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University honors 2013 Usibelli Award recipients


Chancellor Brian Rogers, Joe Usibelli, Jr., Jonathan Rosenberg, Catherine Cahill, Jeffrey Freymueller and Provost Susan Henrichs.

UAF photo by JR Ancheta

The University of Alaska Fairbanks has announced recipients of the 2013 Emil Usibelli Distinguished Teaching, Research and Public Service Awards.

Jonathan Rosenberg, professor of political science in the College of Liberal Arts, received the teaching award; Jeffrey Freymueller, professor of geophysics at the UAF Geophysical Institute and College of Natural Science and Mathematics, received the research award; and Catherine Cahill, associate professor of chemistry at the UAF Geophysical Institute and the College of Natural Science and Mathematics, received the service award. All three were honored at a reception Monday at the UA Museum of the North.

Rosenberg joined UAF in 1993. In the two decades since then, he has distinguished himself as a versatile, engaged and effective educator.

“Dr. Rosenberg is the complete package; he is an outstanding professor in all areas of his tripartite appointment,” said CLA Dean Todd Sherman. “He is one of our most thoughtful, steadfast and caring professors. He is a teacher who is constantly updating and looking for ways to improve his courses.”

Sometimes, Rosenberg finds that inspiration in the students that he teaches.

“Over the years, I have learned equally from the knowledge and experiences my students bring to the classroom and the ways that they learn or struggle with what I try to impart,” he said. “I learn from their engagement in and disengagement from the subject matter I teach; their flashes of brilliance and their distractedness; their openness to new ideas and their intellectual stubbornness; their generosity of spirit and their occasional crankiness.”

His talent as a teacher is reflected in high marks from those who take his courses, graduate or undergraduate, upper- or lower-level. He’s known for building basic skills in his students while seeking ways to enrich their educational experiences via internships, theses and global studies.

“Dr. Rosenberg, more than any faculty member at UAF I’ve known, works on a one-on-one basis with students to help them attain their objectives,” said political science department chair Jerry McBeath. “The outcomes of his work are impressive: students who, upon graduation from UAF, entered highly competitive law and doctoral programs; students who found employment in government agencies or corporations; students who now excite their own students at other universities with the ideas and passion inspired by Rosenberg.”

Rosenberg has three political science degrees: a bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University and a master’s degree and doctorate from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Freymueller joined the Geophysical Institute in 1995 after serving four years as a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University.
His work since then has focused on measuring how the Earth deforms as the result of geologic processes. He is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of GPS field monitoring in the state.

“Jeff built this program in Alaska from the ground up, literally, beginning with the installation of GPS networks where none existed. He has developed a processing system, research group and funding to apply these data to questions with global impact,” said Michael West, an associate professor who nominated Freymueller for the award. “Through countless collaborations, research projects, papers and professional meetings he has brought international attention to UAF and helped secure UAF as an indispensible collaborator for any researcher pursuing questions of North Pacific plate tectonics.”

Freymueller’s work frequently crosses multiple disciplines, as he studies how the Earth’s surface reacts to a wide variety of factors, including volcanic and tectonic forces, as well as ice and hydrologic loads.

“Because of his research, the largest scale plate motions have been defined and refined,” said GI director Bob McCoy. “Professor Freymueller’s efforts have fundamentally changed our understanding of how tectonic deformation is exhibited both globally and particularly in Alaska.”

In addition to his core research, Freymueller is the coordinating scientist at the Alaska Volcano Observatory, which is a collaborative project between UAF and the U.S. Geological Survey. In that role, he leads the efforts of affiliated UAF researchers of various disciplines as they help monitor volcanic activity throughout the state.

Freymueller earned his bachelor’s degree in geophysics from the California Institute of Technology and his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of South Carolina.

Cahill joined the faculty at UAF in 1998. She is well-regarded as a teacher and researcher, in addition to a stellar record of service both inside the university and in the public realm.

She has served on at least three-dozen university service and governance groups in the last 15 years, including stints as president of the UAF Faculty Senate and chair of the UAF Faculty Affairs Committee. She is currently chair of the UA Faculty Alliance.

Cahill is well known locally for her work on air quality and is currently chair of the Fairbanks North Star Borough’s Air Pollution Control Commission.

“She has particularly endeared herself to the Fairbanks public by contributing her time as an impartial expert, articulating the scientific issues relating to air pollution in town,” McCoy said. “She has worked tirelessly with the Fairbanks North Star Borough’s Air Quality Division and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s Division of Air Quality to assist the borough’s attempts to come into compliance with National Ambient Air Quality Standards.”

In addition to her more formal service activities, Cahill demonstrates dedication to sharing her scientific experience and knowledge with schoolchildren and adults. She frequently gives public lectures and is a reliable source of information for journalists. In local schools, she is often called on to judge science fairs and do classroom demonstrations, work that stands to inspire the next generation of researchers.

“Dr. Cahill is one of the most successful associate professors at the Geophysical Institute and one of the most energetic, tireless and selfless contributors of her service to UAF,” McCoy said.

Cahill earned a bachelor’s degree in applied physics from the University of California, Davis, and a master’s degree and doctorate in atmospheric sciences from University of Washington and University of Nevada, Reno, respectively.

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 Usibelli Coal Mine in 1992.

Each year, a committee that includes members from the faculty, the student body and a member of the UA Foundation Board of Trustees evaluates the nominees. Each of the winners receives a cash award of $10,000.

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