Withrow Awards 2021

March 22, 2021

Eighteen honored during 31st Annual Engineering Awards 

Eighteen top faculty and staff members of the Michigan State University College of Engineering are being recognized in 2021 for excellence in service and distinguished contributions during the 31st Annual Engineering Awards. The honors, considered among the college’s most prestigious distinctions, are being awarded virtually this year due to the novel coronavirus.

Engineering Dean Leo Kempel thanked and congratulated this year’s award recipients.

"Congratulations to all the winners,” Kempel noted. “The talent represented in this group of outstanding professionals is a testament to their work each day that makes excellence possible.”

The Withrow Endowed Teacher/Scholar/Service Award program was established through a gift from MSU alumni 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. 

The 2021 awards and recipients are:

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

Sustained excellence in diversity: Selin Aviyenta
Excellence in Diversity: Selin Aviyente

Two received the Sustained Excellence Diversity Award in 2021 for making diversity, equity and inclusion a priority in their overall mission.

Professor Selin Aviyente is the associate chair for Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE). She emphasizes the importance of diversity and inclusion within the discipline through all of her research, teaching and service activities. In the past 18 years at MSU, she has graduated 11 Ph.D. students and mentored numerous undergraduate research assistants. Out of her 11 Ph.D. graduates, three are female and two are underrepresented minority students. She currently maintains a diverse research group of four graduate students, with two female and one underrepresented minority. She is also supervising two female undergraduate students.

Apart from fostering a diverse and inclusive research environment within her group, she has also been active in the college’s recruitment efforts targeted toward increasing the number of female undergraduate students in ECE. Over the past four years as associate chair, she has organized the ECE Engineering Preview Day for prospective students, ECE Connect events, ADS Women in Engineering Breakfast, and ECE ADS events. In all of these events, she has encouraged the participation of female faculty and students in the recruitment events to demonstrate the diversity and inclusivity within the ECE department. 

Partnering with Women in Engineering (WIE), she has initiated outreach efforts targeted at female prospective ECE students with phone calls and emails. Additionally, she organized ECE visit days and the first WIE event for admitted female ECE students in spring 2020.

Sustained Excellence in Diversity: Rebecca Anthony
Excellence in Diversity: Rebecca Anthony

Rebecca Anthony, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, has been nationally recognized for her high-quality research in the area of nano-materials and her extraordinary commitment to broaden and improve diversity, equality and inclusion in the STEM fields. It is a commitment that began as a graduate student and has continued through her academic career.

Her activities on diversity serve MSU, local community and schools, along with a broader national audience. She has initiated numerous activities for K-12 and is an inspiring speaker for girls. She has devoted engagements on promotion of diversity and its awareness in the research society, developed numerous programs and provided presentations in her disciplinary societies, including one focused on unconscious bias.

She was successful at increasing diversity on local boards by advocating the inclusion of young generation blacks and Hispanics. She also provided many public outreach teen programs and outdoor activities. She has demonstrated genuine support for junior women faculty members in the college – formally and informally mentoring them - and by advocating for an inclusive culture in tenure and promotion.

Global Leadership Award: Venkatesh Kodur
Global Leadership Award: Venkatesh Kodur

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.

University Distinguished Professor Venkatesh Kodur, in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is an internationally recognized scholar who has made major contributions to the area of structural fire engineering. He has led an extensive network of international collaborations to develop a fundamental understanding of the behavior of materials and structural systems under extreme fire conditions. His international partnerships not only resulted in numerous research projects, but also made MSU globally recognized as the Center of Excellence in the field of structural fire engineering. He has published more than 425 peer-reviewed journal and conference papers, and has given numerous invited keynote presentations around the world.

He has been an exceptional teacher and mentor for a large number of international graduate students, postdoctoral research associates, and scholars. He has chaired numerous international technical and standards committees, organized workshops and international conferences, and is a dedicated member of editorial boards for several international scientific journals. His international leadership and contributions have been well recognized through several international awards and prestigious honors, including election as Fellow of six institutes and academies, and high-profile awards such as the NATO Award for Collaborative Research and Fulbright Scholar Award. His outstanding achievements in international outreach activities has had a major impact on scholarship, student experiences and MSU’s global engagement and strategic programs.

Student Service Award: Jeffrey Tsang
Student Service Award:
Jeffrey Tsang

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.

Undergraduate Studies Academic Specialist Jeffrey Tsang works tirelessly to ensure that first-and second-year students have the resources they need to succeed. Described as outgoing, friendly, and innovative - he puts incredible energy into problem solving and creativity by using his keen forward thinking and technology skills, while managing a large advising load. His nominator said he really shined during the pandemic. “With students literally all over the globe, Jeffrey showed leadership and initiative to make New Student Orientation completely online for new students. He set up and launched a live chat platform for academic advisers to use. He helped his colleagues through a transition to a new student appointment system, all while being remote.” Tsang advises three student organizations at MSU and provides leadership for two Asian Pacific Islander organizations.

Withrow Exceptional Service Award
This award recognizes a faculty member who has demonstrated exceptional institutional, public, and community service. Nominations are submitted by department chairpersons to the dean and associate deans for final selection.

Exceptional Service: R. Mark Warden
Exceptional Service: R. Mark Worden

R. Mark Worden, professor of the Departments of Biomedical Engineering (BME) and Chemical Engineering and Materials Science (CHEMS), has provided exceptional service to the two departments, the college, and MSU. He was instrumental in establishing the BME Department at MSU. He led the committee that defined BME program requirements, guided the proposed curriculum through approval processes at the college, university, and state levels, developed and taught the core courses, wrote the bylaws and Graduate Student Handbook, established the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam, and served as interim chairperson and associate chairperson.

He also established significant new training infrastructure in both the BME and CHEMS departments. That included a new CHEMS teaching laboratory for the undergraduate Biochemical Engineering course, and a new BME makerspace for a two-semester, graduate level BioDesign IQ course sequence that he co-developed. At the college level, he represented both departments in the Engineering College Advisory Council (ECAC), including serving as ECAC chairperson. Additionally, he represented the college on the University Committee on Academic Governance (UCAG), where he helped define UCAG’s response to the turmoil between the academic governance system and MSU Trustees. His efforts culminated in the University Council’s recent approval of dozens of MSU Bylaw revisions. He also led the development of two inter-college graduate training programs, funded by Department of Education grants.

As one nominator stated, “With the breadth and impacts he has had from his tireless efforts in serving MSU, Dr. Worden is richly deserving the Withrow Exceptional Service Award.”

Also, three Staff Service Awards were presented:
Gloria Stragier Award for Dedicated and Creative Service - Kim McClung, research administrator, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, and new in 2021 the Spartans Will Award - Heather Bentley, college human resources administrator in the Engineering Dean's office, and Nisachon Chaiwang, Biomedical Engineering technician

The 2021 Withrow Distinguished Scholars Awards go to:
Senior Scholar – Arun Ross – Computer Science and Engineering
Junior Scholar – Jiayu Zhou – Computer Science and Engineering

The 2021 Withrow Teaching Excellence Award recipients are:
Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering – Jade Mitchell
Biomedical Engineering – Dana Spence
Chemical Engineering and Materials Science – Carl Boehlert
Civil and Environmental Engineering – Ali Zockaie
Computational Mathematics, Science and Engineering – Jianrong Wang
Computer Science and Engineering – Yolanda Anderson
Electrical and Computer Engineering – Wen Li
Mechanical Engineering – Geoffrey Recktenwald