The 2023 President’s Award recipients, who received a $2,500 cash award and a plaque, include the following.

President’s Award for Research Excellence: Established Faculty

  • Gabrielle Strouse, Ph.D., associate professor in the human development and educational psychology program

President’s Award for Research Excellence: New or Mid-Career Faculty or Staff

  • Jose Pietri, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Division of Basic Biomedical Sciences

President’s Award for Research Innovation & Entrepreneurship

  • Coral Dirks, Ph.D., Au.D., assistant professor of communication sciences and disorders

President’s Award for Research Creativity  

  • Leah McCormack, Ph.D., assistant professor of English

“I am honored to recognize Gabrielle Strouse, Jose Pietri, Coral Dirks and Leah McCormack for their remarkable research efforts and successes,” said USD President Sheila K. Gestring. “These four individuals are committed to moving the university forward while making meaningful contributions in their specific fields. We are so proud to have such high quality researchers here at USD.”

Candidates were reviewed based on past and current research accomplishments, including criteria such as publications, presentations, successful grantsmanship, peer review experience, maintenance of an active graduate or undergraduate program and being conferred other competitive research awards. The Innovation & Entrepreneurship award further requires that the winner demonstrate innovative thinking or research findings that had promising commercial potential, as well as a concept that had progressed beyond the theoretical stage to the applied stage.

A headshot of Gabrielle Strouse.Gabrielle Strouse was awarded the President’s Award for Research Excellence: Established Faculty for her substantial contributions to the knowledge, practice and visibility of USD on both national and international levels. Strouse’s primary research focuses on optimizing children’s learning from various forms of media, including e-books, apps and videos, and involved extensive data collection and analysis. Strouse has published 40 peer-reviewed journal articles and her research has been written about in the mainstream media over 40 times, including in “The New York Times,” “LA Times” and “Education Week.” She has also had great success in securing external funding, including garnering awards from prestigious institutions like the National Institutes of Health and NASA, among others. Mentorship has been another significant focus of Strouse’s academic journey, and over the last seven years, she has supervised 28 undergraduate and 15 graduate students, engaging them in various aspects of research and contributing to the Division of Educational Leadership.

A headshot of Jose Pietri.Jose Pietri was awarded the President’s Award for Research Excellence: New or Mid-Career Faculty or Staff for his strong record of success in his research endeavors. Pietri’s research focuses on the development of microbe-based technologies for the control hematophagous insects and other pests of public health interest, and he has been invited to present his research nationally and internationally. Since his arrival in the Division of Basic Biomedical Sciences, Pietri has published over 30 papers, which have been cited by others in his field over 800 times. Pietri has also been highly successful in obtaining external funding and currently has over $3.5 million in support, including four major active grants from the National Institute of Health R01, Housing and Urban Development, Department of Defense and the National Science Foundation. Pietri has taken an active role in teaching and training undergraduate, graduate and medical students and post-doctoral fellows, several of whom have been able to publish and present their research at a national level. Pietri also developed USD’s first entomology course, which has been well-received by all levels of students.  

A headshot of Coral Dirks.Coral Dirks was awarded the President’s Award for Research Innovation & Entrepreneurship for her contributions to improving health care for both military personnel and individuals facing complex hearing environments in daily life. Spatial hearing is an essential skill for military readiness and everyday listening; however, hearing loss, hearing devices and hearing protection all impact this crucial ability. With support from the Department of Defense, Dirks is working on a piece of equipment that ensures persons on active duty and in other sensitive environments can safely perform their jobs while using required hearing protection. Dirks' invention, which has moved into design and implementation, allows for a portable measurement of a person’s ability to tell where sounds are coming from, as well as their accuracy of determining the location of moving sounds. Her work has the potential to dramatically improve the accessibility to and effectiveness of hearing testing and treatment.

A headshot of Leah McCormack.Leah McCormack was awarded the President’s Award for Research Creativity for her international reputation as a creative writer and pedagogue. McCormack’s largest project is her edited volume, “Creative Strategies: A Multi-Genre Guide to Writing Feedback on Student Manuscripts,” which harnesses the expertise of 21 experts in the creative writing field and will increase the national and international visibility of USD. McCormack’s areas of interest and expertise span different genres and media, including nonfiction, graphic narratives, screenwriting and narratology. McMormack has garnered several grants and funding which have allowed her to bring in major artists for the biennial John R. Milton Writers’ Conference on USD’s campus, raising the reputation and impact of the institution. Selections from her numerous creative and scholarly works have been featured in national and international journals and conferences, including the “New Writing: The International Journal for the Practice of Creative Writing,” the Global Conference on Women and Gender, and the Great Writing International Creative Writing Conference.

Press Contact
Hanna DeLange
Contact Email
Contact Website website