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Ten new Docking Young Faculty Scholars announced

Fri, 09/20/2013

LAWRENCE — In 1999, former Kansas First Lady Meredith Docking made a commitment of $1 million to establish the Docking Young Faculty Scholar Award. In 2013, ten exceptional faculty members at the University of Kansas have been honored as the latest recipients.

“Mrs. Docking established this generous award to honor faculty who have distinguished themselves early in their careers at KU,” said Jeff Vitter, provost and executive vice chancellor. “Our strategic plan, Bold Aspirations, has guided our efforts to bring many talented, young faculty to Lawrence in recent years across all of our schools and the College. These awards enable us to recognize and retain outstanding individuals, even in a challenging economic environment.”

Individuals selected as Docking Faculty Scholars receive an annual stipend over the duration of their award, either three or five years. The award may be renewed for a second term. Faculty selected in 2013:

  • Shawn Alexander, associate professor of African & African American studies
  • Christopher Depcik, associate professor of mechanical engineering
  • Dale Dorsey, associate professor of philosophy
  • William Elliott, associate professor of social welfare
  • Tamara Falicov, chair and associate professor of film and media studies
  • Trent Herda, assistant professor of health, sport & exercise science
  • Virginia Harper Ho, associate professor of law
  • Wonpil Im, associate professor of molecular biology
  • Ebenezer Obadare, associate professor of sociology
  • Hyunjin Seo, assistant professor of journalism and mass communications.

“I know that each of these ten faculty will honor the spirit behind Mrs. Docking’s gift — to strengthen exceptional teachers and scholars at KU,” said Vitter.

The Docking Young Faculty Scholar Award was established by Meredith Docking to reward, encourage and retain younger faculty members who have clearly distinguished themselves early in their careers at KU. Assistant and associate professors who have distinguished themselves through exceptional research and teaching are eligible for these awards. The 10 new scholars were selected for the great potential their dean, chair and colleagues recognized in their nominations.

Past recipients include Monica Biernat, professor of psychology, Rick Dobrowsky, professor of pharmacology and toxicology, Judy Wu, distinguished professor of physics and astronomy, and Andrew Torrance, professor of law.

Biographical information on the Docking family:

Meredith Docking graduated from KU with a business degree in 1947. She was a member of Chi Omega Sorority at KU, where she met her future husband, Robert Docking, a 1948 KU graduate. He was elected to the first of four consecutive two-year terms as Kansas governor in 1966. As first lady, Meredith Docking held honorary positions on many boards and traveled throughout the state to meet with citizens and support her husband's campaigns. A longtime supporter of KU, Meredith Docking was a member of the KU Alumni Association and the Outlook Society, which honors donors of $500,000 or more through the Chancellors Club, KU Endowment's major-donor organization. Meredith Docking died in October 2004.

William R. Docking graduated from KU in 1973 with a bachelor of arts degree in political science and in 1977 with a master's degree in business and a law degree. He is married to Judy Docking, and he has a grown daughter, Mary Ruth Docking. He is chair of The Union State Bank in Arkansas City, and of City National Bank and Trust of Guyman, Okla. He is a member of the KU Endowment Board of Trustees and a member of the Executive Committee. Bill is past chair of the Kansas Board of Regents. He has received KU’s Ellsworth Medallion and was named a distinguished alumnus of the KU School of Business. Earlier this year, he completed 10 years of service on the Board of the Kansas Health Foundation, including three years as chair. At KU, he and Judy have established an endowed professorship in the School of Business and an endowed scholarship for students in the School of Law.

Thomas R. Docking graduated from KU in 1976 with a bachelor of arts degree in economics and political science, and in 1980 with a law degree and an MBA. He is married to Jill Docking, and they have two grown children, Margery Meredith Docking and Brian T. Docking, both of whom graduated from KU. Both have been active in politics. Thomas served as lieutenant governor of Kansas from 1983 to 1987. He is a partner in the Wichita law firm of Morris Laing Evans Brock & Kennedy, and he serves on the board of two commercial banks. He is a member of the steering committee of Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas, and he is a co-chair of the campaign. He and Jill have provided support for areas across KU, including the Docking Family Gateway.

Biographical information on the 2013 Docking Young Faculty Scholars:

Shawn Alexander, associate professor of African & African American studies, joined KU in 2007 after receiving his doctoral degree from the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts and two years as the first Cassius Marcellus Clay Fellow at Yale University. For the past five years he has served as director of the Langston Hughes Center at KU, building the research and education center into a recognizable part of the KU and regional community. He specializes in African-American history from the Reconstruction to the present.

Christopher Depcik, associate professor of mechanical engineering, joined KU in 2008 after receiving his doctoral degree and completing a postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Michigan. He started the EcoHawks program, which recently dedicated its new home, the Hill Engineering Research and Development Center. His work has been honored with a Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence and a Sustainability Leadership Award from KU, as well as the Society of Automotive Engineers Ralph R. Teetor Award. His research is focused on alternative and renewable fuels for internal combustion engines.

Dale Dorsey, associate professor of philosophy, joined KU in 2008 after earning his doctoral degree from the University of California, San Diego. He spent the 2012-13 academic year on a prestigious fellowship for philosophers whose work benefits public policy at the Murphy Institute Center for Ethics and Public Affairs at Tulane University. His area of focus as a scholar is the philosophical study of well-being, and his collection of published work has led to recognition as a top young ethicist.

William Elliott, associate professor of social welfare, joined KU in 2011 after earning his doctoral degree from the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis and three years on the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the founding director of the Assets and Education Initiative, which builds on his research on the possibilities assets hold in improving children’s educational outcomes and has provided unique opportunities for graduate students in social welfare. This academic year he has attracted a number of nationally recognized individuals to KU for a four-part speaker series on the discussion, research, and politics around poverty in America.

Tamara Falicov, chair and associate professor of film and media studies, joined KU in 1998 after earning her doctoral degree at the University of California, San Diego. Her specialty is Latin American Cinema, in particular the historical and political issues surrounding the development of film industries in Argentina. Her 2007 book, “The Cinematic Tango: Contemporary Argentine Film,” won a 2008 CHOICE Award, and she is nearing publication of two new books based on her current focus on film financing. She has also been committed to bringing Latin American film to the local community, including the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Rio Theatre, and venues in Lawrence and Topeka.

Trent Herda, assistant professor of health, sport & exercise science, joined KU in 2011 after earning his doctoral degree at the University of Oklahoma. He serves as the director of the Neuromechanics Laboratory, where he has been active in inviting and incorporating undergraduate students in the variety of research projects under way. In his young career, he has authored or co-authored 50 works in top-level journals and, according to Google Scholar, has been cited more than 500 times since 2008. His research focus is the study of how the nervous system and muscular system collectively respond and adapt to exercise.

Virginia Harper Ho, associate professor of law, joined KU in 2010. She earned her juris doctorate from Harvard Law School and was previously a visiting assistant professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law. She was recently awarded the Immel Teaching Award by KU Law for “innovative, rigorous and effective teaching.” She currently serves on an American Bar Association task force on the role of corporate boards in sustainability and in a leadership role with the American Society of Comparative Law. She integrates research on mainland China with research on U.S. corporate governance reforms.

Wonpil Im, associate professor of molecular biology, joined KU in 2005 with a joint appointment in the Center for Bioinformatics after earning his doctoral degree from Cornell University and serving as an NSF Center for Theoretical Biological Physics Fellow at The Scripps Research Institute. He is a recipient of an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship and the American Chemical Society Hewlett-Packard Outstanding Junior Faculty Award.  In 2011, he was awarded the J. Michael Young Academic Advisor Award by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences for his exemplary advising of undergraduate students. His research is focused on applications of theoretical and computational methods to chemical and physical problems in biology and material science.

Ebenezer Obadare, associate professor of sociology, joined KU in 2006 after earning his doctoral degree at the London School of Economics and Political Science, where he was Ford Foundation International Fellow and Lord Dahrendorf Scholar in the Centre for Civil Society in 2005-06. Prior to his academic career, he was an award-winning journalist in Nigeria. He is a member of the executive committee for the Kansas African Studies Center and the admissions and curriculum committee of the Center for Global and International Studies at KU. His research interests include civil society and the state, religion and politics in Africa, civic service and citizenship.

Hyunjin Seo, assistant professor of journalism and mass communications, joined KU in 2011 after earning her doctoral degree at Syracuse University, where she was also a Newhouse Postdoctoral Fellow. Last year, her research funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation complemented work her class on campaigns completed for the Kansas City Maker Faire. She also was the originator of a new dynamic space for focus groups that journalism students are using for their research. Her research and publications focus on the use of social media in creating community beyond geographical borders.



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