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Three lauded as "Emerging Scholars"

Feb. 22, 2007

KALAMAZOO--Three young faculty members at Western Michigan University are the first to earn Emerging Faculty Scholar Awards in a new program to honor academia's rising stars.

Dr. Mitch Kachun, associate professor of history; Dr. Carla M. Koretsky, associate professor of geosicences and environmental studies; and Dr. Kirk T. Korista, associate professor of physics; will receive the award during WMU's Academic Convocation ceremonies at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28, in the Dalton Center Recital Hall.

The new program was launched this 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.

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Dr. Mitch Kachun, a WMU faculty member since 2001, has focused his research and scholarly publications on American history, and he is recognized as a leading scholar on the topic of African American historical memory. His recently published books include "Festivals of Freedom: Memory and Meaning in African American Emancipation Celebrations," published in 2003, and last year's "The Curse of Caste; or the Slave Bride: A Rediscovered African American Novel," which has generated national attention for changing the timeline of the development of African-American literature.

In addition to his two books, Kachun has written a number of articles, book chapters, reference work entries and book reviews for some of the nation's leading literary and historical publications. A number of others are scheduled to appear in the near future as well. He also has presented papers at 11 national, international and regional conferences, serving as panel coordinator for several of those gatherings. His current research is focused on documenting the accomplishments of Crispus Attucks, who died in the Boston Massacre and who many African Americans consider a "founding father."

In nominating him for the award, one colleague from another university noted the attention Kachun's work has attracted and the respect he has earned from scholars in history, literature and cultural studies.

"I expect he will have a long and productive academic career, continuing to produce important studies--such as his current project on Crispus Attucks--that will enhance our understanding of the African American (and, indeed, American) historical and cultural experience and challenge the boundaries of several fields," the nominator wrote.

Kachun earned his bachelor's degree from Pennsylvania State University, a master's degree in history from Illinois State University in 1990, and a master's degree and doctoral degree in history from Cornell University in 1993 and 1997, respectively. He taught in Cornell's John S. Knight Writing Program during his time as a graduate student.


Dr. Carla M. Koretsky, who joined the WMU faculty in 2000, is a scientist who specializes in the biogeochemistry of aquatic environments, mineral surface geochemistry and the thermodynamic properties of aqueous metal-organic complexes. She is the advisor for the interdisciplinary geochemistry major she established at the University, and her current federally supported research is focused on addressing fundamental questions on the biogeochemistry of coastal and inland wetlands, which are increasingly impacted by human activities.

Koretsky is working with two National Science Foundation grants, including one awarded through the Faculty Early Career Development--CAREER-- program, a highly competitive program that is the NSF's most prestigious award for young faculty scholars. Her grant projects include innovative educational opportunities designed to enhance the research experience of both graduate and undergraduate students at WMU.

One of her campus colleagues who wrote in support of her nomination said he first heard of Koretsky in the mid-1990s when she established a reputation at Washington University as the "smart kid on the block." After seeing the depth and breadth of her work at WMU, he said, he realized how she has distinguished herself professionally in the national and international science arenas. One measure, he noted, is the number of requests she receives to serve as a reviewer for professional journals and funding agencies and to present her findings around the globe.

"Carla is clearly one of the shining stars in the sciences on campus," another supporter wrote. "Western's reputation as a 'student-centered research university' will be built by people like Carla, who maintain productive, prominent, internationally-recognized research programs and who are strongly committed to undergraduate and graduate student mentoring and education.

Koretsky earned her bachelor's degree from Washington University in 1992 and her master's and doctoral degrees from Johns Hopkins University in 1995 and 1998, respectively. She was a postdoctoral and research scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology before coming to WMU.


Dr. Kirk T. Korista has been a WMU faculty member since 1997. His field of research is observational astronomy, and his focus is on the acquisition, measurement, analysis and interpretation of the spectra of cosmic gas clouds that hold the keys to the chemical evolution of the universe and the history of star and galaxy formation. Widely published and the recipient of major research grants from the NSF, NASA and the Hubble Telescope Mission, Korista routinely works in collaboration with scientists around the globe. They include scholars from across the United States as well as international scientists at universities in the United Kingdom and Germany.

Korista's major contributions to his field include a breakthrough approach to the simulation of quasars through computational grids. His original paper on the topic has been widely cited by other scientists. One of his more recent research efforts looks at the timing of star formation, with information gleaned from infrared spectra of quasars. The work received national and international media attention, including selection by Discover magazine as No. 29 on its list of the "Top 100 Science News Stories of 2003."

A colleague writing in support of his nomination noted Korista's tireless efforts to communicate the importance of his field to students and the broader community.

"Since the beginning of his career with us, he was very active in promoting astrophysics within the community, and he worked hare to try to develop an observatory in the Kalamazoo area," the supporter wrote. "His love of his field and dedication truly makes him a scholar at heart."

Korista earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois-Urbana in 1985 and his doctoral degree from Ohio State University in 1990. Before joining the WMU faculty, he was a research associate at the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore and the University of Kentucky.


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

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