Chancellor Douglas A. Girod

University Scholarly Achievement Awards

The University Scholarly Achievement Award is a marquee award for our university and a way to recognize standout researchers who embody our mission to make discoveries that change the world.

Each year, the University of Kansas recognizes up to four mid-career faculty members as recipients of a University Scholarly Achievement Award. This $10,000 award recognizes a significant scholarly or research contribution, creative work (an exhibition, performance, composition, article or book, or major collaborative project) or a series of closely related contributions.

This award covers all fields of scholarship represented at the University of Kansas, including, but not limited to, arts, humanities, architecture and design, music, mathematics, natural sciences, engineering, medicine, clinical science, pharmacy, social sciences, social welfare, education, journalism, law, and business.

2020 recipients

Sarah Finocchario Kessler

Kessler’s research combines interests in global health, reproductive health and HIV to improve safer childbearing for people living with HIV. Her active studies in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania focus on safer conception strategies and e-health systems like the HIV Infant Tracking System (HITSystem) to support expedited diagnosis, treatment initiation and retention among pregnant women living with HIV and their infants. She is also partnering to develop alternative HIV drug delivery mechanisms ideal for infants to enhance medication adherence and survival.

Stuart Macdonald

Macdonald’s work has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health for many years, and it focuses on the area of quantitative genetics and genomics. His lab has recently focused on how genetic differences among individuals can affect their ability to deal with environmental toxins. His work with genetics and fruit flies has biomedical applications and can help us understand complex human genetic traits and diseases. He is a productive researcher in his discipline, having published more than 40 scientific papers and book chapters since 1999.

Laura Mielke

Mielke’s research focuses on politics and performance in American literature and culture from the late 18th century through the mid-19th century. Her most recent book focuses on the relationship between theatre and the antislavery movement in antebellum America. Her scholarship combines performance studies and critical race theory, and it relies on methodologies including close reading, archival research and digital editing. Her record of scholarship has given her an international reputation in the field of 19th century race and performance studies, and she serves as a mentor to both undergraduate and graduate students interested in her field of research.

Karrie Shogren

Shogren’s research focuses on self-determination and systems of support for people with disabilities. She has been an early contributor to theory and research in the application of self-determination to the education of learners with disabilities to enhance in school and post-school outcomes. She is an internationally recognized scholar in the field of special education, and she has published more than 160 peer-reviewed journal articles and is a co-author or co-editor on 18 books published or in production.



2021 award nominations

The Chancellor’s Office is now soliciting applications for the 2021 awards. The nomination deadline is December 18, 2020.

Selection Process

All nominations will be evaluated by a panel of eight individuals, representing the following areas:

  • Arts and Humanities
  • Science, Technology, and Mathematics
  • Medicine and Clinical Science
  • Social Science and Professional Programs

Members of the selection panel are appointed by the chancellor. The panel may recommend up to four awards each year, depending on the number of meritorious nominations. 


These contributions will be evaluated using the criteria below:

  • Advances the field of scholarship;
  • Exhibits novelty and originality;
  • Promotes scholarly and research activity or creative works at KU; and
  • Enhances the university’s national and international reputation.


To be eligible for consideration, the faculty member must hold the rank of Associate Professor or Full Professor; be within 10 years of appointment as an Associate Professor at the time of the current nomination; must have completed three academic years at KU; and must not have received a prior major KU award for this body of work.

Nomination Process

Individuals may self-nominate or be nominated by others. Departments may nominate more than one individual for the award.

A complete nomination should be sent by December 18, 2020, and must include:

  • Documentation of the scholarly or research contribution, or creative work, as appropriate for the discipline (e.g., articles, books, creative products);
  • A letter of nomination of no more than 750 words explaining in terms comprehensible to an educated layperson how the contribution meets the award criteria;
  • Curriculum Vita;
  • Two reference letters (at least one from outside KU) from individuals who are qualified to comment on the merits of the scholarly contribution.

Nominations and reference letters should be sent to:

Office of the Chancellor
ATTN: Scholarly Achievement Award Committee
1450 Jayhawk Boulevard
Room 230 Strong Hall
Lawrence, KS 66045

Nominations can also be sent electronically to with “Scholarly Achievement Award” in the subject line.

Nominations that were not successful last year may be re-submitted, if the nominee continues to meet the award criteria.


  • October 5, 2020: solicitation of nominations
  • December 18, 2020: deadline for submission of nominations and letters of support
  • January 11, 2021: nominations and letters of support provided to panel members
  • March 1, 2021: panel conveys its recommendations to the Chancellor
  • April 2021: awards ceremony


Video of 2019 ceremony

News and Past Winners

Four researchers receive University Scholarly Acheivement Awards honoring midcareer faculty (04/13/2020)
Chancellor to present four University Scholarly Achievement Awards on April 24 (04/03/2019)
Chancellor Girod to recognize five University Scholarly Achievement Award winners (03/15/2018)
Chancellor to present University Scholarly Achievement Awards (03/15/2017)
Chancellor to present University Scholarly Achievement Awards (04/18/2016)
Chancellor to present University Scholarly Achievement Awards (04/09/2015)
Chancellor to present University Scholarly Achievement Awards (04/08/2014)
Four researchers named recipients of University Scholarly Achievement Awards (04/16/2013)
Five researchers named recipients of University Scholarly Achievement Awards (3/27/2012)

Past Winners

Sarah Finocchario Kessler, Family Medicine and Community Health
Stuart Macdonald, Molecular Biosciences
Laura Mielke, English
Karrie Shogren, Special Education

Dale Dorsey, Philosophy
Kirsten Jensen, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, KU Biodiversity Institute
Paul W. Popiel, Music 
Franklin (Feng) Tao, Chemical and Petroleum Engineering 
VIDEO: Watch the full 2019 awards ceremony.

Kathleen Lynne Lane, Special Education 
Xiaogang Li, Internal Medicine, Biochemistry
Laura Moriarty, English 
Leigh Stearns, Geology
Jon Tunge, Chemistry 

VIDEO: Watch the full 2018 awards ceremony.

Nancy Brady, Speech-Language-Hearing
Kimber Richter, Preventive Medicine and Public Health
Dave Tell, Communication Studies
Joy Ward, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
VIDEO: Watch the full 2017 awards ceremony.

Christie Befort, Preventive Medicine, Public Health
Wen-Xing Ding, Pharmacy, Toxicology, Therapeutics
William Elliott, Social Welfare
Peter Grund, English
Greg Rudnick, Physics and Astronomy

Gregory Cushman, History
Wonpil Im, Molecular Biosciences
Andrew Torrance, Law
Atanas Stefanov, Mathematics

Michael Detamore, Chemical & Petroleum Engineering
Michael Engel, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Allen Greiner, Family Medicine
Steven Spooner, Music

Sally Cornelison, Art History
Don Haider-Markel, Political Science
Mikhail Medvedev, Physics and Astronomy
Thomas Prisinzano, Medicinal Chemistry

Jeffrey Moran, History
Russell Swerdlow, Neurology, Molecular and Integrative Physiology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Jeffrey Burns, Neurology
Cory Berkland, Chemical & Petroleum Engineering, and Pharmaceutical Chemistry
Donna Ginther, Economics

Brian Blagg, Medicinal Chemistry
Derrick Darby, Philosophy
Patricia Hawley, Psychology
Bangere Purnaprajna, Mathematics

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Chancellor's Vision

The mission of the University of Kansas is to lift students and society by educating leaders, building healthy communities, and making discoveries that change the world.

We will do that by raising the expectations we have for ourselves, the aspirations we have for our state, and the hopes we have for our world.