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Research Initiative Award winners named

The Office of the Provost announced the winners of the Research Initiative Award. Assistant Professor of Molecular Neuroethology Andres Vidal-Gadea, Assistant Professor of Politics and Government Kerri Milita, Assistant Professor of Mathematics Amin Bahmanian, Assistant Professor of Family and Consumer Sciences Brandon McDaniel, Assistant Professor of Sport Management Rebecca Achen, and Assistant Professor of Teaching and Learning Anna Smith will be honored at the Founders Day Convocation on February 21.

Rebecca Achen

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Rebecca Achen

Achen began her tenure in the School of Kinesiology and Recreation in 2015. Her research focuses on sport marketing and social media marketing with an emphasis on customer relationships.

Since 2015, Achen has accumulated an exceptional amount of scholarly accomplishments, having authored 26 peer-reviewed publications with five additional publications in press, along with an extensive list of projects in various stages of completion. She has presented 23 peer-reviewed national and international projects at conferences and provided important empirical support to help sport organizations improve relationships with fans and better understanding fans’ purchase intentions.

Achen has established herself as an expert in this field of study, serving as a panel expert and as a reviewer or editorial board member for top journals, including Global Sport Business Journal, Sport Marketing Quarterly, Journal of Amateur Sport, Communication & Sport, and Sport Management Education Journal. Her work identifies successful approaches to ensure long-term relationships between customers and sport organizations.

Amin Bahmanian

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Amin Bahmanian

Bahmanian arrived at Illinois State in 2014 after earning his Ph.D. at Auburn University and a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Ottawa. Since arriving he has published nine peer-reviewed journal articles and another 16 presentations and/or invited talks.

He has been an active applicant for external funds, with nine such applications including his successful application in the Young Investigator Grant fund of the National Security Agency. Notably, his “fair detachment of hypergraphs” technique is being used by other investigators in solving their own problems.

Professor Gyula O.H. Katona of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences writes of Professor Bahmanian, “He has an impressive and growing reputation in the field of hypergraph amalgamation, and a history of producing excellent results in the area.”

Brandon McDaniel

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Brandon McDaniel

McDaniel began his career at Illinois State University in the fall of 2016. Early in his career, McDaniel is already making a name for himself as a scholar and one of the go-to experts for those interested in the influence of technology use on parents, children, and family relationships. In 2012, he coined the term “technoference” to refer to how technological interruptions and intrusions impact couple and family relationships.

In his two years at Illinois State, McDaniel has published 14 journal articles and two book chapters, with seven more manuscripts currently under review, and has received two university research grants. Further, he often involves students in his research with over 25 research assistants in the past two years.

This past spring, his peers recognized the outstanding quality of his scholarship by awarding him the Family and Consumer Sciences Research Award, and this past fall, he was nominated for the CAST Outstanding Researcher Award–Pre-Tenure Category.

Kerri Milita

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Kerri Milita

Milita came to Illinois State in 2014 after earning her Ph.D. at Florida State University. In her time with the University, she has published seven peer-reviewed articles with another forthcoming, 17 conference papers, and several invited talks and reviews.

She has also received two separate National Science Foundation grants for a combined $284,602 and an additional $25,000 from the Special Projects Funds of the American Political Science Association.

Her studies on elections have appeared in such publications as the Journal of Politics, PS: Political Science & Politics, Electoral Studies, the Journal of Elections, Public Opinion, and Parties, and Public Policy and Administration. She has given numerous interviews and talks on her research, including for the Main Street College series.

Anna Smith

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Anna Smith

Smith received her Ph.D. from New York University in English education, and she began her tenure at Illinois State University in 2016.

Her research incorporates three interrelated strands: youth, educators, and researchers. Her primary focus includes research on the development of adolescents’ literacies through multiple contexts and extended periods of time. This includes communicative technologies and compositional possibilities. Second, she studies the intersection of adolescents’ learning and the teachers’ learning pathways given the many curricular changes. Finally, she studies educational research and what is evolving in the field regarding learning and literacy and the tools used to conduct such research.

Smith’s research is being recognized at both the national and international levels. She has taken on leadership in national organizations, is serving on the editorial advisory group of a conference based out of Europe, and she was nominated to serve on a board for the National Conference on Research in Language and Literacy. She also serves as co-editor of the Handbook of Writing, Literacies, and Education in Digital Cultures, which won the Initiative for 21st Century Literacies 2019 Divergent Award for Excellence.

During her three years at Illinois State University, her work has been published in journals such as Teachers College Record, Journal of Literacy and Research, and Theory into Practice. Smith has also worked collaboratively with one of her colleagues in the School of Teaching and Learning, Robyn Seglem. They work on a collaborative design research project involving teachers, high school students, and graduates from the alternative high school, other community members, and university faculty. They participate in action research with exchanges at school, online, on campus and in the community creating a method for digital, multimodal and print-based composition, and interaction to provide a context for how students are engaged using media across school, out of school, and online. This collaboration is highly regarded in the field of education and has already resulted in one publication so far.

Andres Vidal-Gadea

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Andres Vidal-Gadea

Vidal-Gadea joined Illinois State in 2014-2015 after earning his Ph.D. at Louisiana State University followed by post-doctoral fellowships at Southampton University and the University of Texas-Austin. His expertise is in magnetic field detection and orientation as it applies to the molecular and neural foundations of behavior.

Since arriving at Illinois State, he has published six peer-reviewed articles, 30 abstracts, and several invited talks. His persistence in seeking external funds (19 submissions) has paid off with more than $1 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation. He is also a collaborating investigator on the school’s recent Major Research Instrumentation Grant.

Vidal-Gadea works actively with students in the Summer Research Academy. He is also the recipient of the McLean County STEM Professional award, recognizing his student mentoring and outreach activities.

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