Austin named University Distinguished Professor

January 13, 2020

Ann Austin, a renowned leader in higher and international education, was named a University Distinguished Professor by the MSU Board of Trustees in 2019.

The recognition is one of the highest honors that can be bestowed on a Michigan State University faculty member, and is given in acknowledgement of achievements in research, the classroom and the community.

Ann Austin (center) celebrates her win with MSU President Samuel L. Stanley, Jr., M.D. (right) and Teresa A. Sullivan, interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. Photo courtesy MSU Communications.

“Being named a University Distinguished Professor was a wonderful surprise,” said Austin in a video produced by WKAR. “Knowing that the work I do makes a difference, and to have that honored by students and colleagues is really meaningful.”

Austin, who joined the Department of Educational Administration in 1991, has a history of transforming teaching and research at MSU and in the College of Education. In 2016, she was named the college’s associate dean for research and in 2019, was appointed MSU’s interim associate provost for faculty and academic staff development. She has been twice-selected to hold the Mildred B. Erickson Distinguished Chair in the Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education (HALE) program.

The first University Distinguished Professor title was given in 1990, and today, more than 70 faculty from across the institution hold the elite honor, including four current faculty from the College of Education.

Individuals holding the professorship receive, in addition to their salary, a stipend of $5,000 per year for five years to support professional activities.

Award-winning career

Austin’s research has spanned across many distinctive areas, including improving teaching and learning, creating more inclusive environments in higher education, faculty development across their careers and more.

One example of her expansive and impactful work is the National Science Foundation-funded Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL), of which Austin is a founding co-principal investigator and co-leader. Its mission is to enhance STEM undergraduate education “through development of a national faculty committed to implementing and advancing evidence-based teaching practices for diverse learners.” CIRTL began in 2003 with only three universities, but has since grown to include nearly 40.

Separately, in 2017, Austin received $2.7 million in funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support multi-year projects improve undergraduate STEM education.

Austin is the co-chair of the Roundtable for Systemic Change in Undergraduate STEM Education, an initiative sponsored by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The group includes national leaders across education, government and organizations who are committed to supporting national reform in undergraduate STEM education.

She has also worked in and with colleagues and MSU students in South Africa for more than two decades with the goal of improving higher education.

Austin’s legacy as a leader includes serving as president of the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE)—from which she earned a Research Achievement Award in 2019—and program director in the Division of Undergraduate Education at NSF. She is also a Fellow of the American Educational Research Association (AERA).

Her honors also include a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Comparative and International Education Society and, in 2019, a Distinguished Woman in Higher Education Award from the MI American Council on Education (ACE) Women’s Network.

“I’m deeply honored to be recognized by a distinguished group of women. The organization is filled with uplifting, talented women who are dedicated to higher education,” Austin said of the ACE award. Several other awardees are MSU alumnae (see below).

“I’ve had the good fortune to work with many such colleagues at MSU, nationally and internationally. I’ve hardly done anything without collaboration: When we work together, we all shine.”


Historical honors from ACE

The MI ACE Women’s Network has many MSU connections, including a number of HALE alumnae who have or currently are serving on the Board of Directors. Several previous recipients of the Distinguished Women Leadership Award are College of Education graduates, and include:

  • 2015: Roberta Teahen, M.A. ’74 and Ph.D. ’00 (HALE)
  • 2014: Rene Shingles, Ph.D. ’01 (Kinesiology)
  • 2010: Kathleen Wilbur, M.A. ’12 and Ph.D. ’18 (HALE), the executive vice president for government and external relations at MSU
  • 2010: Martha Warfield, Ph.D. ’79 (Counseling & Personnel Services)
  • 2004: Barbara Mieras, Ph.D. ’90 (College & University Administration)

Changing US higher education

Austin has also worked with the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) ADVANCE program, which is dedicated to creating a more inclusive environment for women and people of color, particularly in STEM fields. Along with her research colleagues, she has studied strategies and interventions that advance systemic organizational change to foster these types of environments. Learn more on their findings with the StratEGIC Toolkit.