Achievements | Honors, appointments, publications for Oct. 14

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Achievements | Honors, appointments, publications for Oct. 14

The rising sun appears to burn a hole through the flag of Cornhusker Marching Band color guard member Jaedynn Shively, a sophomore from Lincoln.
Craig Chandler | University Communication and Marketing
The rising sun appears to burn a hole through the flag of Cornhusker Marching Band color guard member Jaedynn Shively, a sophomore from Lincoln.

Recent achievements for the campus community were earned by Marco Abel, Jonis Agee, Grace Bauer, Kelsy Burke, Barbara DiBernard, Kwakuitl Dreher, Melissa Homestead, Jody Koenig Kellas, Casey Kelly, Congrui Grace Jin, Susan Olafson-Lackey, Jessica Poli, Timothy Schaffert, Ash Eliza Smith, Zachary Wallenberg, Nicholas Wallenberg, Tryphena L. Yeboah and Yanbin Yin.


  • Marco Abel, Willa Cather Professor and chair of English; Grace Bauer, professor emerita of English; Melissa J. Homestead, professor of English; Jessica Poli, graduate student; and Timothy Schaffert, professor and director of the Creative Writing Program, were selected winners of the Nebraska Center for the Book 2022 Nebraska Book Awards. Abel, Poli and Schaffert won the Special Poetry category for “More in Time: A Tribute to Ted Kooser.” Bauer’s “Unholy Heart” won the Poetry Honor category. Homestead won the Nonfiction Biography category for “The Only Wonderful Things: The Creative Partnership of Willa Cather and Edith Lewis.” Schaffert also won the fiction category for “The Perfume Thief.” The awards will be presented at the NCB’s annual Celebration of Nebraska Books on Oct. 22. The keynote speaker at this year’s celebration is Jonis Agee, Adele Hall Professor of English, whose novel “The Bones of Paradise” was the 2022 One Book, One Nebraska selection.

  • Barbara DiBernard, professor emerita of English, received the Doc Elliott Award. DiBernard was a longtime director of women’s studies and helped establish the LGBTQ/sexuality studies minor for undergraduate and graduate students. The Doc Elliott Award honors a retired University of Nebraska-Lincoln faculty member who has exhibited a record of exemplary service, whose caring attitude has made a difference in the lives of students and alumni and who has gone beyond traditional expectations. The Department of English hired DiBernard in 1978 to teach modern British fiction, but soon after she accepted an invitation from the newly established women’s studies program to teach courses in women’s literature. Read more here.

  • Kwakiutl Dreher, associate professor of English, and Ash Eliza Smith, assistant professor of emerging media arts, were fellows at the inaugural WORLDLING, a first-of-its kind research and development initiative that explores climate futures at the intersection of documentary, land-use planning, speculative modeling and game-engine technologies. It is a partnership between Unity Software/the Unity Charitable Fund and the Co-Creation Studio at MIT Open Documentary Lab. During the intensive workshop, a cohort of five project teams with storyworld projects in development had the opportunity to develop their projects with researchers and makers from MIT, Unity team members and special guests from the field, to explore how they use or could use real-time 3D technology to imagine, plan and co-create future worlds within real-life communities. Learn more here.

  • Congrui Grace Jin, assistant professor in civil and environmental engineering, received a 2022 DARPA Young Faculty Award. The award program identifies and engages rising stars in junior research positions, emphasizing those without prior DARPA funding, and exposes them to Department of Defense needs and DARPA’s program development process. The program provides funding, mentoring and industry and DoD contacts to awardees early in their careers so they may develop their research ideas in the context of national security needs. Read more here.

  • Jody Koenig Kellas, Willa Cather Professor of interpersonal, family and health communication and chair of the Department of Communication Studies, has earned the National Communication Association’s Bernard J. Brommel Award for outstanding scholarship or distinguished service in family communication. Koenig Kellas founded and runs the Narrative Nebraska lab, a research collective of faculty and graduate students in the department and some interdisciplinary partners. They study the links between storytelling and health and well-being. Read more here.

  • Casey Kelly, professor of rhetoric and public culture in the Department of Communication Studies, earned the National Communication Association’s Franklyn S. Haiman Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Freedom of Expression for his article “Whiteness, Repressive Victimhood and the Foil of the Intolerant Left,” published in First Amendment Studies in 2021. The award is presented to a National Communication Association member who has authored outstanding published research on freedom of expression. Read more here.

  • Susan Olafsen-Lackey, a research hydrologist with the Conservation and Survey Division and the School of Natural Resources, was inducted into the NRD Hall of Fame. She began her career with CSD in 1991 and has used her knowledge and experience to help Nebraska communities and agencies protect and manage water resources. Olafsen-Lackey holds a Nebraska professional geologist license and a water well and pump installers contractor’s license. Her main research emphasis is the groundwater flow system in northeast and north-central Nebraska including determining subsurface geology, as well as collecting and analyzing water level and water chemistry data.

  • Zachary Wallenberg, an accounting major, and Nicholas Wallenberg, a computer science major, were selected for the invite-only 2022 Alexis Elliott Memorial Round Robin for the Lincoln-Douglas debate. The competition features the most decorated Lincoln-Douglas debate students from the previous season. The brothers helped the debate team win the national championship earlier this year. Both advanced to the quarterfinal round and finished with a combined record of 13-5. Zachary, a first-year student, was named the tournament’s third overall speaker, and Nick, a junior, was named the ninth overall speaker.

  • Tryphena L. Yeboah, a doctoral student in the Creative Writing Program, won the spring 2022 Story Contest from Narrative magazine for her short story “The Dishwashing Women.”

  • Yanbin Yin, associate professor in food science and technology, recently won a National Institutes of Health grant to develop a genomic context-based tool, called AOMiner, for bioinformatics data mining of new Acr operons in the human gut microbiome and virome. The Yin lab has recently developed AcrFinder, a bioinformatics software package for automated discovery of Acr operons, primarily based on sequence homology search. The innovation of this project is that AOMiner will implement a genomic context-based algorithm focusing on discovery of new Acr operons instead of Acr proteins. Additionally, this project will be the first large-scale genome mining for Acrs operons from human gut microbiome and virome, which will be developed into a gutAO database.


  • Kelsy Burke, associate professor of sociology, was named a Public Fellow with the Public Religion Research Institute, as part of its Religion and Renewing Democracy Initiative. Selected via a nationwide open call, the diverse cohort of fellows will work alongside PRRI researchers and staff to generate public scholarship focused on contemporary issues at the intersection of religion, culture and politics. PPRI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization.

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