Mittelhammer, Dickinson named Regents Professors

Exemplifying the highest level of achievement among faculty, Ronald C. Mittelhammer and J. Thomas Dickinson have been named two of three faculty promoted for 2004 to Regents Professor.

Mittelhammer, nominees said, has made substantial, continuous and lasting contributions to the field of agricultural economics around the country and at Washington State University.

“Receiving this honor from an institution that I loved as a student and continue to love and believe in as a faculty member is, to say the least, an incredibly wonderful and fulfilling feeling,” Mittelhammer said.

To be considered for this honor, faculty must be a tenured full professor or equivalent. They must have served WSU for the last seven years; achieved the highest level of distinction in a discipline; helped raise the standards of the university; and sustained a level of accomplishment, receiving national or international recognition.

A professor of agricultural and resource economics, Mittelhammer has received the American Agricultural Economics Association’s Distinguished Graduate Teaching Award (2001) and WSU’s Sahlin Award for Teaching Excellence (2002), among many others. As indicated by these awards, one of Mittelhammer’s greatest contributions is teaching and student development.

“Ron Mittelhammer is probably the very best teacher I have observed in 30-plus years,” said Richard Shumway, chair of the Ag Economics Department. “He is energetic, engaging and totally committed to help students learn. He teaches technical subject matter that many students genuinely fear, yet he teaches so effectively and relates so well to students that it is unusual for him to receive less than a 4.9 (on a 0-5 point scale) student evaluation for quality of instruction in any class he teaches.”

Mittelhammer pioneered the use of “smartboard” technology coupled with multimedia and live interactive computer-driven illustrations of lecture material. This allows students to experience, interact with, question and customize examples of statistical and economic techniques as part of the classroom learning process.

He also is a tireless proponent of curriculum revision and design. He established a concurrent Statistics Masters/Ag Economics Ph.D. program that allows students to be trained and graduate in both degree programs simultaneously. In addition, Mittelhammer led a committee that designed and created a joint Ph.D. program between the Ag Economics, Economics and Finance departments.

“Ron is one of the few members of our profession who continues to make a difference in the way we view the world and in the way in which we study it,” said Paul Barkley, professor emeritus from the Ag Economics Department. “His work in statistics and economic methods has paved the way toward new insights in how markets work and how rewards are distributed.”

Finally, Mittelhammer is known for his generosity in mentoring a wide array of students on their dissertation work, career planning and job searches. Often he continues to mentor students after they leave WSU.

“The feeling that WSU is a special place of partnership was infused in me by excellent, dedicated and unpretentious faculty when I was a student here, and I continue to enjoy fostering that partnership as a faculty member,” Mittelhammer said.

“Ron is the best teacher I have ever had and the best teacher I have ever known,” said Hongqu Shi, former student and vice president of the American Express Corporation. “His enthusiasm and dedication in both teaching and research always inspire me, and I have benefited greatly from it.”

J. Thomas Dickinson is the Paul A. Anderson professor of physics at Washington State University and recipient of the 2001-02 Marian E. Smith Faculty Achievement Award.

“I was very surprised and pleased,” Dickinson said. “It is a real honor to receive this recognition. I am thankful to those who made it possible.

“WSU has given me the opportunity, freedom and platform to pursue new ideas in teaching, research and physics education,” Dickinson said. “All of these parts of my job are rewarding. Every day, a new challenge, puzzle or surprise arises.”

He was instrumental in initiating honors science classes in the College of Sciences that are considered to be as good as any in the nation. “I particularly enjoy teaching the honors physics class. It gives me access to the best students on campus,” Dickinson said.

He also was the first director of the Centers for Materials Research at WSU. As such he was involved in defining and forming the university’s program in materials science.

Dickinson introduced and developed an integrated system for questioning and testing to administer and grade online quizzes and tests that involve equations and open-ended questions.

On a daily basis, he distributes “Gnews,” to current and former students. Gnews is an e-mail based news release on breaking stories in science and technology, which he distributes to more than 200 people.

In addition, he is the undergraduate physics adviser and a relentless recruiter for the department. “I enjoy working with undergraduates in the lab,” Dickinson said.“They have no fear of my wacky ideas.”

His success in teaching is matched in his success as a researcher. Dickinson’s research is described in more than 280 articles and book chapters that he authored and co-authored. As a result, he has presented hundreds of invited talks on his work in materials physics and chemistry, including 15 Gordon Research Conference presentations. He has chaired five Tropical Symposia and twice chaired Gordon conferences. He has co-chaired conferences on laser ablation and has been a guest lecturer in Japan, Germany and Austria.

Dickinson is a fellow of both the American Vacuum Society and the American Physical Society.

For more than 30 years, he has been continuously funded in applied surface science, recently receiving two major U.S. Department of Energy grants, one from the National Science Foundation, and two teaching-related grants.

A member of the WSU faculty since 1968, Dickinson is a physics graduate of Western Michigan University. He earned his master’s and doctoral degrees, both in physics, from the University of Michigan.

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