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Byerman, Klarner, Nelson and Yousif honored with Dreiser Award

April 17, 2014

Four Indiana State faculty members have received the 2014 Theodore Dreiser Distinguished Research and Creativity Award.

Keith Byerman, professor of English, Carl Klarner, associate professor of political science, Cecil Nelson, professor of linguistics, and Bassam Yousif, associate professor of economics, were honored with the award during the university's Faculty Recognition Banquet Thursday.

Named for the early 20th century author who grew up in Terre Haute, the Dreiser Award recognizes full-time Indiana State faculty who have made outstanding contributions to their disciplines.

Byerman specializes in African-American, Southern and modern American literature. He is the author or editor of eight books, including the most recently published biographical studies of novelists Clarence Major and John Edgar Wideman. He has given and published numerous presentations and research.

"The Dreiser award is the highest honor the university gives for research and scholarship. From my work on several committees over my 25 years at the university, I have come to appreciate the range and depth of faculty efforts to expanding and promoting knowledge. I am grateful to the Dreiser Committee for recognizing my own contribution," Byerman said.

He joined the ISU English department in 1987 after earning a doctorate in American Studies in 1978 at Purdue University. He holds a master's in American Studies from Indiana University (1972) and a Bachelor of Arts from Anderson College (1970).

Byerman has received numerous grants, awards and endowments, including a Fulbright Fellowship to the University of Vienna (1985-86) and a Fulbright Group Travel Award to Africa (summer 1993). This marks his second Dreiser Award, having first received it in 2004.

Klarner's research interests include political campaigns and elections, state politics and welfare policy, especially how they relate to political and social inequality and reform. His most recent work has been to develop election-forecasting models, which use voting history, economic conditions and other statistics to project a winner - accurately calling key races in 2006, 2008 and 2012. His classes emphasize modern political science approaches, which are often informed by the results of these statistical studies.

"I'm very honored. I didn't expect to get it," said Klarner said of the award. "I'm just starting out in my career ... and I thought there were so many people here, working hard for it, that it was too early in my career to get it. But it's great that I got it."

Klarner joined Indiana State's faculty in 2005, after having earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a master's degree from the University of California-Davis and a doctorate from Texas A&M University.


 Nelson, who is retiring after this semester, said the Dreiser feels like a lifetime achievement award.

"It feels humbling, compared to people who really get a lot done. I just don't feel like I've done that much, so it's a real honor - to use that old-fashioned word," he said. "I'm happy to have been nominated, and I'm happy to receive the award, but at the same time it makes me feel like, ‘Oh heavens.'"

He added, "It depends who you compare yourself with - I have friends and colleagues who are very productive, who know so much and get so much done and write so well. I tried to follow them. It's nice to have my small contributions recognized."

Nelson's expertise is in the areas of sociolinguistics, world varieties of English, cross-variety intelligibility and pragmatics and teaching English as a second language. He has experience or proficiency in the Farsi (Persian), French, Hindi, Japanese and Russian languages.

Nelson earned a doctorate in linguistics from the University of Illinois in 1984, a master's in teaching English as a second language from University of Illinois in 1974. He conducted graduate study in the Russian language and literature at the University of Utah, 1969-1971, after earning a bachelor's in the same field from the University of North Carolina in 1969.

Like his colleagues, Nelson has published hundreds of articles, reviews, books and book chapters.

"This is a really good life. My mantra, when things are tough or I'm not feeling good, I say, ‘It's a wonderful job, and I'm lucky to have it.' It really is true. It's a wonderful job, and I'm lucky to have it," Nelson said.

"One of my mentors, who used to be up in the English department, said this is the only job that you get to start over every half-year and correct your mistakes - hopefully. So, it is a wonderful life."

Yousif is a development economist, with a concentration on the ways economic development is defined and implemented around the world. His recently published research examines a variety of economic development issues, such as "the resource curse," economic sanctions, development of economic institutions in the Middle East and the Arab Spring.

Yousif is a policy consultant for clients such as the U.S. State Department, Foreign Service Institute, Center for Strategic and International Studies and U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. His expertise in economic development is paired with contemporary issues, such as the post-occupation, economic transition for Iraq, sectarianism and oil economies.

Whether it is for a publication, conference presentation and public talk, Yousif seeks to encourage debate about development: What it is, how it might be facilitated and how it could be evaluated as a way to both breakdown stereotypes about the developing world and create a dialogue about economic development in a global perspective.

"It feels good that my work is sort of recognized and appreciated. That's a good feeling," Yousif said.

Yousif teaches a host of courses in ISU's economics department and is active with student advising, faculty governance and assessment.

"Teaching is something I really love to do. I love the interaction with students, the back and forth, the questions they have - not necessarily the questions they have, but how they attack a question," Yousif said.

"As a researcher, that is fundamental to what you do: How do you attack a question? A lot of work I take on is sort of to be a counterpoint to mainstream ideas or theories that are established."

Yousif earned a bachelor's degree n economics in 1993 and a doctorate in economics in 2001 from the University of California-Riverside.

Photo: - Keith Byerman

Photo: - Carl Klarner

Photo: - Cecil Nelson

Photo: - Bassam Yousif