KU announces recipients of Keeler Intra-University Professorships for 2021-2022

LAWRENCE – Five University of Kansas professors have been selected to pursue special projects designed to develop their scholarship in a field while also fostering collaboration at KU during the 2021-22 academic year.

The following faculty members have been awarded Keeler Intra-University Professorships this academic year:

  • Amy Burgin, environmental studies and ecology & evolutionary biology 
  • Ben Chappell, American studies
  • Trent Herda, health, sport & exercise sciences
  • Michael Krueger, visual art
  • Emily Witt, mathematics

Keeler Intra-University Professorships provide faculty members an opportunity to strengthen their knowledge of an academic specialty, to broaden or achieve greater depth in a defined field of study, or to achieve competence in a new area of scholarly endeavor. Their work should also lead to increased collaboration and synergy across disciplines.

Keeler Professorships have supported faculty development for tenured KU faculty since the early 1980s. Faculty members apply for the professorship with the endorsement of their department and dean. Selected faculty are relieved of departmental responsibilities for one semester, and their departments receive financial support to assist with meeting instructional needs. The Center for Faculty Development and Mentoring reviews applicants and selects recipients.

“The center’s mission is to help faculty develop rewarding careers at KU,” said Chris Brown, vice provost for faculty development. “The Keeler Professorship allows tenured faculty to collaborate across disciplines, which leads to groundbreaking work.”

The program is possible through a gift of the Keeler family in memory of W.W. Keeler, petroleum engineering alumnus and former president of the KU Alumni Association. Keeler served as president and chief executive officer of Phillips Petroleum Co. from 1967-1973, and he was principal chief of the Cherokee Nation from 1949-1975, a position he was originally appointed to by President Harry Truman.


Amy Burgin

Amy Burgin, environmental studies professor at the University of KansasAmy Burgin, associate professor of environmental studies and ecology & evolutionary biology as well as associate scientist at the Kansas Biological Survey & Center for Ecological Research, will spend the spring 2022 semester engaging in the vision of the original 2014 Water Resources Cluster hire to build connections between her research program and that of her water-focused colleagues in the School of Engineering and the Kansas Geological Survey. Her Keeler Professorship will support a research, teaching and DEIB collaboration with Amy Hansen, Admin Husic, James Hutchison and Joshua Roundy, assistant and associate professors of civil, environmental & architectural engineering, as well as Erin Seybold and Sam Zipper, assistant scientists in the Kansas Geological Survey. Building collaborative capacity and cross-unit student training opportunities will benefit KU’s research and education enterprise. It will also prepare the next generation of the Kansas water workforce to use collaboration to solve our pressing water challenge.

Burgin joined the KU faculty in 2016.

Burgin wrote in her application, “While we have great expertise in water now at KU, to fulfill the goal of ‘actionable scholarship,’ we must better understand each other’s research, think about the points of connection among our research programs, discuss strategies for interdisciplinary training of undergraduate and graduate students in our respective programs, all to improve diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) among faculty, staff and students in our respective STEM fields. The Keeler Professorship is an excellent opportunity for me to strengthen my collaborative connections to other water researchers at KU.”

Ben Chappell

Ben Chappell, American studies professor at the University of KansasBen Chappell, associate professor of American studies, will spend a semester during the 2021-22 academic year collaborating with Heather Getha-Taylor, professor in the School of Public Affairs & Administration, to study intellectual history and current debates in administration and management theory, developing a new research direction into the overlapping and contrasting epistemologies evident in various sites of contemporary knowledge production. Chappell hopes to better understand the conceptual tools and forms of logic that tend to operate when trying to make an organization run. He will support Getha-Taylor and conversations with other members of the SPAA faculty.  

Chappell joined the KU faculty in 2007.

“Most of my work has focused on Mexican-American studies and community-based cultural forms,” Chappell said. “The Keeler Professorship is an outstanding opportunity for me to step out of my intellectual comfort zone and do a deep dive into what the influential ideas and paradigms have been in the conversations around how to administer public organizations. It is a chance for me to tool up for a new direction in my research, and for the university to expand its research profile by allowing faculty the time and space to develop new directions for our work.”

Trent Herda

Trent Herda, School of Education & Human Sciences professor at the University of KansasTrent Herda, associate professor of health, sport & exercise sciences, will spend the spring 2022 semester working with researchers and faculty at the Center for Children’s Healthy Lifestyles and Nutrition (CHLN) at KU Medical Center. His professorship will involve collaboration with CHLN members John Thyfault, KU professor of physiology, and Robin Shook, research assistant professor at Children’s Mercy, as well as the broader CHLN community, to develop competitive National Institutes of Health R01 proposals with mentorship provided by the CHLN. Herda aims to strengthen his research and expertise in glucose and lipid metabolism, physical activity and muscle lipid imaging techniques in pediatric populations who are at risk for Type 2 diabetes and other obesity-related physical performance complications.

Herda joined the KU faculty in 2011.

Herda noted in his application that “The mentorship provided by Dr. Thyfault and the other CHLN researchers who have received and reviewed NIH grants will significantly improve my National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases applications. In addition, there will be an abstract presented and published, and a manuscript submitted because of this Keeler Family Intra-University Professorship. I will work closely with Dr. Thyfault, Dr. Shook and other researchers at CHLN throughout the development of abstract, manuscript and grant application(s), which will develop important future collaborations for me at CHLN.”

Michael Krueger

Michael Krueger, professor of visual art at the University of KansasMichael Krueger, professor of visual art, will spend the spring 2022 semester working with Margaret Kelley, professor of American studies, and Richard Yi, professor of psychology, to create learning opportunities in partnership with the Center for Service Learning and begin a public awareness project. The project aims to bring greater awareness to the crisis of addiction and overdose through creative practices and artmaking. Krueger will also create original works of art for exhibition; to create a visual statement crafted with the mediums of painting, printmaking, drawing and ceramics. Krueger will examine how addiction can thrive under certain political and cultural climates and how these factors affect treatment and recovery.

Krueger joined the KU faculty in 1995.

Krueger said, “We are in a crisis of addiction, nationally and globally. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, opioid overdose was at epidemic levels. Throughout the pandemic, the rate of opioid use and overdose has escalated significantly. This professorship will help me connect to the kind of research I need to bring depth to the project. This is the power of art, to create a visual image that allows others to commune on difficult subjects and to move the culture forward towards a place of empathy and understanding.”

Emily Witt

Emily Witt, professor of mathematics at the University of KansasEmily Witt, associate professor of mathematics, will spend the fall 2021 semester collaborating with Perry Alexander, who is the AT&T Foundation Distinguished Professor in electrical engineering & computer science (EECS) and director of the Information & Telecommunication Technology Center (ITTC). She hopes to begin collaborating with EECS faculty toward solving verification and attestation problems and developing coursework that will be beneficial for both EECS and mathematics students.

Witt joined the KU faculty in 2015.

“I hope to master some fundamentals in the theory of remote attestation and proof verification, which includes becoming more proficient with the formal proof management system Coq,” Witt said. “Mathematics and computer science are scientifically interconnected fields, and delving into the latter opens up a completely new and exciting direction for my research program. In both research and teaching endeavors, the natural pairing has the potential to grow and expand into long-term collaborations.”

Fri, 09/10/2021


Evan Riggs

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Evan Riggs

Office of the Provost