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Emerita/Emeritus Society Retired Faculty Serving the Future

WSU Emerita/Emeritus Society awards seven for their undergraduate research

Pullman, Wash. — The Washington State University Emerita/Emeritus Society of retired faculty has presented awards to support the efforts of seven students engaged in mentored undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative activities.

“Each year, our organization takes the opportunity to encourage and fund the work of students university-wide who are seeking to answer questions, or reinforce knowledge, in their field,” said Larry Fox, society co-chair. This underscores the group’s mission to continuously advance the university, community, and the state by making awards to exceptional students engaged in scholarly pursuits.

The society offers two types of awards, and students submit applications for funding that are reviewed by committee members from the society.

Undergraduate research awards

There are recipients in five categories of the society’s Excellence in Undergraduate Research and Scholarship this year.

Behavioral, Social, and Economic Science category: Mariah Landon, a WSU Pullman neuroscience major mentored by Caroline Owens. Her research is titled, “Mixed-methods Analysis of TikTok Videos Posted by d/Deaf Creators.” It examines content posted by members of the “d/Deaf community” on TikTok. It indicates that social media platforms have exploded in popularity and so have studies on the impact social media has on the general population. But its impact on marginalized communities, specifically the d/Deaf community, is lacking, she said. Deaf, she said, refers to the shared culture of the Deaf community whereas deaf (lower case “d”) refers to physical deafness. Her study is multifactorial and involves a literature review and then a quantitative and qualitative data analysis of TikTok videos. They were divided thematically and engagement rates in these themes were analyzed. Landon said, “The most popular themes were Advocacy and Awareness, Daily Life Experiences, and Humor and Entertainment, while the least popular is Deaf Culture and Identity. Engagement rates for each theme may be less a reflection of how the widespread population of d/Deaf users of TikTok utilize the platform, and more a reflection of the content produced by d/Deaf creators that audiences find most engaging.” She notes that this is a preliminary study that warrants expansion of sampling and a more complete analysis of content produced by d/Deaf creators on social media.

Physical Sciences and Mathematics category: Brandin Farris, a mathematics major from WSU Vancouver mentored by Bala Krishnamoorthy and Stephanie Porter, for his project titled, “A Method for Image Analysis on Roots with Fluoresced Nodules.”

The design and implementation of “an algorithmic framework to investigate red and green fluorescent nodules within a two-dimensional image of a root system” is the focus of the investigation. Fluorescence was used to highlight nodules as red, green, or both.

The algorithm has the additional capability to measure the distances of nodules along the root system. Nodules impact productivity; measuring their sizes and distribution can help find relations between the strains of rhizobia and plant health. Currently, some programs can segment nodules but there is no pipeline for categorizing, measuring, or calculating distances of segmented nodules. The new algorithms were implemented to segment and skeletonize the roots in the image, convert them into a graph (vertices and edges connecting them), and calculate the pairwise distances between nodules along the root system.

Current work focuses on developing algorithms to “untangle” the graph from the root system into a tree, and removing noise caused by roots crossing over each other in the image. All implementations are done in Java so that the framework can be made available to the public as plugins for “Image-J”, a widely used software suite for image analysis in life sciences.

Engineering and Applied Sciences category: Nicholas Kraabel, a WSU Pullman computer science and economic sciences major mentored by Kirti Rajagopalan, whose project is titled, “Advancing Hourly Temperature Disaggregation for Agroecosystems Modeling: L-S-T-M-based Approach.”

Properly simulating the agricultural environment requires accurate temporal and spatial temperature data. But available data often lacks complete spatial coverage and may not consist of hourly data. Current methods for disaggregating temperature data from daily to hourly intervals introduce significant errors, producing results unsuitable for many applications such as estimating apple sunburn risk. The research questions are, “Can advanced deep learning techniques improve the accuracy of daily to hourly temperature disaggregation?,” and “Do these improvements translate to enhanced performance in real-world modeling scenarios?”

To answer these questions, a specialized Long Short-Term Memory (LSTM) neural network model was developed and used with a dataset from the Washington State Agricultural Weather Station Network, encompassing over 1.1 million station-days across various stations and years. Utilizing this model, a substantial reduction in median absolute error was achieved by lowering it from 1.56°C with previous state-of-the-art models to just 0.62°C. This improvement led to a significant enhancement in the accuracy of sunburn risk assessment models, with an 11-fold reduction in the number of error days. The study underscores the potential of advanced machine learning techniques and data to enhance our ability to reliably use weather data for decision-making in agriculture.

Biological Sciences, or Biosciences, category: Annika Dawley, a WSU Pullman biology major mentored by Wes Dowd, whose project is titled, “The Role of Carotenoids in the Acute Thermal Tolerance of a Splashpool Copepod (Tigriopus californicus).”

This project focuses on determining the effects of ocean heat waves due to global warming on the physiology of marine organisms, in this case a splash-pool copepod. In a controlled, replicated laboratory experiment, the student determined the effect of four carotenoid levels—nutrients contained in algae that are part of the copepod’s diet—on their heat tolerance. Except for the highest level, the findings supported the hypothesis that higher carotenoid levels are correlated with higher heat stress tolerance. The student suggested two mechanisms that may be causing the copepods exposed to the highest carotenoid level to have less heat tolerance than the controls and proposed a future experiment to understand this relationship.

Arts, Humanities, and Creative Activities category: Jasper Willson, a WSU Pullman multimedia journalism major, whose project is titled, “Forest on Fire: A Documentary About the Changing Relationship of Fire in the Sequoia Ecosystems.” She is mentored by Lisa Waananen Jones.

Willson created a short-form video documentary on old growth Sequoias, their ecosystems, and their changing relationship to fire, including the impacts of climate change. She did all the work on this interdisciplinary project herself, including research, filming, storyboarding, video editing, audio recording and editing, and music soundtrack production. Focusing on Coastal Redwoods in Southern Oregon and Northern California, and Giant Sequoias in the Sierra Nevada range of California, her recorded interviews with experts serve as the foundation for the video’s demonstrations of the importance of fire for the survival of these ancient trees and the new dangers posed by climate change. The documentary is already being distributed. It demonstrates the medium’s effectiveness for communicating scientific knowledge to non-experts.

Arts and Humanities Grant recipients

The second type of Emeritus/Emerita Society award is the Undergraduate Research Grant in Arts and Humanities. This award provides one-thousand dollars ($1,000) in funding to support original undergraduate scholarship. Recipients are:

Valentina Iturbe Fuentes, a WSU Tri-Cities biology and psychology major, for her project titled “Women Science Writing in Argentina at the Turn of the 20th Century.” She will assist her mentor and history professor Sabrina González in research for a book chapter. The project focuses on the most important Argentine education journal of the period. She will create a catalog that documents the ratio of female-to-male educators writing in the journal, when women began participating in its pedagogical debates and innovations, and the positions on education and childhood informing their writing.  Because the project will create the first catalog of this primary source, the result promises to become a valuable resource for future scholars working on the history of education in the region. In addition, it has publication potential with the National Teachers Library in Argentina. Her mentor praises the language and technical skills that Valentina brings to such digital archival research and envisions future collaborations including a presentation at the National Women’s Studies Association Annual Conference in fall 2024.

Akira Park, a WSU Pullman English major and McNair scholar who received an Emerita/Emeritus Society undergraduate research award last year for the design phase of this project. Her research project is titled “Studying the Inclusion of Asian-American Literature in English Classrooms” and it explores why educators are underprepared to teach Asian-American narratives in their classrooms, include relevant classroom texts in their curriculum, and examine the adequacy of their pedagogical approaches when serving students of color and dealing with issues of Asian-American identities.

In the second year of this research, her mentor and English-education professor Ashley Boyd praises the progress Akira has made and the quality of her research. With WSU Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval, she has instituted a survey for teachers in the Pacific Northwest and completed an inventory of relevant texts from online databases as well as from local libraries.

Currently analyzing this collected data, Akira has worked to communicate her research findings to the academic trainers of teachers. Having already made two presentations at national conferences, she plans to distribute her survey more broadly, include interviews with practicing teachers, and present updates on her research at the National Council of Teachers of English conference this year.

By Bev Makhani 

John C. Pierce returns “home” to accept Emerita/Emeritus Society Award

PULLMAN, Wash.—The recipient of the 2024 Emerita-Emeritus Society Legacy of Excellence Award is John C. Pierce, lifelong educator, author, researcher, and university administrator who maintains strong ties to faculty, friends, and the community” at Washington State University.

Pierce will present “My Research on American’s Democracy: From Herbert McClosky to Thomas Foley” at a ceremony Tues., March 26, at noon in CUE 518 on the WSU Pullman campus. The event is open and free to the public.

Pierce will also speak at the Foley Institute at noon Wed., March 27, in 308 Bryan Hall, with book co-author Kenton Bird, WSU alum in political science.

Pierce was nominated for the Society’s award by Nicholas Lovrich, last year’s awardee who has co-authored eight books with him. Lovrich will introduce Pierce on Tuesday.

“Receiving this award is wonderful and it means a lot to be recognized by people with whom I have worked for so many years,” said Pierce. “WSU is a special place, and I respect its commitment to its land-grant mission. Pullman is also special because it’s where my wife, Ardith, and I raised our kids.

“It’s always nice to feel like I’m coming home.”

As a professor and graduate faculty member, Pierce served as dean of the (then) WSU College of Liberal arts from 1986-1997 after being chair of the (then) Dept. of Political Science from 1976-1984. He came to WSU in 1973. He was a tenured professor in political science at Tulane University prior to WSU, and also served as a Congressional Fellow with the American Political Science Association in 1970-71.

Following many years in Pullman, the Pierce’s made their home in Colorado, Oregon, and Kansas, and now reside in Missouri. His current appointments reflect ongoing ties and service: Vice Chancellor (Academic Affairs) Emeritus and Professor Emeritus at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs; affiliate and graduate faculty at the School of Public Policy at Oregon State University in Corvallis; and adjunct research associate/affiliate professor and lecturer at the School of Public Affairs and Administration at the University of Kansas at Lawrence. From 2003-2006, he served as executive director of the Oregon Historical Society.

For Pierce, education is the family business and community service is social capital—how he can further give back to society. With a Norwegian heritage, his parents taught as teenagers in a one-room schoolhouse in Nebraska before the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl forced them west to settle on a farm in Yelm in western Washington. His father died in his forties driving his milk truck; his mother had cooked for farm workers and volunteered on town projects.

Following high school graduation, Pierce went to the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma to study pre-law while remaining near his family. A research job led to a published paper on institutionalized juveniles, and that piqued his interest in research and writing in an academic setting.

The lure of a scholarship led him to the University of Minnesota, where he earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. in political science. A Congressional Fellowship with Idaho’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Frank Church and U.S. Speaker of the House Tom Foley, an eastern Washington Democrat, confirmed that “politics, democracy, and community” were to be the focus of his professional life.

“Those three topics are very important to me and resonated with my own values,” he said.

During his undergraduate years at the University of Puget Sound, Pierce met his wife of now 58 years, Ardith. Her family was from Kansas “close to my own roots in Nebraska, and we had many things in common, such as the fact that she valued education as much as I did and we were both in the Greek system.” Their first son, Forrest, was born in New Orleans, and their second, Lamar, in Pullman where they moved to be closer to both mothers in the Inland Northwest.

Ardith earned her master’s degree in elementary education and her Ph.D. in education administration. In Pullman, she taught and was principal at Jefferson and then Franklin elementary schools. Her service in education continued beyond their time in Pullman.

Additional members of the Pierce family—young grandchildren aside–also are deeply devoted to education. His sister, Muriel, was a special education expert at the University of Washington in Seattle and served in the Peace Corps in Turkey; she now lives in Massachusetts. Son Forrest is a music composer on faculty at the University of Kansas and the recipient of many international awards, while son Lamar holds an endowed professorship in Washington University in St. Louis and is an organizational ethics researcher.

In addition to hundreds of his own articles and essays, Pierce has published around 30 books/monographs/journal symposia; several are co-authored with WSU colleagues. Among his recent academic interests are alternative energy systems, immigration, and civility in state legislatures. Some of his publications, though, are on his personal passion: fly fishing. He is preparing a new book of essays, “Searching for Home, One Stream at a Time.”

“Will I write forever? I don’t know. With every book, I say ‘This has got to be my last.’ But the ideas for more just keep coming,” Pierce said.

Pierce’s WSU Emerita/Emeritus Society Legacy of Excellence Award is the latest in a long line of accolades. This particular award recognizes a professor emeritus who, in retirement, continues to make outstanding contributions to academia, the university, and the community. It has been presented every year but one since 2007.


By Bev Makhani

WSU Emerita/Emeritus Society’s Legacy of Excellence 2023 awarded to Nicholas Lovrich

 PULLMAN, Wash.—Washington State University Regents Professor Emeritus and political scientist Nicholas Lovrich is the 2023 recipient of the Emerita/Emeritus Society’s Legacy of Excellence award, presented to honor of his “outstanding contributions to academia, the university, and the community” continuing after his retirement.

Lovrich will deliver the Legacy of Excellence address on the topic of civil discourse at 4:00 p.m. Tues., March 28 in Todd Hall 216. The lecture and reception are open and free to the public.

The topic stems from the research underlying the book Outside Looking In: Lobbyists’ Views on Civil Discourse in U.S. State Legislatures published by WSU Press in 2021 and edited by Lovrich and his colleagues Francis Benjamin, John Pierce, and William Schreckhise.
Lovrich is the 16th recipient of the retired-faculty organization’s top annual honor, first presented in 2007.

“All of the Emerita/Emeritus Society award committee members felt strongly that Nick is most deserving of the award,” said Charley Gaskins, society co-chair. “He has a large number of notable accomplishments prior to and since his retirement, plus he is an active member in the society. We are honored to present it to him for 2023.”

“Receiving the Legacy of Excellence Award means a great deal to me and is extremely gratifying,” said Lovrich. “I’m humbled to be in the company of remarkable people who are prior recipients.”

In good company
As an example, Lovrich said his friend and academic role model James F. “Jim” Short Jr., late WSU sociologist and criminologist, received the award in 2013. Short was someone who favorably impacted the university and its faculty, who was passionate about WSU, and who inspired others, he said. Early in Lovrich’s career, Short introduced him to Thomas S. Foley, 49th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (1989-1995), a Democrat from Spokane.

“For a poli sci guy like me to have the Speaker of the House be from your (university’s) district… well, that was a very big deal indeed.” It was an honor to meet Speaker Foley early on and to go on to establish a relationship that lasted for three decades.

“That’s just one example of why I believe there’s something very special about this place, WSU, and I believe deeply that it’s the people who come to embrace its land-grant mission that make it a special place. I came in 1977 thinking I’d stay two to three years and it’s ended up being nearly 50. I think it has to do with the culture that exists among young scholars starting out here. Once you are accepted by your senior colleagues and have your own grad students to mentor, you come to understand that your WSU academic family has become part of your own DNA. You come to see that the most powerful career impact you can achieve is to empower your grad students to be good teachers, scholars, and mentors.”


Outstanding Contributions
The only child of Yugoslavian immigrants, Lovrich was born and raised in San Pedro, Calif., the Port of Los Angeles. Communicating in Croatian at home, he learned English at school. A high-school student government leader and varsity athlete, he went to Stanford University on a baseball scholarship but finished college on an academic award, graduating cum laude in international relations. He earned his advanced degrees in political science from the U.C.L.A. Prior to joining WSU, he was on faculty at Metropolitan State University of Denver, the University of Denver, and DePauw University in Indiana.

As a WSU professor, Lovrich’s teaching covered: public administration theory and practice; evaluation research, and environmental policy and administration. He spent 25 years with a half-time appointment in WSU Extension with a focus on state and local government policy analysis; environmental policy; criminal justice system reform; and community-oriented policing implementation and outcome evaluation. Upon his retirement he served briefly as development director for WSU’s Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service.

Lovrich supervised 30 Ph.D. students and produced 18 books and monographs and more than 200 peer-reviewed journal articles — including four that are accepted and in press. His research has been cited nearly 10,000 times on the Google Scholar and more than 2,000 times on the Web of Science platforms. His noteworthy awards for research and service include the 2022 Distinguished Scholarships Ambassador Award, the WSU President’s 2013 Faculty Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2010 Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences’ Mentor of the Year Award, the 2008 American Political Science Association’s Outstanding Mentoring Award (Public Policy), and the 2006 College of Liberal Arts Dean’s Award for Exceptional Service to the College Award.

His administrative experience includes service as: Interim Chancellor of WSU Spokane; associate chair and director of graduate studies for the Dept. of Political Science; co-director of the Center for Environmental Research, Education, and Outreach; and chair of the WSU Committee on Cannabis Policy Research and Outreach.

Since retiring in 2011—a year after becoming a WSU Regents Professor—Lovrich has been a guest faculty member at the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing; affiliate graduate faculty member at Oregon State University; and a senior scholar in residence at Boise State University. He is an affiliate researcher in the WSU Dept. of Criminal Justice and Criminology. He regularly attends academic conferences in political science and criminal justice with his wife and WSU retiree Katherine; they raised their daughter Nichole in Pullman.

Lovrich continues to research and write at his Johnson Hall office in Pullman and stays in touch with friends, colleagues, and former students around the world.

To share congratulations on his award, Lovrich can be reached at his campus email address.

Emeritus Society Undergraduate Scholarship and Research Award

WSU Undergraduate Research Fellowship application are now openWSU Undergraduate Research Fellowship applications are now open

Emeritus Society Undergraduate Scholarship and Research Award

$500 Scholarships for Undergraduates

The WSU Emeritus Society is pleased to announce the 2023 Excellence in Undergraduate Scholarship and Research Award!

Undergraduate students who submit an abstract for SURCA (Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities) are eligible to apply for an Emeritus Society Undergraduate Research Award. This year, the WSU Emeritus Society will grant five awards of $500 for undergraduate achievement, one each in the following areas:

  • arts, humanities, and creative activities
  • physical sciences and mathematics
  • biosciences
  • social, economic, and behavioral sciences
  • engineering and applied science.

The awards will recognize significant individual contributions to research and outstanding creative and scholarly achievements by WSU undergraduate students.  For group-based projects, only the team member who has contributed most significantly to the research project should apply. Applicants can download the application here:

The due date will be determined

[Here is a link to the SURCA Application 2023 here]

Note: It is required to submit a project to the 2023 Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (SURCA) to qualify for the Undergraduate Research Award.



WSU Emeritus Society Presents 7 Undergraduate Researcher Awards, Grants

PULLMAN, Wash.—The Washington State University Emeritus Society of retired faculty has presented to students five undergraduate research awards and two grants in arts and humanities.

“Our organization underscores its mission to continuously advance our university, community, and state by making awards each year to exceptional students engaged in scholarly pursuits,” said Tom Brigham, society executive secretary and retired psychology professor.  “We are very pleased that our awards are something of a tradition at WSU, and we are happy to make a difference for so many.”

Society member Larry Fox, retired veterinary clinical science and animal sciences professor, made the award presentations at an April 14 event hosted by the Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement (DAESA). » More …

WSU Undergraduate Research Fellowship applications are now open

WSU Undergraduate Research Fellowship applications open through Jan. 21, 2022

PULLMAN, Wash.—Washington State University undergraduate students can apply online now through Jan. 21, 2022, for seven awards totaling over $50,000 to support mentored undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative activities in academic year 2022-23, said Mary Sánchez Lanier, assistant vice provost.

“Thanks to the vision of generous donors and other funding for seven awards, students from all majors and campuses can become recipients,” she said. » More …