Tran, Alderman Honored by College
Liem Tran, professor of geography, received a Faculty Academic Outreach Research Award from the College of Arts and Sciences. The award recognizes extraordinary contributions of faculty to the public that occur as an outgrowth of academic pursuits and are related to the university’s academic mission. It recognizes faculty whose research and creative activities advance knowledge through the pursuit of their scholarly interests while simultaneously addressing community problems and issues and benefiting the scholar, the discipline, the university, and society.
Tran conducts research built on creating strategic collaborative networks with government agencies, major research labs, and other community stakeholders and leveraging innovative geospatial analysis. A number of Tran’s measures and spatial models are widely used by the EPA across the US. Recently, he has collaborated with the EPA to develop the EnviroAtlas, an interactive web-based platform used by states, communities, and citizens that provides geospatial data, easy-to-use tools, and other resources related to ecosystem services, their chemical and nonchemical stressors, and human health. Tran has used his expertise in geospatial analysis to develop a series transmission models posted on the Tennessee State Data Center’s COVID-19 dashboard that estimates coronavirus reproduction rates and hotspots in the state.
Tran is also actively involved in meaningful public communication of science. For example, he has interacted with the media to explain the metrics to measure the spread of COVID-19 and authored a policy brief in partnership with the Baker Center to educate the public on COVID-19 modeling and forecasts. Well before engaging in important research outreach to COVID-19, Tran had begun focusing on state of the art geospatial technologies, including Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and web-based applications, to combat the opioid crisis.
“The award is very important not only to myself, but also to my students and colleagues who have been working diligently alongside me in various research outreach activities,” Tran said. “It shows the commitment of faculty and students in the geography department to serve the great state of Tennessee and its people, especially during this difficult time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Derek Alderman, professor of geography, received the Lorayne W. Lester Award, which recognizes a faculty member or exempt staff member who has demonstrated outstanding service through research, outreach, and/or administrative, teaching, or advising services to the college, the state, our local community, or beyond.
Alderman joined the geography department in 2012 as head and worked hard to advertise and modernize the curriculum for undergraduates, which allowed the department to increase in size dramatically. During his five years as head, he also worked successfully to diversify the faculty and student population. During these years he was also elected president of the American Association of Geographers, after successfully serving as a chair of the association’s publications committee, the regional southeast councilor, and president of the southeast region.
Alderman’s research brings him many opportunities to inform the public about issues related to American Civil Rights movement and southern culture more broadly. Much of his work focuses on the histories, memory-work, commemorative activism, and place-making efforts of African Americans as they assert and claim civil rights, their right to belong with public spaces, and the power to remember the past and shape the American landscape on their own terms. In particular, his interests focus on critical place name studies and using cultural struggles over the naming and renaming of streets, schools, parks, and other public spaces as important lens for understanding the unresolved place of race, memory, and identity in America.
“I am grateful and humbled to receive the Lorayne Lester award from our college, which is filled with many inspiring servant-leaders,” Alderman said. “Since coming to UT in 2012, I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to work with others to grow and maintain departmental health, advocate for national professional organizations, and engage in public outreach and partnership building. Service, for me, is about being responsive to the needs and well-being of other people—to think and act beyond oneself. More than simply a category of annual evaluation, service is the lifeblood of the university and key to the ethics of care we owe to ourselves and wider communities.”
He is a devoted scholar-teacher who enjoys working and publishing with students, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. He is also committed to conducting critical public scholarship that engages, informs, and helps the news media, government officials, community activists and organizations, and the broader citizenry. Most recently, Alderman has been involved in three major research efforts funded by NSF that involved researchers from universities across the country collecting and analyzing data related to the struggle for freedom from several different perspectives. He continues to serve beyond expectations by agreeing to step back into the role of interim head for geography this year when there was a last minute change within the unit leadership.