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Howard-Hamilton, Phillips, Rathburn and Zhang honored with Dreiser Award

April 15, 2015

Four Indiana State University faculty members have received the 2015 Theodore Dreiser Distinguished Research and Creativity Award.

Mary Howard-Hamilton, Bayh College of Education professor of educational leadership, Betty Phillips, professor of linguistics, Tony Rathburn, professor of geology, and Guo-Ping Zhang, professor of physics, were honored with the award during the university's Faculty Recognition Banquet Wednesday.

Named for the early 20th century author who grew up in Terre Haute, the Dreiser Award recognizes full-time Indiana State faculty who have made outstanding contributions to their disciplines.

Before joining the department of educational leadership at Indiana State in 2005, Howard-Hamilton earned her doctor of education in guidance and personnel services at North Carolina State University in 1991. She also holds both a master's degree (GR '77) in college student personnel administration and a bachelor's degree ('76) in speech and dramatic arts-broadcasting and film from the University of Iowa.

"I was just absolutely ecstatic and floored at the same time," said Howard-Hamilton, who learned she was an award recipient from Kandi Hill-Clarke, dean of the Bayh College. "(Hill-Clarke) pulled out a letter and asked if I'd heard, and then she started reading the letter to me. It was really a very special time, because I was with two other colleagues talking about a book proposal when she sprung it on me. There isn't any better way to hear about this. It's nice to know your hard work is recognized."

Howard-Hamilton has authored more than 90 articles and book chapters on her research interests, which include multicultural issues in higher education, gender role socialization, student development and intersections of race, gender and oppression.

She has been a recipient of the Champion of Diversity Award from the Indiana Minority Business Magazine in January 2013, Terre Haute Human Rights Commission Diversity Award in October 2013, The Mildred Garcia Exemplary Scholarship Award from the Council on Ethic Participation -- Association for the Study of Higher Education in 2011, "Robert S. Shaffer Award" for Academic Excellence as a graduate faculty member, the University of Iowa Albert Hood Distinguished Alumni Award, and The Monroe County (Indiana) Big Brothers Big Sisters 2006 Mentor of the Year.

Phillips, who is retiring this year, joined Indiana State's faculty in 1990. She earned a doctorate in linguistics specializing in English from the University of Georgia in 1978. She holds a master's from Georgia and a bachelor's from Duke University.

"I am delighted to receive this award," Phillips said. "Sometimes when one's work is in a subfield that no one else in the department or university specializes in (like historical English phonology), it seems unlikely that its affect beyond a line on a faculty report will be particularly recognized. So I especially appreciate this Dreiser Award."

The author of numerous peer-reviewed papers and publications, Phillips said she greatly appreciates the camaraderie among the faculty in her department.

"When I first came to ISU, I received a university research grant to study a sound change in progress, and Drs. (Leslie) Barratt and (Cecil) Nelson graciously agreed to listen to the data to provide an unbiased analysis of the progression of the shift in different words," Phillips said. "Knowing how busy every professor is in attending to his or her own work, I really appreciated their taking the time to do this for me, and the findings of that research project were important in the further development of my research area."

Rathburn received his Ph.D. in geology from Duke University in 1992, his master's from the University of Vermont in 1984 and his bachelor's in zoology from the University of Vermont. He joined Indiana State's faculty in 2001.

"It is gratifying to be chosen as a recipient of the highest honor the university awards for research and scholarship," Rathburn said. "Research and scholarship are key elements of being a university professor, and I am delighted to be recognized as a Theodore Dreiser Awardee by a committee of faculty peers."
As an interdisciplinary scientist, Rathburn's research efforts include a number of different topics, but focus primarily on ecological and biogeochemical responses of marine organisms to environmental change in modern and ancient oceans. Of his numerous experiences as an educator and researcher, some of the most memorable are when he takes undergraduate and graduate students from land-locked Indiana on ocean excursions.

"I find it very fulfilling when students are finishing a successful expedition at sea. The pleasure and satisfaction of a job well done is written on their faces. They have worked long, hard hours, been exposed to many new people, places and things," he said. "At this point, students have learned how science is conducted by working together with experienced scientists and technicians on board, and from first-hand oceanographic experiences. They board the ship as nervous students, and leave the ship as confident, mature, scientists."

Since 2003, Rathburn has received more than $1 million in competitive, external grants and contracts, including more than $708,000 in National Science Foundation research grants since 2007. Also since 2007, undergraduates in Rathburn's lab have given nearly two-dozen presentations at national and regional meetings and co-authored 33 published abstracts and two scientific papers.

Zhang earned a Ph.D. in condensed matter theory from Fudan University in 1995, a master's in physics from Shanghai Jiao-Tong University in 1990 and a bachelor's in physics from Nanjing Normal University in 1987.

"As a faculty member at Indiana State University, I have a great passion for research in physics. My research allows me to explore new frontiers in science, engineering and technology," Zhang said. "The Dreiser award means a lot to me personally. I am very excited and very humbled to receive this distinguished award. This represents an important milestone in my career. The award recognizes my important contribution to the ultrafast magnetic storage technology and ultrafast laser-induced processes in nanostructures. Second, this award also recognizes those who have supported me so many years."

When Zhang first arrived at Indiana State in 2002, he and his colleagues in Europe had pioneered a research field called femtomagnetism, where one can store magnetic bits into disks in a rate at least 1,000 times faster than the current technology. He has published 95 peer-reviewed articles, among which 54 articles and four co-edited books were published at Indiana State.

Zhang received the Promising Scholar Award ($16,000) from Indiana State in 2006 and six external grants from U. S. Department of Energy, Army Research Office and National Science Foundation totaling $1,200,000, with $898,000 awarded to Indiana State, of which $830,000 are for awards for which he was the sole principal investigator.

"The most important moment to me is when I received the first major research grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (in 2006) as a sole PI, which in turn supported my students and postdoctoral researchers and allowed me to have access to the world-leading computing system," he said.

-30- -- Mary Howard-Hamilton, Bayh College of Education professor of educational leadership -- Betty Phillips, professor of linguistics -- Tony Rathburn, professor of geology -- Guo-Ping Zhang, professor of physics

Media Contact: Libby Roerig, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or