Dr. Allison Neal, dressed in a suit, gives an award to a woman student in a dress during a ceremony at the 2019 Vermont STEM Fair.

Dr. Allison Neal wins Vermont Women in Higher Education’s Peggy R. Williams Emerging Professional Award

Dr. Allison Neal has worn many hats at Norwich University — biology professor, mentor, course innovator, women in STEM trailblazer. Now she’s had a crowning achievement, a statewide award for professional excellence. 

Neal, who joined Norwich’s faculty in fall 2015, in October won the Vermont Women in Higher Education’s Peggy R. Williams Emerging Professional Award. She’ll receive her prize Nov. 5 at the University of Vermont’s Alumni House.

The award, named for the former Lyndon State and Ithaca College president, goes to a woman who is early in her career and demonstrates excellence in contributions to students, colleagues and her institution (in service, innovative programs, teaching and research) and shows promise and potential for future contributions.

“Anytime we can highlight the success of women in any field, it’s going to make it feel more comfortable for the next woman who is coming up.”Dr. Allison Neal, Norwich University biology professor

Neal joins Tolya Stonorov, associate professor of architecture (2016), Dr. Megan Doczi, associate professor of biology (2014) and Dr. Elizabeth Gurian, associate professor of criminal justice (2013) as current Norwich faculty to receive the award. 

Neal has mentored 16 students in multiple research projects, one of which gained national attention at the Posters on the Hill, a Washington, D.C., session directed by the nonprofit Council on Undergraduate Research, which supports and promotes high-quality undergraduate student-faculty collaborative research and scholarship. Neal also co-directs the Vermont Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Fair and last spring took six Norwich biology and biochemistry students to the Women in STEM Summit at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts.

Dr. Allison Neal and Joshua Sassi ’18, who majored in biology, attended visited Washington, D.C., in April 2018 for the annual Posters on the Hill event directed by the nonprofit Council on Undergraduate Research. The excursion included a side trip to the Capitol. (Photo courtesy Dr. Allison Neal.)

On Oct. 18, after helping lead a Women in STEM presentation to Norwich’s Board of Fellows, Neal said the award tied in with the Women in STEM Summit and its mission. 

“One of the big messages from that conference was being able to build communities of women who are doing great things,” she said. “And I think the Vermont Women in Higher Education is trying to do that … to bring them into this community so we can all support each other. I think that’s awesome.” 

Neal added that she felt in good company among the award’s previous winners, many of whom she knows, and aims to keep creating a Norwich learning environment new students will want to join.

“A lot of my success is not my success, it’s the success of … my being part of this amazing community that’s been supporting me for so long,” she said. “The women who are always pushing the envelope further and further, they’re the ones who are setting the example for everyone else. So, I think anytime we can highlight the success of women in any field, it’s going to make it feel more comfortable for the next woman who is coming up.”

Admiration from colleagues

Dr. Michael McGinnis, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, the biology program’s parent, said Neal was among a growing list of important Norwich example setters.

“Every student needs a role model,” McGinnis said. “And having outstanding female role models for our students allows (students) to feel confident enough to start a Women in STEM group, conference and helps put us on the map.”

Dr. Karen Hinkle, Norwich’s associate provost for research and a Charles A. Dana professor of biology, said the Peggy R. Williams Emerging Professional Award reflects Neal’s contributions to Norwich. 

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“In a relatively short period of time at Norwich, Dr. Neal has made a tremendous impact on the Department of Biology, the College of Science and Mathematics, and the university,” Hinkle said in an email. “Through her innovative research program, Dr. Neal is not only addressing important scientific questions but is training and educating the next generation of scientists. … Allison is a role model for students of all ages, and she’s most deserving of this award.” 

Doczi, the biology department chairwoman, joined mathematics professor and Honors Program Director Dr. Darlene Olsen in nominating Neal for the award. In her nomination letter, Doczi listed a litany of Neal’s accomplishments including developing ecological parasitology, a brand-new upper-division course, redesigning the ecology course to better fit sophomore students’ biology curriculum map and teaching microbiology, a course drawing a heavy contingent of nursing majors.

“Dr. Allison Neal truly embodies the idea of an emerging professional,” Doczi wrote in her letter. “Not only is Allison a valuable asset to our institution, she has also impacted the broader higher education community in the state of Vermont. It is challenging to think of anyone more deserving of this award.”



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