Michigan Tech Faculty Honored for Teaching, Diversity Efforts, Research Excellence

By Jennifer Donovan


On October 23, the University held a ceremony and reception to honor faculty award recipients.

Everyone knows there are shining stars among Michigan Technological University’s faculty. This week, the University honored some of its best and brightest.

At an awards ceremony and reception held October 23, the Michigan Tech community celebrated the winners of the 2018 Research Award, the Bhakta Rath Research Award, the Faculty Distinguished Service Award, the Distinguished Teaching Award and the University Diversity Award.

“Those we are recognizing here exemplify the true tenacity and spirit of Michigan Tech, be it through their research, teaching or service to our community,” said President Richard Koubek. “We are here to honor what those whom we aspire to be like have accomplished.”

Honorees included:

  • Yoke Khin Yap, professor of physics and winner of the Research Award.
  • Feng Zhao, associate professor of biomedical engineering, and her graduate student, Zichen Qian, who graduated in 2017 and now works as a research scientist at Merck. Together they won the Bhakta Rath Research Award.
  • Mary Raber, assistant dean of academic programs and co-director of the Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship, recipient of the Faculty Distinguished Service Award.
  • Richelle Winkler, associate professor of sociology and demography in the Department of Social Sciences, and Brigitte Morin, senior lecturer in biological sciences, winners of the Distinguished Teaching Award.
  • Valoree Gagnon, research assistant professor of social sciences, instructor in the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science and director of the University-Indigenous Community Partnerships, who won the University Diversity Award.

Research Award

Vice President for Research David Reed presented the research awards. “The Michigan Tech Research Award recognizes the individual’s achievements made toward advancement of knowledge or the state of scholarship, as evidenced by either a sustained productive scholarly endeavor or a single noteworthy breakthrough in research results,” he said. Yoke Khin Yap was nominated for this award by Ravindra Pandey, chair of the Department of Physics

“I would like to thank the University for creating such an inclusive and welcoming environment for research,” said Yap.

Bhakta Rath Research Award

Sean Kirkpatrick, chair of biomedical engineering, nominated Feng Zhao and her PhD student, Zichen Qian, for the next award. “The Bhakta Rath Research Award was established in 2010 by an endowment from alumnus Bhakta Rath and his wife, Sushama Rath,” Reed explained. “It recognizes a PhD student and his or her collaborating faculty member for their exceptional scientific and technological research in anticipation of the future needs of the nation, while supporting potential advances in emerging technology.”

Zhao said: “Actually, this award belongs to my student, my lab colleagues and the graduate and undergraduate students who work in my lab. Without them, I have nothing.”

Faculty Distinguished Service Award

Jackie Huntoon, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, presented the teaching and service awards. “The Faculty Distinguished Service Award recognizes a faculty member whose service to the University community has significantly improved the quality of some aspect of campus or community life,” she explained. Mary Raber, winner of this year’s award, has overseen the Enterprise Program at Michigan Tech since its inception in 2000. She is an integral part of the Pavlis Honors College and is involved with curriculum development, assessment and instruction in the Pavlis Global Leadership Program, Huntoon said. 

“It’s an honor to receive this recognition, which also goes to a lot people on my amazing and inspiring team,” said Raber.

Distinguished Teaching Award

The Michigan Tech Distinguished Teaching Award is awarded in two categories: associate professor/professor and lecturer/professor of practice/assistant professor, Huntoon went on to say. “The award nomination and review processes are student-driven, and finalists are selected based on student ratings of instruction.”

Richelle Winkler, winner in the associate professor/professor category, said: “I especially want to recognize the environment for teaching that is very supportive here. I feel honored to be part of such an extraordinary teaching team.” She also credited her students and community members who contribute to her classes.

Brigitte Morin, a Michigan Tech alumna who teaches in the Medical Laboratory Science Program, won the teaching award in the lecturer/professor of practice/assistant professor category. “I’m really lucky to be able to do what I do,” she said. “I love coming to work every day. I have such awesome students and fantastic colleagues.”

University Diversity Award

Huntoon continued: “The University Diversity Award recognizes a faculty or staff member who contributes to diversity and inclusion through exemplary leadership and actions. Recipients demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion through recruitment and retention efforts, teaching, research, multi-cultural programming, cultural competency, community outreach or other initiatives.”

Diversity Award winner Valoree Gagnon was not able to be present to receive her award.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, the University offers more than 125 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.

Last Modified 12:38 AM, August 14, 2022