Pierrakos, Taalman earn state's highest award for educators

by Eric Gorton


Head shots of Pierrakos (left) and Taalman
Dr. Olga Pierrakos (left) and Dr. Laura Taalman

Earning Virginia's highest award for faculty reflects much more than personal performance, say a pair of JMU faculty members who are among 12 recipients of the 2013 Outstanding Faculty Award presented by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

“I think what is most significant about this recognition is what it says about James Madison University,” said Dr. Laura Taalman. “I’m really proud of JMU and what it has become over the years that I have been here, especially the growing excellence in undergraduate research as a vehicle for student learning.”

Dr. Olga Pierrakos said the award "is much bigger than any one person. It is recognition of JMU as an innovative institution that fosters true scholars, not just in teaching, but across many domains. The people to be acknowledged for this are the entire JMU family and JMU community—present and past."

Pierrakos, an associate professor of engineering, and Taalman, a professor of mathematics and statistics, join 10 other recipients who were selected from a pool of 109 applicants nominated by their institutions. The Outstanding Faulty Awards recognize superior accomplishments in teaching, research and public service.

Pierrakos joined the JMU faculty in 2008 as a founding member of the School of Engineering and has been actively involved with curriculum development and research. She is recognized as one of two early-career “Rising Stars” by SCHEV. A graduate from Virginia Tech, Pierrakos received her bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in 2000, 2002 and 2006, respectively. She was recently awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation for “CAREER: Characterizing, Understanding and Integrating Complex Problem Solving in Engineering Education – Supplement.”

Pierrakos is involved with cardiovascular fluid mechanics research and engineering education research. Her doctoral work focused on vortex dynamics and turbulence characteristics in left ventricular flows and past prosthetic heart valves. Pierrakos has also conducted research to understand what motivates students to study engineering. All of her projects, and almost all of her publications, involve students, which show her dedication and persistence to further students as engineers and scientists.

Taalman came to JMU in 2000 and has received many awards for her performance as a college professor. In 2005, Taalman was awarded the Henry L. Alder Award by the Mathematical Association of America for being “one of the most distinguished beginning college professors in North America.”  She also won the 2009 JMU College of Science and Mathematics Distinguished Teaching award. Prior to coming to JMU, Taalman taught at Duke University, where she received her master’s and doctorate in mathematics.

In 2001, Taalman received a JMU Summer Teaching Grant to develop a course that integrated calculus, pre-calculus and algebra. Her published works are featured in Math Horizons, Manuscripta Mathematica and the College Math Journal. Houghton Mifflin published her first text, “Integrated Calculus,” in 2004 and she is also a co-author of a new three-semester calculus book published this month.

Full biographical entries for Pierrakos and Taalman are available on the SCHEV website.

A ceremony honoring the recipients will be held Feb. 12 at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond. Each recipient will receive an engraved award and $5,000 underwritten by the Dominion Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Dominion Resources. The Outstanding Faculty Award program is administered by SCHEV and funded by a grant from the Dominion Foundation, which has fully supported the OFA program since 2005.

Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Last Updated: Tuesday, April 17, 2018

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