May 20, 2021

SEC Uses Athletics Platform to Celebrate, Support Conference Member 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 annually recognizes exceptional teaching accomplishments and scholarly contributions.

Winners receive a $5,000 honorarium, and the professor of the year is awarded an additional $15,000. In total, the SEC has given $850,000 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 2021 group of recipients features a variety of disciplines such as business, chemistry, psychology and horticulture. There are individuals from historically underrepresented populations, and the SEC’s top honor went to Dr. Karen L. Wooley, University Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at Texas A&M University.

“I am beyond honored, a bit stunned actually,” Dr. Wooley said. “It’s my pleasure to have the opportunity to pursue teaching and research involving fundamental science and its translation to impactful technology with an amazing team and [with the] support of collaborators, family and friends!”

And the 2021 SEC Faculty Achievement Award winners are …

Dr. Catherine Roach, New College Professor of Cultural and Gender Studies at the University of Alabama, focuses on social justice around America’s changing norms of gender, sex, love and romance. She has written three academic books and two romance novels, both of which were informed by her research. She has held international visiting appointments in Canada (her home country), the United Kingdom and Greece.

Dr. Catherine Roach (left), University of Alabama

Dr. Scot Burton, Distinguished Professor in Marketing at the University of Arkansas, researches consumer health and well-being, consumer response to advertising and measurement issues associated with survey research. He has consulted with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, and his research has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Businessweek, U.S. News & World Report and on National Public Radio.


Dr. Scot Burton, University of Arkansas

Dr. Mona El-Sheikh, Professor in Human Development and Family Science at Auburn University, leads a research program focused on child and adolescent functioning in family and socioecological contexts. She has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation since 1996, and she is a fellow of the American Psychological Association.

Dr. Mona El-Sheikh (left), Auburn University

Dr. José Fortes, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Florida, is Director of the Advanced Computing and Information Systems Laboratory, and he researches distributed computing, autonomic computing and computer architecture. A fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Dr. Fortes led the development and deployment of cyberinfrastructures for science, education and digital government.

Dr. José Fortes, University of Florida

Dr. Peggy Ozias-Akins, Distinguished Research Professor of Horticulture at the University of Georgia, investigates self-reproducing hybrids and peanut improvement using genetic techniques. She holds three patents and has received funding from the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr. Ozias-Akins has also delivered presentations in numerous countries, including Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, India, and Italy, among others.

Dr. Peggy Ozias-Akins (center), University of Georgia

Dr. Dibakar Bhattacharyya, Professor of Chemical and Materials Engineering at the University of Kentucky, is fueled by his desire to create clean water through advanced membranes and other separation technologies. A fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, he has nine U.S. patents and directs the Center of Membrane Sciences. He has 34 book chapters and two books to his credit, along with hundreds of refereed publications.

Dr. Dibakar Bhattacharyya, University of Kentucky

Dr. George Voyiadjis, Boyd Professor of Engineering at Louisiana State University, is a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and a Senior Member of the National Academy of Inventors. He researches plasticity and the damage mechanics of metals, metal matrix composites, polymers, biological tissue and ceramics. He has also helped LSU establish relationships with international institutions as a foreign member of academies in Europe, Poland and Korea.

Dr. George Voyiadjis (left), Louisiana State University

Dr. Greg Tschumper, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Mississippi, is an expert in the development of electronic structure techniques to describe weak intermolecular interactions and clusters, and he is an internationally recognized researcher in physical chemistry and computational quantum chemistry. A fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, he also leads the department of chemistry and biochemistry at the university.

Dr. Greg Tschumper (right), University of Mississippi

Dr. Dipangkar Dutta, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Mississippi State University, researches experimental nuclear and particle physics, with a focus on high precision measurements that probe the fundamental nature of quarks inside atomic nuclei. Several of his results have been spotlighted as exceptional research by Physical Review Letters and Nature. Dr. Dutta is also committed to diversity, using a bridge program he initiated to collaborate with Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Dr. Dipangkar Dutta, Mississippi State University

Dr. Kenneth Sher, Curators’ Distinguished Professor of Psychological Sciences at the University of Missouri, is a fellow of the American Psychological Association, and he is working to define the “core” of addiction while developing methods to improve the diagnosis and assessment of alcohol and other substance use disorders. He has been featured in leading outlets such as the New York Times and on the Today Show.

Dr. Kenneth Sher, University of Missouri

Dr. Mark Weist, Professor of Clinical-Community and School Psychology at the University of South Carolina, focuses on interconnected practice, research and policy toward improved and expanded student behavioral health programming. He helped establish the National Center for School Mental Health, and he has received funding from several state and local agencies and foundations. Dr. Weist has edited or developed 14 books, and he is helping lead a number of communities of practice.

Dr. Mark Weist, University of South Carolina

Dr. Gregory Stuart, Chancellor’s Professor in Psychology at the University of Tennessee, is editor in chief of Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment and a fellow in the American Psychological Association. His research focuses on intimate partner violence, sexual assault and substance misuse. He is director of clinical psychology training at Tennessee, and he has secured a grant from the National Institutes of Health to mentor the next generation of violence and alcohol researchers.

Dr. Gregory Stuart (right), University of Tennessee

Dr. Karen Wooley, University Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at Texas A&M University, is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and her research impacts sustainability, reduced reliance on petrochemicals and the production of biologically beneficial and environmentally benign natural products. She directs the Laboratory for Synthetic-Biologic Interactions and is co-founder and President of Sugar Plastics, LLC. Dr. Wooley was also named the 2021 SEC Professor of the Year.

Dr. Karen Wooley (center), Texas A&M University

Dr. James Crowe, Professor of Pediatrics and Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology at Vanderbilt University, is a board certified pediatric infectious diseases physician and viral immunology researcher who investigates the human immune response to infection. He has been supported by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Defense and published in the New England Journal of Medicine and Journal of the American Medical Association, along with a recent feature on 60 Minutes.

Dr. James Crowe, Vanderbilt University

“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.”