WSU Vancouver to present four top awards at 2019 Commencement

Commencement will be held at 1 p.m., Sat., May 4 at the Sunlight Supply Amphitheater

VANCOUVER — Washington State University Vancouver will present its 2019 awards for advancing equity, research, student achievement and teaching at this year’s commencement ceremony on Sat., May 4.

Medallions will be presented to the following:

Chancellor’s Award for Advancing Equity — Shameem Rakha, clinical assistant professor of education

Chancellor’s Award for Research Excellence — Bala Krishnamoorthy, associate professor and program leader, mathematics and statistics

Chancellor’s Award for Student Achievement — Loren Horowitz, B.S., computer science

Students’ Award for Teaching Excellence — Hua Tan, assistant professor, School of Engineering and Computer Science

Chancellor’s Award for Advancing Equity

The newest Chancellor’s Award, introduced this year, honors a faculty or staff member for helping to infuse equity-mindedness throughout the campus and/or helping to build and maintain a safe, welcoming campus environment.

Shameem Rakha
Shameem Rakha

Shameem Rakha is just such a person. When students need someone to talk to about a difficult situation, she willingly adds hours to her day to make herself available to listen and provide support and advice. She treats students with respect, validates their experiences and empowers them—and challenges others to think more critically about how to create an equitable experience for all students.

In her research, teaching and service, Rakha has shown exceptional commitment and ability in the work of spreading equity. For example, as coordinator for the WSU Vancouver College of Education B.A. program, she helped instill equity and inclusion into the program, and advocates for students of color to succeed and become teachers. She offers training in youth empowerment and cultural responsiveness at local schools and elsewhere. This year, she has spoken to state, national and international organizations, including the Nishinomiya School District in Japan, where she presented on the critical importance of social emotional learning to reduce bullying and violence in school. She also serves with WSU Vancouver’s service collaboration with the Native American Youth and Family Center.

Rakha taught for 17 years at the elementary and middle school levels before earning her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois. She joined WSU Vancouver in 2014 and is a founding committee member of Building a Community of Equity (BaCE), a cultural competency development program on campus. A colleague said of Rakha, “Her solidarity and tireless advocacy and support of students, faculty and staff of color is the kind of work that does not get documented in a resume, but is vitally important to creating an inclusive campus climate and environment.”

Chancellor’s Award for Research Excellence

The university’s highest research honor is given to a faculty member whose work has been exemplary and influential.

Bala Krishnamoorthy
Bala Krishnamoorthy

Bala Krishnamoorthy discovers ways people can use data strategically to make better decisions. His research interests include computational algebraic topology, geometric measure theory, integer optimization and basis reduction, computational models for surgical and biomedical applications, and computational biology. His research contributes directly to the goals that are part of WSU’s Drive to 25.

A proponent of interdisciplinary research, Krishnamoorthy has been working with orthopedic surgeons from Oregon Health & Science University, employing data analytics techniques to find insights in their data. One finding was that bone grafts from older donors may be just as strong as those from younger donors, vastly increasing the pool of potential donors. He has worked with collaborators in the field of criminal justice to apply topological data analysis to study police body camera video datasets.

Krishnamoorthy was instrumental in establishing the mathematics graduate program at WSU Vancouver and has taken the lead in recruiting students and creating opportunities for them. He posts all his lecture videos online with open access, and they are followed by students and researchers from all over the world.

He has received funding worth millions of dollars from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy. A leader in his field, he has organized several conferences and special sessions at national and international meetings and is frequently invited to present seminars at other universities and national meetings. He has published widely and serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Advances in Applied and Computational Mathematics.

Krishnamoorthy joined WSU Pullman in 2004 and transitioned to the Vancouver campus in 2014. He received his bachelor’s degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, and his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Chancellor’s Award for Student Achievement

Each year a graduating student is recognized for academic achievement, overcoming barriers, leadership potential and involvement in campus life.

Loren Horowitz
Loren Horowitz

This year’s honoree, Loren Horowitz, has earned a 4.0 GPA in WSU Vancouver’s rigorous computer science program while working full-time and raising a family. His leadership and communication skills, strong work ethic and academic accomplishments caught the eye not only of his professors but also of Google, which has offered him a job as a software engineer in Seattle after graduation.

Horowitz already had a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Southern California and several years of work experience when he turned to computer science. He grew interested in the possibilities of technology after starting an audiovisual rental company to help his clients while working in the food and beverage industry and hotel sales in southern California.

When Horowitz and his wife, Laura, moved to Vancouver in 2015, he enrolled at Clark College and earned an A.S. degree in computer science. He entered WSU Vancouver as a junior and continued his academic achievements — and more. After a summer as a software engineer intern at Home Depot QuoteCenter, the company offered him a full-time job, which he accepted while continuing his studies.

Horowitz’s diverse experience over the years has made him an effective teacher and mentor to his classmates. He expects to move to Seattle with his wife and daughter, Hadley, in June.

Students’ Award for Teaching Excellence

Students vote to honor a faculty member who instills enthusiasm and passion in students, and commits time outside of the classroom to prevent them from falling through the cracks.

Hua Tan
Hua Tan

Hua Tan came to teaching after working in the consumer electronics industry for five years. Tan earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Wuhan University of Technology in China, completed his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee in 2010, then joined Hewlett-Packard in Corvallis, Ore., as a research and development engineer specializing in fluid mechanics and heat transfer.

In 2015, he was recruited by WSU Vancouver, where he now teaches such subjects as thermodynamics, microfluidics, manufacturing for composites, and computational fluid dynamics and heat transfer. His students cite his “inspirational personality” and ability to motivate them. One student said: “Dr. Hua Tan has inspired in me a desire to learn that goes beyond a letter grade. He has gone beyond the technical aspect of engineering and helped me develop my teamwork and communication skills.”

Tan chose academia because it offered both more time for research and more diverse research opportunities. He now heads the Interfacial Fluid Dynamics Lab at WSU Vancouver, conducting research in fluid dynamics that can help improve inkjet printing, 3D printing and medical diagnostics, among other processes. His research is funded by the National Science Foundation and a number of companies.

Under Tan’s mentorship, two undergraduates have received WSU’s competitive undergraduate research award. Currently, one undergraduate is working in his lab with the support of a recent NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) award.

Becoming a teacher was a challenge for Tan. He had to learn to live with greater uncertainty, including how students would receive the material he presented. But he is glad he made the switch. Students who have graduated have returned to tell him how valuable those lessons were in their jobs. “As educators, we are shaped by our students,” Tan said. “They help me improve my teaching skills.”

Commencement details

Commencement will be held at 1 p.m., Sat., May 4 at the Sunlight Supply Amphitheater located at 17200 NE Delfel Road, Ridgefield, WA 98642. The event is free and open to the public. No tickets are required.

Information provided by WSU Vancouver.


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