Regents Award winners showcase the University's talent

From teaching to research to student advising, Nevada faculty earn acclaim

6/20/2011 - By: Claudene Wharton

The Nevada Board of Regents recently named recipients of the Regents' Awards recognizing the highest achievements of Nevada System of Higher Education educators, researchers and advisors. Several University of Nevada, Reno faculty received top honors that illustrate the broad depth of knowledge and excellence at the University.

Regents' Teaching Award: Eric Rasmussen

Eric RasmussenMany a student doth protest reading and studying Shakespeare, but not those who are lucky enough to study under University of Nevada, Reno English Professor Eric Rasmussen, internationally recognized Shakespeare scholar, who has a knack for passing along his passion for the Bard to his students.

Rasmussen, who just last year received the University's highest award for teaching excellence, the F. Donald Tibbitts Distinguished Teacher Award, has now received the top teaching award for the entire Nevada System of Higher Education, the Regents' Teaching Award.

Students have called his teaching "cutting-edge," "brilliant" and "flawless." They appreciate that he is challenging, knowledgeable and accessible.

Rasmussen attributes his success to "being able to take 400-year-old texts and make them relevant for 20-year-olds today."

For example, he said, "I show my students that Shakespeare was concerned with issues such as sexual harassment."

When Rasmussen isn't teaching on campus, he's likely conducting research on Shakespeare and the Renaissance with his students in libraries here or abroad. Or, you may find him in downtown Reno, at the University's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, teaching Shakespeare to senior citizens.

"I have about 80 octogenarians who come to see me every Tuesday morning for about 90 minutes to learn about Shakespeare," Rasmussen said. "They love it and I love them."

Rasmussen said he derives his passion for teaching from "just being able to introduce people to whole new worlds. That's why we teach at all, to have them experience these fantastic surprises."

Regents' Researcher Award: Iain Buxton

Iain BuxtonIain Buxton, professor of pharmacology at the Nevada School of Medicine, is equally passionate about his work, researching causes of pre-term birth and the behavior of breast cancer cells. He received the University's Outstanding Researcher Award in 2008, and this year is the recipient of the top research award for the entire Nevada System of Higher Education, the Regents' Researcher Award.

Buxton's research, which has often led to discoveries that were breakthroughs against the prevailing scientific thought in the field, has garnered national attention and more than $6 million in grants from the National Institute of Health, the March of Dimes and the Department of Defense. Most recently, Buxton was awarded a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Global Health research grant, the first in Nevada. He accepted the Regents' Award, proud of the team with which he works.

"The recognition of the Regents offers verification not only of my own efforts, but of the larger body of scholarship that faculty strive to build in Nevada," Buxton, who has been at the University for 25 years, said. "Twenty-nine years ago, UNR and the state made a commitment, and the School of Medicine built in Reno what had never developed in our state before - biomedical excellence. We attracted the best young medical researchers in the country to live and work under the shadow of the Eastern High Sierra and create a power house of discovery."

With all of the demands of Buxton's nationally recognized research projects, he still carves out plenty of time to mentor his students. In fact, he was just selected to receive the 2011 Graduate Student Association's Vada Trimble Outstanding Mentor Award.

Regents' Rising Researcher Award: Monica Miller

Monica MillerMonica Miller, associate professor of criminal justice and social psychology, has also been a recipient of the Vada Trimble Outstanding Mentor Award (2009), and this year is the recipient of the Regents' Rising Researcher Award.

Miller's research interests include jury decision-making, judicial stress and justice in family issues. She has published more than 60 articles, several book chapters and four books. She is currently writing a book on stress, trauma and well-being in the courtroom, looking at how various groups - lawyers, judges, victims, jurors, etc. - experience the legal system and what changes could be made to improve those experiences.

Miller is a strong proponent of involving students in research and publishing, for which she was recognized in 2009 with the University's Outstanding Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentor Award. About three-quarters of her publications include at least one student co-author.

"I have students develop projects that can become publications or presentations, and really try to encourage them to do as much publishing as they can," she said. "It is tremendously beneficial for them in terms of experience and contributes to their future success in the field."

Regents' Undergraduate Academic Advisor Award: Jennifer O'Neil

Jennifer O'Neil, academic advisor, contributes to the success of students in the College of Engineering by taking a "hands-on" approach, continuously reaching out to the more than 500 students she advises. She was recognized for her dedication to the students she advises with this year's Regents' Academic Advisor Award for System excellence in advising undergraduate students.

Faculty state that because of the advising O'Neil has been providing for College of Engineering students since 2006, the student experience has been greatly enhanced, and the College has seen high levels of student retention. O'Neil enjoys getting to know the students and following their progress. Her advice to students in regards to advisement is that they seek advisement "early and often." She says she gets a great deal of satisfaction seeing how they progress and grow during their time at the University.

"I went to a graduation party on Saturday," she said. "It was so great seeing how the students had changed over the past four years. They are really ready to go out into the world and be engineers. They have accomplished something huge, and it's very satisfying to have been a small part of that."


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