Pharmacy Professor Wins UM Faculty Achievement Award

Kristie Willett is chair of the school's Department of BioMolecular Sciences

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter (left) and interim Provost Noel Wilkin present Kristie Willett with the 2017 UM Faculty Achievement Award at the annual fall faculty meeting. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – For the second consecutive year, a pharmacy professor has won the University of Mississippi’s Faculty Achievement Award.

Kristie Willett, chair of the Department of BioMolecular Sciences in the School of Pharmacy and professor of pharmacology and environmental toxicology, was presented the 2017 award at the Aug. 25 fall faculty meeting.

“This is an amazing honor,” Willett said. “There are so many truly outstanding faculty at the University of Mississippi. I really appreciate the recognition, especially considering the accomplishments of the previous awardees, who are all people I have looked up to over my years here.”

Interim Provost Noel Wilkin commended Willett’s “impeccable and professional profile as a veteran scholar, researcher and educator,” when presenting her with the honor.

“She possesses a unique capacity to connect with students and meet them where they are in their learning journeys,” Wilkin said.

Willett, who joined the Ole Miss faculty as an assistant professor of pharmacology in 2000, was named department chair earlier this year. In the past three years, she was chosen as the 2016 UM Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College Faculty Member of the Year, was selected for a three-year term as a School of Pharmacy Distinguished Teaching Scholar and won the pharmacy school’s 2016-17 Faculty Instructional Innovation Award.

“Kristie’s philosophy of teaching is honest, thoughtful and practical,” said David D. Allen, the school’s dean. “It reveals the spirit of a true educator and mentor.

“She has high expectation of students, teaches them to think independently and engages them to communicate their views.”

Willett has also been the graduate coordinator of the environmental toxicology graduate program since it began and teaches two of the core courses in the department’s environmental toxicology division.

Allen also commended Willett’s collaborative research mindset, citing her creation of the school’s thriving environmental toxicology research program, despite being the only faculty member with a background in such research. Willett’s environmental toxicology research focuses on human diseases.

“As an environmental toxicologist myself, I am really committed to educating the next generation of toxicologists,” Willett said.

Several of Willett’s students said her positive attitude and dedication were vital to their academic success. Environmental toxicology doctoral candidate Dennis Carty credits her with teaching him to become a more independent and creative researcher.

“Her teaching style is full of knowledge, creativity and passion, while never accepting anything less than each student’s personal best,” Carty said. “Dr. Willett has an untiring commitment to her students, community, research, colleagues and family. How one person can do it all is truly inspiring.”

Willett makes the 12th Faculty Achievement Award winner with a full or joint appointment in the School of Pharmacy since the award was established in 1986.

“When you truly like what you do, it is easier to do it well,” Willett said. “Science is a tricky profession that comes with lots of rejections and experiments that don’t always work like you thought they would, so it takes a lot of persistence.

“What I love about academic science is that even during the times that research isn’t going well, the teaching aspect is inspiring and rewarding.”