Chemistry faculty member named a top public university undergraduate educator

A Grand Valley chemistry faculty member noted for his mentorship of students is one of three educators from Michigan's 15 public universities recognized for their outstanding contributions to undergraduate student education.

Brad Wallar, professor of chemistry, received the 2024 Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year Award from the Michigan Association of State Universities. The awards are presented annually to recognize the dedication of faculty members to undergraduate education.

“All three of this year’s award recipients are exemplars of a resolute commitment to excellence in undergraduate education that makes them stand out from their peers,” said MASU Chief Executive Officer Daniel Hurley. “Each of them reminds us that Michigan’s 15 public universities are leading the way in providing exceptional educational opportunities for students throughout the state.”

Wallar said he appreciates the recognition, which reflects his fulfilling experience at GVSU.

A person standing in front of a building smiles while posing for a picture.
Brad Wallar was recognized for his dedication to undergraduate education.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills

“It is an honor to win an award for doing something that you love," Wallar said. "This award is a culmination of contributions and support from faculty, staff, and students over many years.  GVSU is truly a special place, and I feel fortunate to be surrounded by such a positive learning environment.”

Fatma Mili, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs cited Wallar's dedication to ensuring student success and to providing a robust undergraduate academic experience as key reasons he deserves this recognition. 

“He engages in authentic research with students, offering a powerful example of experiential learning while serving as a gifted and dedicated mentor," Mili said. "Professor Wallar is a pioneer at GVSU regarding undergraduate scholarship and has made impactful contributions to the infrastructure for supporting undergraduate research.”

Wallar, who joined GVSU in 2003, is lauded for using real-life examples to connect students to cutting-edge concepts from COVID, cancer or antibiotic resistance research. He has designed his Techniques in Biochemistry class to mimic a research lab more typically found in industry or graduate school, enhancing students' understanding of biochemistry techniques.

He said his dedicated faculty mentorship of students is steeped in his own experiences, where as a first-generation college graduate he connected with faculty members who helped him find a fulfilling career. He has served as a faculty mentor for 16 Honors College projects, five Goldwater Scholarship applicants, 11 Student Summer Scholars, two Modified Student Summer Scholars, a Beckman Scholar, three McNair Scholars and five RISE Scholars.

Some notable academic accolades for Wallar include obtaining multiple National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation grants. His dedicated research work with students is reflected through such achievements as 17 peer-reviewed articles with 20 undergraduate co-authors and 28 poster presentations at national and international meetings with 24 undergraduates, among others.

Wallar has also won numerous awards at GVSU, among them the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Lifetime Service Award, the TRIO Impact Award, the University Outstanding Teaching Award and the Distinguished Undergraduate Mentoring Award.


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