2021 Recipients


The John Toups Presidential Medal for Faculty Excellence in Teaching

Melissa Broeckelman-Post
Basic Course Director and Associate Professor, Communication

Melissa Broeckelman-Post

Melissa A. Broeckelman-Post is the Basic Course Director and an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and a Senior Scholar in the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University.  She earned a B.A. in English, a Graduate Certificate in Technical Writing and Professional Communication, and M.A. in Speech Rhetoric and Communication from Kansas State University.  She earned a Ph.D. in Communication Studies from Ohio University and was an Assistant Professor and Basic Course Coordinator and T.A. Supervisor at California State University, Los Angeles, for four years before beginning her faculty role at Mason.

As Basic Course Director in Communication, Dr. Broeckelman-Post is responsible for planning, supervising, assessing, and improving the communication courses that meet the general education requirement at GMU.  Each year, she is responsible for recruiting, training, and supervising a staff of 40-60 instructors who teach 3500-4000 undergraduate students per year in these courses.  As part of this role, she also established the Communication Center in 2018, which will become part of the new Lab for Writing and Communication in Fall 2021.  In 2016, her program was the recipient of the NCA Basic Course Division Program of Excellence Award, which recognizes introductory communication course programs that can serve as best practice models for programs across the country.  In 2015, she was the recipient of the NCA Basic Course Division Textbook of Distinction Award for the textbook that she extensively adapted to meet the specific needs to GMU’s students, instructors, and program.  Dr. Broeckelman-Post also served as the co-chair of the Social Science Research Council’s Measuring College Learning Project Panel on Public Speaking and was a co-recipient of a National Communication Association Advancing the Discipline Grant for A National-Level Assessment of Core Competencies in the Basic Communication Course.   

Dr. Broeckelman-Post’s research includes applied and integrative research that helps to answer key questions about how to most effectively communicate in the classroom (instructional communication) and how to most effectively teach communication skills (communication education), at times by borrowing from and intersecting with research in other disciplines. Most of this research is also done to answer practical questions about how we can best serve our students in the introductory course and to test innovations that directly shape what we do in the classroom.  Broeckelman-Post is the co-author of 33 peer-reviewed journal articles and three national communication textbooks, Inclusive Public Speaking, The Speaker’s Primer, and Communication Pathways, and serves on the editorial boards of Communication Education (currently as Consulting Editor for Forums), Communication Teacher, The Basic Communication Course Annual, and Journal of Communication Pedagogy.  

Dr. Broeckelman-Post has served on George Mason University’s Faculty Senate since 2014 and has served on the Executive Committee and as Chair of Nominations since 2018.  She has served on the Mason Core Committee since 2013, and has served as co-chair of that committee since 2013.  Additionally, she has served on the Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence Curriculum and Pedagogy Subcommittee, the ADVANCE Advisory Committee, the Faculty Interests Working Group for Online University Expansion, and many other committees, task forces, and working groups. She was elected Chair for the 2021-2022 academic year.

The Beck Family Presidential Medal for Faculty Excellence in Research & Scholarship

Amarda Shehu
Professor, Computer Science

Amarda Shehu

Amarda Shehu is a Professor in the Department of Computer Science at George Mason University. Reflecting her deeply interdisciplinary research and scholarship, Amarda also holds affiliate appointments in the department of Bioengineering and the School of Systems Biology. She is one of the founders and Co-Directors of the Center for Advancing Human-Machine Partnerships (CAHMP), a Transdisciplinary Center for Advanced Study. Amarda received her Ph.D. in Computer Science at Rice University in 2008. Trained in a dual mentorship program as an NIH pre-doctoral fellow, bridging Artificial Intelligence and the Biological Sciences, Amarda joined Mason with an intrinsic broad view of computing, interdisciplinary research, scholarship, education, and beyond-the-classroom mentorship.

Amarda’s research and scholarship span the computer science and diverse communities in engineering, social and behavioral sciences, life sciences, cellular and molecular biology, biophysics, computational biology, bioinformatics, and more. Her research contributions regarding human biology and health include powerful algorithmic frameworks that conduct biology in-silico at spatio-temporal scales previously impossible, elucidate the molecular basis of human disorders, such as cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, and cardiomyopathies, predict which mutations result in pathologies, and generate novel drug-like molecules in silico to aid therapeutic treatment. Because of her unwavering principle that real-world problems, despite their complexity, yield advances to computer science, Amarda has made significant fundamental contributions in artificial intelligence research. Her work has been disseminated in 150 research articles and has been featured in journal issue covers, newspaper and magazine articles, GMU-TV, and Mason Spirit.

The impact of Amarda’s research has been recognized through many funding awards from the National Science Foundation, state agencies, and foundations. Amarda has also been recognized at Mason for her research and scholarship through the 2019 Outstanding Researcher Award in the Department of Computer Science, the 2014 Mason Emerging Researcher/Scholar/Creator Award, and the 2012 Young Faculty Research Award in the Department of Computer Science. Amarda is highly active in engaging undergraduate and high-school students in her research and has been recognized for these efforts through the 2013 Mason OSCAR Undergraduate Mentor Excellence Award. She has also earned the 2018 George Mason University Teaching Excellence Award. In addition, Amarda is deeply integrated in everything Mason. In 2017, she was recognized by the Department of Statistics with a Distinguished Service Award.

Amarda is deeply committed to interdisciplinary research and mentoring of assistant professors, junior researchers, and students to advance Mason’s mission of excellence and research of consequence. In particular, she cares deeply about her students. Guided by the deep conviction that everyone can participate and contribute to the advancement of science and knowledge, Amarda integrates in her research activities students of all backgrounds and levels, postdoctoral, graduate, undergraduate, and high-school students. She has co-authored several research articles with undergraduate and high-school students, some even in first-authorship capacity. Her students have also won numerous research and scholarship awards over the years, and Amarda takes double pride in these awards. Amarda is also deeply dedicated to diversity and equity and is a Diversity Champion in the College of Engineering and Computing.

Amarda has earned the recognition of her community and frequently organizes IEEE and ACM conferences, as well as thematic collections and issues in in top journals. She serves as Associate Editor of various high-impact journals and chairs the steering committee of the ACM/IEEE Transactions in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics journal. She is currently also serving as a Program Director (under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act) in the Information and Intelligent Systems division in the Directorate of Computer and Information Sciences and Engineering at the National Science Foundation.

Jagadish Shukla
Distinguished University Professor and
Director, Climate Dynamics Program

Jagadish Shukla

Jagadish Shukla is a Distinguished University Professor at George Mason University (GMU). He was the Founding Chairman of the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Earth Sciences (AOES), the Founding Director of the Climate Dynamics PhD Program, and the Founding Director of the Center for Ocean-Land-Atmosphere Studies (COLA).

His early research showed that in spite of the chaotic nature of the climate system and the butterfly effect, and the limits of the predictability of daily weather, it is possible to predict monthly and seasonal averages of climate because of the influence of the underlying ocean and land boundary conditions and their interactions with the atmosphere. His research led to the notion of predictability in the midst of chaos and established a scientific basis for dynamical seasonal prediction which are now being made routinely worldwide helping society manage agricultural and economic activities and save lives and property.

His research showed the importance of land surface processes in climate variability and predictability which has led to numerous research programs, field experiments, and space-missions. His proposal and demonstration of the feasibility of retrospective analysis of past atmospheric observations using state of the art data assimilation systems has now become an important component of climate diagnostic research.

His other scientific contributions include dynamics and predictability of monsoons, Amazon deforestation, desertification and reforestation in Sahel, and seamless prediction of weather and climate.

He was a Lead Author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Chang which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Vice President Gore. He is author/coauthor of over 250 scientific papers and Ph.D. thesis advisor for more than 25 students at MIT, the University of Maryland, and the George Mason University. He was member or chair of more than 50 national and international research programs and committees including the Joint Scientific Committee for the World Climate Research Program. He was a member of India’s Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change, and India’s delegation to the Paris Climate Conference. He was a member of the Virginia Governor’s Climate Commission in 2008 (Governor Kaine) and 2014 (Governor McAuliffe). He has helped establish weather and climate research institutions in the US, India, Italy, and Korea. His work in India helped modernize India’s weather prediction enterprise.

He is an Honorary Member of the American Meteorological Society (AMS), Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), Fellow of AMS, and an Associate Fellow of the Academy of Sciences of the Developing World (TWAS). He has received the Walker Gold Medal of the India Meteorological Society, the Rossby Medal of the AMS, and the International Meteorological Prize of the World Meteorological Organization, each considered to be the highest scientific recognition in India, the USA, and the world, respectively. He has received the Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal of NASA. He has received a national award, the “Padma Shri” from the President of India.

He had a modest beginning. Born in a village without roads and electricity, he received his primary education under a large Banyan tree and walked three miles barefoot to attend middle school and high school which had no science education. Later he received his B.Sc., M.Sc., and Ph.D. from Banaras Hindu University in India, and Sc.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He remains deeply connected with the village of his birth in India where he has established Gandhi College for improving the educational status and general well-being of young women in that rural area. 

The United Bank Presidential Medal for Faculty Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion

Christy Pichichero
Associate Professor of French and History, 
CHSS Director of Faculty Diversity

Christy Pichichero

Dr. Christy Pichichero (A.B. Princeton University; B.M. Eastman School of Music; Ph.D. Stanford University) is Associate Professor of French and History and Director of Faculty Diversity in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. She holds affiliations with the Women and Gender Studies and War and the Military in Society Programs and is the founder of the Critical Race Theory Group at Mason’s Center for Humanities Research. She is the President of the Western Society for French History. 

Dr. Pichichero's first book, The Military Enlightenment: War and Culture in the French Empire from Louis XIV to Napoleon (Cornell, 2017; paperback 2021, Chinese translation, forthcoming) was a finalist for the Oscar Kenshur Book Prize. Her articles on Critical Race Theory, pedagogy, early modern philosophies of language and aesthetics, theater and drama, and cultures of war have appeared in venues such as French Historical Studies, Modern Language Notes, Renaissance Drama, Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, and H-France Salon. She has held fellowships at the Stanford Humanities Center, the University of Cambridge (King’s College), the École Normale Supérieure (Paris), West Point Military Academy, and the Society of the Cincinnati. She was recently awarded the 2021-2022 Visiting Research Fellowship at the Centre for French History and Culture at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. She is on the editorial boards of Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, Eighteenth-Century Fiction, and La Revolution Française.   

Known as “Dr. P” to many students across campus, Dr. Pichichero is deeply engaged in anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion work at Mason, in her academic disciplines, in higher education, and in society more broadly. She is a public intellectual dedicated to fostering social justice and was recently featured on National Public Radio (NPR), NBC News, Forbes, The Hill: Changing America, C-SPAN, and Authority Magazine. At Mason, she serves on the Academic Programs, Diversity, and University Community (APDUC) committee of the Board of Visitors, is co-chair of the University Policies and Practices Committee of the Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence (ARIE) task force, and is co-lead of the Inclusive Excellence Plan in CHSS. She also serves on the Executive Committee of the Society for French Historical Studies and the Board of Directors of the Consortium on the Revolutionary Era and is an international delegate of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies.  

Gerald L. R. Weatherspoon
Associate Professor of Chemistry and 
Chair, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

Gerald Weatherspoon

Gerald L. R. Weatherspoon is an Associate Professor of Inorganic Chemistry, Department Chair, Chief Diversity Officer for Faculty in the College of Science, and a member of the President’s Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence (ARIE) Task Force, and a recipient of the 2015 Teaching Excellence Award.  Gerald joined the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at GMU in 1996.  In 2002, he became the first African American faculty member to gain tenure in STEM at the university.  Throughout his career, he has served as a champion to create an inclusive and diverse campus, which is reflective of the undergraduate student population.  He views his work in the areas of diversity and inclusion as a labor of love.

A few of his efforts for faculty include appointing Dr. Megan Erb as Associate Chair (the first female, who is also a term faculty professor) of the department, increasing diversity among adjunct, term, and tenure-stream faculty in the department; and hiring Elizabeth Foy as the Chemistry Preps Room Manager---the first Hispanic female to serve in such a high visibility and pressurized capacity in the department.

He has also worked tirelessly as a mentor and to be a beacon of light for all students.  He has served as the faculty advisor for the GMU chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) for the past 10 years; faculty advisor for the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students; faculty advisor and Graduate Advisor to the Rho Tau Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. at GMU; former faculty advisor to Immanuel Christian Fellowship (Korean); co-advisor for the Pre-Pharmacy Society; and a chemistry instructor for the summer STEM Bootcamp.

Recognizing the need for proper role models in undergraduate instruction and young leadership, Gerald selected and appointed outstanding female graduate students to serve as Head Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) in departmental teaching laboratories.  This small act awakened a fire in other female graduate students in the department, undergraduate majors and minors, and students enrolled in the lab courses.  Seeing someone that looked like them in leadership roles has given the female students a much-needed reaffirmation to remain in STEM.  The number of female chemistry majors now exceeds the number of males at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Gerald shares his love of inspiring students by reminding GTAs, faculty and staff, using the following quote---  “You have a unique opportunity to speak life or death into that student’s present and future.  Choose your words wisely, because they are looking to you for guidance; their parents have entrusted them in our care, and we must do our utmost to create learning environments and prepare them for win-win outcomes.” 

It was not until Gerald was nominated for a Teaching Excellence Award that he realized the impact that he was having on students across cultures and ethnicities.  An excerpt from a former student’s letter of support stated that he attributed his undergraduate success at GMU, his doctorate degree at Cornell, his confidence in his capabilities, etc. to the role that Gerald played, and continues to play, in his life. Gerald, unknowingly, had tapped into another dimension of diversity mentoring and inclusivity---first generation white male STEM majors whose parents did not go beyond middle school and high school.  The young man named his first child Robert, in order to honor Gerald. 

Gerald’s formative years of diversity and inclusion can be traced to mentors that, along with his mother, influenced him along the way:  summer instructors at Tougaloo College; undergraduate advisors at Jackson State University---Dr. Margaret Wodetzki and Dr. Richard H. Sullivan; Nora L. Briant (LLNL); Dr. Susan M. Kauzlarich (dissertation advisor) and Dr. William Jackson at UC-Davis); and Drs. Robert Cava (postdoc advisor) and Don Murphy at AT&T Bell Labs/Lucent Tehcnologies.  He was also a founding member of the Association of Black Lab Employees (ABLE) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

External to GMU, Gerald speaks to youth groups from socioeconomically disenfranchised groups, works alongside community groups that need STEM tutors and mentors, and speaks to student groups K-12.  He also recently served as a panelist for the webinar “Unspoken Truths:  Being Black in Education”.

Gerald is a proud member of Theta Tau Sigma chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated; a former Director of Education for the Eastern Region of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated; and recipient of educational and leadership awards from the fraternity and other civic organizations.

He earned a B.S. in Chemistry from Jackson State University and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California at Davis.

The Earle C. Williams Presidential Medal for Faculty Excellence in Social Impact

Padmanabhan (Padhu) Seshaiyer
Professor of Mathematical Sciences and
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, College of Science

Padmanabhan "Padhu" Seshaiyer

Dr. Padmanabhan (Padhu) Seshaiyer is a tenured Professor of Mathematical Sciences and serves as an Associate Dean in the College of Science, Director of the STEM Accelerator Program and the Director of COMPLETE (Center for Outreach in Mathematics Professional Learning and Educational Technology). From 2015-2017, he also served as a Program Director at the National Science Foundation in the Division of Mathematical Sciences. His research interests are in the broad areas of computational mathematics, scientific computing, computational biomechanics, STEM education and Design Thinking. In particular, his research in computational mathematics includes the development of new analytical techniques and efficient computational algorithms to obtain numerical solutions to differential equations describing multi-physics interactions. His research in computational biomechanics includes developing, extending and applying mechanics for the purposes of better understanding the physiology and pathophysiology of the human vascular system. Integrated with the research plan is a STEM education plan where the primary goal is to engage students and teachers at all levels to apply well-developed research concepts, to fundamental applications arising in the STEM disciplines.

As an expert in the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the NAE Grand Challenges, he has helped to build new curricular innovations, research programs and initiatives around these real-world contexts that have had a significant societal impact. Some examples of his work include developing STEM solutions to stop poaching of elephant tusks in Tanzania; understanding the influence of social behavior in the spread of infectious diseases; developing computational models to predict gang violence in Puerto Rico and; redesigning K-12 curriculum to enhance pedagogical practices of teachers through STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) education. Using his expertise in Design Thinking, he has also been successfully able to engage several students, faculty and community in transformational learning experiences via human-centered approaches to problem solving that has helped create several social entrepreneurs and agents of change.  On April 2, 2019, Padhu was awarded an honorary doctorate from Vrije Universiteit Brussel for "being a committed scientist who transcends the boundaries of their own disciplines and to personalities that have been at the frontiers of societal change.” Previous recipients of the honor have included the late former president of South Africa Nelson Mandela, noted Swedish diplomat and former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Hans Blix and famed French explorer and scientist Jacques Cousteau, among others.

During the last decade, Padhu initiated and directed a variety of educational programs including graduate and undergraduate research, K-12 outreach, teacher professional development, and enrichment programs to foster the interest of students and teachers in STEM at all levels. During this time he received multiple grants from several agencies, acquiring over $14 Million in grant funding (Federal – NSF, NIH, Whitaker; State – VDOE, SCHEV, TX ARP; Foundation – Battelle, Broadcom, BWGC, and Dominion) to promote multidisciplinary research, training and mentoring programs for students, teachers and faculty. He has mentored research projects for over 200 students at all levels; published over 125 peer-reviewed journal articles and proceedings and; authored two graduate texts (one in Numerical Analysis and another on mathematical modeling for teachers). In addition to his research accomplishments, Padhu contributed extensively to teaching and won several prestigious awards, including the President's Excellence Award in Teaching at two different institutions, the Programs that Work award from the Commonwealth several times and also has been nominated for the US Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM) twice. In 2021, he was honored by the Virginia Secretary of Education with the NCWIT Equity in computing award that is given to exemplary formal and informal educators who play a pivotal role in promoting gender equity in computing. He has also developed global partnerships with over 20 countries for student and faculty exchange programs. He serves in multiple advisory and elected positions including, Councilor for the Mathematics and Computer Science Division of the Council on Undergraduate Research as well as the Vice-Chair of the US National Commission for Mathematics Instruction by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. He also currently serves as the National Chair for the Diversity Advisory Committee for the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. In 2020, he was selected by the International Science Council to a new international COVID-19 taskforce representing the United States to create new policies for the future of digital education, research and learning.