Pearson awarded gold stars for spring 2020 at The Citadel

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Noah Pearson of Banner Elk is one of the nearly 500 cadets and students recognized for their academic achievements during the spring 2020 semester.

The traditional parade honoring the cadets was cancelled, but recognizing the academic successes of Citadel cadets and students is a special tradition each semester, even one as atypical as this. These cadets and students earned their grades in unique circumstances and were able to focus on their studies while transitioning to virtual learning in March 2020.

Gold stars are awarded to cadets and students at The Citadel who achieved a 3.7 grade point average or higher. Cadets and students who achieve gold star recognition are also placed on The Citadel’s dean’s list.

The Citadel offers a classic military college education for young men and women focused on leadership excellence and academic distinction. The approximately 2,400 members of the S.C. Corps of Cadets are not required to serve in the military, but about one-third of each class earn commissions to become officers in every branch of U.S. military service.

International award honors App State professor for diversity and inclusion advocacy

BOONE — Jennifer Burris, professor in and chair of Appalachian State University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, has been recognized by The Optical Society for “facilitating systemic changes that have improved diversity and inclusion for her department, university and community.”

During her time at App State, Burris has worked to both increase the number of underrepresented students in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and support all the department’s students through her teaching, mentorship and one-on-one research engagement. She has also helped students obtain grants and fellowships, and she worked with faculty, staff and donors to secure funding to develop a free food pantry for students in the department.

Burris is one of three recipients internationally to be honored with OSA’s 2020 Diversity and Inclusion Advocacy Recognition, and one of nine individuals and organizations to receive the award since its inception in 2018.

According to OSA, this recognition “acknowledges the outstanding dedication and accomplishments of OSA members, companies or organizations that demonstrate efforts to foster greater appreciation, advancement and celebration of diversity and inclusivity.”

In the OSA video announcing the awards, Burris said, “I believe that not only should valuing diversity and inclusive excellence be the goal of any fair and just society, but a campus environment that values diversity produces better student learning outcomes — the ultimate goal of any university.”

As the first woman to chair App State’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, Burris developed a student inclusive advisory board that evolved into Students for Inclusive Excellence in STEM — a club focused on educating and promoting inclusive excellence and diversity in all STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) departments through outreach and departmental involvement.

Additionally, Burris has facilitated required bias and inclusivity training for the department’s faculty and staff, and has been involved in hiring staff and faculty from underrepresented populations.

She has also helped procure funding for creating and promoting diversity and inclusion on App State’s campus, including a nearly $1 million National Science Foundation grant to implement ADVANCE APPALACHIAN — a program designed to promote gender equity in STEM fields at App State, with an emphasis on women from underrepresented populations.

This program will expand Burris’ diversity and inclusion work across all STEM departments at App State, as it will offer a combination of training, professional development, mentoring and work-life resources for the university’s faculty and staff over the next three academic years (2020–21 to 2022–23).

At the state level, she has served as an advisory board member of the BRIDGES Academic Leadership Program for Women, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and helped reestablish the North Carolina American Council on Education (NC ACE) Women’s Network to support all women in higher education in North Carolina. Burris is an executive board member and treasurer of NC ACE.

Burris joined the faculty in App State’s Department of Physics and Astronomy in 2007. She has also served as associate dean in the university’s College of Arts and Sciences and as director of App State’s Master of Science in engineering physics degree program.

She is active at the national and state levels of the American Association of Physics Teachers and is currently on the editorial board of The Physics Teacher, a peer-reviewed academic journal.

Burris regularly mentors App State students in STEM fields and actively recruits and collaborates with students in the university’s Biophysics and Optical Sciences Facility (BiyOSeF). Her multidisciplinary research involves optical engineering and studies of biological systems.

In 2015, she was honored with the University of North Carolina Board of Governors Excellence in Teaching Award, and in 2013, she received App State’s Harvey R. Durham Outstanding Freshman Advocate Award. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in applied science–physics from UNC-Chapel Hill and both her M.S. and Ph.D. in physics from Colorado State University.

9 recognized with 2020 Sywassink Awards for Excellence

BOONE — Nine faculty and staff members in Appalachian State University’s Walker College of Business have been recognized with Sywassink Awards for Excellence.

The awards honor teaching, research and service, as well as the spirit of the Walker College of Business. Interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Heather Norris was presented with the first Honorary Sywassink Award.

Others receiving Sywassink Awards for Excellence, presented virtually on Sywassink Day, Aug. 21, were Bonnie Guy for teaching; Brandy Hadley for research contributions and Lakshmi Iyer for service. Kevin Huff and Jan Woods were honored as the outstanding non-tenure-track faculty members, and Tracy Reed earned the Spirit of Walker Award for faculty. Samantha Fuentes received the 2020 staff excellence award and Linda Meznar is the recipient of the Spirit of Walker Award for staff.

“These dedicated faculty have excelled in the areas of teaching, research and service, and these staff members have gone beyond the call of duty in service to the college,” said WCOB Acting Dean Sandra Vannoy. “I’m pleased they were recognized for their outstanding accomplishments.”

G.A. Sywassink, for whom the awards are named, is an honorary App State alumnus, past chair of the university’s Board of Trustees and a previous member of the University of North Carolina System’s Board of Governors.

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