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Three professors lauded as emerging academic stars

Oct. 19, 2007

KALAMAZOO--Three young faculty members at Western Michigan University will be honored as emerging scholars at an Oct. 25 campuswide awards ceremony.

Dr. Stephen Covell, associate professor of comparative religion and director of the Michitoshi Soga Japan Center; Igor Fedotov, associate professor of music; and Dr. David Huffman, associate professor of chemistry; will receive their awards during WMU's Academic Convocation ceremonies at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, in the Dalton Center Recital Hall.

The Emerging Scholar Award program was launched late last year to acknowledge the accomplishments of WMU faculty members who are among the rising stars in U.S. higher education. It is designed to celebrate the contributions of faculty who are in the first decade of their careers at WMU and who, by virtue of their contributions to scholarship or creative activity, have achieved national recognition and demonstrated outstanding promise to achieve renown in their continuing work. The award carries a $2,000 cash prize for each recipient.

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2007 Emerging Faculty Scholars

Dr. Stephen Covell's area of focus is Japanese studies and Asian Buddhism, and he holds the Mary Meader Professorship of Comparative Religion. His most recent book, "Japanese Temple Buddhism: Worldliness in a Religion of Renunciation," is considered a landmark work that has opened a new field of study on contemporary Buddhism.

A WMU colleague who spearheaded Covell's nomination for the Emerging Scholar Award, noted the reputation Covell has already established in his field and pointed to the caliber of the scholars who also wrote letters in support of the nomination as well as other indicators.

"One sure piece of evidence that Covell has garnered international professional recognition," his colleague wrote, "is that other universities have tried to lure him away from Western Michigan University, most notably Cambridge University, which made him a job offer in 2006."

A scholar from another major U.S. university noted that "Stephen has already changed the field of Buddhist studies in a significant way by drawing attention to the vitality and importance of contemporary Buddhist practice in Japan...Stephen is one of the most impressive new voices in Japanese religious and Buddhist studies...he is virtually creating a new area of research and focus for the field."

Covell came to WMU in 2003 after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at Tokyo University. Prior to that, he served as a research associate and then a translator at the International Christian University in Tokyo. He earned a doctoral degree in Japanese religion from Princeton University in 2001 and also served as a teaching assistant there. Additionally, he holds a bachelor's degree from the University of California-San Diego and a master's degree from the University of Hawaii.


Igor Fedotov, who joined the WMU School of Music faculty in 1998, teaches viola courses and coordinates string chamber music for the University. He also enjoys an established career as a viola artist. In 2006, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholar grant to lecture and conduct research in his native Russia and to continue his research on music written for viola and piano by 20th-century Russian-Soviet composers as well as to record a CD of those works.

He has presented solo recitals throughout the United States and abroad. As a chamber musician, he has performed with such internationally accomplished musicians as Anner Bylsma, Martin Lovett, Ivan Monighetti, Sally Chisholm and Charles Pikler as well as the Lemmov Trio, Thouvenel String Quartet, Camerata Boccherini Baroque Ensemble and Veronica String Quartet.

Among those who nominated him was a campus colleague who noted the influence Fedotov already has had on his discipline.

"Many musicians would be happy to have the record of impact that he has (already) had at the end of their careers; Igor's career is still unfolding," the colleague wrote in a letter of nomination.

Another musician and colleague noted Fedotov's artistry, teaching skill and contributions through his research.

"...He has established himself as one of our brightest among relatively few luminaries on the viola," noted the colleague. "...Professor Fedotov's impressive record of achievement will be extended in the coming years, as he is only now approaching the best of his professional years."

Fedotov earned a bachelor of music degree from Azerbaijan State Musical College and a master of music degree from Azerbaijan State Conservatory, both located in the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan.


Dr. David Huffman works in the area of metallobiochemistry, and he has published groundbreaking work on the topic of copper ion transfer. He recently received two grants, including the prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER award, to study the cellular acquisition of copper and how in-born defects of this process lead to Wilson disease, a rare genetic affliction.

A nomination letter from a scientist at another U.S. university noted Huffman's impressive output over the past three years, saying, "papers he published during this amazing period have become landmarks in the field.

"David is well known all over the world as a leader in the field," the same scientist wrote. "Everyone wants to collaborate with him. The list includes investigators at Cornell, Michigan and Dartmouth in the USA, and Florence and Bari, Italy, and Deakin, Australia, overseas."

A WMU scientist noted Huffman's growing demand as an invited lecturer as evidence of his promise for the future. The same colleague also pointed to Huffman's impact on students, many of whom he has brought into his research, and his influence on students ranging from the high school to graduate school levels.

"He has exhibited patience, leadership and an uncanny ability to motivate them toward a brighter future in their chosen career," the colleague wrote.

Huffman earned his bachelor's degree in chemistry from Bob Jones University in 1983, a master's degree in inorganic chemistry from Illinois State University in 1989 and a doctoral degree in inorganic chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1994. He subsequently spent seven years at Northwestern University conducting postdoctoral work in bioinorganic chemistry before coming to WMU in 2001 as an assistant professor of chemistry.


Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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