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Anthropology and Mathematical Sciences Faculty Earn Arts & Sciences Cutler Awards

Image Dan Van Peursem and Matthew Sayre University of South Dakota faculty Dan Van Peursem (left) and Matthew Sayre, recipients of the 2016 Richard and Sharon Cutler Faculty Awards in Liberal Arts.

VERMILLION, S.D. -- University of South Dakota faculty Matthew Sayre, Ph.D., in the department of anthropology and sociology, and Dan Van Peursem, Ph.D., in the department of mathematical sciences have received the 2016 Richard and Sharon Cutler Faculty Awards in Liberal Arts.

They will receive a $4,000 cash prize payable through the University of South Dakota Foundation. The Cutler Awards are presented annually to faculty who advance liberal arts education through teaching and research over a three-year span.

Van Peursem, the recipient in the mathematics/natural sciences division of the College of Arts & Sciences, is a professor and chair of mathematical sciences. A member of the USD faculty since 1997, he has served as chair of the department since 2004 and currently teaches introductory calculus and modern geometry courses as well as the major’s capstone requirement. His research interests include analytical modeling of groundwater flow and mathematical modeling of population dynamics and the spread of disease. Van Peursem said mentoring students, often on their honors research projects, is one of the most important aspects of his job. “Working closely with students is where I find my greatest sense of accomplishment and feel is our most important calling,” Van Peursem said. “If we can spark that interest in students to look beyond the obvious and ask the deeper questions looking for connections, I feel we are preparing them well for life as liberally educated citizens.”

Van Peursem earned his Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, his M.S. from the University of South Dakota and his B.A. from Northwestern College.

The award in the Social Sciences Division goes to Matthew Sayre, assistant professor of anthropology and incoming chair of the department of anthropology and sociology. Sayre joined USD in 2011 and teaches courses in biological anthropology, archeology and paleoethnobotany. He is also a faculty member in the sustainability program. Over three summers, Sayre has led undergraduate students on an archeological field school in Peru at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Chavin de Huantar, the primary location of his research on the ecological, agricultural, economic and ritual practices of people in the Andes. Exposing students to archeological sites and the process of excavating and interpreting their discoveries is a crucial part of his role as a professor, he said. “Our field really requires this experience,” Sayre said. “It’s one thing to tell students about this 3,000-year-old temple in Peru, but it’s another thing to be there and realize how amazing it is that people were building something like this in middle of the second highest mountains on earth.”

Sayre received his Ph.D. and M.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and his B.A. from the University of Chicago.

The Cutler Awards were endowed in 2003 by Richard and Sharon Cutler of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to recognize distinguished faculty in the College of Arts & Sciences. A former member of the board of directors of Senior Companions of Sioux Falls, Sharon Cutler has been active in Sioux Falls community organizations. Richard Cutler earned a B.A. in history (’63) and a J.D. (’65) at USD, and was awarded an honorary doctorate by the university in 1997. He has been chair of USD Foundation, co-chair of Campaign South Dakota and chair of the board of trustees of the National Music Museum. He is an attorney with Cutler & Donahoe LLP in Sioux Falls.


USD's College of Arts & Sciences offers students a top-notch undergraduate liberal arts education in the humanities, social sciences and sciences as well as graduate programs that have earned USD distinction as a research university by the Carnegie Foundation. The college's more than 22,000 alumni include famous journalists, Hollywood screenwriters, novelists, a Nobel Prize winner, South Dakota governors, attorneys, physicians, justices of the state Supreme Court, distinguished university faculty and international humanitarians.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News