting infrared light to extreme ultraviolet and X-rays using ultrashort laser pulses on specific atoms. This led to the establishment of “attosecond physics” because the phenomena he uses and studies last approximately one attosecond. His numerous accolades include the National Science Foundation Early Career Award and international recognition from Sweden and Denmark. Schafer is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Optical Society of America, and the American Physical Society.

Kenneth Shafer stands in front of a class holding a long instrument as demonstration

Dr. Michael Hall, Professor and Chair of the Department of Medicine and Patrick H. Lehan Endowed Chair of Cardiovascular Diseases at the University of Mississippi – Hall specializes in hypertension, heart failure, advanced cardiovascular imaging, and obesity-induced cardiovascular and renal disease. A fellow of both the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, Council on Hypertension, Hall is thought to be the only Level III trained cardiovascular MRI-trained cardiologist in Mississippi. He holds editorial positions with a variety of professional journals and is the lead author or coauthor on more than 150 published research manuscripts, and a dozen book chapters. He coauthored the world’s best-selling, highly influential textbook on physiology, which has been published in at least 23 languages.

Michael Hall walks down the hallway with other medical professionals

Dr. Mark Lawrence, Professor of the Department of Comparative Biomedical Sciences and Director of Global Center for Aquatic Food/Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Fish at Mississippi State University – Lawrence is a world-renowned veterinary microbiologist who focuses on advancing aquatic animal health and food safety, especially in farmed U.S. catfish through research and diagnostics. His work in support of this important U.S. farming industry has expanded into a global mission to reduce world hunger, specifically in developing nations. He also directs the Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Conservation, Recovery and Monitoring program to support cause of death investigations for stranded marine mammals and sea turtles on the Mississippi coast, while also rehabilitating and releasing endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles.

Dr. Basant Gomma, left, a graduate student in MSU's College of Veterinary Medicine, works alongside CVM Professor Dr. Mark Lawrence to observe fish while conducting research for the MSU-led Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Fish.

Dr. Jay Sexton, Rich and Nancy Kinder Chair of Constitutional Democracy, Professor of History, and Director of the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy at the University of Missouri – Sexton’s research focuses on contextualizing the geopolitical position of the United States during the 19th century. Much of his efforts are centered around providing a perspective as seen from the international stage. Sexton is the sole author on three books while co-editor on four others, as many have reached critical acclaim and received prestigious awards. He is an in-demand speaker, giving speeches at the James Monroe Museum and Library, the National WWI Museum and Memorial, and the Truman Presidential Library. Sexton is the director of the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy. He was instrumental in the center developing an undergraduate degree in Constitutional Democracy, a graduate degree in Atlantic History and Politics and expansions of the institute’s opportunities for students.

Jay Sexton smiles for the camera with a bookshelf in the background

Dr. Tammi Richardson, Professor of Biological Sciences and Marine Science at the University of South Carolina – Richardson’s lab studies phytoplankton, the microscopic algae that give the ocean its greenish color and that remove carbon dioxide from the ocean during photosynthesis. She has studied marine biology around the world, from deep lakes in Siberia to tropical environments in Bermuda. Her work has been published in Science and funded by the National Science Foundation, and she continues to expand her reach with new research partnerships in Germany and Australia. Richardson is also making a difference closer to home as the founding director of Institute for Clean Water and Healthy Ecosystems, which looks to impact scientific and socioeconomic aspects of water quality in the state. Among her many career honors, she is a Fellow of the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography.

Tammi Richardson stands with a group of six students examining items on a beach

Dr. Elbio Dagotto, Distinguished Professor of Physics at the University of Tennessee and Distinguished Scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory – Dagotto specializes in magnetic and superconducting properties of materials through computational techniques, providing an understanding at a fundamental level how several properties, such as insulation, magnetism, and superconductivity, arise. A fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Physical Society, Dagotto’s expertise is so well regarded that he weighs in on the state of condensed matter physics for numerous prestigious journals and helps set the national agenda for materials research. In 2004 he joined Tennessee and ORNL with a split appointment; that same year he was listed among the world’s top 250 most Highly Cited Physicists.

Dr. Leonard Berry, Distinguished Professor of Marketing at Texas A&M University – Berry is a leader in the marketing discipline, leveraging his expertise in service quality to bring innovative ideas and perspectives to healthcare. His work has resulted in his being only the second individual to receive each of the “Big 4 Marketing Awards” and has him as the most highly cited faculty member in the Texas A&M University System. With a prolific career, Berry has co-authored 10 books, including the bestseller “Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic.” A former national president of the American Marketing Association, he is a Fellow of both the AMA and the Academy of Marketing Science.

Leonard Berry stands with a large group of students in front of the Texas A&M logo

Dr. María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Professor of Fine Arts and Cornelius Vanderbilt Endowed Chair of Fine Arts at Vanderbilt University – Campos-Pons utilizes diverse mediums such as photography, performance, sculpture, drawing, and painting to create multimedia installations reflecting her experiences as a Cuban woman and addressing displacement and inequality in the Caribbean. Honored with a 2023 MacArthur Fellowship, Campos-Pons has exhibited globally and her works are featured in over 30 museum collections, including The Smithsonian Institution, The Whitney, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum of Modern Art. Campos-Pons is the founder and director of the Engine for Art, Democracy and Justice, a trans-institutional initiative that explores creative approaches to resisting and repairing inequality in the U.S. South and global South.

Art Professor Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons in her studio office.


Since 2011, the Southeastern Conference has supported the teaching, research and service mission of its member universities through a variety of programs and activities.