Sahlin awards for research, teaching, leadership, outreach

PULLMAN, Wash. – Four Washington State University faculty members have been named recipients of the 2014-15 Sahlin awards, to be presented at WSU’s Showcase Celebrating Excellence Recognition Banquet on March 27.

Showcase, WSU’s annual celebration of faculty, staff and student achievement, also includes the Distinguished Faculty Address (March 26); the Academic Showcase display of faculty, staff and student work (March 27); and SURCA, the Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (March 30).

Showcase reservations are being accepted at through Wednesday, March 18.

Ken Nash

Ken Nash, professor of chemistry, won the Sahlin Faculty Excellence Award for Research, Scholarship and Arts.

His work has led to new information about lanthanide/actinide separation that forms the basis for a new generation of sustainable nuclear power systems and for advanced approaches to nuclear waste management. His sharing of this knowledge as a key speaker at national and international meetings has had a broad impact on groups studying alternative nuclear separations and energy systems.

Nash’s research at Argonne National Laboratory established him as a world leader but his work at WSU over the past decade has included some of his most important contributions.

While at WSU, he has helped rejuvenate radiochemistry education in the U.S., establishing WSU as a premier institution for its study. He has trained many graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, creating a legacy of outstanding research scientists and teachers.

Kristen Johnson

Kristen A. Johnson, professor and scientist in animal sciences, won the Sahlin Faculty Excellence Award for Instruction.

In 2014, she received a WSU Graduate and Professional Student Association Advisor of Excellence Award. In 2013, she earned the Distinguished Teaching Award from the American Society of Animal Sciences-Western Section. In 2003, she was the recipient of WSU’s R.M. Wade Award for Excellence in Teaching and, in 2001 and 2002, she was the College of Agriculture and Home Economics “Featured Teacher.”

Johnson is an exceptional teacher and mentor who motivates students, sets high expectations and cultivates contagious enthusiasm for their future careers. Passive learning has no place in her classroom where challenge, integration and problem solving are routine. Her students have a reputation as well trained, knowledgeable and career ready.

Her instruction extends beyond the classroom. Her students engage with stakeholders and acquire hands-on experiences ranging from the research laboratory to internships with policy makers in Washington, D.C. Her international reputation in animal energetics and metabolism and animal impacts to climate change has provided many unique opportunities to her students.

Vicki McCracken

Vicki A. McCracken, professor and associate director in the School of Economic Sciences, won the Sahlin Faculty Excellence Award for Leadership.

“She believes in leading by example and exerting leadership from wherever you are…she realizes that some of her greatest successes may never be attributed to her,” according to one of her nominators.

McCracken has been a faculty member at WSU since 1984, making key leadership contributions particularly with respect to equity and diversity. She has served as assistant director of the Agricultural Research Center; associate dean and director of academic programs in the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences; and associate vice president and associate vice provost for enrollment services.

She has taught undergraduate and graduate courses, mentored graduate students and provided service at the national and regional levels while pursuing scholarship supported by many sources of extramural funding.

Kim Patten

Kim Patten, professor in WSU Extension, agriculture and natural resources, won the Sahlin Faculty Excellence Award for Outreach and Engagement.

He has set a standard for field extension work that others can aspire to as they work to support agricultural communities across the state and country, said a nominator. His outreach efforts are complemented by his extramural grant funding, educational excellence, scholarship and academic, regional and national service.

He has been at WSU since 1990 and his work has helped cranberry growers, the shellfish industry and more. In particular, he was able to largely eradicate non-native Spartina grass from wetlands, resulting in great economic and environmental impact not only in Washington but internationally. This effort involved research, technical know-how and ongoing collaboration concerning government regulations and public policy.

Patten’s “work has spanned a remarkable diversity of issues,” said another. “But all his efforts have one thing in common: they are all aimed at finding practical solutions to important problems. He is unusual as a research scientist in that he has always properly valued outreach and public education.”