2018 Faculty Mentor award recipients

Current and former students nominated the professors in each Virginia Tech college who received the Graduate School's Outstanding Faculty Mentor awards. Learn more about the 2018 recipients below. 

picture of a student and 2018 College of Agriculture and Life Sciences outstanding mentor Richard Veilleux in a greenhouse working with plants
2018 College of Agriculture and Life Sciences outstanding faculty mentor Richard Veilleux, on right, with a student.

Richard Veilleux, the Julian and Margaret Gary Professor of Horticulture and Interim Head of the Department of Horticulture, has received the Graduate School’s 2018 Faculty Outstanding Mentor Award for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Sponsored by the Graduate School, the annual award recognizes excellence in mentoring graduate students. Students nominate recipients, and one professor from each college receives an award. Current doctoral candidate in Horticulture, Parker Laimbeer, submitted the nomination, and solicited input from former students.

Veilleux’s research focuses on plant breeding and genetics, with an emphasis on the potato. His work has used a range of modern tools, including genomics, transgenics, molecular marker analysis and plant cell and tissue culture for plant improvement. He contributed to the development of the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville and has collaborated with scientists both nationally and internationally. He has published more than 100 refereed journal articles and several book chapters. Most of these publications feature graduate students as first or co-authors.

Several of the students who nominated Veilleux spoke of his weekly lab meetings, group activities and journal clubs that encouraged them to work with each other and build community. He has mentored 41 graduate students over the past 37 years, and is known for supporting their goals, encouraging them to maintain a healthy balance between their graduate studies and their personal lives. His students credit him for modeling collegiality, balance, perseverance and the ability to accept constructive criticism and to learn. Karen Snider, his 11th graduate student and currently Assistant Dean at the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Missouri, said, “The training I received under Dr. Veilleux’s mentorship has profoundly impacted my career to the benefit of my current profession and the students who I train.”

Veilleux earned his bachelor’s degree from Tufts University, his master’s degree from the University of British Columbia, and his doctoral degree from the University of Minnesota.

College of Architecture and Urban Sciences 2018 outstanding faculty mentor award winner Max Stephenson Jr.

portrait photo of College of Architecture and Urban Sciences 2018 outstanding faculty mentor award winner Max Stephenson Jr.  in his office with bookshelves in the background
College of Architecture and Urban Sciences 2018 outstanding faculty mentor Max Stephenson Jr.

Max Stephenson Jr., Professor of Public and International Affairs and Director of the Institute for Policy and Governance, has received the Graduate School’s 2018 Faculty Outstanding Mentor Award for the College of Architecture and Urban Studies.

Sponsored by the Graduate School, the annual award recognizes excellence in mentoring graduate students. Students nominate recipients, and one professor from each college receives an award.

Stephenson’s current research and teaching interest include collaborative governance, leadership and democratic politics, arts and community change processes, NGO’s and International development, peacebuilding and humanitarian relief.  He is the author or editor of several books and more than 60 refereed articles and book chapters, in addition to two online commentary series: Soundings and Tidings. He has served on or chaired committees for more than 190 graduate students during his 29-year career at Virginia Tech. He previously received the Excellence in Scholarship award from the College of Architecture and Urban Studies and the Outstanding Faculty Award from the Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought program.

Past and current students described Stephenson’s mentorship as a combination of patience, empathy, respect, and passion for providing support and guidance. Former student Scott Tate said, “I regularly encounter former students of Max, who uniformly praise his character, his support, his accessibility, and his encouragement.” Students also said they found collegiality, support, and academic challenge in the interdisciplinary Community Change Collaborative, formerly Community Voices, housed at IPG.

Students noted that he also provides them a place to publish thoughts on their research and on current topics influencing governance via the RE: Reflections and Explorations blog and books. In addition to his efforts to help their research and publication efforts, his current and former students praised his editing, teaching, and collaboration, and several said he served as a role model for them.

Stephenson earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Virginia.

image of College of Engineering 2018 outstanding faculty mentor Holly Matusovich i a blue jacket standing near a wooden pillar
College of Engineering 2018 outstanding faculty mentor Holly Matusovich.

Holly Matusovich, associate professor and assistant department head for graduate programs in the Department of Engineering Education, has received the Graduate School’s 2018 Faculty Outstanding Mentor Award for the College of Engineering.

Sponsored by the Graduate School, the annual award recognizes excellence in mentoring graduate students. Students nominate recipients, and one professor from each college receives an award.

Matusovich spent 12 years in the professional world before becoming a university professor. Her research focuses on understanding and influencing student and faculty motivation and student identity development in the context of engineering education and professional careers. Matusovich’s has received $5 million in sponsored research projects and has published numerous journal articles and book chapters. She has advised 12 doctoral students and served on 21 graduate student committees at Virginia Tech.

“She [Holly] works to develop a deep understanding of each of her mentees and set academic standards accordingly,” John Morelock said Ph.D. candidate (in what engineering discipline?). She consistently works with students to help them set and reach new achievements and models exemplary technical and ethical practices in her field.”

Morelock’s words were echoed by all of the students who nominated her. Several former students said her guidance was invaluable after they graduated and began their professional lives. Several current and former students noted that Matusovich helped them overcome obstacles and work through difficult life experiences to achieve their goals and that it would not have been possible without her care and support.

Matusovich has developed an inclusive research group. Meetings are so popular that former students join by phone. She has encouraged her students to write for publication and presentation and has helped them hone grant-writing skills.

 Matusovich earned her bachelor’s degree from Cornell University, her master’s degree from the University of Connecticut, and her doctoral from Purdue University.

Matthew (Matt) Wisnioski, Associate Professor, Science and Technology in Society, XCaliber Award winner

image of College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences 2018 outstanding faculty mentor Matt Wisnioski sitting by a computer server
College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences 2018 outstanding faculty mentor Matthew Wisnioski.

Matthew Wisnioski, associate professor in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society, has received the Graduate School’s 2018 Faculty Outstanding Mentor Award for the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

Sponsored by the Graduate School, the annual award recognizes excellence in mentoring graduate students. Students nominate recipients, and one professor from each college receives an award.

Wisnioski is a senior fellow in the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology; a faculty member in the Human-Centered Design Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program; and an affiliated faculty member in the Department of History in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and the Department of Engineering Education in the College of Engineering. He studies the interplay between expertise and imagination in science, technology, and innovation. He is the author of Engineers for Change: Competing Visions of Technology in 1960s America, published by MIT Press in 2012, and an associate editor of the journal Engineering Studies.

During his tenure at Virginia Tech, Wisnioski has mentored 20 graduate students, and his former students now hold teaching and research positions at a number of universities. The graduate students who nominated Wisnioski for the Faculty Outstanding Mentor Award said he was a joy to work with, providing insightful feedback and encouragement, and helping them develop personalized research trajectories and career plans. Students said he also helped them secure research funding and find opportunities to present and publish their work. He treats advisees as “trustworthy, competent junior scholars and teachers,” the students wrote in their nomination letter.

Wisnioski earned his bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and his master’s and doctoral degrees from Princeton University. 

College of Natural Resources and the Environment 2018 outstanding faculty mentor Sarah Karpanty

College of Natural Resources and the Environment 2018 outstanding faculty mentor Sarah Karpanty against a backdrop of different colored wood panels
College of Natural Resources and the Environment 2018 outstanding faculty mentor Sarah Karpanty.

Sarah Karpanty, an associate professor and assistant department head in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, has received the Graduate School’s 2018 Faculty Outstanding Mentor Award for the College of Natural Resources and Environment.

Sponsored by the Graduate School, the annual award recognizes excellence in mentoring graduate students. Students nominate recipients, and one professor from each college receives an award.

Karpanty studies how individual animal behavior influences populations and community ecology and how human activities alter animal behavior. Most of her funded research and focus has been on coastal wildlife population in the United States, but she also studies these fields in Madagascar. She has received more than $14 million in research grants and projects while at Virginia Tech, and has authored numerous articles. She also serves as the graduate program coordinator for the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation.

Her approach to mentorship is “engaging, enlightened, and rigorous,” said students who nominated her. She helps students secure grants needed for their work and fosters strong relationships with them. Students who were on her Madagascar research team said she worked tirelessly to ensure their safety during an outbreak of the plague on the island. Students also noted that Karpanty helped them develop mentoring skills and modeled effective teaching practices for them as well. Zach Farris, now a visiting assistant professor at Appalachian State University said, “Her type of mentoring, which combines tough and effective advising with respectful and caring friendship, is truly a rare thing and ensures that her students will continue to find success.”

Karpanty earned her bachelor’s degree at Miami University and her Ph.D. at The State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Roseanne J Foti, Psych.

Portrait photo of College of Science outstanding faculty mentor Roseanne Foti
College of Science 2018 outstanding faculty mentor Roseanne Foti.

Roseanne Foti, associate professor of psychology and director of the Interface of Leadership and Teams Lab, has received the Graduate School’s 2018 Faculty Outstanding Mentor Award for the College of Science.

Sponsored by the Graduate School, the annual award recognizes excellence in mentoring graduate students. Students nominate recipients, and one professor from each college receives an award.

Foti’s research focuses on leadership perceptions, how leaders emerge in groups and teams, and on leader-follower relationships. She also is interested in ways to improve the effectiveness of interdisciplinary research teams and developed a model to enhance teamwork skills on stuch teams. Additionally, she is actively involved in AdvanceVT, an initiative aimed at preparing, recruiting, and retaining high quality, diverse faculty members at Virginia Tech. She has partnered with units across the university to develop assistantship programs for psychology doctoral students.

According to its website, Foti’s lab is “dedicated to conducting scholarly work relating to leadership and team issues facing today’s organizations from a scientist-practitioner perspective.” She has published numerous articles and is a fellow of the Society for Industrial/Organizational Psychology (SIOP) and received an award for distinguished teaching contributions from the Society. Foti also received the University Alumni Teaching Award in 2005.

Foti has mentored 30 graduate students, who have gone on to careers in academia and in professional fields. Those who nominated Foti said she sees her role as that of a catalyst for students, facilitating change and “bringing together the right components and letting them interact in such a way as to create positive outcomes.” Doctoral student Maureen McCusker said, “Rather than placing and directing students on their paths to success, she develops a firm understanding of every one of them and strategically guides each to finding that path on his or her own.” Elizabeth Kolmstetter, Director of Workforce Engagement at the National Atmospheric and Space Administration, said of Foti, “I wonder if Roseanne ever realizes the magnitude of her impact as a mentor and role model.”

Foti earned her Ph.D. from the University of Akron.

Cliff Ragsdale

image of Pamplin College of Business 2018 outstanding faculty mentor Cliff Ragsdale sitting with a student working on an open notebook
Pamplin College of Business 2018 outstanding faculty mentor Cliff Ragsdale, on left, with a student.

Cliff Ragsdale, the Bank of America professor of business information technology, has received the Graduate School’s 2018 Faculty Outstanding Mentor Award for the Pamplin College of Business.

Sponsored by the Graduate School, the annual award recognizes excellence in mentoring graduate students. Students nominate recipients, and one professor from each college receives an award.

Ragsdale’s primary research focuses on applications of quantitative modeling techniques to managerial decision making problems. He has served as a financial, statistical and information systems consultant for numerous major businesses across a range of industries. He has authored a textbook and numerous articles, and has given more than 60 presentations at conferences.

He serves as director of graduate programs for his department and is the academic director of the Pamplin Center for Business Intelligence and Analytics. Those who nominated him noted that in all of his roles, he works closely with graduate students. He has been a member or chair of more than 30 graduate committees and received the outstanding faculty in doctoral education award from Pamplin College of Business in 2017.

His nominators said he is known for “the integrity, care and kindness with which he handles each graduate student relationship.”  Current and former students noted Ragsdale is a positive role model with high ethical standards and a passion for his work. Zeb Bowden a former student who earned a Ph.D. said, Ragsdale creates a positive and inclusive environment in the classroom and strove to ensure students understood and could apply the complex concepts and materials in play. Professor Megan Wydick Martin, a former student now at Meredith College, said Ragsdale offered unwavering support and encouragement while she was completing her Ph.D. and also caring for a son born with a genetic disorder who required a great deal of medical care during his first year of life. “What is also staggering is how the efforts of one person can truly make a difference in so many lives,” she said.

Ragsdale earned his Ph.D. from the University of Georgia and his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Central Florida.

Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine 2018 outstanding faculty mentor Michelle Theus

image of Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine 2018 outstanding faculty mentor Michelle Theus in her lab with three students working in the background.
Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine 2018 outstanding faculty mentor Michelle Theus.

Michelle Theus, assistant professor of molecular and cellular neurobiology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, assistant professor in the Faculty of Heath Sciences, and director of the Theus Laboratory, has received the Graduate School’s 2018 Faculty Outstanding Mentor Award for the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.

Sponsored by the Graduate School, the annual award recognizes excellence in mentoring graduate students. Students nominate recipients, and one professor from each college receives an award.

Theus’s work focuses on stem cell therapy, especially the potential for “self-healing,” which uses the patient’s stem cells in the healing process. “The goal of my research is to understand how these innate stem cells contribute to adult central nervous system repair following traumatic injury, an area that has very limited regenerative potential,” she said.

The Theus lab is an interdisciplinary brain injury research team that focuses on discovering new therapies for stroke and traumatic brain injury victims. The lab works closely with Center for One Health and Regenerative Medicine, Integrated Health and Biomedical Science program, and the School of Neuroscience. Theus also is lead faculty member on the Regenerative Medicine team, an Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program. She and her team have received several awards for their research and she has published numerous articles in top journals.

Those who nominated Theus said she possesses the ability to translate complex concepts in neuroscience to whatever language is most relevant to the student – regardless of whether that student is from a clinical background, basic science background, or possesses no background knowledge at all.” Alumnus Thomas Brickler called Theus “one of the finest, brightest, most passionate scientist I have ever had the pleasure of working with.” He went on to note she always finds time for her students, and leads by hands-on example, sharing her contagious love for science.

Current student Yeonwoo Lebovitz said “Dr. Theus fosters a welcoming, learning environment where lab members feel like they are part of a tightly knit research family.” Lebovitz said the lab is never lacking for undergraduate and graduate students, or postdocs, who want to work with Theus and her team. Current student Amanda Hazy said Theus encourages her students to write grant proposals and to present their work at regional and national conferences, and she helps them prepare their posters and presentations. “She encourages her students’ professional development, and helps us grow personally through her example and interaction with us.”

Theus earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Ohio, her master’s degree from the University of Texas, and her Ph.D. from the Medical University of South Carolina.