Sahlin awards for research, teaching, leadership, outreach

Four WSU faculty members have been named recipients of the annual 2010-11 Sahlin awards, to be presented at WSU’s annual Showcase celebration of excellence on March 25.
B.W. “Joe” Poovaiah, Regents professor in horticulture and landscape architecture, earned the Sahlin Faculty Excellence Award for Research, Scholarship and Arts.
His pioneering research has revolutionized how scientists view calcium/calmodulin-mediated signaling and its regulatory controls in plants. His team used the latest molecular approaches to identify and manipulate genes involved in calcium/calmodulin-mediated signaling.
Poovaiah’s achievements have been recognized regionally, nationally and internationally. He holds six patents and has published more than 200 research articles in leading scientific journals, including Nature, Science and Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Recently, his team had unprecedented success in publishing a series of papers in the prestigious journal Nature documenting how calcium/calmodulin-mediated signaling controls plant growth, plant-microbe interactions and plant immune/defense responses. In 2009, their findings were highlighted in the prestigious journal Cell.
He has successfully competed for millions of dollars of federal grant funds from NSF, NASA and the USDA to support his research. In 2010, he was elected a member of the Washington State Academy of Sciences and also elected as a Foreign Fellow to the National Academy of Sciences, India.
Richard S. Zack, associate professor of entomology and director of the M.T. James entomological collection, earned the Sahlin Faculty Excellence Award for Instruction.
He is best known for his creativity and energy in teaching one of the most popular undergraduate courses at WSU – Entomology 101: Insects & People. It is a general education option science course that enrolls 250 students.
Zack has garnered many teaching honors, including the Western Region Award for Excellence in College and University Teaching in the Food and Agricultural Sciences and the Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching of the Entomological Society of America at both the Pacific Branch and National levels. At WSU, he received the 2002 Marian E. Smith Faculty Achievement Award and the Outstanding Faculty Member (Teaching) Areté Award from the Interfraternity and Panhellenic Councils. He was recognized as one of the Top Five Instructors at WSU nominated by the students in a survey conducted by the Daily Evergreen newspaper.
In his role as curator and director of the M.T. James Entomological Collection, Zack reaches more than 1,200 elementary and high school students throughout the Pacific Northwest each year. He is recognized as a “masterful teacher” who motivates and engages his students.
Denny C. Davis, professor in the School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering and director of the Engineering Education Research Center (EERC), earned the Sahlin Faculty Excellence Award for Leadership.
He is recognized as a leader in engineering education at the local, national and international levels because of educational innovations and scholarship he has catalyzed through the EERC. He has provided vital leadership for instructional innovations leading to a nationally recognized interdisciplinary engineering entrepreneurship senior projects experience at WSU.
Davis’ servant-leadership has had numerous impacts. He has mentored faculty locally and nationally to become successful in engineering education scholarship. His mentoring has yielded a diverse, well funded cadre of engineering education scholars at WSU and collaborators across the nation. He has traveled abroad as an expert in his field to introduce others to his innovations in engineering design education, and international scholars have visited WSU to personally explore the uniqueness of the programs developed by Davis.
He was a founding member of the President’s Teaching Academy, a group that was charged with helping to lead WSU’s educational process. With his contributions and leadership, the academy developed and implemented several programs and tools that have advanced WSU’s instructional mission.
Susan Finley, associate professor of teaching and learning, WSU Vancouver, earned the Sahlin Faculty Excellence Award for Outreach and Engagement.
She has won regional, national and international recognition for her work to provide high quality educational opportunities to those who might otherwise be excluded on the basis of financial or sociocultural barriers. She has provided a broad base of academic curricula to underserved or neglected communities. She directs the “At Home at School” Program, which she created. It serves more than 600 children each year in Washington while providing a unique blend of research, teaching and service.
Finley’s work has allowed her to represent WSU on several state and national panels on poverty and education. Her research has impacted poverty oriented educational programs across the country and has served as a model to many others in education. She has recruited and mentored teacher education students from WSU Vancouver teaching programs to help with the development and delivery of courses to underrepresented children.
Through her innovative teaching and service programs, she has provided educational experiences to students who would not normally have had these opportunities. These experiences have literally changed their opportunities in school and life.

Read more about the Sahlin awards here.