The Simmons Chivukula Award for Academic Leadership is generously sponsored by a gift from Dr. Elizabeth H. Simmons (Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at UC San Diego; former MSU Associate Provost for Faculty and Academic Staff Development and Dean of Lyman Briggs College) and Dr. R. Sekhar Chivukula (distinguished professor of Physics at UC San Diego, former MSU Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education and Dean of Undergraduate Studies).

The award is for exemplary work in academic leadership at the ranks of: department chair, school director, assistant dean, or associate dean (individuals must be currently holding one of these positions at the time of nomination). An individual will be selected annually on the basis of consistently demonstrated excellence in academic leadership, including the dimensions of equity, diversity, and inclusion.

An individual will be selected based on consistently demonstrated excellence in academic leadership in the following ways:

  • Demonstrates a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and fosters an inclusive and equitable environment within their unit
  • Treats others with tact, dignity, respect, and compassion
  • Empowers the success and development of others
  • Develops and communicates a clear vision for the unit
  • Operates from a premise of openness, honesty, and transparency
  • Displays awareness of own feelings, behaviors, values, and their potential impact on others
  • Exhibits humility, takes ownership of decisions and actions, and provides credit to others as appropriate
  • Develops networks, partnerships, and collaborations rather than operating primarily alone
  • Follows through on commitments, pays attention to detail
  • Is dedicated to continuous learning and improvement
  • Has served sufficient time in role to demonstrate transformative leadership

Nomination Process

Nominations packets  for 2022 will be due Monday, October 17 at 11:59 p.m. (EST).  The nominations may be submitted by faculty and academic staff, support staff, students, or individuals across these roles.  It is anticipated that the strongest packets will have broad, collective support.

Materials to submit

  • Letter of nomination (no more than three pages of text, signatures do not count toward page limit)
    • Letter should address the criteria mentioned above with specific examples to show how the candidate exemplifies transformative leadership. Examples should discuss both the cause and effect of a particular instance.
  • Candidate’s CV
  • Candidate’s essay on leadership as an MSU administrator, including their philosophy, accomplishments, and impact (no more than 2 pages)

Materials will be reviewed by a committee to create a short-list of candidates. Letters of support will then be requested from the supervisors of these individuals before a final decision is made. The recipient will receive a $2000 award and will be honored at the spring All-University Awards Ceremony.

All-University Awards nominations, including those for the Simmons Chivukula Award for Academic Leadership, will be reviewed for misconduct and violations of University policy to ensure alignment with the University’s Mission and Values prior to being advanced for committee review.

Lastly, a nominee not selected for the Simmons Chivukula Award for Academic Leadership may be resubmit their nomination packet in subsequent award cycle; however, all materials must be updated before resubmitting.

If you have any questions, please contact Cindi Leverich at youngcin@msu.edu.

2021-22 Recipient

Dr. Victor J. DiRita has been recognized for his work as the chairperson of the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, where he also instructs. The award recognizes consistent excellence in leadership as measured by a variety of attributes including collaboration, empathy, humility, and transformation.

DiRita has served as chairperson since 2015, when he came to MSU from the University of Michigan’s Medical School where he had served as first Assistant and then Associate Dean. During his time as chairperson, DiRita has sought to improve DEI practices among both students and staff at the committee and individual levels. Together with the faculty advisory committee, DiRita created a new annual review form geared towards teaching faculty after recognizing that the existing form was slanted towards faculty members who conduct research. Dr. DiRita also created the Work-In-Progress Seminars, where graduate and postdoctoral students hone their oral presentation skills while enhancing faculty engagement with student projects. DiRita has also fit the award’s criteria of promoting the success of others, having consistently encouraged department staff to nominate their deserving colleagues for university and national awards.

Describing his leadership philosophy, DiRita says “Everyone should feel included and recognized for their work, and if not, that is a failure of leadership”. Over the past seven years that DiRita has been chair, he has created and bolstered numerous department initiatives designed to serve the needs of students, researchers, and instructors. In addition to his work as chairperson, DiRita also researches, in conjunction with several other scholars, the pathogenicity of microbes that cause human disease. DiRita was also the 2020-2021 president of the American Society for Microbiology and has served as an editor for multiple journals in the industry. The university thanks Dr. DiRita for his substantial contributions as a faculty member and academic leader.


Contact Information

If you have questions, please contact Cindi Leverich in the AAN at youngcin@msu.edu.