Jill Hummels
Office of the Provost

Four KU faculty members receive Distinguished Professor status

Thu, 09/10/2020

Note: This story was updated Sept. 11, 2020, to clarify the named and University Distinguished Professorships awarded.

LAWRENCE — University of Kansas Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer has appointed four KU faculty members to be Distinguished Professors. The appointments for professors Shannon Blunt in the Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science; Sarah Deer in the Department of Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies; Donna Ginther in the Department of Economics and Kathleen Lane in the Department of Special Education became effective with the start of the fall 2020 semester.

“These faculty members represent the best of KU, and their accomplishments demonstrate an insatiable spirit for knowledge,” Bichelmeyer said. “These four have grown their fields and our society as a result. As an institution, we confer the title of university Distinguished Professor in part to remind ourselves that the unique talents each possesses rise from years of scholarship and dedicated effort.  Their commitment to discovery and knowledge generation are foundations that make KU such a special place. My heartfelt congratulations go to these four recipients.”

Nominations of current KU faculty members for the distinguished professorships come from academic departments and schools. Major criteria for selection include a record of exceptional scholarship, participation in university affairs and professional organizations, service to community and the success of their students, colleagues and institutions. Distinguished professors can be from any discipline, although special consideration is given to candidates from disciplines that have limited representation among current distinguished professors at KU. The University Committee on Distinguished Professorships reviews nominations and forwards its recommendations to the provost for final approval.

KU has three examples of distinguished professors — Named, University and Foundation Distinguished Professors. The first University Distinguished Professors were announced in 1963, and a complete list is available online.

About the 2020 Distinguished Professors

Shannon Blunt

Shannon Blunt, professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, was awarded a Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professorship. He has been with the KU faculty since 2005 and was promoted to professor in 2014. His research expertise is in the technology and applications of radar, and his scholarship has developed myriad new capabilities involving adaptive radar applications, dual-function radar/communications, and radar waveform diversity and design. His research has contributed significantly to the deployment of fielded radar and sonar systems.

Blunt is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and has been appointed to the U.S. President’s Council of Advisors on Science & Technology (PCAST). He has been director, chair or vice chair of 12 highly distinguished organizations and committees since 2008, including several IEEE panels and committees and a NATO research task group. He is director of the Kansas Applied Research Laboratory (KARL) and the KU Radar Systems and Remote Sensing Laboratory (RSL). A recipient of numerous awards, including a 2008 Young Investigator Award from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) and the IEEE Nathanson Memorial Radar Award in 2012, Blunt has also successfully obtained more than $10 million in research funding over his career, edited two books on radar and waveform diversity, co-written over 170 book chapters and articles, and has 16 patents or patents-pending. He recently served as a subject matter expert on spectrum for the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy for America’s Mid-Band Initiative Team (AMBIT) that in close collaboration with the Pentagon worked to open 100 MHz of spectrum for 5G communication deployment across the contiguous United States.

He is a noted educator who has supervised the research of numerous undergraduate and graduate students, several of whom have been awarded honors for their research. His work as a mentor and educator earned him the department’s Harry Talley Excellence in Teaching Award in both 2008 and 2013 and the KU Center for Teaching Excellence award in 2013. He was also honored with the KU School of Engineering’s Miller Professional Development Award for Service in 2019.

From 2002 to 2005, Blunt worked as a radar engineer at the Radar Division of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. Blunt earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Missouri.

Sarah Deer

Sarah Deer, who has been a professor in the Department of Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies since 2017, was named a University Distinguished Professor. She has a joint appointment in the School of Public Affairs & Administration and is a courtesy professor in the KU School of Law. In 2016, Deer was a Langston Hughes Visiting Professor in the Law School. A citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Deer is a leading expert on gender-based violence in Native American communities. Her work, which bridges scholarship, legal action and advocacy, has earned her several distinguished awards, including a MacArthur Fellowship in 2014. This year she was selected to be in the 2020 class of Andrew Carnegie Fellows. In 2016 she won the Spirit of Excellence Award from the American Bar Association to celebrate lawyers who promote the racial and ethnic diversity of the legal profession. In 2019 she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Deer’s academic career has taken her to many institutions of higher learning, including the Mitchell Hamline School of Law, Lewis and Clark Law School, the University of Minnesota Law School, and University of California Los Angeles. She earned a juris doctor from the KU School of Law and has been admitted to the bars of the Supreme Court of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma, the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas and the Supreme Court of Kansas. She is chief justice for the Prairie Island Indian Community Court of Appeals.

Deer was crucial to the passage of landmark legislation: The Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010, which increases the sentencing power of tribal courts; and the 2013 and 2019 reauthorizations of the Violence Against Women Act, which authorizes tribal courts to prosecute non–Native Americans for assault or violation of protection orders on tribal lands. Deer has performed pro bono work, including the filing of five amicus briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court. Her service also extends to testimony before the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as other federal committees and commissions. Deer was appointed chair of the U.S. Attorney General Task Force on Sexual Assault in Indian Country, serving from 2013 through 2015, and to the Attorney General Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence, from 2012 through 2013.

Her scholarly interests include Indigenous legal studies, violence against Native American women, intersections between victims’ rights and federal Indian law, and more. She has written or co-written dozens of articles, essays and reviews and written, co-written or edited six books. Her book “The Beginning and End of Rape: Confronting Sexual Violence in Native North America,” won numerous awards, including the 2016 Labriola Center American Indian National Book Award and the Victoria Schuck Book Award from the American Political Science Association.

In addition to her juris doctor, Deer earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in women’s studies and philosophy from KU.

Donna Ginther

Donna Ginther, professor in the Department of Economics, was awarded a Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professorship. She joined the KU faculty in 2002 and was promoted to professor in 2009.

Ginther has played a critically important role in economic development in Kansas through her research, reports and consulting work with a variety of state institutions and government leaders. She has received more than $7 million in grant funding and has published major works in numerous areas of labor economics. Ginther is recognized for her work explaining gender and racial differences in major grant funding outcomes. She has testified before Congress and consulted on equity and diversity issues in science funding with many of the major grant-making organizations in the United States, including the National Academies of Sciences, the National Institutes of Health and the Sloan Foundation. 

Ginther has won several teaching and research awards at KU, including the Byron T. Shutz Award for Excellence in Teaching (2012), the University Scholar Award (2012) for recognition of midcareer scholars who have made significant research contributions to their fields and the Leading Light Award for recognition of grant funding exceeding $1 million in a year. Ginther has advised 17 doctoral students and has mentored undergraduates who have won major KU and national research awards. 

Ginther began her career in 1995 as an assistant professor of economics at Southern Methodist University. Her journey from SMU included a stop at Washington University and at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta before her arrival at KU in 2002. She has served on the boards of the Southern Economic Association (2009-2013) and the American Economic Association Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession (2006-2011) and as a research economist and associate policy adviser with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s Regional Research Team (2000-2002). Currently, Ginther is a Dean’s Professor of Economics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and this year was named director of KU’s Institute for Policy & Social Research. She has also been the director of the Center for Science, Technology & Economic Policy at the Institute for Policy & Social Research at KU since 2008.

Ginther is a research associate with the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and an affiliate with the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Ginther earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Kathleen Lynne Lane

Kathleen Lynne Lane, a professor in the Department of Special Education in the School of Education & Human Sciences and associate vice chancellor for research, was awarded a Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professorship. Lane’s research focuses on designing, implementing and evaluating comprehensive, integrated, three-tiered (Ci3T) models of prevention to prevent the development of learning and behavior challenges and respond to existing instances, with an emphasis on systematic screening. Her research is grounded in the notion that systematic screening efforts are key to meeting students’ multiple needs respectfully and efficiently.  She has published 205 articles in peer-reviewed journals, written or edited 11 books and written 42 chapters in edited texts. 

Lane joined the KU faculty at the rank of professor in 2012 after having served on faculty at University of Arizona, California State University–Los Angeles, Vanderbilt University and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She served as the co-director for the Center for Research on Learning in 2013-2014.  Her career and research have focused on respectful, responsible inquiry. Lane partners with educators to determine how to most efficiently, effectively meet students’ needs in Ci3T models designed to provide positive, productive learning environments for students and educators alike. She has collaborated with colleagues, students and educators to give over 500 public presentations that translate the results of her teams’ research into actionable practices.

Lane’s work as a researcher is underpinned by her own experiences as an educator and behavior specialist. She began her professional career in 1989 as classroom teacher of general and special education students for five years and as a program specialist for two years. She worked in school systems through 1997, even as she was completing her master’s and doctoral degrees in education and beginning her academic career at the University of California-Riverside. 

Since joining KU, Lane has been principal investigator or co-PI on nearly $10 million in grant-funded projects from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs and the Institute of Education Sciences. She is currently the president of the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division for Research (CEC-DR). She is the co-editor of Remedial and Special Education and the Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions.

Her awards include KU’s University Scholarly Achievement Award (2018) and Lawrence Public School’s Outstanding Service to Public Education Award (2017-2018).  

In addition to her master’s and doctoral degrees in education, Lane earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at UC-Riverside.

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