May 19, 2022

SEC Continues Commitment to Celebrate, Support Conference Faculty

By: SEC Staff
SECU (Twitter: @TheSECU)

Faculty are the heartbeat of any university, and since 2012 the Southeastern Conference has used its SEC Faculty Achievement and Professor of the Year Awards to honor these indispensable members of the campus community. Established by the Conference’s presidents and chancellors and administered by the provosts, this unique awards program recognizes exceptional teaching accomplishments and scholarly contributions each year.

Faculty award winners receive a $5,000 honorarium, and the professor of the year is awarded an additional $15,000. In total, the SEC has given $935,000 to support faculty through this one academic initiative.

“Through the SEC Faculty Achievement Awards we have a unique opportunity to recognize and encourage the work of the outstanding faculty on our campuses,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. “Although we have chosen to honor 14 each year, we know they are truly representative of the more than 14,000 faculty across our Conference.”

The 2022 group of recipients features a variety of disciplines such as, chemistry, law, political science and television. There are individuals from historically underrepresented populations, and the SEC’s top honor went to Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd, Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor of Geography and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Georgia.

The SEC is certainly known for many things,” Dr. Shepherd said. “The research, service, and instruction within its institutions are world-class. I am grateful to have been recognized and honored to be among this class of SEC nominees. Achieving this at the University of Georgia, the flagship institute of my home state, just means more.”

And the 2022 SEC Faculty Achievement Award winners are …

Dr. Ajay Agrawal, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Alabama, researches clean combustion to reduce the harmful effects of fuels for sustainable energy utilization, influencing industries such as gas turbines and jet and diesel engines. Dr. Agrawal he is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and he has received the university’s Burnum Distinguished Faculty Award for excellence in teaching, research and scholarship.

Dr. Jeannie Whayne, University Professor of History at the University of Arkansas, is a specialist in agricultural and southern history, focusing on the lower Mississippi River Valley and the interplay of social and economic history with environmental change, agricultural development, and race relations. She is a Fellow of the Agricultural History Society, and she has earned every teaching award bestowed by the university.

Dr. Karen McNeal, Professor in Geosciences at Auburn University, researches how students understand, assess, and cognitively rationalize critical environmental issues such as climate change. Her work has informed educators on how to improve geoscience learning while recruiting and retaining historically underrepresented students in the field. Dr. McNeal has secured more than $25 million from the National Science Foundation and United States Geological Survey, among others.

Dr. Clay Calvert, Professor of Law at the University of Florida, is Director of the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project at UF, and he has authored or co-authored more than 150 articles on freedom of expression-related topics. Dr. Calvert has filed multiple friend-of-the-court briefs with the United States Supreme Court, and his commentaries have appeared in FortuneHuffington Post, and Newsweek, among others. He has also been quoted in The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and Rolling Stone.

Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd, Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor of Geography and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Georgia, is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His research focuses on hydrometeorological extremes, urban climate, and the intersections of atmospheric sciences with society. His TED talks have been viewed nearly 3 million times, and he hosts The Weather Channel’s award-winning “Weather Geeks” show/podcast.

Dr. Rebecca Dutch, Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Kentucky, is the College of Medicine’s vice dean for research, and her scholarship has a particular emphasis on viral entry, assembly, and spread. She has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health since 2001, and she is a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology. She is editor of the Journal of Virology, Plos Pathogens, Viruses and mSphere.

Dr. Graça Vicente, Boyd Professor of Chemistry at Louisiana State University, researches the synthesis of new organic materials, and she has been continuously funded for more than 20 years by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Dr. Vicente has authored 12 book chapters and holds four patents. She has mentored nearly 90 students and scholars and won numerous campus, national, and international awards.

Dr. Rob Rockhold, Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Mississippi, is the deputy chief academic officer at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and his research interests include biomedical education enhancement and drug abuse. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Pharmacology Educators, and since 2000 he has served on the advisory committee for the Jackson Heart Study-Undergraduate Training Center program for students historically underrepresented in STEM disciplines.

Dr. Steve Demarais, the Taylor Endowed Chair in Applied Big Game Research and Instruction at Mississippi State University, researches white-tailed deer ecology and the effects of land management decisions in the forested and agricultural landscapes within which they reside. He is a Fellow of The Wildlife Society, has served as associate editor of two international journals, and he is senior author on two seminal technical scientific reviews that helped shape policy.

Dr. Shuhua Zhou, the Leonard H. Goldenson Professor of Radio and Television at the University of Missouri, investigates how people learn from television news. He has published numerous articles in flagship publications and co-authored three edited volumes. Dr. Zhou was recognized by the Guangdong TV Artists’ Association as one of the 100 Best TV Hosts for his work as anchor and director of the English News program at Guangdong TV Station in Guangzhou, P.R. China.

Dr. Jeffery Twiss, Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of South Carolina, is a leader in the field of molecular neurobiology where his research helped develop a new field of study for mRNA transport and localized translation in axons. Dr. Twiss has received more than $24 million in extramural grants with continuous support since 1994. He also developed the SmartState Center for Childhood Neurotherapeutics, which aims to identify  novel strategies to treat disease and encourage neural repair.

Dr. Alison Buchan, the Carolyn W. Fite Professor of Microbiology at the University of Tennessee, is a marine microbial ecologist studying the interactions heterotrophic marine bacteria have with one another. She has received continual funding from the National Science Foundation since 2005, and she was recently elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology. Dr. Buchan has garnered numerous awards, including the Chancellor’s Award for Professional Promise in Research.

Dr. Bruce McCarl, University Distinguished Professor of Agricultural Economics at Texas A&M University, researches national level agricultural sector appraisal of the economic consequences of environmental outcomes and policy actions. He is a part of the United Nations sponsored International Panel on Climate Change, and he was awarded a share of the Nobel Peace Prize. Dr. McCarl’s models have been adopted by the USDA and USEPA.

Dr. Larry Bartels, Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University, investigates public opinion, electoral politics, public policy and political representation. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, and he has been supported by the National Science Foundation, Carnegie Corporation, the Guggenheim and the Pew Charitable Trusts, among others. Dr. Bartels has published seven books and more than 30 peer-reviewed articles.

“The SEC Faculty Achievement Awards program is one of our long-standing academic initiatives, and in intercollegiate athletics, it is unique,” said Dr. Torie A. Johnson, SEC Associate Commissioner for Academic Relations. “We believe we were the first Division I NCAA conference to honor faculty unrelated to sports, and now, a decade after we started, we are very proud of what we have built with our universities.”