College of Arts and Sciences announces newest Dean’s Eminent Scholar faculty award winners

Contact: Sarah Nicholas

Pictured from left to right are Kimberly Kelly, associate professor of sociology; Shalyn Claggett, associate professor of English; Anna Osterholtz, assistant professor of anthropology; Whitnee Nettles, assistant clinical professor of chemistry, who accepted an award on behalf of Vicky Montiel-Palma, associate professor of chemistry; and MSU College of Arts and Sciences Dean Rick Travis. The group is being recognized as the latest recipients of the Dean’s Eminent Scholar Awards. (Submitted photo)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State’s College of Arts and Sciences has selected four new recipients of the Dean’s Eminent Scholar Awards honoring “exceptionally meritorious faculty who have achieved national recognition and enhanced the quality and stature of academic programs.”

“It is a great privilege to recognize these professors for their important research achievements and contributions to their academic disciplines. Their scholarship is innovative, internationally recognized, and serves to shine a spotlight on this college and university,” said Dean Rick Travis.

Anna Osterholtz, an assistant professor of anthropology, is the WC Shoemaker Dean’s Eminent Scholar. Hsain Ilahiane, head of the Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures, said, “Dr. Osterholtz is a nationally and internationally recognized expert and leader in applying cutting-edge theories and methods to the study of bioarchaeology. She has distinguished herself in bioarchaeology, specifically her research on burial or funerary practices and violence and ritual in bioarchaeology in a variety of archaeological sites, including Mississippi, the American Southwest, Croatia, Cyprus and the United Arab Emirates. Dr. Osterholtz is not only at the top of her field, but she is also leading the way for her peers, and this award is fully earned.”

Vicky Montiel-Palma, associate professor of chemistry, is the Sanderson Dean’s Eminent Scholar. Giselle Thibaudeau, associate dean for research and interim chemistry department head, said, “Dr. Montiel-Palma, in her four years at MSU, has made a huge impact on the Department of Chemistry and brought significant recognition to the College of Arts and Sciences. In addition to her teaching and outreach, she has continued her internationally recognized research program with seven journal articles and more than $1 million in grant funding. The Dean’s Eminent Scholar program is intended to recognize ‘exceptionally meritorious faculty.’ I believe wholeheartedly that, Dr. Montiel-Palma falls solidly into this category.”

Shalyn Claggett, associate professor of English, is the Beverly B. and Gordon W. Gulmon Dean’s Eminent Scholar. Dan Punday, head of the Department of English, said, “Dr. Claggett has thrived as a scholar since receiving tenure in 2012, producing an edited collection, ‘Strange Science: Investigating the Limits of Knowledge in the Victorian Age,’ in 2017 and a monograph, ‘Equal Natures: Popular Brain Science in Victorian Women’s Writing, ‘ that will appear next year. Although this is a huge accomplishment, I’m just as excited about the potential of her future work—in particular, her work on the topic of Victorian ‘magic lantern’ shows. This is a fascinating new area of ​​work that focuses on an under-appreciated element of modern visual culture. This is a rich area that I expect her to continue to explore in the future.”

Kimberly Kelly, associate professor of sociology, is receiving the Phil and Kari Oldham Faculty Mentor Award. Nicole Rader, head of the Department of Sociology, said, “Dr. Kelly has been invaluable in her work with and mentoring of graduate students. With a tough job market, newly minted Ph.D.’s will need publications and research presentations to compete with others for jobs. Being a good mentor often means collaborating with graduate students on research projects so that they will have a solid research record once they go on to the job market. Sociology majors leave MSU better prepared for the workforce or for advanced degrees in part because they have had Dr. Kelly as their professor.”

MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences includes more than 5,000 students, 323 full-time faculty members, nine doctoral programs, 14 master’s programs, and 27 undergraduate academic majors offered in 14 departments. It is home to the most diverse units for research and scholarly activities, including natural and physical sciences, social and behavioral sciences, and the humanities. For more details about the College of Arts and Sciences, visit

MSU is classified by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education as a “Very High Research Activity” doctoral university, the highest level of research activity in the country. MSU is one of only 146 schools to hold the designation.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at

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