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Baker Awards further work of talented faculty

May 30, 2007
By Jennifer Bowie

Ohio University has awarded $59,743 to researchers through this year's Baker Fund Awards. The Ohio University Foundation makes these awards through the John C. Baker Fund, and the Office of the Vice President for Research selects awardees through a competitive proposal process.

2007 recipients of Baker Fund Awards
      Project: "Taxonomic, Molecular Phylogenetic and Biogeographic Studies on the Tree Violet Genus Rinorea (Violaceae) in Madagascar and Southeast Asia" (violaceae is the Violet family, which consists of 23 genera and 850 species)
      Recipient: Harvey Ballard Jr., Department of Environmental and Plant Biology
      Amount:  $11,995
      Project: "Electric Girls and the Invisible World" (a 30-minute video about 19th century Italian spiritualist medium Eusapia Palladino)
      Recipient: Laura Larson, School of Art
      Amount: $10,660
      Project: "The Acatlan Complex, Southern Mexico: Record of the Close of One of Several Major Paleozoic Oceans?"
      Recipient: R. Damian Nance, Department of Geological Sciences
      Amount: $10,563
      Project: "Manuscript Illumination as Polemic in Central Italy during the Georgian Reform" (a book-length manuscript for publication)
      Recipient: Charles Buchanan, School of Interdisciplinary Arts
      Amount: $10,025
      Project: "Ethel R. Overby: Lighting a Candle, 1912-1977" (a book-length manuscript for publication)
      Recipient: Adah Ward Randolph, Department of Educational Studies
      Amount: $9,000
      Project: "Phylogeography of Batrachospermum gelatinosum (Rhodophyta ? red algae)"
Morgan Vis, Department of Environmental and Plant Biology

"The Baker Awards allow Ohio University to support talented faculty who work hard every day to produce high-quality and distinctive research and creative activity," says Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl. "Having an internal grant program like this one creates national prominence and provides exciting opportunities for our faculty to complete book and video projects, to compete for external grants from organizations such as the National Science Foundation and to be recognized by the university for their efforts."

This year's Baker Awards will support the research, scholarship and creative activity of six faculty members. Projects receiving awards during the 2007 funding cycle range from a biography on African-American educator Ethel Thompson Overby to a study of the closure Paleozoic oceans in southern Mexico.

"I was very pleased when I learned that I had received the Baker Award," says Adah Ward Randolph, associate professor of educational studies. "This award will allow me to complete my book, which examines the life of Overby, an unknown but powerful African-American woman, and her contributions as an educator, principal and community activist. I believe it will alter how we have historically viewed the significance and contributions of African-American women educators and their history."

Ward Randolph has earned a Baker Award to conduct the field research necessary to complete her manuscript, something she says would take longer without the award.

"The Baker Award not only will allow me to complete my field research, but it also will assist me in completing a phenomenal interdisciplinary book that I hope will contribute greatly to the fields of history, education and political science," she says.

The John C. Baker Fund was endowed in honor of Ohio University's 14th president in 1961 by a gift of more than $612,000 from 1926 College of Arts and Sciences graduate Edwin L. Kennedy and his wife, Ruth, a 1930 graduate of the College of Education. The Kennedys contributed more than $10.5 million to Ohio University, including a significant collection of Southwest Native American artwork that resides in Ohio University's Kennedy Museum of Art.

For Harvey Ballard, assistant professor of environmental and plant biology, a Baker Award is the major source of funding for a multi-person, international research project on Old World tree-violet systematics.

"Without the Baker Award, we literally would be unable to complete the research of one Ph.D. student and two master's students, much less my own research," says Ballard. "We will now be able to help move along the educational careers and training of three graduate students."

Ultimately, the Baker Award will bring this initial research to the point that a highly competitive, international, collaborative proposal can be submitted to the National Science Foundation. Ballard's colleague Morgan Vis, associate professor of environmental and plant biology, also will use her Baker Award to prepare for an NSF grant.

"Receiving the Baker Award will allow me to finish a research project that will help me fully develop hypotheses about the distribution of freshwater red algae in North America," she says.

"The Baker Award provides a unique opportunity for faculty to bridge periods between grants," says R. Damian Nance, professor of geological sciences. "In my case, it will allow me to bring closure to an NSF-funded study in southern Mexico by resolving a controversy that the funded research generated."

Nance's work seeks to resolve Mexico's Paleozoic history and its role in the development of continental reconstructions for the assembly of the late Paleozoic supercontinent, Pangea. "Once resolved, the project can be taken to the next level through renewed outside funding; however, without the Baker Award, this would have been a much more difficult process," he says.

Charles S. Buchanan, associate professor of interdisciplinary arts, will use his Baker Award to complete his book on illuminated manuscripts created in central Italy during the 11th century Georgian Reform. "The Baker Award is fantastic," he says. "It provides me the financial means to travel overseas to view in person archival materials, a necessity for someone conducting research in my field. This award is crucial to finishing my book project, and I am very grateful that Ohio University makes these funds available."

In its 45 years, the John C. Baker Fund has supported the Kennedy Lecture Series, the Distinguished Professor Awards and the Baker Fund Awards. Today, the endowment that supports the fund is valued at more than $1.5 million.

Each year the Baker Fund Awards Committee ? a group coordinated by the Office of the Vice President for Research and selected by Faculty Senate ? invites proposals for support of research, scholarship and creative activity at Ohio University. This year, the BAC received 23 applications. The scholarly, technical or artistic merit of proposed projects is the primary criterion for evaluation.

"I am enormously pleased to receive the Baker Award," says Laura Larson, assistant professor of photography, whose funded video project, "Electric Girls and the Invisible World," will tell the story of Eusapia Palladino, a 19thcentury spiritualist medium whose supernatural acts of levitation made her a celebrity in her time. "I am honored to have the project recognized for support, especially as a second-year faculty member. The award will allow me to develop and complete the video without interruption, and I hope its exhibition will bring attention to the faculty research at Ohio University."


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Published: Jul 20, 2006 3:50:00 PM
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