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Missouri S&T professor receives President’s Award for Cross-Cultural Engagement

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Kelly Wiemann

April 12, 2017

Award recognizes faculty who promote cross-cultural engagement through education, research and service

ROLLA, Mo. – University of Missouri System Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs Bob Schwartz today awarded the fourth of ten UM System President’s Awards to be presented to faculty in 2017 to Daniel Oerther, professor of environmental engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology.

Schwartz—accompanied by Missouri S&T Provost Robert Marley—surprised Oerther with the President’s Award for Cross-Cultural Engagement, which includes a $5,000 prize. The award recognizes faculty who promote cross-cultural engagement through education, research and service.

Since joining the S&T faculty in 2010, much of Oerther’s service includes trips around the world anchored by semesters teaching in Rolla. His legacy has a positive impact on the student population.

“Professor Oerther has brought his passion for cross-cultural engagement to the Missouri S&T classroom as Dan is the campus director of Diplomacy Lab – a public-private partnership enabling the Department of State to ‘course-source’ research and innovation to solve foreign policy challenges,” Ian Ferguson, S&T professor and nominator wrote. “Professor Oerther has demonstrated a profound, positive impact on our students and our global community.”

Outside of the classroom, Oerther has led students on trips to Kenya, Tanzania, India, Brazil and Guatemala, working to provide clean drinking water to more than 100,000 rural villagers. In addition, he illustrated ‘intentional living’ to the Rolla community by living for three years, with his family of four, in a tiny home located in the Missouri S&T Solar Village. His example inspired S&T students to construct a ‘Nest Home’ for the 2015 Solar Decathalon.

“Dan is more than my ‘teacher.’ He’s a ‘co-learner’ with me,” wrote Lee Voth-Gaeddert in a nomination letter.  Voth-Gaeddert is a doctoral student currently working with the Peace Corps in Guatemala.

“Following on Dan’s advice to learn more about what it’s like to be poor in the U.S., I lived in local trailer park here in Rolla, in between my overseas trips. I learned how to study my physical environment and engage with my cultural environment by living and working with the community of interest. This approach to cross-cultural engagement is exactly what we do as Peace Corps volunteers,” Voth-Gaeddert said.   

In 2014, Oerther was named a Foreign Affairs Officer for the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., working for clean water and food security around the globe. The job, according to Oerther, consists of “fighting terrorism, protecting U.S. interests abroad, and implementing foreign policy initiatives while building a freer, prosperous and secure world.”

Oerther has been recognized on local, regional and national levels for his work as a professional engineer and a leader of science diplomacy.

“Dan’s my role model and my mentor; he’s my biggest supporter and harshest critic; and he’s the perfect candidate for the President’s Award for Global Engagement,” wrote Voth-Gaeddert.

The UM System President’s Awards are presented annually to faculty members across the four campuses of the UM System who have made exceptional contributions in advancing the mission of the university. Oerther will be formally recognized by UM System President Mun Choi during an awards celebration to be held in June.

From left to right: Joel Burken, Provost Robert Marley, Dan Oerther, Ian Ferguson, Interim VP for Academic Affairs, Bob Schwartz.