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Bridge in winter

Ferrari and Hicks receive Dean’s Special Award for extraordinary efforts during COVID-19

27 January 2021

Matthew Ferrari, associate professor of biology, and Melissa Hicks, director and instructional designer for the Office of Digital Learning, have been honored with Dean’s Special Awards for their efforts to support the Eberly College of Science and the University in response to COVID-19. The awards were presented by Verne M. Wiliman Dean Tracy Langkilde on January 19, 2021, during the college’s Climate and Diversity Awards ceremony, sponsored by the college’s Climate and Diversity Committee.

“Many members of our college have really gone above and beyond in response to COVID-19, especially to keep us moving forward in our mission to do impactful science and to educate the next generation of leaders,” said Langkilde. “I thank them all for them all for the important work they have done and continue to do. I want to recognize two members of the college in particular for their incredible efforts during the last year.”

Matt Ferrari

Ferrari was recognized for his role as an advisor to senior University leadership as they guide Penn State's strategic response to the pandemic. As co-chair of the University’s Public Health and Science Assessment task group, he tracks the current scientific evidence and data, both in the U.S. and globally, to inform strategy and response. He serves as an expert, speaking at town halls and webinars, updating Penn State academic leadership, and consulting with groups across campus on challenges from housing to testing. Ferrari also serves as an epidemiologist on the State College Area School District pandemic response team.

“These are all incredibly challenging roles of enormous value to the college, the University, and the broader community,” said Langkilde. "Matt has volunteered countless hours to advise University leadership, and this is all on top of his normal day job, which includes conducting cutting edge research, teaching and training our graduate and undergraduate students, and contributing important service, including chairing the biology climate and diversity committee.”

Melissa Hicks

Hicks was recognized for her leadership during the college’s emergency transition to remote learning during the spring 2020 semester and beyond. Her expertise and leadership allowed her to put together a team that was well ahead of the curve in being able to support online teaching and learning in the college. She held many trainings and individual consultations for faculty and instructors and has been selected to sit on several university-wide committees to develop guidance and resources. Hicks also hosts town halls with faculty and staff from all 20 campuses to help determine how to teach online science courses and labs most effectively.

“Melissa has done an absolutely Herculean job to support our students and faculty, making sense of the chaos and sharing clear, concise advice and information,” said Langkilde. “Our college leads the university in digital learning because of Melissa's creativity and energy, and she has been critical in supporting the teaching innovation across the university in response to COVID-19.”