Campus Life

USU Faculty Award Recipients for 2021 Announced

By Celestyn Lendor |

The first annual Utah State University Faculty Awards Ceremony announced the 2021 award recipients during a livestream Zoom webinar on Tuesday, March 30.

More than 60 nominees were recognized for the nine institutional awards. The 2021 USU Faculty Awards recipients are:

Cazier Lifetime Achievement Award

Ryan Dupont, Civil and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering

From research, publications and grant awards, to leadership roles, Dupont has impacted communities and individuals, both on and off campus. His research on mitigating water contamination has been crucial for recycling wastewater—a valuable concept in our dry state.

Collaborating with researchers throughout Utah, Dupont was instrumental in the wastewater monitoring system to detect and contain COVID-19’s spread.

Wynne Thorne Career Research Award

Ronald Sims, Biological Engineering, College of Engineering

Sims founded the Department of Biological Engineering in 2010 and served as its department head for four years. In addition, he is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and the Institute for Biological Engineering.

Over the years, Sims has published 260 articles and received 8,000 plus citations, all while garnering over $15 million in funding as a PI or Co-PI of 51 projects.

E.G. Peterson Extension Award

Kathleen Riggs, Home and Community, USU Extension

A leader in family and consumer sciences and 4-H programs, Riggs exemplifies the 4-H motto to “Make the Best Better.”

Her many leadership and board positions in the state and nationally over the years include USU’s Faculty Senate, Western Region director of the National Association of Extension 4-H Youth Development board of trustees and assistant editor of FastTrack.

Eldon J. Gardner Teacher of the Year Award

Heloisa Rutigliano, Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Sciences; College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences

Rutigliano teaches animal physiology, immunology, endocrinology and veterinary ethics and professionalism. Her research focuses on understanding mother-baby communication, particularly in cases of pregnancy loss and complications, in cattle and other domestic species.

A lifelong learner, Rutigliano takes new processes on student learning and applies them to her teaching.

Faculty Researcher of the Year Award

Regan Zane, Electrical and Computer Engineering; College of Engineering

Zane is the director of the Center for Advancing Sustainability through Powered Infrastructure for Roadway Electrification, otherwise known as ASPIRE.

His research programs cover key aspects of electrified transportation charging systems and infrastructure. They include battery, vehicle and charging systems, grid integration, smart charge management, demand response and distributed energy resources.

Faculty University Service Award

Joyce Kinkead, English; College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Over a nearly 40-year career at USU, on dozens of significant committees, Kinkead has improved student success, especially seen in retention policies and practices.

She served as co-chair of USU President Noelle Cockett’s 2020: Year of the Woman committee, which shared more than 80 news stories about Aggie women—past and present—and added signage on campus buildings named for distinguished women.

Graduate Mentor of the Year Award

JR Dennison, Physics; College of Science

Dennison merged space research strengths at USU with his interest in electron scattering to establish the Materials Physics Group.

Since arriving at Utah State in 1988, Dennison has mentored more than 40 graduate and 140 undergraduate student researchers.

On average, his doctorate students are lead authors on three papers and secondary authors on an additional six.

Undergraduate Faculty Mentor of the Year Award

Brian Champagne, Journalism and Communication; College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Because he is uniquely situated in both the professional and academic worlds, Champagne’s students receive on-the-job mentoring and counsel for their future careers.

Many assignments in his classes find their way on air at Utah Public Radio, or into the hands of newspaper editors and ultimately launch careers.

Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentor of the Year Award

Breanne Litts, Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences, Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services

Litts investigates how people learn through making, designing and producing at the intersection of the physical and digital worlds. Her lab draws a diverse set of undergraduate students from across the colleges at the university.

Litts’ mentees are encouraged and supported in developing their own projects and engage in peer-to-peer mentoring—something appreciated and celebrated by many of her students, both current and former.

The ceremony, hosted by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost and Office of Research, recognized faculty members’ accomplishments during the past year. The newly formatted awards ceremony announced all USU faculty awards that were previously announced at the Robins Awards, Research Week and other events.

USU President Noelle Cockett acknowledged the outstanding work of the nominees, awardees and those who participated in the awards ceremony.

“This past year has had incredible challenges, but I have seen our faculty, staff and students rise to new heights, adapt to every twist and turn and achieve successes in new and exciting ways,” said Cockett. “I enthusiastically celebrate the accomplishments you have had this year. This last year would have been completely impossible without your dedication and perseverance. Thank you.”

Frank Galey, executive vice president and provost, joined Lisa Berreau, vice president for research, to emcee the event. Awards were announced much like the Golden Globes or Grammys with different presenters for each award opening a sealed envelope to announce the winner live on Zoom. The presenters did not have knowledge of the winner until they opened the sealed envelope. Those recipients were allowed a brief moment to make a few remarks.

“This event gives us a welcomed and unique opportunity to shine a spotlight on you, our faculty and the world-class research, teaching, outreach and service you do each and every day,” said Galey, in his opening remarks.

USU administration, including Cockett, Galey, vice presidents, vice provosts, deans and department heads attended the event. The virtual format allowed for more attendees than a traditional in-person ceremony, with nominees inviting colleagues, friends and families to tune in.

Berreau acknowledged the exceptional work accomplished under the strain of the pandemic.

“I can’t imagine a better group of faculty members with whom to weather this storm, and I have watched with awe and pride as you’ve accomplished as many incredible things as you do each and every year,” said Berreau to the faculty nominees.

More information about the USU Faculty Awards and nomination processes can be found For a complete list of the nominees, visit the USU Faculty Awards Ceremony webpage.

Faculty award recipients from left to right: Ryan Dupont, Cazier Lifetime Achievement Award; Ronald Sims, D. Wynne Thorne Career Research Award; and Kathleen Riggs, E.G. Peterson Extension Award.

Faculty award recipients from left to right: Heloisa Rutigliano, Eldon J. Gardner Teacher of the Year Award; Regan Zane, Faculty Researcher of the Year Award; and Joyce Kinkead, Faculty University Service Award.

Faculty award recipients from left to right: JR Dennison, Graduate Mentor of the Year Award; Brian Champagne, Undergraduate Faculty Mentor of the Year Award; Breanne Litts, Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentor of the Year Award.


Celestyn Lendor
Marketing Manager
Global Engagement


Celestyn Lendor
Marketing Manager
Global Engagement

Anna McEntire
Office of Research
Executive Director of Research Communications
(435) 797-7631

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