Office of the Provost; OUR Clemson

Spring awards ceremony; 23 faculty, staff and students to be honored



Twenty-three faculty, staff members and students have been named recipients of the University’s 2021 Spring Awards for teaching, support for student success, mentoring and research.

The recipients will be honored at an invitation-only ceremony at the Madren Center’s outdoor venue, the Owen Pavilion, Monday, May 3, along with the 2020 Spring Award winners whose ceremony was canceled due to the pandemic. Attendance at this year’s event will follow COVID-19 protocols and attendance is limited due to physical distancing requirements.

New in 2021 are awards established by Provost Bob Jones. The Provost Awards Program for Outstanding Teaching honors excellence in teaching and learning by recognizing faculty who both practice and promote effective and innovative approaches.

“Clemson’s hallmark is excellence in teaching and learning,” said Provost Bob Jones. “We are fortunate to have many outstanding instructors, some who are among the best in the nation. This program recognizes these superstars and prepares their dossier for nomination to national awards.”

Provost Awards for Outstanding Teaching

The Provost Senior Outstanding Teacher Award

Robin Kowalski

Robin Kowalski, Centennial Professor of Psychology, is the author or co-author of several books. Kowalski was named by Princeton Review as one of the best 300 professors in the nation and was selected as a finalist for the 2013 and 2014 South Carolina Governor’s Professor of the Year Awards. Prior to receiving the distinction of this award, Kowalski has been recognized with Clemson University’s Award of Distinction, the College of Business and Behavioral Science Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and its Senior Research Award, the Phil Prince Award, the Women’s Commission Outstanding Female Faculty Member and the Award for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Collaboration. She was also inducted into the inaugural class of recipients of the University Research, Scholarship, and Artistic Achievement Award. “Dr. Kowalski’s teaching efforts are far-reaching, as her impact can be felt by the students in her classroom, by the student researchers in her laboratory, by the children she reaches via her community outreach efforts, as well as by educators and academic administrators across the country,” a former student wrote.

The Provost Junior Outstanding Teacher Award

Sruthi Narayanan

Sruthi Narayanan, assistant professor of Crop Ecophysiology, developed an innovative research program focusing on interdisciplinary research relating climate change, food security and sustainable agriculture. Her goal is to prepare future generation of scientists who would carry the vision of sustainable cropping systems which provide food security for all. Her nominator praised her for “diligently building a teaching program that is inclusive and focused on developing independent thought, knowledge, and critical thinking skills in students.” Sruthi was also recognized for designing, developing and offering additional courses and for establishing high expectations for her students, encouraging and working with them so they may reach levels they once thought impossible.

The Provost Outstanding Collaborative Teaching Award

Ellen Breazel

Ellen Breazel, senior lecturer and assistant director for Data Science Outreach and Online Education, School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, is one of the founders and co-directors of the online master’s in data science and analytics program. Her interests include statistical computing and statistics education. Among her many outreach efforts is her work in support of K-12 statistics education and she currently serves as the higher education chair for the College Board Advanced Placement Statistics Test Development Committee. “Dr. Breazel worked closely with colleagues in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences and in the Department of Management to determine the curriculum to be used in the Data Science and Analytics program. She also developed industry relationships with companies who expressed interest in hiring graduates of the program. She reviews student applications, advises students and provides unique industry interaction opportunities for students and serves as project advisor for all students in the program,” a nominator wrote.

The Provost Award for Outstanding Teaching and Technology Award

Christopher Norfolk

Christopher Norfolk, senior lecturer, Chemical Engineering, is an alum who earned master’s and doctoral degrees at Notre Dame. He joined Advanced Technologies International as a program manager responsible for the research, development and implementation of advanced materials for defense applications and served as an adjunct assistant professor. “Chris has long been one of the most dedicated educators in ChBE, helping students learn chemical engineering concepts after hours and on weekends, taking class materials to injured students in the hospital, and creating custom educational plans for students with significant disabilities – his care for the ‘whole student’ is beyond comparison,” a nominator wrote.

Additional Spring Awards

Alumni Master Teacher

Presented by the Alumni Association for distinguished achievements in classroom teaching. The recipient is selected by the Student Alumni Council from student nominations.

Krista Rudolph

Krista Rudolph, senior lecturer, Biology, received her B.S. from Clemson in Science Teaching/Biological in 1990. She then received her Ph.D. in Microbiology from Clemson in 2002. Rudolph has been an instructor at Clemson since 2007. During the pandemic, her students appreciated her extra efforts to go well beyond their expectations on Zoom.

Vladimir Matec

Vladimir Matic, senior lecturer, Political Science, has been a lecturer and visiting professor since 1996. Matic teaches international relations and foreign policy, diplomacy and negotiation, as well as Middle East and comparative European politics. He organizes and leads summer study abroad programs to Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia. He served as a consultant for the United States Institute of Peace and as a foreign diplomat in the Baltics for 33 years.

Alumni Award for Outstanding Achievements in Research

Presented to a faculty member who has conducted research in residence for at least five years.

Bradley Meyer

Bradley S. Meyer, professor, Physics & Astronomy, Nuclear Astrophysics, has made fundamental contributions to our understanding about how stars and the early universe produced the chemical elements. Since the early 1990s, he has also been particularly interested in the implications of nucleosynthesis and galactic chemical evolution for cosmo-chemistry. 

The Centennial Professorship Award

Bestowed by the faculty to an outstanding colleague who demonstrates excellence in teaching, applied or basic research or scholarship, and service or extension efforts. It includes an award of $12,000 per year, which can be used at the recipient’s discretion for a salary supplement, travel, supplies, equipment, and/or graduate student support. The Centennial Professorship is for a non-renewable two-year term. 

Laine Mears

Laine Mears, professor and BMW Smartstate Chair of Automotive Manufacturing, is the founding faculty member in the Automotive Engineering department. He teaches and conducts research in manufacturing process control, new process development and manufacturing equipment diagnostics at CU-ICAR. He currently directs the National Science Foundation’s THINKER Research Traineeship Program that educates graduate students concurrently with technical college students on human-technology issues.

The Norris Medal

Awarded for exceptional scholastic achievement and leadership ability. It is considered the most prestigious award given to a graduating undergraduate student.

Venkata Chaluvadi

Venkata “Anish” Chaluvadi, Materials Science and Engineering major with minors in Chemistry and Business Administration, is a Dixon Global Policy Scholar, Clemson’s first Gates Cambridge Scholar and plans to study nanoscience and nanotechnology at Cambridge University. He is the co-founder of the Tigers for Green Innovation and served as the president of the Indian Cultural Association.

The Frank A. Burtner Award for Excellence in Advising

Presented to an adviser of students or student organizations who excels in developing students in leadership, devotion to duty and service.

Clarissa Mendez

Clarissa A. Mendez, senior lecturer, School of Architecture, is the adviser to the Clemson Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students. One nominator stated she is, “the epitome of what it means to be an educator, leader, adviser, advocate and friend.” Another said, “She represents everything that Clemson has always aspired to be, a place where leadership thrives through the creation of future community leaders and advocates.

The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Student Award

Presented to two graduating seniors for outstanding service to the University and the extended Clemson community.

Jessica Den Haese

Jessica McKenzie Den Haese, Mechanical Engineering major with Psychology minor, is a member of the Honors College. She is a Thomas F. Chapman Leadership Scholar and received the Alpha Phi Omega J. Lawrence & Renee P. Keese and the Jansen Family Emerging scholarships. Service has been a key part of her life since she was a young girl and she extends helping others to her research and work. 

Marissa Jansen

Marissa Jansen, a Health Sciences major, is a member of the Debate Society as well as Clemson University Student Government’s Council on Diversity Affairs. She is the founder and director of the Homeless Period Project at Clemson and “serves with a selfless heart while always trying to improve the Clemson community,” a nominator said.

The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Non-Student Award

Honors community members who exhibit “generous and unselfish service to others.”

Dr. Ted Swann

Dr. Ted Swann, physician, is a Clemson and Medical University of South Carolina graduate. Swann has worked tirelessly to educate the public about all aspects of COVID-19, including the importance of masks, testing and vaccinations. He studied national, state and local data; provided weekly posts that many in Clemson and beyond relied on; and has served as an invaluable adviser to the Clemson City Council.

The Ted Westmoreland Faculty Excellence Award

Presented to a faculty member who has made outstanding contributions to undergraduate student success.

Walt Hunter

Walt Hunter, associate professor of World Literature and associate chair of the English Department, is recognized for his love of teaching and his advocacy and care for students. “Dr. Hunter is deserving of this award because he truly cares about his students having a successful academic experience,” one nominator wrote. A colleague wrote: “Walt ensures that students in his courses feel valued, capable and appreciated.””

The Class of 1956 Staff Excellence Award

Presented annually to a distinguished staff member who has made outstanding contributions in undergraduate student success.

Maria Herbst

Maria Herbst, director of Educational Services for the Nieri Family Student-Athlete Enrichment Center has been on the forefront of the athletics learning specialist profession, participating in research and national committee work to guide national standards for learning specialist job duties and expectations and best practices for institutions when serving academically at-risk student-athletes. She has guided the development of training sessions for tutors and academic mentors about NCAA rules, academic integrity and educational strategies.

The Frankie O. Felder Graduate Student Award of Excellence

Presented to a graduate student for their persistence and demonstrated academic excellence.

Billy Edwards

William H. “Billy” Edwards, doctoral candidate in the International, Family, and Community Studies program; director of Clemson’s Center for Behavior Analysis. Edwards, who was born with cerebral palsy, will graduate this year from the Ph.D. program in International Family and Community Studies. A faculty member stated Edwards’ “scholarly record and professional service record are those of an assistant professor.” Nominators called him a great teacher who is compassionate and who has had to overcome many hurdles. One stated he “has a deep and personal understanding of accessibility and inclusion.” He also is a University employee, directing the Center for Behavior Analysis, which trains and credentials behavior analysts who in turn help children, parents and educators deal with behavior problems.

The Godley-Snell Award for Excellence in Agricultural Research

Recognizes outstanding contributions to science and public service supporting South Carolina citizens and economic development.

Xupiang Jiang

Xiuping Jiang, professor of food microbiology, Food, Nutrition and Packaging. Jiang’s research helps keep people safe by reducing their exposure to microbial pathogens, such as human noroviruses, the No. 1 cause of foodborne disease in the United States, and other leading foodborne bacterial pathogens. 

Rowland P. Alston Sr. Award for Excellence in Public Relations

Recognizes faculty or staff who through programs and activities related to agriculture and/or natural resources, have provided the University with positive visibility in the state, U.S. and world.

Sean Flynn

Sean Flynn, media production manager for Clemson Extension,has been on the Making It Grow team since 1999 and has contributed in a variety of roles increasing the visibility and success of the program. Making It Grow has earned 20 Emmy and Telly Awards. As executive producer, Flynn oversees and directs all aspects of 40 programs annually, along with radio spots and podcasts. He also manages social media, including recent Facebook live-streaming during the pandemic.

Ralph D. Elliott Award for Outstanding Service to Off-Campus, Distance and Continuing Education

Honors an employee who has promoted initiatives in the field of credit or noncredit continuing education in a worthy and exemplary manner.

Nathan Long

Nathan Long, executive director of IT Customer Services, leads a diverse team of IT professionals to provide the best possible level of customer service and responsiveness to support teaching, learning and service across campus. Long has spearheaded numerous strategic projects and initiatives directly tied to providing more effective and efficient service to faculty, staff, and students, including implementing the campus virtual desktop solution for remote access to key software platforms, revolutionizing the way customers connect with the IT Service Desk by introducing chat and text support options for quick service, as well as overhauling the IT organization’s service management system to provide better responsiveness and allocation of support resources.

Thomas Green Clemson Award for Excellence, Faculty

Established to recognize a faculty member whose teaching, research or service is exemplary.

Margaret Ptacek

Margaret Ptacek, professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, has dedicated much of her career to training and promoting women as students, postdocs and faculty members for achieving success in science careers. She is director of TIGERS Advance, serving as a champion for women and other underrepresented groups to ensure women are respected and valued members of the Clemson community.

Thomas Green Clemson Award for Excellence, Staff

Established to recognize a staff member whose research or service is exemplary.

R. Phil Landreth, is an alum who rose through the ranks to become chief of staff and chief operating officer of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences. He has chaired numerous university committees. In 2017, he joined the Office of the Provost and Academic Affairs as its associate vice provost for academic operations.

The Phil and Mary Bradley Award for Mentoring in Creative Inquiry

Nominations come from students who are actively participating in Creative Inquiry projects.

Mark Schlautman

Mark A. Schlautman, professor of Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences, has mentored students involved in the Student Chapter of Engineers Without Borders and three EWB Creative Inquiry projects since 2008. The students focused primarily on developing communities in Central America and West Africa. Schlautman also distinguished himself through his service as a senior advocate for the TIGERS Advance Program. A member of the Creative Inquiry team said of Schlautman, “Over the years I have seen how he invests in each student – by asking them meaningful questions about their work and providing his expertise in a manageable and encouraging manner.

The Phil and Mary Bradley Graduate Student Award for Mentoring in Creative Inquiry

Kea Payton

Kea Payton, Ph.D. student, Biological Sciences in the Conservation of Marine Resources lab, is a team leader for the lab’s Creative Inquiry project. Her research focuses on the impact of marine debris and debris removal on the coral reef community in the Florida Keys. “Kea is determined to give us professional experiences and support to build our resumes and confidence when applying to grad schools, internships, jobs, etc.,” one team member said. “I am so grateful to have come under her mentorship and think it will be one of the most influential experiences in my time at Clemson. Kea has added so much value to my Clemson degree and college experience.”