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Usibelli honors leaders in teaching, research, service

Submitted by Carla Browning
Phone: (907) 474-7778


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UAF photo by Todd Paris
Yelena Matusevich

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A. David McGuire

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Shirish Patil

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The University of Alaska Fairbanks has announced the recipients of the 2007 Emil Usibelli Distinguished Teaching, Research and Public Service awards. Yelena Matusevich, associate professor of French, will receive the teaching award; A. David McGuire, professor of ecology, will receive the research award; and Shirish Patil, associate professor of petroleum engineering, will receive the public service award. They will be honored at a reception May 7 at 3:45 p.m. in Wood Center Conference Rooms C and D.

Matusevich has been teaching languages for 15 years, the last eight at UAF. She was nominated for the award by one of her students, Yuliya Kermes, who noted Matusevich's enthusiasm and creativity.

"When she spots a talent in a student, she encourages it, helping to find opportunities to grow and extend (that) student's personal knowledge," said Kermes. "After taking several UAF classes with her, I believe that Mrs. Matusevich is exemplary in her contributions to her students' personal and academic growth."

Matusevich has spent much of her time at UAF revamping and expanding the French program. She has created several new classes and increased extracurricular and exchange opportunities. Enrollment in the program has increased in recent years and retention is high.

"The French program " has benefited tremendously from her dedication to and mentoring of advanced students, as evidenced by their very notable successes in foreign exchange, scholarship competition and graduate school admissions," said Phyllis Morrow, dean of the College of Liberal Arts.

Matusevich holds a master's degree in French and German and a doctorate in interdisciplinary French studies.

McGuire joined the UAF faculty in 1995 as an assistant professor with the Department of Biology and Wildlife and the Institute of Arctic Biology. Since then, he has gained international acclaim for his research on high-latitude terrestrial ecosystems and how they fit in the global climate system. His work includes dozens of publications and citations as well as grants in excess of $20 million. In recent years, he has worked on multiple synthesis papers and book chapters, which bring interdisciplinary research data together for a holistic view of a scientific question. Synthesis works often guide future research efforts and public policy discussions.

"His research contributions have garnered prestige (for) the University of Alaska Fairbanks and have made his work internationally recognized," said UAF assistant professor Debasmita Misra, who nominated McGuire. "While I do consider that alone to be significant for this coveted award, what I consider more significant is the merit of his contribution that has sparked new research in other disciplines."

McGuire holds bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering and master's and doctorate degrees in biology.

Patil first came to UAF 1983, when he worked as a research assistant in the Petroleum Development Laboratory while he pursued his second master's degree. Since then, he has continued to further his education and has worked his way up the ranks to his present position of chairman of the petroleum engineering department and director of the Petroleum Development Laboratory. His nominators include members of both the campus and Fairbanks community. The list of his service in local, state and national organizations and committees spans more than two pages in eight-point type and includes everything from professional organizations and university governance to student clubs and K-12 outreach.

"Shirish has certainly been successful and made important contributions in each of the three tripartite areas that make up his faculty appointment, but his service contributions truly shine and deserve special recognition," said Doug Goering, interim dean of the College of Engineering and Mines."

Patil holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and three engineering master's degrees. He will receive a doctorate in mineral resource engineering this month.

The Emil Usibelli Distinguished Teaching, Research and Public Service awards are considered one of the university's most prestigious awards. They represent UAF's tripartite mission and are funded annually from a $600,000 endowment established by the Usibelli Coal Mine in 1992. Nominees are evaluated by a committee, which includes members from the faculty, the student body and a member of the UA Foundation Board of Trustees. Each of the winners receives a cash award of $10,000.

Note to editors: High-resolution, downloadable photos are available at http://www.uaf.edu/files/news/download/releasephotos/07/usibelli/.