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WVU’s Eberly College announces 2017-18 Public Service Award recipients

The Eberly College of Arts and Sciences at West Virginia University has named three recipients of the 2017-18 Outstanding Public Service Award: Paul Cassak, Amy Herschell and Amy Keesee.

“The Eberly College of Arts and Sciences is proud to have many of its faculty make great contributions to public service and outreach,” said Gregory Dunaway, dean of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. “This year’s recipients have demonstrated outstanding contributions. By applying their expertise, (Cassak, Herschell and Keesee) are making a difference in the lives of young people in the state of West Virginia and beyond.” 

Paul Cassak
Paul Cassak

Cassak is an associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy specializing in plasma physics theory and computation.

Since 2011, Cassak has partnered with Spark! Imagination and Science Center, the children’s museum and science center in Morgantown, West Virginia. As a science adviser to the museum, he contributes to the design of the exhibits and assists with the development of outreach programs. He helped design and build a unique hands-on exhibit, funded by WVU, NSF and NASA, on the cutting-edge science of space weather. The exhibit features a large plasma ball, where visitors make plasma move with their hands, and a virtual reality headset where you view a satellite from space.

“(Cassak’s) outreach and public service has had a positive impact on children and families in north-central West Virginia and throughout the state,” said Julie Bryan, executive director of Spark! Imagination and Science Center. “Research shows that informal education experiences such as those found at children’s science museums are effective in getting students interested in science.”

Cassak received a PhD in physics from the University of Maryland in 2006 and previously served as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Delaware. He has taught introductory, advanced undergraduate and graduate courses at WVU, including three graduate-level plasma physics classes.

“A key element of (Cassak’s) research and teaching is that it is purposefully designed to benefit society,” said Earl Scime, chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. “Through his partnership with Spark! Imagination and Science Center, he created a new exhibit in his research area and brought outstanding resources to our community and state. This public service is of great importance – the museum now reaches over 10,000 people annually – so this permanent exhibit will provide high quality educational outreach opportunities to people from our region for years to come.” 

Amy Herschell
Amy Herschell

Herschell is an associate professor of clinical child psychology in the Department of Psychology. Over the last 14 years, she has implemented evidence-based treatments for children experiencing behavioral disorders in community settings and has studied the effectiveness of the treatments and implementation methods. Through this work, she has impacted thousands of children in Pennsylvania and West Virginia while also informing national dissemination and implementation science initiatives.  

“(Herschell) has led a team of care providers in transforming the quality of behavioral healthcare services of children and families. Although excellent evidence-based interventions exist, we are fully aware that most children and families do not receive them,” said Kevin Larkin, chair of the Department of Psychology. “Rather than attempting to solve this dilemma by personally working with individual families, she has focused her program of community-based research on training local providers, allowing the interventions to be delivered to entire communities.”

Herschell earned a PhD in psychology with a clinical child specialization from WVU in 2003. She completed an internship at the University of Washington School of Medicine and a postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. She also has a joint appointment at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and is a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. At WVU, she teaches History and Systems of Psychology, Program Evaluation and Research Methods.

“My personal and professional goal has been to have a positive impact on the community,” Herschell said. “Throughout my career, I have viewed my research as a way to enhance treatments, get services to those in need and improve our methods for implementing research-informed treatments.”  

Amy Keesee
Amy Keesee

Keesee, a research associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, is a plasma physicist. She developed a program on sun and space weather for education and public outreach activities in collaboration with the Educator Resource Center at the NASA Independent Validation and Verification Facility in Fairmont, West Virginia. The program uses iPads and solar telescopes for hands-on educational experiences. Through this program, she has taught several one-day workshops and two summer courses for middle and high school teachers.

“These activities enable students and the public to learn about the sun and how geomagnetic activity can affect us on earth,” Keesee said. “The space weather course provides a platform for discussion of issues such as science policy, cost versus risk analysis and the importance of scientific research.”  

Keesee earned a PhD in plasma physics from WVU. She serves as the chair of the Association for Women in Science Chapters Committee and as the organization’s West Virginia chapter president. In 2012, she received the Mary Catherine Buswell Award from the WVU Council for Women’s Concerns for her service to women and WVU.

“(Keesee) excels at public outreach and outreach to K-12 schools,” Scime said. “She has played a critical leadership role in developing outreach programming. Her extensive service activities exceed her expected service contributions, and she is highly deserving of this recognition.” 

Recipients of the Eberly College’s Outstanding Public Service Award are listed on a plaque in Woodburn Hall on the WVU Downtown Campus, and are awarded $1,500 to pursue professional development opportunities.