Three faculty members honored as academia's rising stars

contact: Cheryl Roland
| WMU News

KALAMAZOO—An internationally known evaluation specialist, an expert in nuclear and astrophysics and an anthropologist whose focus on linguistics has attracted global attention have been named Western Michigan University's 2013-14 Emerging Scholars.

Drs. Chris L.S. Coryn, associate professor and director of WMU's Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Evaluation; Michael A. Famiano, associate professor of physics; and Kristina Wirtz, associate professor of anthropology, will be presented the Emerging Faculty Scholar Award during WMU's Academic Convocation at 2 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4, in the Dalton Center Recital Hall. Convocation activities also will include WMU President John M. Dunn's State of the University address and the presentation of several other Universitywide faculty, teaching and service awards.

Photo of Dr. Chris .


Chris L.S. Coryn

Lauded by colleagues for "modeling what it is to be a scholar" and for having amassed an international record of accomplishment, Coryn is an experienced research leader in such fields as education, science and technology, health and medicine, community and international development, and social and human services.  He has led or been the methodologist for grants and contracts totaling nearly $5 million.

"I know of no other young emerging evaluation scholar in the world with the record of scholarly contribution that comes close to Dr. Coryn's record," noted a colleague at another university.

Coryn has published more than 80 scholarly peer-reviewed papers in a number of top journals in the evaluation field. He is the executive editor of the Journal of MultiDisciplinary Evaluation, and since 2010, he has been invited to lecture at The Evaluators' Institute, a prestigious national venue for workshops on evaluation. His scholarly contributions led to him winning the 2008 American Evaluation Association's Marcia Guttentag Award.

Coryn earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Indiana University and came to WMU in 2003 as a research associate in evaluation. He earned his Ph.D. in evaluation theory and methodology from WMU in 2007 and became director of that doctoral program in interdisciplinary evaluation in 2008. In that capacity, he serves as advisor for as many as 13 students and dissertation chair for nine.

"Western Michigan University is fortunate to have an emerging scholar of this caliber on the faculty," said an evaluation expert at another university in supporting Coryn's nomination. "I have no doubt Dr. Coryn will continue to be one of the top scholars in evaluation for many years to come."

Photo of Dr. Michael .


Michael A. Famiano

During the eight years he spent at WMU before recently moving to the private sector, Famiano's reputation in the fields of astrophysics and nuclear physics revolved around answering questions about how nuclear isotopes are created in the Universe and determining the nuclear equation of state. His work, one nominator noted, is internationally recognized and "shows outstanding promise to attain even greater heights."

He carried out much of his research at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Lab at Michigan State University, often taking students he was mentoring to assist in the work. He also spent extensive time in Japan, collaborating there with that nation's leaders in the field of nuclear astrophysics.

An American astrophysicist who has known Famiano for years wrote in support of his nomination. He lauded a recent breakthrough discovery made by Famiano and four colleagues. The work, he said, "represents an important advance on our understanding of how the first stars in the Universe evolved and produced heavy elements, a topic that has perplexed astrophysicists for more than two decades."

Famiano is the author of 47 refereed publications and has been the recipient of more than $2 million in research grants and contracts to support his work. The most recent such support is a $240,000 award from the National Science Foundation.

He earned bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Michigan and a doctoral degree in physics from Ohio State University. Famiano joined the WMU faculty in 2005 after being a visiting research associate at the MSU national lab. He also held a research position in Japan and held teaching and research positions at OSU.

Photo of Dr. Kristina .


Kristina Wirtz

Scholars around the globe who wrote in support of Wirtz's nomination noted that for someone with an academic career that is "just getting started," her academic record is already "what many scholars could hope to accomplish in a satisfying career."

An anthropologist with a focus in linguistics, Wirtz is the author of two books, with a third one in progress. She also has published book chapters, book reviews and peer- and editor-reviewed articles in her profession's most prestigious journals. In addition, she has given invited presentations, seminars and lectures around the world.

An international colleague noted the impact of her first book "Ritual, Discourse and Community in Cuban Santeria: Speaking a Sacred World" and praised her for refusing to take the "easy option" of staying in Havana to do fieldwork as most western anthropologists do. The 2007 book that focused on eastern Cuba, that supporter said, "suggests new directions for the study of religion more broadly and for our understanding of the relationships between religious communities and their larger national and transnational contexts."

Wirtz has been a faculty member at WMU since 2005 and came to the University from the University of Pennsylvania, where she taught a course on qualitative research for a year after earning her Ph.D. in anthropology there. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Cornell University.

At WMU, she has, as one colleague noted, been "among a growing number of anthropologists and social scientists who aim to put their scholarly research into an effort to transform the inequities of our world toward conditions of social justice." As part of that commitment, he said, she was instrumental in bringing the American Anthropological Association's Race Exhibit to Kalamazoo in 2010.

About the Emerging Scholar Award program

The Emerging Scholar Award program was launched late in 2006 to acknowledge the accomplishments of WMU faculty members who are among the rising stars in U.S. higher education. It is designed to celebrate the contributions of faculty who are in the first decade of their careers at WMU and who, by virtue of their contributions to scholarship or creative activity, have achieved national recognition and demonstrated outstanding promise to achieve renown in their continuing work. The award goes to scholars nominated for consideration through a campuswide selection process and carries a $2,000 cash prize for each recipient.