Harrison-Pitaniello named 20th Drinko Fellow; President Kopp honored for support of the Drinko Academy


MarciaHarrison-PitanielloDr. Marcia Harrison-Pitaniello, a professor in the department of biological sciences, has been selected as the 2014-2015 Distinguished John Deaver Drinko Academy Fellow, according to Dr. Alan Gould, executive director of the academy.

Gould announced Harrison-Pitaniello’s selection as the latest – and 20th overall – fellow during the annual Drinko Symposium Saturday night in the Francis-Booth Experimental Theatre, in the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center.  He also honored  President Stephen J. Kopp by naming him a Distinguished John Deaver  Drinko Fellow, and presenting him with a medallion and a plaque.

“Since his appointment to the presidency in July 2005, he has personally participated in a number of our programs and productions and only on rare occasions missed any of our activities,” Gould said of Kopp. “Among his many contributions to the academy, I would include among the best and most popular his portrayal of our founder, John Laidley, in a special tribute to John Marshall. He not only served as narrator of our production, but also contributed to the narrative development.

“Also, in 2005, during his first year here, I talked to Dr. Kopp about creating Constitution Week on campus. He seized upon it immediately and told me I had his full support – I didn’t realize at the time what that truly meant. President Kopp became and has remained a major contributor to this celebration.”

Appointed annually, the Drinko Fellow receives a generous stipend, a reduced teaching load, and other financial and clerical support for two academic years to undertake research projects and other scholarly pursuits.

“I am deeply honored to be selected as a fellow,” Harrison-Pitaniello said. “I plan on using the opportunity to focus on developing curriculum and outreach projects in plant biology.”

Gould said selecting Harrison-Pitaniello as the newest fellow was an easy and logical choice to make.

“She’s one of the most outstanding and distinguished teachers and researchers and members of our academic community,’’ Gould said. “She’s truly a remarkable person. She’s also known for her contributions to students. In addition to her scholarly activities and research, she’s particularly interested in enhancing undergraduate research and education opportunities for undergraduate students.”

Harrison-Pitaniello joined the Marshall faculty in 1986 as an assistant professor in the department of biological sciences. She currently is a professor who researches plant hormone physiology with a particular interest in enhancing undergraduate research and educational outreach in plant sciences.

Gould said she has mentored more than 35 student researchers at Marshall and currently oversees a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant that mentors undergraduate students in year-long mathematical biology research projects.  In 2012, she became a BEN (BioSciEduNet) Scholar, sponsored by the National Science Digital Library.  BEN Scholars are given support to promote the use of digital libraries and inquiry-based learning in biology lecture and laboratory courses.

Harrison-Pitaniello will present the results of her work to the university community at the Drinko Symposium next spring during Marshall’s annual Celebration of Academics. Dr. Jeffrey Powell, the 2013-2014 Drinko Fellow, presented the results of his work Saturday night during the symposium.

As a BEN Scholar, Harrison-Pitaniello published an education article about imaging plant growth along with developing educational videos. She also oversees Marshall’s WV NASA Space Grant Consortium, awarding student scholarships, travel grants and faculty research enhancement grants.

With continued interest in NASA-supported research, she served on the education committee, and is a current member of the Board of Governors for the American Society for Gravitational and Space Biology.  In addition, she was the principal investigator of an NSF-funded MU-ADVANCE Program, an innovative networking effort between female STEM faculty working with administrative partners to develop university-level best practices for recruitment, new faculty orientation, and faculty retention.

She is the current president of the MU Chapter of Sigma Xi, Public Relations Officer for the MU Chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, and communications director for the West Virginia Academy of Science.  She was also the director of the WV State Science and Engineering Fair from 2000 through 2007.  Her honors include the Marshall Women of Color Award, MU Distinguished Service Award and Dr. Carolyn Hunter Distinguished Faculty Service Award.

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Photo: Dr. Marcia Harrison-Pitaniello has been named the Drinko Fellow for 2014-2015.