University Affairs

USU Recognizes Outstanding Efforts in 2022 Faculty Awards Ceremony

By Tabitha Smiel |

Exceptional faculty across the Utah State University system were celebrated at the 2022 Faculty Awards Ceremony on Thursday, hosted jointly by the Office of Research and the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost.

The event, which marked the second year of the combined awards ceremony, was in-person for the first time after being launched virtually in 2021. It was also a special occasion, as 10 of the 11 institutional award recipients are women.

The 11 awards and recipients are as follows:

The Cazier Lifetime Award is awarded to faculty members who have demonstrated excellence in their academic careers at USU for 20 or more years of employment. This year’s recipient is Nicholas Morrison, a professor from the Caine College of the Arts in the Music Department. Morrison has been at Utah State for more than three decades, and in that time has continually served the institution, the faculty, students and the extended communities.

From mentoring music students at USU or those going to school on the Southeast Utah Navajo Reservation to serving as the provost’s senior writer on faculty code revision, chairing the university’s EPC/Curriculum committee, fundraising for community, state and national music organizations, and chairing both search and promotion committees, Morrison’s commitment to excellence in service has been exemplary.

The D. Wynne Thorne Career Research Award is the premiere research recognition at Utah State University and is awarded each year to a senior faculty member who has produced a significant portion of their research at USU. The 2022 recipient of the award is Melanie Domenech Rodríguez of the Psychology Department in the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services.

Domenech Rodríguez was the recipient for her extensive, high-impact research that has positively influenced human lives. She has published 87 peer-reviewed journal articles, four books, 21 book chapters, 27 non-peer reviewed articles, and 17 manuals or instruments, and 13 of these papers have been cited more than 100 times.

Her approach to teaching and training is systematic and evidence-based, whether at the undergraduate level in psychology or the graduate level in physician assistant studies. Her scholarship in cultural adaptation has put additional empirically supported techniques in the hands of psychological providers working with ethnically and culturally diverse families and clients.

The recipient of the E.G. Peterson Extension Award is Margie Memmott, a USU Extension associate professor, the Home and Community Department director, and the family and consumer sciences state program leader. This award honors an Extension professional who has done a distinguished job keeping USU’s goals in their careers at the university, and is one of the most prestigious awards given out by USU Extension.

Memmott has worked for Utah State University Extension for more than 30 years and is a paragon of professional excellence, leadership, innovation, and commitment to the mission and goals of USU. As a leader and respected mentor, Memmott has empowered faculty to publish hundreds of fact sheets and journal articles, generated millions of dollars in external funds for research and other causes, and crafted experiences that help children, youth and adults reach their full potential. By working to make the Home and Community Department more expansive and inclusive, she has helped those in her department better meet the needs of Utah residents.

The Eldon J. Gardner Teacher of the Year Award recognizes USU's most excellent teaching staff. This year's recipient is Jenifer Evers, a clinical associate professor at the Moab Campus from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences in the Social Work Department.

Evers’ teaching has a significant impact on her students, both now and in their careers, through her work in the classroom, within the field practicum, and through ongoing mentoring of students across campuses. As a practicing social worker, she both integrates her professional experience in the classroom and brings a view to her teaching that educating future social workers is her professional social work practice.

The Faculty Researcher of the Year Award recognizes some of USU's most excellent researchers. Susannah French, the 2022 recipient of the award, is a professor and associate department head in the Department of Biology in the College of Science. French has built a nationally and internationally lauded research program in vertebrate physiological ecology, where she has published more than 90 journal articles and two book chapters during her career.

Since 2017, she has garnered an NSF RAPID grant, NSF Integrative Organismal Systems grant, two Department of Defense/U.S. Fish and Wildlife grants, and numerous foundational, supplemental and internal seed grants. She has received more than $2.5 million in external and internal funding to support her research enterprises and student training.

The Faculty University Service Award recognizes excellence in service for the governing operations of the university. This year's recipient is Vicki Allan, an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science in the College of Science. Allan has 35 years of service and has served on dozens of committees, including the Faculty Senate, the Women and Gender Research Institute, and the Faculty Diversity, Development and Equity Committee.

Allan is described by peers as “a strong advocate in supporting our young faculty and giving them the personal support they need to succeed.” Particularly impressive are her innovative contributions to encourage women in computer science. More than 550 young women have participated in programs created by Allan.

The Outstanding Graduate Mentor of the Year Award recognizes USU mentors who have done a notable job helping their graduate students prepare for a professional career. This year's recipient is Rose Hu, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering who also serves as an associate dean in the College of Engineering.

Hu directs the Communications Network Innovation Lab, and her research includes next-generation wireless system design and optimization, Internet of Things, cyber physical systems, and artificial intelligence in wireless networks.

Since joining Utah State in 2011, she has advised seven doctoral researchers, eight Ph.D. students, 10 visiting Ph.D. students, and six master’s students. Hu has published three books, four book chapters, 135 journal articles and 150 refereed conference papers. She holds 30 patents.

The Undergraduate Faculty Mentor of the Year Award is awarded to USU mentors who have done an outstanding job helping their undergraduate students prepare for a career. The 2022 awardee is Polly Conrad, a senior lecturer in the Department of Data Analytics and Information Systems in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business.

Conrad’s involvement in various student initiatives and organizations is staggering. She is involved with the Huntsman School Scholars Program, USU Connections, the department’s growing Analytics Solutions Center, its Analytics Teaching Fellows Program, and the Huntsman School’s annual She’s Daring Mighty Things” event, to name a few. Conrad has been a critical partner as the department creates new opportunities for students through both their burgeoning Analytics Teaching Fellow program and their Analytics Solution Center.

The Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year Award specifically recognizes faculty members who have focused on research mentorship and acted as role models in the field of research. Elizabeth Vargis, an associate professor in the Department of Biological Engineering in the College of Engineering, is the 2022 recipient.

Vargis has the largest number of undergraduates who have received Utah State Undergraduate Research and Creative Opportunities (URCO) awards, and she has received an NIH Research Enhancement Award for $400,000 to support undergraduate researchers in her lab. Vargis also serves as the faculty adviser for the Society of Women Engineers. In her eight and a half years at Utah State, she has mentored 49 undergraduate researchers.

The Community Engaged Faculty Award recognizes a faculty member who does an excellent job of incorporating a community-based style into their teaching, or has conducted community-engaged research. This year's awardee is Aurora Hughes Villa from the School of Teacher Education and Leadership in the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services

Professor Hughes Villa’s extensive contributions reach beyond USU to local elementary arts education and public art initiatives. Her community outreach earned her the 2020-2021 Utah Art Education Association Higher Education Art Educator of the Year award, and she was the faculty recipient for USU’s Presidential Award for Civic and Community Engagement.

The recipient of the Diversity Faculty Award is Christy Glass from the Center for Intersectional Gender Studies and Research and the Sociology and Anthropology Department in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. The Diversity Faculty Award is given to a faculty member who has furthered the principles of affirmative action, equal opportunity and diversity while at USU.

Glass is engaged in extensive research of best practices to recruit and hire faculty from underrepresented and marginalized groups. She has chaired four searches within the sociology program that have resulted in the hiring of five international scholars of color into tenure-track positions.

Those interested in a complete list of all the USU faculty who were nominated for these awards can visit

Nicholas Morrison

Melanie Domenech Rodríguez

Margie Memmott

Jenifer Evers

Susannah French

Vicki Allan

Rose Hu

Polly Conrad

Elizabeth Vargis

Aurora Hughes Villa

Christy Glass


Tabitha Smiel
Communications Assistant
Office of Research


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

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