Excellence in Research, Scholarship and Creativity Awardees

Chancellor's and Provost's Awards for Excellence in Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity

The Chancellor's and Provost's Awards for Excellence in Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity honor faculty members for superior achievement in their fields. Recipients are either nominated by faculty, chairs, deans, or self-nominated, and are chosen by a committee of faculty members. Two awards are given in this category per year.

2022 Awardees

Award notice in Appalachian Today: 2 App State faculty recognized for Excellence in Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity

Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity


David Koppenhaver

Dr. David Koppenhaver

Reading Education & Special Education

The recipient of the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity is Dr. David Koppenhaver, Professor in the Department of Reading Education and Special Education (RESE). Dr. Koppenhaver has been with Appalachian since 2004. Dr. Koppenhaver's research focuses narrowly and specifically on literacy in individuals with high intensity needs (HIN) who include, among others, children with autism, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities, and Rett syndrome. His teaching and research have contributed to improved understanding, enhanced teaching methods, and new diagnostic assessments. Throughout his career at Appalachian, Dr. Koppenhaver and his colleagues have secured nearly $4 million in external funding through grants and sponsored research, including a 5-year $1 million interdisciplinary collaborative project between the Departments of Communication Sciences and Disorders and Reading Education and Special Education at Appalachian State University funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. His currently funded research and development project involves the collaborative development of online instructional supports for teachers of students with HIN with two of his doctoral students and faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Center for Literacy and Disability Studies.

Dr. Koppenhaver’s work has led to almost 300 state, regional, national, and international conference presentations, more than half of them keynotes, plenary sessions, and other invited papers. He has co-authored five books, many peer-reviewed publications and book chapters, three national reports (for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs, and the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research), and online training modules for teachers. Dr. Koppenhaver also has authored beginning reader books that have been read by children and adolescents with HIN in 122 different countries since 2007 under the pen name, Reed A. Booke. In 2019, Dr. Koppenhaver published a highly successful and best-selling methods book, Comprehensive Literacy for All: Teaching Students with Significant Disabilities to Read and Write, which ranks in the top 10 best sellers in three of Amazon’s special education categories. The book has been adopted for pre-service teacher training by faculty across the United States and has sparked the development of online courses and other forms of professional development in other countries including Canada and Australia.

Dr. Koppenhaver has been honored previously as the Distinguished Lecturer of the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (the premier award in the field at that time), a Fulbright Scholar to the Schonell Special Education Centre at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia in 2002-2003, and a Visiting Scholar the Schonell Special Education Centre. At Appalachian State University, Dr. Koppenhaver has been inducted into the Academy of Outstanding Graduate Mentors, received the 100 Scholars Research Award from the Cratis D. Williams School of Graduate Studies, and received the Outstanding Mentoring Award and Outstanding Scholarship/Creative Achievement Award from the Reich College of Education.

Provost's Award for Excellence in Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity

Maggie Sugg

Dr. Maggie Sugg

Geography & Planning

The recipient of the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity is Dr. Maggie Sugg, Associate Professor and Departmental Honors Director in the Department of Geography and Planning. Dr. Sugg has been with Appalachian since 2015. Dr. Sugg’s research focuses on the intersection of geography, climate, and public health, specifically on the spatiotemporal patterns of health and how these patterns relate to environmental, socioeconomic, and climatic determinants. Her research provides insights into the etiology of environmental-health diseases, highlighting both at-risk populations and the place-based conditions that lead to adverse health outcomes. Dr. Sugg’s four primary areas of interest are: 1) Geography of Mental Health; 2) Utilization of Wearable Sensor Technology for Continuous Monitoring of Environmental Exposure and Psychological Health Outcomes; 3) Vulnerability and Resilience of Climate Extremes; and the 4) COVID-19 Pandemic. Dr. Sugg’s research activities include collaborations across multiple departments and other universities.

Dr. Sugg has received approximately $1 million in external funding in the last two years. Her research has been funded by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, a 3-year NIH grant to study the causal effects of climate disasters on adolescent mental health, and a 5-year National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) Award in 2021. The CAREER award is NSF’s most prestigious award in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. Dr. Sugg has nearly 60 peer-reviewed publications in high-impact journals, with over 20 of them with student co-authors. Her awards and recognitions include: invited panelist, National Academy of Sciences and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the William C. Strickland Outstanding Junior Faculty Award, College of Arts and Sciences and the Undergraduate Research Mentorship Excellence Award, Office of Student Research.

2021 Awardees


Award notice in Appalachian Today: App State celebrates research and creative activity, honors two faculty members

Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity


Photo of Dr. Andrew Heckert

Dr. Andy Heckert

Geology & Environmental Sciences

The recipient of the Chancellor's award for Excellence in Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity is Dr. Andy Heckert, a Professor in the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences and the Director of Appalachian State University’s McKinney Geology Teaching Museum. Dr. Heckert is one of the world’s leading experts in Triassic vertebrate paleontology. He conducts research on the fossil record, focusing on vertebrates from the Triassic period, especially those that lived ~225-200 million years ago. The monograph based on his dissertation is the primary reference for Upper Triassic microvertebrate assemblages of the American Southwest. Heckert joined Appalachian State University in 2005 and since then has mentored over 50 undergraduate research students. Dr. Heckert is the recipient of numerous awards, including Appalachian State University’s 2015 Donald W. Sink Outstanding Scholar Award, the 2017 Undergraduate Research Mentorship Experience award, and the 2011 North Carolina Science Teachers’ Association Outstanding Earth Science Teacher award. Currently, Dr. Heckert is a Fulbright U.S. Scholar at the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Palaeoscience at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. 


Provost's Award for Excellence in Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity


Photo of Joseph Bathanti

Joseph Bathanti

English, Interdisciplinary Studies

The recipient of the Provost’s award for Excellence in Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity is Joseph Bathanti, Professor of English and the McFarlane Family Distinguished Professor in Interdisciplinary Education at the Watauga Residential College. The author of 17 books, Bathanti is the 7th North Carolina poet laureate and winner of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina’s highest civilian honor for service to the state. Bathanti has been awarded the North Carolina Award for Literature; the Carolina Novel Award; the North Carolina Poetry Society Prize; the Oscar Arnold Young Award given annually by The Poetry Council of North Carolina for the best book of poetry; the Roanoke Chowan Award in 2010 and 2014, given annually for the best book of poetry by a North Carolinian; the Rita Dove Poetry Award; the Linda Flowers Prize from the North Carolina Humanities Council; and two North Carolina Arts Council Fellowships in Literature, among others. Bathanti, co-founder of the Charles George VA Medical Center’s Creative Writing Program (in Asheville), has a long standing relationship with veterans' writers groups and has a strong commitment to working with individuals to use writing as a means of navigating trauma and difficult memories. He is a former VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) Volunteer and former Chair of the North Carolina Writers’ Network Prison Project. He has devoted hundreds of hours to leading workshops in prisons, homeless shelters, domestic abuse shelters, and nursing homes to empower people by teaching them how to tell their stories.

2020 Awardees

Award notice in Appalachian Today: App State hosts virtual celebration of research and creative activity, honors two faculty members

Chancellor's award for Excellence in Reserach, Scholarship, and Creative Activity


photo of Dr. Curtis R. RyanDr. Curtis R. Ryan
Department of Government & Justice Studies

Dr. Curtis R. Ryan is a Professor of Political Science in the Department of Government and Justice Studies. His scholarship on Middle East politics is remarkable and notable both inside and outside of the academy.  The review committee was impressed at how Dr. Ryan’s scholarship has moved from theory into action: “He is called to Washington, DC 4-6 times a year to brief State Department officials and military leaders regarding crises in the Middle East.  Following the publication of his most recent book on Jordan and the Arab Uprisings, Dr. Ryan was invited to Jordan by the Crown Prince for his views on how the uprising would impact U.S. foreign aid and other policy decisions.” One nominator said, “Dr. Ryan is a thought leader and influences (or at least informs) our government’s decisions in one of the most important and volatile regions of the world.” Dr. Ryan has written extensively on international relations in the Middle East, on inter-Arab relations, alliance politics, and on Jordanian domestic politics and foreign policy. He has published extensively in first tier journals and is the author of three books most recently, Jordan and the Arab Uprisings: Regime Survival and Politics Beyond the State. Professor Ryan served as a Fulbright scholar at the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. He is a past president of the Southeast Regional Middle East and Islamic Studies Society (SERMEISS) and currently serves as the organization’s program director. He is a member of the Executive Board of the Project on Middle East Political Science (POMEPS) and a member of the Editorial Board of the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP) and its quarterly journal, Middle East Report.

Provost's Award for Excellence in Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity

photo of Dr. Alecia Y. JacksonDr. Alecia Y. Jackson
Department of Leadership & Educational Studies

Dr. Alecia Y. Jackson is Professor of Educational Research in the Department of Leadership and Educational Studies – where she is also affiliated faculty in the Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies program. One of Dr. Jackson’s references described her as “inventing, creating a different kind of research,” and, “She is in the vanguard of those inventing new educational and social science inquiry for the next generation of researchers.”  “She is known for her fine and risky intellect, her determination and focus, and her generosity of spirit and energy.  She sets a very high standard for her work and challenges pedestrian work with pedagogical acumen.”  Her book, Thinking with Theory in Qualitative Research (2012), is a required text in research methodology courses, and she has published in the best journals in her field. Dr. Jackson's research interests bring feminist, poststructural, and posthuman theories of power/knowledge, language, materiality, and subjectivity to bear on a range of overlapping topics: deconstructions of voice and method; conceptual analyses of resistance, freedom, and agency in girls’ and women’s lives; and qualitative analysis in the “posts.” Her work seeks to animate philosophical frameworks in the production of the new, and her current projects are focused on the ontological turn, qualitative inquiry, and thought.

2019 Awardees

Inaugural Chancellor's award for Excellence in Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity


Dr. Ellan Cowan receiving the Chancellor's awardDr. Ellen Cowan
Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences

The recipient of the Chancellor's award has had a long and illustrious career at Appalachian. Her main research focus is glacial sedimentology and glacial processes. She studies how glaciers have responded to past climate variations to understand how current changes in climate will affect glaciers. This individual is known as one of the best glacial sedimentologists in the US. In 2018, she was inducted as a fellow to the Geological Society of America, an honor given to only about 1% of the members of the society. Over her distinguished career at Appalachian, she has run an exceptionally successful research program and had numerous high-profile publications. And she has achieved this with no post-docs, no doctoral students, and not even master's students, but rather only with undergraduate research students. To quote from one of her reference letters, "She has been a trailblazer for women in science at Appalachian, has been extremely productive in her scholarly output and in the breadth of her work, and has spread this knowledge to the next generation of Earth scientists".

Inaugural Provost's award for Excellence in Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity

photo of Dr. Baker PerryDr. Baker Perry
Department of Geography and Planning

The recipient of the Provost's award is a prominent, world-class researcher in the area of climate science. His research interests include precipitation, glacier-climate interactions, and climate change primarily in the mountains, with a focus on the Himalayas, Andes and the Appalachians. He joined the faculty in 2006 and has built a very productive research program that has extensively integrated undergraduate and master's level students as well as the Watauga county K-12 school system. In 2019, this individual was part of the National Geographic Life at the Extremes expedition to Mount Everest where his team installed the world's two highest world-record breaking weather stations on Mt. Everest. Currently, there is very little known about the climate at this altitude. These weather stations will close this gap in our knowledge by providing real-time climate data at these high altitudes and may even save lives by improving weather forcasting on Mt. Everest. To quote from one of his reference letters, this individual has been "blending new science with frontier exploration and adventure. It has engaged millions worldwide in the excitement, drama, and serious environment change to be found on the roof of our planet." I'll end with another quote form the reference letter, "World records are not broken without excellence!"