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UW-Stout professors stand out in career fields with NASA Fellowship, book, game, grant and awards

Faculty contribute to professions in engineering, game design, social science, mathematics, art and student success

By Jerry Poling, UW Stout

Menomonie, Wis. — The faculty at University of Wisconsin-Stout bring a broad range of expertise, industry experience and skills to the classroom. Their professionalism has been recognized recently with achievements in engineering, game design, social science, mathematics, art and overall student success.

  • Engineering Professor Rajiv Asthana received a Faculty Fellowship at NASA

  • Art and design professors Dave Beck and Erik Evensen created a card game

  • Mathematics Professor and Associate Dean Chris Bendel received a national grant

  • Art Assistant Professor Mary Climes won a drawing competition

  • Social science Professor Thomas Pearson published a book

  • Provost Glendalí Rodríguez received a Fellowship and award from a national higher education organization.

UW-Stout, Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, offers more than 50 industry-focused undergraduate programs and 24 Graduate Studies programs designed to advance careers.

Asthana continued his ongoing work at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland on fabricating dissimilar joints of ceramic-matrix composites with metallic alloys. His work supports part of NASA’s hypersonic project that is developing materials for vehicles that will travel 10 times the speed of sound, or Mach 10.

UW-Stout engineering Professor Rajiv Asthana was awarded a Faculty Fellowship last summer at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. / Contributed photo

Ceramic-matrix composites — also used in commercial jet engines — offer a significantly higher operating temperature capability and engine efficiencies than state-of-the-art alloys. “This is where my research fits in the larger scheme of things: developing processes and materials to enable joining and integration of CMCs,” he said.

Asthana is motivated to conduct research to “maintain professional currency and facilitate learning that’s so critical to inspire students. I am in my 28th year teaching at Stout and enjoying it every bit as much as I did when I first came here,” Asthana said.

“Sharing information about single-crystal turbine blades and 5-foot-long single grains of ultra-high purity silicon for microchips and other such marvels of materials engineering is the most exciting and fulfilling part of my job.”

He began his association with NASA in 1991 as a postdoctoral research associate. He also had summer appointments at Glenn Research Center — named after pioneering astronaut John Glenn — from 2004 to 2014 and 2022, along with a yearlong sabbatical.

Prior to the last summer’s Fellowship, Asthana presented research at AGH University of Science and Technology in Krakow, Poland. He was co-editor of “Nickel Superalloys: Recent Developments in Liquid Metal Engineering,” published in 2022 by AGH University Press.

Asthana also is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Materials Engineering and Performance.

UW-Stout has four undergraduate and one graduate program in engineering, part of the Robert F. Cervenka School of Engineering, and an engineering technology degree.

Beck and Evensen, from the School of Art and Design, designed and created the card game Distilled, which is part of Beck’s Wisconsin-based company Paverson Games. Beck, also an associate dean who has taught game design, developed the idea while Evensen created hundreds of pieces of game art.

UW-Stout art and design professors Dave Beck and Erik Evensen created the card game Distilled, which is being sold around the world. / Paverson Games photo

The premise of the game is that players have inherited a distillery and face the challenges of trying to become a master distiller. Distilled has 30,000 copies in print, including in 10 languages and is being sold around the world.

Paverson is developing a new game, Luthier, about crafting instruments in the golden age of classical music. Beck has produced numerous video games and digital historical experiences, including Tombeaux. Evensen, a nationally published comic artist and graphic novelist, previously co-created the board game Marrying Mr. Darcy with his wife, Erika Svanoe.

UW-Stout’s School of Art and Design, with six Bachelor of Fine Arts and two Bachelor of Science programs, is the largest in the Upper Midwest with nearly 1,300 students.

Bendel teaches a mathematics course each semester in addition to his administrative duties in the College of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Management. He is one of 46 mathematical scientists in the U.S. to receive an inaugural American Mathematical Society-Simons Research Enhancement Grant for Primarily Undergraduate Institution Faculty.

Bendel will receive $3,000 a year for up to three years to support his theoretical, collaborative research into abstract algebraic structures.

I see my research very much as part of my faculty role. The topics are at a level beyond what we teach at the undergraduate level, but I hope it makes me a better teacher as I try to bring the excitement of learning into the classroom,” Bendel said.

UW-Stout has an undergraduate program in applied mathematics and computer science; and a master’s program in applied mathematics and data science.

Climes, who teaches in the School of Art and Design, took first place in the Drawing and Pastel category of the Fine Arts Competition at the Minnesota State Fair with her entry, “Empty Nester,” made with graphite on paper.

The black-and-white drawing, of a bird peering into an empty gourd house, is representative of Climes’ larger body of work.

“Empty Nester” by UW-Stout Assistant Professor Mary Climes took first place in the Drawing and Pastels division of the Minnesota State Fair art contest. / Mary Climes photo

“I often draw familiar visions of intense introspection, loneliness and mysticism uniquely found in suburban landscapes. I am interested in layering icons within space to create a sense of place and emotion rather than character and plot,” Climes said.

“As an instructor in comics, I think a lot about the narrative power of a drawing, the form and poetics of composed space. This piece, Empty Nester, uses symbols that speak to the suburban space, a loss of home, and not met expectations. With all of these complex emotions I utilize humor as well, often as a way to process or recast uncomfortable events. Alongside the bird and gourd house are wishing dandelions and a spare tire, typical of an overgrown yard.”

The Drawing and Pastels category drew nearly 200 entries.

Pearson has written “An Ordinary Future: Margaret Mead, the Problem of Disability, and a Child Born Different,” which was published this fall by the University of California Press.

The book blends memoir and cultural analysis to explore evolving ideas of disability and human difference.

UW-Stout Social Science Professor Thomas Pearson has written a book, “An Ordinary Future: Margaret Mead, the Problem of Disability, and a Child Born Different,” published by the Un / UW-Stout

According to the publisher, “‘An Ordinary Future’ is a deeply moving work that weaves an account of Margaret Mead’s path to disability rights activism with one anthropologist’s experience as the parent of a child with Down Syndrome. Pearson confronts the dominant ideas, disturbing contradictions and dramatic transformations that have shaped our perspectives on disability over the last century.”

In 2017, Pearson wrote, “When the Hills Are Gone: Frac Sand Mining and the Struggle for Community,” published by the University of Minnesota Press.

UW-Stout has an applied social science undergraduate program.

Rodríguez received the Fellows Choice Award as part of the Student Success Institute, sponsored by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. The seven-month experience culminated with Fellows presenting a Student Success Campus Plan for their university.

Glendali Rodriguez, UW-Stout provost, received a Fellowship and award from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. / UW-Stout

Rodríguez, who also is vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, presented on UW-Stout’s inaugural 2023-2028 Comprehensive Academic Plan. The plan’s strategy development phase was completed across the 2022-23 academic year, via the work of a diverse cross-university committee. The plan included review of six data sets representing topics integral to the current and future work of academic affairs at UW-Stout.

Stakeholders, including current and prospective students; faculty and staff; alumni; employers; and educational and community partners informed the plan. The next phase of the plan, strategy implementation, will happen during the 2023-24 academic year.

“Provost Rodríguez clearly demonstrated a deep commitment to the success of each of University of Wisconsin-Stout’s students,” the AASCU said.

UW-Stout is Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, with a focus on applied learning, collaboration with business and industry, and career outcomes. Learn more via the FOCUS2030 strategic plan.


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