University of Nebraska names top research, teaching and engagement award winners
University of Nebraska President James B. Milliken has announced the 2010 winners of the university’s most prestigious awards for research, teaching and engagement.

The university-wide awards recognize faculty whose efforts have made a strong impact on students, the university and the state, according to Milliken.

"It's important that we take this opportunity to recognize the outstanding work done by our faculty members," Milliken said. "The strength of the University depends on its faculty, and we have some of the country's best on our campuses. Their efforts in teaching, research and engagement make a real difference in people's lives."

Awards will be presented during a luncheon later in the spring.

Winners are:


Outstanding Research and Creative Activity Award (ORCA): recognizes individual faculty members for outstanding research or creative activity of national or international significance.

  • Jonis Agee, Adele Hall Professor, Department of English, UNL: Agee is the author of 13 books, including novels, short fiction collections and poetry books. Her novels Sweet Eyes and Strange Angels both were named New York Times Notable Books of the Year, as was one of her collections of short fiction, Bend this Heart. Agee also won the Mark Twain Award for 2008, given for distinguished contributions to Midwestern literature. At UNL, Agee started the Nebraska Summer Writers’ Workshops, which has grown in size and stature under her leadership and was designated as a Program of Excellence by the College of Arts & Sciences; and she has been a valuable mentor and teacher to students at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

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  • Xiao Zeng, Ameritas University Professor, Department of Chemistry, UNL: One of the University’s most-respected scientists, Zeng has earned international attention for his work as a theoretical chemist. He has discovered a new form of ice (dubbed “Nebraska Ice”), which was created in high-pressure nanotubes; and his work in nanomaterials has earned him the nickname “Lord of the Nanorings.” Zeng is one of UNL’s most productive scholars, with 237 publications, and many of his papers appear in journals of international stature such as Nature. He also has built a record as an outstanding instructor, having graduated five masters and five doctoral students and trained eight postdoctoral co-workers at the time of his nomination. Zeng has been a Guggenheim Fellow and in 2004 received the Sigma Xi Outstanding Young Scientist Award.

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Outstanding Teaching and Instructional Creativity Award (OTICA): recognizes individual faculty members who have demonstrated meritorious and sustained records of excellence and creativity in teaching.

  • Paul Paulman, Professor, Family Medicine; Assistant Dean, Clinical Skills, UNMC: A faculty member in the College of Medicine since 1981, Paulman was described by his nominator as “a teacher’s teacher.” Each year, Paulman is a supervising faculty member for medical students’ rural healthcare experience in Jamaica. He also was one of the founders of the College of Medicine’s SHARING Clinic, designed to aid the medically indigent in the Omaha area, at which first- and second-year medical students serve annually. Paulman is director of the newly established Sorrell Clinical Skills Laboratory, which allows students to practice clinical skills on simulation models, and he has authored multiple books on the teaching of family medicine.

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  • Laura White, Professor, Department of English, UNL: In a department known for teaching excellence, White’s evaluations are consistently at the top, with students praising her intelligence, rigor and ability to make course materials exciting and relevant. White has taught 22 different courses at the undergraduate level and eight at the graduate level – perhaps the most variety in the department. One of her most significant contribution has been her leadership in designing and directing the Nineteenth Century Studies Program, an interdisciplinary graduate specialization program based in English, history and modern languages with participation from art, art history, music, theatre and libraries. The program has sponsored numerous speakers and a monthly event for faculty and graduate students to discuss their research.

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Innovation, Development and Engagement Award (IDEA): recognizes faculty members who have extended their academic expertise beyond the boundaries of the university in ways that have enriched the broader community.

  • Phyllis Markussen, Chairwoman, Department of Family Studies and Interior Design; Professor of Interior Design, UNK: Under Markussen’s leadership, UNK’s Interior Design program has become one of only seven nationwide to be accredited by both the Council for Interior Design Accreditation and the National Kitchen and Bath Association. In 2008, the program received the Outstanding Program Trophy from that association. Such national recognition has made the program a regional attraction, and students who enroll consistently win national competitions and gain internship experience around the country. In addition, Markussen has served on numerous committees, as a consultant and as a member of the board of directors for the National Kitchen and Bath Association, and was inducted into its Hall of Fame in 2004.

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  • Byers “Bud” Shaw, M.D., Professor of Surgery; Medical Director, Advanced Clinical Applications Project, UNMC: Shaw, who founded UNMC’s renowned solid organ transplant program, has helped UNMC grow into a major medical center. Under his leadership, the liver transplant program became one of the world’s best, the kidney transplant expanded and new services were added for pancreas, small bowel and heart transplants. Shaw’s insights into computer applications have made him a pioneer in another sense. In 1993, he was one of the founders of HKS Medical Information Systems, a company dedicated to software products that improve patient care, workflow management and operational efficiency. The company’s first software, Organ Transplant Tracking Record (OTTR), and its companion programs still are the most-used patient tracking software for transplantation in the world.

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Award recipients are selected by committees of outstanding peers. The ORCA originated in 1978, the OTICA in 1992 and the IDEA in 2006.

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