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Provost Newsletter

News and Highlights for Faculty & Staff on the Urbana-Champaign Campus  |  December 2015


Dear Colleagues,

As finals week approaches, I want to thank you for your hard work this semester, especially your dedication to our students. In recent weeks, we have heard from too many that our campus is unwelcoming to students of color. Events at Missouri and other institutions have brought national attention to the problem of racism and discrimination on college campuses.

Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson, Vice Chancellor Renee Romano, and I have been meeting with student groups, faculty, and others to identify what we can do collectively to improve our campus climate. As Interim Chancellor Wilson noted in her message on December 7, although we have much to do, our campus has been actively engaged in many initiatives and we’ve made important progress. You can read more about those efforts here.

Last year, Associate Professor Stacy Harwood and colleagues issued their report examining racial microaggressions at Illinois. Of the students of color who responded to their survey, 39 percent reported feeling uncomfortable on campus because of their race and 51 percent have experienced stereotyping in the classroom. With funding from the Provost’s Office, two of the study’s authors—Harwood and Associate Professor Ruby Mendenhall—are now working with campus units to develop dialogue sessions and training opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to help to address the campus climate problems uncovered in the research.

Clearly more must be to done to make Illinois welcoming to everyone. We won’t succeed unless all of us are involved in the effort.

Even with the challenges we’ve faced this fall, our accomplishments are many and, as the stories that follow show, there is much to celebrate. I wish you all a successful end to your semester and a relaxing winter break.


Interim Provost Feser

Six Illinois researchers named American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellows

Six researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. This year, AAAS is honoring 347 new fellows for their “scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.”

The newly appointed AAAS fellows include: U. of I. president Timothy Killeen; microbiology professor William Metcalf, who also is the G. William Arends Professor in Molecular and Cellular Biology; Grainger Engineering Library Information Center head William Mischo; Ralph Nuzzo, the G.L. Clark Professor of Chemistry and also a professor of materials science and engineering; statistics professor emeritus Stephen Portnoy; and Hong Yang, the Richard C. Alkire Professor in Chemical Engineering in the department of chemical and biomolecular engineering.

Read the full story here.

Mats Selen named U.S. Professor of the Year

Mats Selen, professor of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been named a national winner of the U.S. Professors of the Year award in the category of doctoral and research universities by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Selen was chosen from a field of more than 300 nominated faculty members from institutions nationwide. The award “salutes the most outstanding undergraduate instructors in the country – those who excel in teaching and positively influence the lives and careers of students,” according to CASE.

Read the full story here.

Illinois to create a multidisciplinary Design Center

The campus has received a major gift commitment to fund the construction of a new building that will house a campus-wide, multidisciplinary Design Center. This will be a central facility for undergraduate students to experience design thinking, making, and learning by addressing a wide variety of human needs in project-based collaborative teams.

Conceived in 2009, the Design Center has been the subject of great effort over the course of the past year—with broad participation from across campus. There have been several town hall meetings to gather feedback. The last meeting will be Thursday, December 10 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. in room 62 of the Krannert Art Museum. If you are unable to attend a town hall, please submit your feedback and suggestions through this online form. View more information about the Design Center here.

Illinois to lead NSF Midwest Big Data Hub

To accelerate advancements in the rapidly emerging field of big data analysis, the National Science Foundation has given $5 million to establish four regional Big Data Hubs. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will lead the Midwest Big Data Hub, a consortium of public and private partners.

Catalyzed by an initial award from the National Science Foundation called SEEDCorn, which stands for “Sustainable Enabling Environment for Data Collaboration,” its goal is to provide a “big data brain trust” that will allow researchers to better collect, mine, and analyze data, leading to greater efficiency and, ultimately, a higher quality of life.

Read more here.

Illinois named second public university in the U.S. for international students

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is the second top destination for international students attending public universities in the United States, according to the annual Open Doors report, released today by the Institute of International Education (IIE).

The highly anticipated report ranks Illinois as second in the nation for international student body in 2014-15 (fifth when accounting for private schools) and ninth for students participating in study abroad programs in 2013-14. According to the report, there are more international students studying in the U.S. today than at any time in history.

Read more here.

New center focusing on self-healing materials awarded $4.3 million

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) has awarded $4.3 million to Illinois to create the national Center of Excellence in Self-healing, Regeneration, and Structural Remodeling.

Scott R. White, professor of aerospace engineering at Illinois, heads up the center, which builds upon research into autonomous materials conducted by the Autonomous Materials Systems Group at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. This group is an interdisciplinary team of researchers from chemistry, materials science, and various engineering disciplines that creates biologically inspired materials systems that improve the safety and reliability of many aerospace composite structures.

Joining White in the new center are faculty members Philippe Geubelle, professor of aerospace engineering; Nancy R. Sottos, professor of materials science and engineering; Jeffrey S. Moore, professor of chemistry; as well as Aaron P. Esser-Kahn, professor of chemistry at the University of California-Irvine. 

Read more here.

Lincoln Hall earns Frank Lloyd Wright Award

Lincoln Hall has been awarded a 2015 Citation of Merit in American Institute of Architects Illinois’ Honor Awards program, in the Frank Lloyd Wright category.

The prestigious award came in part because of how designers were able to preserve historical aspects of the building while suiting it for 21st century higher education. The American Institute of Architects also noted that the restored building achieved Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification by the U.S. Green Building Council for incorporating sustainable elements throughout the 114 year-old building. Platinum is the highest LEED certification awarded.

Read the full story here.

Awards & Honors

Congratulations to the following faculty members who have recently received awards and other honors.

Ilesanmi Adesida (electrical and computer engineering) has received the 2016 Functional Materials John Bardeen Award from The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society. 
Shen Dillon (materials science and engineering) has received the 2015 American Ceramic Society's Robert L. Coble Award for Young Scholars.
Marc Doussard (urban and regional planning) has won the 2015 Paul Davidoff Book Award from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning.
James K. Drackley (animal sciences) has been named a Fellow of the American Dairy Science Association.
Elif Ertekin (mechanical science and engineering) has received The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society Early Career Faculty Award.
Cara Finnegan (communication) has won the “Outstanding Book of the Year” award from the National Communication Association’s Visual Communication Division.
Brighten Godfrey (computer science) has received the 2015 SIGCOMM Rising Star Award.
Michael Gray (entomology, crop sciences) has been selected to be one of the 2015 Honorary Members of the Entomological Society of America.
Alan Hansen (agricultural and biological engineering) has received the Excellence in College and University Teaching Award by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.
Cinda Heeren (computer science) has been named the 2015 American Society for Engineering Education Illinois-Indiana Section Teacher of the Year Award.
Naira Hovakimyan (mechanical science and engineering) has received the Society of Women Engineers 2015 Achievement Award.
Jianming Jin (electrical and computer engineering) has received the Chen-To Tai Distinguished Educator Award from the IEEE Antennas and Propagation Society.
Alexandra Kolla (computer science) has received a CAREER Award by the National Science Foundation.
Douglas A. Mitchell (chemistry) has received the National Fresenius Award from the American Chemical Society.
Marco Panesi (aerospace engineering) has received a NASA Early Career Faculty Award.
Henrique Reis (industrial and enterprise systems engineering) has received the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Founders Award.
Paris Smaragdis (computer science, electrical and computer engineering) has received a CAREER Award by the National Science Foundation.
Clair J. Sullivan (nuclear, plasma and radiological engineering) has received the 2015 American Nuclear Society Mary Jane Oestmann Professional Women’s Achievement Award.
Tandy Warnow (computer science, bioengineering) has been named a 2015 Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery.

Other Achievements
Antonios Augoustakis
(classics) has been named the President of the Classical Association of the Middle West and South.
Jennifer Bernhard (electrical and computer engineering) has been elected to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Board of Directors
Carlos Carrillo (music) has been named a Copland House Resident.

If you have recently received an award or honor, or are aware of a colleague who has, we’d like to know! Drop us a note at We’ll feature several awards and honors in future editions of the Academic Affairs update.

For information about awards with upcoming deadlines, subscribe to the Award Nomination Opportunities announcements here.

Other Resources

Campus Strategic Plan • Campus Academic Calendar • Campus News

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