Weeks, Narayan, Cetin, Masten to receive top college honors

March 16, 2023

MSU Engineering honors for diversity, global and student services  

The Michigan State University College of Engineering will recognize four faculty and staff members for excellence in diversity, global leadership, and student service during the 33rd Annual Engineering Awards. The honors are considered among the college’s most prestigious distinctions and will be presented on Wednesday, March 22, at 5:30 p.m. at the University Club.

A total of 17 faculty and staff will be honored at the March 22 dinner. See the entire list

The Withrow Endowed Teacher/Scholar/Service Award program was established through a gift from Jack Withrow (BS, MECH EGR, ’54; MBA ’71) and Dottie Withrow (BA, speech therapy and elementary education, ’55) to recognize members of the college who have demonstrated excellence in instructional and scholarly activities and rendered distinguished service to the university and the student body. 

Withrow Student Service Award
This award is presented to an adviser, academic specialist, or non-tenure-track instructor for outstanding service to students in the college.

Erica Weeks, director of academic advising, is a dedicated administrator who advocates for and creates a welcoming, supportive environment for students and staff alike.

Erica Weeks
Erica Weeks

Engineering academic advisers and staff praise her commitment and willingness to take on challenges, noting, “True to her experience in the military, she demonstrates strength, integrity, a strong work ethic and an ability to get things done.” Students say she “continuously serves students around campus and in the community, all while embodying our values of unity, honesty, integrity, and leadership.” 

She has led the engineering advising team since April 2020. She has worked with countless numbers of undergraduate students experiencing serious obstacles to their education, including academic probation and recess, loss of loved ones, mental and physical health crises, all exacerbated by the effects of the pandemic. This has resulted in an increase of grief absence requests, academic standing reviews and appeals, and requests for medical leave, all of which go through her office. As she works with students who are struggling inside and outside the classroom, she takes great care to ensure that they receive prompt assistance, empathetic support, and clear instructions on how to proceed.

Her academic advising team praises her as a fierce advocate. “Erica has tried her hardest to relieve the burden on advisers during skyrocketing enrollments. She ensures that students are well-served by taking on more work herself.”

Outside of her director role, she commits her time to many campus service opportunities, including her long-time work with the Mujer a Mujer workshop series and serving as a faculty adviser for Kappa Delta Chi Sorority Inc.’s Beta Epsilon chapter at MSU to empower undergraduate women. Because of her efforts, the chapter named a scholarship in her honor. The Erica Weeks Emerald of Excellence Scholarship has been awarded to 18 students of Hispanic/Latinx descent, with six scholarships for students of single-parent homes or student-parents.

Withrow Global Leadership Award
This award recognizes faculty and staff members who have demonstrated outstanding achievement in advancing global scholarship through research, teaching, and outreach.

Ramani Narayan
Ramani Narayan

Ramani Narayan, University Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, has created a world-class list of exemplary contributions in advancing global scholarship. He is also one of the nation’s top media sources for biodegradable and compostable plastics.

He developed the first dual degree Ph.D. program with the Institute of Chemical Technology in India and promotes and supports student and scholar exchanges with institutions in India, China, Japan, Indonesia, Brazil, Colombia, and Europe.

He helped create the world’s first 100 percent biobased and biodegradable-compostable polymer polylactic acid in collaboration with multinational public companies Cargill/NatureWorks and Natur-Tec. This work was translated into a 150,000-ton per year plant in Blair, Nebraska, with corn feedstock, and development of another new 100,000-ton plant in Thailand with sugarcane and cassava.

He provided leadership in developing global standards at the International Standards Organization and the American Society for Testing and Materials International in plastics - specifically for biobased and biodegradable compostable plastics.

He is well known for educating, publishing, and advancing plastics waste management, particularly related to ocean micro-plastics issues. He serves as adviser, and contributor to major non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other world-wide organizations on waste issues and climate change.

He has participated in and contributed to advancing policy, education, and new directions by working with international NGOs including the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Ocean Conservancy and Trash Free Seas Alliance, World Wildlife Foundation, U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, & Medicine, U.S.D.A. BioPreferred & Organics program, Science Advise for Policy by European Academics (SAPEA), Japan BioPlastics Association, China Biodegradable Association, and more.

His global reach includes the Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique FNRS Professorship (Academie Universitaire Wallonie-Bruxelles Universite de Mons-Hainaut UMH, Mons, Belgium) through which he jointly advises Ph.D. students. He also holds visiting professorships at Sichuan University, Chengdu, China, and the Beijing School of Technology & Business. 

Withrow Excellence in Diversity Award - Emerging Accomplishments
This award recognizes faculty and staff members who have demonstrated outstanding achievement in advancing diversity through research, teaching, and outreach.

Kristen Cetin is an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Her ground-breaking research has advanced our fundamental understanding of critical international policy issues related to sustainability and resilience of the built environment, highlighted by her work as director of a U.S. Department of Energy Industrial Assessment Center (IAC).

Kristen Cetin
Kristen Cetin

Her work has supported DEI efforts in engineering education, in addition to supporting several underserved communities. This includes research that has improved our understanding of how factors such as gender, race/ethnicity, and education impact students’ abilities to solve ill-structured problems. She has conducted research that helps students to be reflective of their contribution to social inequities. She has also led a transdisciplinary approach across physical, natural and social systems to support the development of solutions to rural Alaskan communities’ housing challenges. 

Cetin’s research excellence is complemented by a teaching portfolio that led to her receipt of the New Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). She has advised and mentored 10 graduate and 15 undergraduate female students, as well as non-traditional and underrepresented minority graduate students from many different countries. In addition, as director of the IAC, she has developed and is executing a DEI Plan for the center which includes hiring, training, and mentoring students from diverse majors and underrepresented groups, in collaboration with the MSU Diversity Programs Office, among other programs.

She integrates diversity in her teaching methods while covering social aspects of civil engineering topics. Her service also includes diversity-focused efforts at the national and local levels. She was the technical conference chair for the 2022 ASHRAE Annual Conference and worked to ensure that DEI was a focus within the conference. She also has participated in K-12 activities both at and outside of MSU on renewable energy, sustainability and encouraging females to be interested in STEM careers.

Withrow Excellence in Diversity Awards – Sustained Excellence
This award recognizes faculty and staff members who have demonstrated outstanding achievement in advancing diversity through research, teaching, and outreach.

Susan Masten, professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has made exceptional contributions to promote diversity in engineering. She has fostered a welcoming and inclusive environment in teaching, service, and research, and she has provided outstanding leadership in scientific committees and minority serving organizations around the world.

Susan Masten
Susan Masten

She volunteers as an adviser to the Environmental Engineering Student Society, Engineers Without Borders (EWB) and as a mentor to the Girl Scouts and Scouts BSA. She has designed scouting activities to earn merit badges in Water Wonders, Breathe, Chemistry, Sustainability, Inventing, Environmental Science, and Public Health. 

Under her tutelage the EWB students visited a Native American community in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Other projects included building water filters in San Carlos, Honduras; constructed 30 composting latrines in El Balsamar, El Salvador; and built a rainwater collection system for a school in Buyuni, Tanzania. She has worked with a community in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to install a drinking water well and treatment system.

One nominator said Masten's influence represents a huge footprint in the environmental engineering and science community.

“Because of her work and far-reaching influence, I and many other graduate students are now faculty members around the world. Had Dr. Masten not mentored me through my doctorate, I would not be the professional I am today. Her work had a tremendous impact by training me to teach Environmental Engineering for the last 18 years at the largest historically Black College/University in the U.S. – which is also the largest producer of Black engineers.

“Because she believed in my ability to enter academe, I have carried her love and care for diversity to educate over 1,000 African American, Hispanic, and Native American engineering students at my university. I also carry on her spirit to manage 23 engineering programs. She deserves the 2023 Withrow Award on sustained excellence in diversity.”