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University of Iowa News Release


July 14, 2009

UI mathematics professor receives 2009 Presidential Award for Excellence

President Barack Obama has named a University of Iowa mathematics professor as a recipient of a prestigious 2009 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM).

Philip Kutzko, University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) collegiate fellow and professor in the Department of Mathematics, is one of 20 individuals and organizations honored for their mentoring of minority students studying mathematics, science or engineering and who belong to minority groups that are underrepresented in those fields.

The award marks the second time in the past five years that Kutzko and/or his UI colleagues have been honored with the Presidential Award for Excellence.

The UI Department of Mathematics earned nationwide recognition in 2005 when it received a 2004 PAESMEM Award presented at the White House in Washington, D.C. Supported and administered by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the award was the only one of its kind presented to an academic department in 2005.

As a part of his individual honors, Kutzko will receive $10,000 to advance his mentoring of graduate students and a presidential commemorative certificate during fall 2009 ceremonies at the White House.

UI President Sally Mason said, "This is a remarkable distinction and a wonderful recognition of Professor Kutzko's talent, accomplishments and major contributions to his field as well as his dedication to students and to diversity. The recognitions that the Department of Mathematics has received throughout the years for its diversity work are a point of great institutional pride. It is especially wonderful for Phil Kutzko to receive this individual honor for his central role in the department's success."

CLAS Dean Linda Maxson said, "I applaud the energy and creativity that Professor Kutzko has devoted to fostering an environment in which a diverse student body can thrive. Our university, other Iowa institutions and mathematics departments nationwide have benefited from his leadership and the leadership of our entire Department of Mathematics in achieving excellence through diversity."

Yi Li, professor and chair of mathematics, said, "Professor Phil Kutzko has been a leader in the Department of Mathematics, at the University of Iowa, at the three Iowa Regents universities and nationally in the effort to increase the participation of groups -- in particular, minority doctoral students -- that are underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. His efforts, together with those of his colleagues, have lead to a substantial increase in research activities in mathematics as a result of developing previously underutilized mathematical talent."

Kutzko said he is honored and humbled to have received this award.

"Our department, our College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and our Iowa Regents universities have a lot to be proud of in standing out nationally for our openness, our fairness and our deep belief that every American student should get the support and encouragement to be everything that he or she can be," Kutzko said. "It moves me deeply that I will perhaps have the opportunity to meet President Obama and should I do so, I will do so as an Iowan, proud of the special relationship we have with him.

"I hope that this award will help to spotlight the achievements of the many faculty at the UI who are deeply committed to the principles of mentoring and inclusion that this award represents. I hope as well that our university will continue to move forward as a leader in the effort to educate American students from all backgrounds to prepare them for the role that they must play at this critical moment in our nation's history," he said.

A White House press release stated that the Presidential Award "recognizes the crucial role that mentoring plays in the academic and personal development of students studying science or engineering and who belong to minorities that are underrepresented in those fields. By offering their time, encouragement and expertise to these students, mentors help ensure that the next generation of scientists and engineers will better reflect the diversity of the United States."

In addition to the Presidential Award, Kutzko has been the recipient of the 2006 Faculty Mentor of the Year Award, the highest such award given by the Southern Regional Education Board-Alliances for Graduate Education in the Professoriate (SREB-AGEP) Doctoral Scholars Program, a national scholars program. The award recognizes outstanding service as a mentor to a doctoral scholar in the SREB-AGEP Doctoral Scholars Program.

In addition to his mentoring activities, Kutzko has directed two large-scale NSF projects at the three Iowa Regents universities.  He wrote the grant supporting Iowa AGEP and was its first director. He is now the director of the National Alliance for Doctoral Studies in the Mathematical Sciences, an NSF-funded project, whose goal is to increase the number of doctoral degrees awarded to students from groups underrepresented in the mathematical sciences.

The National Alliance was born among math and statistics faculty at the three Iowa Regents Universities: Iowa State University, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa. Over the last 15 years, the departments have become known nationally as places where all students, particularly those American students who have traditionally been underrepresented in the mathematical sciences, can thrive.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTAC: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009,