Congratulations to the winners of the
2017 University of Nebraska
President’s Excellence Awards.
The University’s most prestigious awards recognize faculty and businesses whose work has a significant impact on students, the university and the state. The winners of these awards lead the way in preparing the 52,000 NU students for jobs of the future. The innovations made by these individuals in our state make an impact throughout the country and world.
EILEEN A. HEBETS, PH.D., UNL
Since 2005, Hebets’ teaching, research and outreach have made her a central part of the School of Biological Sciences at UNL and the broader scientific community. She is an accomplished arachnid researcher, appearing in more than 85 publications, and she has three active grants totaling more than $1.1 million.
Hebets developed UNL’s Community Science through Outreach course, in which students develop interactive programs and bring them to Lincoln after-school science clubs. In 2016, funding from the Nebraska Department of Education extended the reach of the program and its ability to engage elementary and middle school students in afterschool STEM programs.
Her Eight-Legged Encounters Event started at Morrill Hall and has been adopted as a family-friendly traveling exhibit appearing in museums like the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C. She has also developed youth summer camps that have reached hundreds of Nebraska children over the last 10 years.WATCH DR. HEBETS’ VIDEO
RONI REITER-PALMON, PH.D., UNO
Reiter-Palmon has been teaching and conducting research at the University of Nebraska at Omaha for more than 23 years. She has been a part of more than 100 research publications in her career, and presented that research more than 200 times in national and international settings. The cumulative $7.3 million she has obtained in external grants and contracts speaks to her widely recognized expertise in multiple research areas.
Reiter-Palmon is a problem solver, and her research reflects that. Her voice is at the forefront in the fields of collaboration and creativity. Her work in those areas spans many disciplines from business to psychology. She studies the components of the creative and collaborative processes, giving a deeper understanding of both the theory and practice of team and individual creativity. Reiter-Palmon’s work is making her colleagues and students better, more creative leaders and problem solvers.WATCH DR. REITER-PALMON’S VIDEO
ERIN E. BLANKENSHIP, PH.D., UNL
Through research and teaching, Blankenship is making students’ classroom experience more engaging. Since joining UNL in 1999, she has placed a high priority on students by improving not only her own teaching methods, but making her colleagues better teachers in the process. Blankenship has developed or co-developed eight courses at the university.
Her involvement in Math in the Middle, a National Science Foundation-sponsored math-science partnership, changed the teaching of statistics at the K-12 level. Math in the Middle has been effective in teaching math educators statewide how to engage students and bring creativity and critical thinking to the field of statistics. She has received many teaching honors, including Mu Sigma Rho’s William D. Warde Statistics Education Award, a national honor recognizing lifetime achievement in statistics education, and she is a Fellow of the American Statistical Association.WATCH DR. BLANKENSHIP’S VIDEO
JASON A. KAUTZ, PH.D., UNL
Kautz is a chemistry professor by title, but he teaches with the goal of instilling problem-solving skills in his students that translate to all aspects of life. He joined the UNL faculty in 2004, and since then he has played a central role in both course and teacher development.
Kautz is the lead coordinator of the university’s Freshman Chemistry Program, which serves more than 2,500 students each academic year. He consistently receives instructor evaluation scores above the departmental average. His teaching effectiveness has manifested itself in three Association of Students of the University of Nebraska Outstanding Educator Awards and the Hazel R. McClymont Distinguished Teaching Fellow Award (2016), among other recognition throughout his career. Kautz also developed a graduate course in teaching methods of chemistry, which is designed to improve the development of graduate students as teaching assistants and as teachers upon graduation.WATCH DR. KAUTZ’S VIDEO
YONGFENG LU, PH.D., UNL
Lu came to UNL in 2002 after earning his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Osaka University in Japan and spending 11 years as a lecturer and professor at the National University of Singapore. Lu is a leading researcher in laser-based material processing, characterization and imaging. Lu currently has 13 projects funded, totaling more than $6.4 million.
Since 2003, Lu has received more than $25 million in research funding from sources like the Department of Defense and National Science Foundation. Lu established the Laser Assisted Nanoengineering Laboratory, a state-of-the-art research laboratory, at UNL in 2002. In 2016, the Laser Institute of America awarded the Schawlow Award to Lu, recognizing his career-long contributions to laser science research. He was the advisor to 27 graduated Ph.D. students, and currently advises 12 Ph.D. students, 31 master’s students and more than 50 undergraduate students.WATCH DR. LU’S VIDEO
ANN ANDERSON BERRY, M.D., PH.D., UNMC
Dr. Anderson’s near 15-year career has been dedicated to serving families in communities across Nebraska. She has served as the Medical Director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Nebraska Medicine since 2009, and in that time has significantly improved neonatal and maternal outcomes in both urban and rural communities.
Over the last two years, Dr. Anderson has been instrumental in the establishment of the Nebraska Perinatal Quality Improvement Collaborative (NPQIC). This initiative established a network of healthcare professionals, hospitals and care centers that work together to determine how to serve the needs of communities throughout the entire state. Dr. Anderson spearheaded the effort, working with government officials, healthcare providers and industry leaders, to obtain the funding and resources needed to establish and maintain the large collaborative network. As of last year, 99 percent of deliveries in Nebraska occur in NPQIC hospitals.WATCH DR. ANDERSON BERRY’S VIDEO
Department of History, UNL
James Le Sueur chairs the History Department at UNL. The 27-member department, with 14 graduate assistants, served 187 undergraduate majors and 60 graduate majors in the fall of 2016. Each semester, thousands of students across multiple majors take history courses--more than 2,000 students were enrolled in a history class last semester. While the department has a long-standing record of teaching excellence, initiatives to enhance the student experience have been central to the department in the last five years.
The History Department has been key in the development of UNL’s Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, positioning itself as one of the most innovative departments in the nation. In addition, the department re-imagined its undergraduate program with a focus on immersing students in history as a discipline. This involved shifting emphasis of classes from coverage to an emphasis on disciplinary thinking—involving both critical thinking and writing skills.WATCH THE DEPARTMENT’S VIDEO
RED THREAD CREATIVE, LINCOLN
Red Thread co-founders Adam Kroft, Rhett Muller and Brendon Henning met at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and their business grew out of freelance work they started in college.
In 2016, Red Thread took on the challenge of recruiting students from around the world to UNL’s Raikes School of Computer Science and Management. In order to draw these students toward UNL and away from places like Stanford and MIT, Red Thread had to come up with an innovative way to reach prospective students.
The agency’s solution was to design a virtual reality experience for students who could not visit UNL’s campus. Prospective students were able to spend a day at UNL and around Lincoln—all from home. From 2015 to 2016, Raikes exceeded its goal of 125 applicants by 45 percent, and the average ACT score of applicants increased from 31.8 to 32.6.WATCH RED THREAD’s VIDEO
JULIANNE KOPF, BUGEATER FOODS, UNL
Julianne Kopf, alongside UNL graduates Kelly Sturek and Alec Wiese, cofounded Bugeater Foods with the goal of changing the perception of insect-based foods in western countries. The company, which operates at the Nebraska Innovation Campus, creates insect-based food products that are sold on its website as well as in Omaha and Lincoln Hy-Vees. Bugeater Foods received a $100,000 grant from the USDA in 2016 to continue its insect-based foods research, and the company has built other partnerships with area businesses like Bulu Box.
Kopf is in charge of research and development for Bugeater Foods, and has done extensive research on cricket protein extraction during her time at UNL. The research Kopf is doing is important as producers look for different sources of food to meet a higher demand.WATCH JULIANNE KOPF’S VIDEO