Humboldt State University

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Faculty and Student Honored for Creative Scholarship - Humboldt State Now

Faculty and Student Honored for Creative Scholarship

Humboldt State University faculty members--Native American Studies Professor Cutcha Risling Baldy, Psychology Professor Amanda Hahn, and Geology Professor Melanie Michalak--have been selected as recipients of the 2018 McCrone Promising Faculty Scholars Award.

Selected for exhibiting potential in a specific field, each faculty member will receive $1,500 to assist a program of creative activity, scholarship, or research. This year’s recipients will be formally honored at a reception where they’ll deliver short presentations of their research. In addition, psychology student Zahra Shine has been selected as this year’s recipient of the McCrone Graduate Fellowship Award. The award is given to graduate students who have demonstrated strong potential in their field.

In her short time at Humboldt State, Native American Studies Professor Cutcha Risling Baldy has demonstrated excellence in her scholarship, teaching, and service to the campus and community.

Risling Baldy’s research is focused on Indigenous feminism, California Indians, and decolonization. She is a widely published author and co-author of numerous articles and book reviews. Her first book, due out this spring, is We Are Dancing For You: Native Feminisms and the Revitalization of Women’s Coming-of- age Ceremonies and is based on her research of Hupa women who worked to revitalize the women’s coming-of-age ceremony in their community. She’s currently the editor of an academic journal and writes a popular blog that explores issues of social justice, history, and California Indian politics and culture. Also in the works is an interdisciplinary, multi-campus, and multi-community film project, Uneasy Remains, which examines the relationships between California tribal communities and the University of California system over the issue of studying Indigenous human remains.

Dedicated and energetic, she teaches her courses with vigor and creativity that inspires students to learn more. Risling Baldy brings that same energy to many aspects of her career. She has won research and community service grants totaling more than a million dollars. She has served on faculty search committees and has been appointed to ongoing campus administrative committees. She was also instrumental in bringing the prestigious California Indian Conference to HSU this semester.

Risling Baldy is Hupa, Karuk and Yurok, and is enrolled in the Hoopa Valley Tribe. For the last eight years she has been the executive director of the Native Women’s Collective, a nonprofit that supports Native American arts and culture through public education. Through the NWC, she is designing a project that will help secure copies of We are Dancing for You for tribal youth programs, tribal drug and alcohol treatment centers, and women’s prisons.

Psychology Professor Amanda Hahn is deeply committed to research, her students, and social justice. 2018-0416-McCrone-AH_SMALL.jpg

Her primary area of research is the neurobiological basis of human behavior and social perceptions. Her research has revealed effects of hormone levels, personality, sexual orientation, and environmental factors on reward-related responses, prosocial responses, and attention to facial cues. A critical aspect of moving face research forward is developing a research-quality image set with ethnically diverse faces (most research to date has been done on Caucasian faces). She was recently awarded a grant to develop this image set (“The Humboldt Face Database”), which will be made publicly available to researchers around the world.

She has published 37 peer-reviewed articles in journals that are considered among the best in the field, including Hormones and Behavior, Psychoneuroendocrinology, Archives of Sexual Behavior, and Social Neuroscience.
She has brought together internationally renowned scholars to present their research, while using these events as a platform for advocating for diversity and open science in academic research programs and student training.

She’s just as dedicated to teaching, sharing her passion for science by providing hands-on learning to the 18 students who work in her lab. The lab is one of 200 around the world that will be conducting a major study on the generalizability of social perception from faces using ethnically diverse samples. She sees that study as an opportunity to show her students the importance of diversity and transparent research practices.

Geology Professor Melanie Michalak is an outstanding teacher and scholar who shows tremendous promise as she pursues her ambitious and transformative research while mentoring future scientists. Her research centers on the geological development of large mountains and basins forming in the Cascadia subduction zone. Bringing new geological tools to this region, she is addressing important topics in tectonics for Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. 2018-0416-McCrone-MM_SMALL.jpg

She involves HSU students at every step of her research, teaching them mineral-extraction techniques in the lab and taking them to international conferences. She created a pathway for her students to conduct high-level, relevant, and publication-quality research—experiences typically unavailable to undergraduates—and established a mineral separation facility at HSU that is accessible to student researchers. She has secured grants that support student travel, wages, and field expenses.

Under her guidance, undergraduate and graduate students develop research questions, conduct literature investigations, engage in critical assessments of those results, and present their results. Her adoption and development of technology and active teaching for students has been praised across campus.

Devoted to serving the campus community, she has served on the University Senate and co-created a workshop that encourages community-building for women in STEM.

This year’s recipient of the Alistair & Judith McCrone Graduate Fellowship Award is Zahra Shine, who is pursuing a master’s degree in psychology. Described as an exceptional student and a talented scholar, she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Humboldt State in 2016, getting a 4.0 GPA in her major and a 3.99 GPA overall, earning her recognition as a Presidential Scholar. She recently won a California State University Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement, which is awarded every year to one student from each CSU who demonstrates superior academic performance, personal accomplishments, community service, and financial need. She also has received certificates of recognition from the California Senate and California Assembly for her academic, personal, and community service achievements.


Her research interests are rooted in her desire to be a great therapist and improve access to mental health services for at-risk groups. Her thesis, for example, examines mental health help-seeking behavior among male students, who are less likely to seek help for mental health issues. In addition to her skills as a scholar, she’s kind and compassionate. She has worked locally with at-risk students, survivors of intimate partner violence, and the families of the deceased through her volunteer and work positions at elementary and middle schools, a domestic violence shelter, and as a hospice grief counselor. As a student assistant in the office of the College of Professional Studies, she’s creating and operating a new student success initiative that identifies at-risk students and provides them enhanced advising, referrals, and support.

She ultimately hopes to earn her Ph.D., practice as a licensed psychologist in Humboldt County, and to be a college professor to serve as a mentor and role model for other underrepresented, first-generation college students.