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Two professors dubbed rising stars

Oct. 17, 2008

KALAMAZOO--An internationally known expert on Internet use and online privacy and a filmmaker and multimedia specialist whose expertise is in the areas of feminist theory and intercultural communication will be honored by Western Michigan University as emerging scholars during an Oct. 30 campuswide awards ceremony.

Dr. Kuanchin Chen, associate professor of business information systems, and Dr. Jennifer Machiorlatti, associate professor of communication, will receive Emerging Scholar Awards during WMU's Academic Convocation ceremonies at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30, in the Dalton Center Recital Hall. The event will feature WMU President John M. Dunn's State of the University address as well as the presentation of several other campuswide awards honoring Distinguished Faculty Scholars, Distinguished Teaching Award recipients and those being honored with Distinguished Service Awards.

The Emerging Scholar Award program was launched late in 2006 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 goes to scholars nominated for consideration through a campuswide selection process and carries a $2,000 cash prize for each recipient.

Chen, a faculty member at WMU since 2001, was praised in nomination materials for his research, teaching and academic service in the areas of Internet user behavior, Internet dependency, electronic business and online privacy and security--specifically through steganography, the use of digital protection techniques that rely on hiding written messages in a way that only the sender and recipient realize there is a message.

"KC is one of the top researchers in our college and is also the best teacher in our department," wrote an admiring colleague. "It is his research that drives the contest and quality of the course materials he delivers in his class…Without his research in steganography, our students would not have the first-hand experience in learning how digital protection technologies could help improve the work environment on the Internet."

Chen was also praised widely for his productivity and the interdisciplinary nature of his research. He has published 35 refereed articles in journals and books and his work has been included in the proceedings of 25 conferences, with the majority of that taking place since he joined the WMU faculty.

"Dr. Chen's works in Internet dependency are the result of research from psychology, human computer interaction and information systems disciplines," said a colleague. Another called his work in privacy protection, user interactions and dependency "pathbreaking."

Still others pointed to the fact that he is sought out by scholars around the world as evidence of the impact he will have on his profession and WMU's prestige. In 2007, for instance, he spent the summer as an invited research professor at National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan.

Chen earned his bachelor's degree from Tunghai University in Taiwan in 1989, his master's degree from the University of Colorado in 1994 and his doctoral degree from Cleveland State University in 1999. Before joining the WMU faculty, he taught at Dakota State University and Cleveland State and worked as a software engineer in Taiwan.

Machiorlatti has been a WMU faculty member since 2004. She was lauded by those supporting her nomination for her consistent work as both a scholar and artist and for following an academic path that allows her to reach not only her academic peers, but the larger community as well.

"Dr. Machiorlatti is an outstanding scholar with both a national and international reputation who engages in both traditional scholarship and creative activities, which is a rare accomplishment," wrote an administrator familiar with her work. "Dr. Machiorlatti is one of our brightest and most outstanding colleagues."

An award-winning filmmaker, Machiorlatti's work is regularly screened at conferences and film festivals. Her most recent widely viewed work was a video production on "Copyright and Creativity in the Digital Age," which she co-produced with Rebekah Farrugia, WMU assistant professor of communication. The work was selected for juried international film festivals. Machiorlatti has also received professional recognition of her scholarship through publications and conference presentations.

"What amazes me is the breadth and scope of Dr. Machiorlatti's vision," wrote a scholar from another nation in critiquing her work. "…her international and national work and research is of a significance of the highest order."

"Dr. Machiorlatti's creative and scholarly work embodies values of engaged scholarship and expression as her work extends outward to reach not only professional peers, but also the local community," said another WMU faculty colleague in support of her work.

Her work, supporters say, is reflected in her teaching and has greatly benefitted her students.

Machiorlatti earned her bachelor's and master's degrees at Michigan State University in 1984 and 1988, respectively, and her doctoral degree from Wayne State University in 1996. Prior to joining the WMU faculty, she taught at the University of Windsor for five years. She also has taught at WSU, University of Michigan-Flint, and MSU and has an extensive background as a freelance writer and producer. She also spent a semester teaching with the University of Pittsburgh Semester at Sea program, traveling to the Asia, the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

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

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