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USM Professor Cwikla Honored as Top STEM Educator in Region

Thu, 03/28/2019 - 02:37pm | By: Van Arnold

Dr. Julie Cwikla at the podium after receiving her Ada Lovelace Award for STEM Educator of the Year.

Dr. Julie Cwikla, Director of Creativity & Innovation in STEM at The University of Southern Mississippi, experienced a day like no other earlier this week. 

At 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 26, hand to her chest with tears in her eyes, Cwikla walked on stage to receive the 2019 Ada Lovelace Award in New Orleans. Cwikla was honored with the 2019 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Educator Award. She was the only Mississippi educator to be nominated.

“It is an incredible honor. The list of nominees is impressive to the say the least. I had no idea I would win,” said Cwikla. “I was overwhelmed by the talent in the room from Texas to Florida. It was an amazing evening and only inspires me to do more.”

Nearly 90 women from across the Gulf South region (including Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and Texas) were nominated for the 4th annual Ada Lovelace Awards, which offers awards in six distinct categories: Software Engineer, Tech Founder, Product Manager, UI/UX Designer, Digital Marketer, and STEM Educator.

Dr. Gordon Cannon, Vice President for Research at USM, commended Cwikla on the distinguished honor and for her efforts at advancing STEM opportunities for students.

“We at Southern Miss are so proud of the innovative research and development Dr. Cwikla has been doing over the course of her career,” said Cannon. “To have her recognized as the best STEM Educator across a six-state region is incredible and well deserved. Our students certainly have a gem of a professor and role model in Julie Cwikla.” 

Earlier on Tuesday, Cwikla's new book, Good to Great Grant Writing: Secrets to Success was released and became a “#1 New Release” in Scientific Research on Amazon. Cwikla has helped bring millions of research dollars to Mississippi engaging undergraduate students, graduate students, K-12 children, teachers, schools, families, and even research faculty at institutions across the region. 

In her new publication, Cwikla shares notes and essential reminders she tells herself - notes that keep her grinding along on a proposal path toward success.

“And just like in my grant proposals, every word matters. There is no fluff in this book.  It's direct and it's business,” she said. “I want to help people get money to do the work they love – today.”

The book is targeted toward researchers, scientists, post-docs, graduate students, educators, and nonprofits that want to take their grant writing game to the next level. Cwikla notes that she has several upcoming workshops and webinars associated with the new book.

“My daughter asked, ‘Mom, why are you sharing all your secrets?' “Because there's always enough to go around,” said Cwikla. “I really hope others find encouragement and resources for growing their great ideas into a fully funded proposal.”

About the Ada Lovelace Awards

The mission of the Ada Lovelace Awards is to expose the inequities that exist in the industry and celebrate the achievements that have been reached by women despite the many obstacles they've faced - on all fronts of discrimination, not just gender.

The awards are named in honor of Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (1815 – 1852), who was an English mathematician and writer, chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage's proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. She was the first to recognize that the machine had applications beyond pure calculation, and published the first algorithm intended to be carried out by such a machine. As a result, she is sometimes regarded as the first to recognize the full potential of a “computing machine” and one of the first computer programmers.