April 22, 2019  

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USM Faculty Member Selected for Conference of Southern Graduate Schools Outstanding Mentor Award

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Dr. Sarah Morgan

For a third time in four years, a University of Southern Mississippi faculty member has won the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools Outstanding Mentor Award. The award acknowledges and honors a full-time, tenured faculty member from its 106 CSGS-member institutions who has successfully mentored graduate students at the master’s or doctoral level in the Southern region.

This year’s recipient is Dr. Sarah Morgan, associate director and professor of USM’s School of Polymer Science and Engineering. The award includes $1,000 plus travel expenses to attend the 2019 CSGS meeting in Knoxville where she will receive the award on Feb. 16. 

“I am honored and humbled to receive this award,” Morgan said. “The students are my inspiration, and my primary goal is to provide them with the challenges and opportunities that will enable them to perform at the highest level in the polymer science and engineering profession.”

Since Morgan joined USM in 2002, she has mentored 12 students completing their Ph.D. and seven students completing their M.S. in Polymer Science and Engineering. Her Ph.D. graduates have attained professional research positions in industry or national laboratories at sites including BASF, DuPont, Eastman Chemical Company, and Air Force Research Laboratories. Meanwhile, her Master of Science graduates have moved on to industrial positions or doctoral studies at other institutions.

Educators and administrators within USM’s School of Polymer Science and Engineering and Graduate School said Morgan’s commitment to outreach has had a profound impact on the polymer science program, especially in recruiting strong students. Colleagues and former students especially noted Morgan's dedication to the professional development of women and underrepresented students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines.

Former Ph.D. student Dr. Katrina Knauer in her nomination letter recalled Morgan’s “hands on/hands off approach,” motivating Knauer to not only pursue her Ph.D. in Polymer Science and Engineering, but also develop her writing, research, and presentation skills. She eventually landed a position at BASF Corporation, one of the largest producers of chemicals and related products in North America.

“I grew academically and professionally as a direct result of her exceptional teaching and mentorship,” Knauer wrote about Morgan. “I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have worked under an attentive and motivating advisor.”

Dr. Karen S. Coats, dean of USM’s Graduate School who submitted Morgan’s nomination package to the conference, commends Morgan for providing very proactive, intentional mentorship and advising to USM Ph.D. and Master of Science students despite her never-ending responsibilities as an executive-level administrator and management of a research program that garners millions of dollars in external funding from government and private industry.

“Dr. Morgan is without a doubt among the most influential, successful, and beloved graduate mentors I have witnessed in nearly thirty years in graduate education as a faculty member directing my own students, and now as a graduate dean,” Coats said.

Previous winners of this CSGS award include Senior Associate Provost for Institutional Effectiveness Douglas Masterson who won the award in 2016, and psychology professor Brad Dufrene who won the award in 2018.