Faculty and Staff Features for April 2017

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Montserrat Fuentes, Ph.D., dean, College of Humanities and Sciences,

Montserrat Fuentes, Ph.D.
Montserrat Fuentes, Ph.D.

Fuentes has been named a recipient of the 2017 Distinguished Achievement Medal for the American Statistical Association’s Section on Statistics and the Environment.

Fuentes, a professor in the Department of Statistical Sciences and Operations Research, conducts research that has applications in such areas as weather forecasting, oceanography, climate, ecology, air pollution and human health effects from pollution.

She will receive the award in recognition of her “deep contributions to statistical methodology, including non-stationary covariance function models, models for spatial extremes, calibration of numerical models, and computational approaches for large spatial data sets; for substantial contributions to environmental health and air pollution epidemiology; for leadership roles and mentoring of junior scientists; and for service to the profession.”

“I would like to thank all my dear fellow statisticians who have considered me to be worthy of this acknowledgement,” Fuentes said. “I am excited to continue at VCU my passion on advancing data driven understanding of environmental-health problems and build partnerships and scientific bridges across both campuses.”

The Distinguished Achievement Medals of the ASA Section on Statistics and the Environment (ENVR) highlight and recognize outstanding contributions to the development of methods, issues, concepts, applications, and initiatives of environmental statistics.



Victor Chen, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Sociology in the College of Humanities and Sciences

Chen has been named the Labor and Employment Relations Association 2017 John T. Dunlop Outstanding Scholar, which recognizes important contributions to research that address industrial relations and employment problems of national significance.

The selection panel praised Chen’s research examining issues related to inequality and social stratification, poverty, and work and labor markets, and cited his book, “Cut Loose: Jobless and Hopeless in an Unfair Economy,” for providing an “incisive analysis based on first-person stories of the experience of economic restructuring and prolonged joblessness for long-term unemployed autoworkers.”

“It’s an incredible honor to be selected for this national award,” Chen said. “LERA is the foremost organization in my field of study, work and labor issues, and I’m grateful for their kindness in recognizing the value of my research for ‘Cut Loose’ and other projects.”

Chen added there is no way he would have finished the book without the support and encouragement of Jennifer Johnson, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Department of Sociology, as well as the rest of VCU’s sociology faculty.

“It's exciting to be part of the thriving research community that Dean Montserrat Fuentes, Ph.D., is creating at the College of Humanities and Sciences,” he said. “This award is just one of many instances of national recognition that VCU faculty have recently received – just in my department, there's also the widespread praise and media attention that Tressie Cottom, Ph.D.,’s book 'Lower Ed' has gotten – and all of this shows how the college is putting VCU on the map in terms of top-notch, high-profile scholarship.”



Tressie McMillan Cottom, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of SociologyCollege of Humanities and Sciences

Tressie McMillan Cottom, Ph.D.
Tressie McMillan Cottom, Ph.D.

Cottom, a faculty associate at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and William A. ("Sandy") Darity, Jr., Ph.D., the Samuel DuBois Cook Professor of Public Policy, African and African American Studies and Economics and director of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University, are the editors of a new book on for-profit higher education.

The book, “For-Profit Universities: The Shifting Landscape of Marketized Higher Education,” examines how students move through institutional sectors in higher education, compares the roles and social effects of for-profit and non-profit colleges and universities, and systematically analyzes the operation and impact of proprietary institutions of higher education.

According to the book’s publisher, Palgrave Macmillan, the volume proposes that “the phenomenon of private sector, financialized higher education expansion in the United States benefits from a range of theoretical and methodological treatments. Social scientists, policy analysts, researchers, and for-profit sector leaders discuss how and to what ends for-profit colleges are a functional social good. The chapters include discussions of inequality, stratification, and legitimacy, differing greatly from other work on for-profit colleges in three ways: First, this volume moves beyond rational choice explanations of for-profit expansion to include critical theoretical work. Second, it deals with the nuances of race, class, and gender in ways absent from other research. Finally, the book's interdisciplinary focus is uniquely equipped to deal with the complexity of high-cost, low-status, for-profit credentialism at a scale never before seen.”

Cottom is also the author of “Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy” which was published in February by The New Press, and which also explores the for-profit higher education industry, and shows how it has played a role in society’s growing inequality.



Gregory Smithers, associate professor, Department of HistoryCollege of Humanities and Sciences

Gregory Smithers.
Gregory Smithers.

Smithers’ book, “The Cherokee Diaspora: An Indigenous History of Migration, Resettlement, and Identity,” (Yale University Press, 2016), has won gold in the multicultural (nonfiction) book category of the 2017 Independent Publisher Book Awards.

The book reveals how the Cherokee — one of the largest Native American tribes — dispersed around the globe. It uncovers the origins of the widely scattered Cherokee people, and tells how they have maintained their heritage and cultural identity, even when far removed from the Cherokee Nation’s headquarters in Oklahoma.

The Independent Publisher Book Awards honor the year's best independently published titles from around the world. The awards are intended to bring increased recognition to the thousands of exemplary independent, university and self-published titles published each year.

“The Cherokee Diaspora” previously won the Historical Book Award from the North Carolina Society of Historians and the Award of Excellence in Scholarship from the East Tennessee Historical Society. It was also a finalist for the 2016 Oklahoma Book Award, Nonfiction.

"I'm honored with the national and regional recognition ‘The Cherokee Diaspora’ has received,” Smithers said. “It means a lot to me because my aim in writing the book was to draw attention to the communities of Cherokee people around the United States, and world. The network of Cherokee satellite communities that exist today are a product of many historical factors, but the most important thing about these communities is the way they nurture dynamic Cherokee identities in the twenty-first century."




Susan Kornstein, M.D., professor, Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Psychiatry, School of Medicine

Susan Kornstein, M.D.
Susan Kornstein, M.D.

Kornstein was named a Top 40 Healthcare Transformer by Medical Marketing & Media for her role in helping biopharmaceutical company Pfizer develop Moodivator, an app designed to help people better monitor and cope with depression. The app includes features such as a mood tracker, which is a simple scale that people can use throughout the day to measure their emotional self-awareness and share the results securely with family or mental health professionals. Moodivator also includes a feature for creating goals and action plans relating to work, home, family and social activities.

“As awareness of the magnitude and severity of depression continues to mount, such technology as the Moodivator app represents a new and exciting frontier for helping people with depression,” Kornstein said, adding that the app’s options to set, track and achieve personal goals correlate with the cognitive behavioral therapy techniques that she often uses with her patients.

“The opportunity for patients to track and export their mood and goal progress in easy-to-read charts is also very useful, because the progress can then be shared with doctors to help inform care decisions,” she said.

The app is designed to complement traditional treatment by allowing patients to track their mood, set goals and establish routines that can help support them in daily life.

Kornstein will be recognized for her role in the app’s development at an exclusive dinner in New York City on May 1.


John E. Nestler, M.D.professor and chair, Department of Internal Medicine, VCU School of Medicine

John Nester, M.D.
John Nester, M.D.

Nestler was inducted as a master in the American College of Physicians at the college’s annual scientific meeting from March 30 to April 1 in San Diego. He was selected for the honor based on the excellence and significance of his contributions to the science and art of medicine. Nestler is known internationally for his research on polycystic ovary syndrome and insulin resistance.






Scott Sherman, associate professor and coordinator of the advertising sequence, Richard T. Robertson School of Media and CultureCollege of Humanities and Sciences

Scott Sherman.
Scott Sherman.

Sherman received the Mike Hughes Ad Person of the Year Award at Friday’s Advertising Club of Richmond annual awards show. The award is named in honor of the late creative leader at the Martin Agency, and has a long history of recognizing advertising professionals who have made a big impact in Central Virginia through their creative energy and inspirational leadership.

“The award recognizes the important role that VCU plays in the advertising industry. I’m lucky to work with passionate people who make an impact on students’ lives, people who serve and improve the community, and people who influence the advertising profession,” Sherman said. “Being named the Ad Person of the Year is a huge honor. I will work hard to live up to the aspirations that go with the award.”

Sherman has worked in advertising for 20 years, with much of his career in the creative department of two Richmond advertising agencies, where he applied his knowledge in guiding strategic creative and design.

Sherman was nominated for the award by Kelly O’Keefe, professor of creative brand management in the VCU Brandcenter. O’Keefe is a past recipient of the honor.

“The recognition is meaningful because the Richmond advertising community is prolific, vibrant, and creative,” Sherman said. “I have admired so many of the previous people who have been named Ad Person of the Year. It’s an impressive list.”



Paul Perrin, Ph.D., associate professor of counseling and health psychology, Department of Psychology, College of Humanities and Sciences

Paul Perrin, Ph.D.
Paul Perrin, Ph.D.

The American Psychological Association's Society of Clinical Psychology has awarded Paul Perrin, Ph.D., associate professor of counseling and health psychology in the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences, the Samuel M. Turner Early Career Award for Distinguished Contributions to Diversity in Clinical Psychology. This award is conferred annually to an early career psychologist who has made exemplary contributions to diversity within the field.

In addition to teaching multiculturalism in doctoral courses such as Culture, Ethnicity and Health, Perrin has a social justice-focused research agenda in areas such as racial/ethnic disparities in rehabilitation and health. He also works as part of the Primary Care Psychology Training Collaborative to train clinical and counseling psychology doctoral students to bring critical mental health services to underserved populations in the Richmond area.

In his letter nominating Perrin for the award, Timothy Elliott, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Texas A&M University and former faculty member in the Department of Psychology at VCU, wrote, "Paul has a firm commitment to populations too often marginalized in health care, and I am confident that he will continue to use his career to make health care more inclusive and expand clinical psychology’s role in the process."

"Though I'm honored the committee decided to give me the award," Perrin says, "there are many people who have contributed far more than I to diversity in the profession. My hope is that other allies in diversity and inclusion advocacy in our field — no matter what their identity — will use justice and equity as the building blocks for their professional pursuits."