College of Engineering News Room
Jim Mihelcic Receives 2018 Charles R. O’Melia Distinguished Educator Award from AEESP
Jim Mihelcic receives 2018 Charles R. O'Melia Distinguished Educator Award from the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP).
Professor Mihelcic (middle) receiving the 2018 Charles O'Melia Award from AEESP President and fellow professor at USF, Maya Trotz (right) and AEESP Awards Committee chair Robert Nerenberg from the University of Notre Dame.
Professor James Mihelcic, PhD, BCEEM, the Samuel L. and Julia M. Flom Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Engineering at the University of South Florida, recently received the 2018 Charles R. O'Melia Distinguished Educator Award from the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP). Established by AEESP in 2012, this award is given annually to recognize the significant contributions of Professor Charles R. O'Melia 1934-2010 to environmental engineering education. It is awarded to an environmental engineering or science professor who has a record of excellent teaching in the classroom and through graduate student advising; significant research achievements that have contributed to environmental engineering knowledge; and an outstanding record of influence through mentoring of former students and colleagues.
Prof. Mihelcic is one of the first professors to promote sustainability as a critical component of environmental engineering education and research. In 1987, Jim started the first Peace Corps Master's International (PCMI) Engineering Program while at Michigan Tech; he expanded this program to USF in 2008. PCMI has allowed > 107 highly qualified Michigan Tech and USF graduate students to integrate Peace Corps service with their graduate engineering education. In addition to PCMI, Jim directs USF's graduate concentration in "Engineering for International Development," which provides additional pathways to integrating graduate education and international service (such as work with NGOs). He has linked USF's programs in engineering, public health, anthropology, global sustainability and nursing with the Paul D. Coverdell Fellows program, which provides financial assistance for returned Peace Corps volunteers. He also manages a $4-million dollar NSF Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE) project that trains a multidisciplinary group of doctoral students in geographically-appropriate, and culturally relevant resource recovery systems.
His colleagues in the department of Civil & Environmental Engineering wrote, "As faculty advisers, we have seen first-hand how these programs contribute to their global and technical competency, improves health and the environment in the communities in which they work, and disseminates knowledge they develop though conference and peer reviewed papers, reports and theses." Graduate program director, Professor Sarina Ergas says, "I have seen the high quality students attracted to USF by these programs and their significant accomplishments and leadership in the Environmental Engineering profession."
Jim has also included global contexts of environmental engineering in his courses and textbooks. He has broadened his reach by including these concepts in his textbook, "Environmental Engineering: Fundamentals, Sustainability, Design," currently adopted by > 110 Civil and Environmental Engineering Programs and translated into several languages, including Portuguese and Chinese. His ASCE "Field Guide in Environmental Engineering for Development Workers: Water, Sanitation, Indoor Air" is viewed by academics and practitioners as a premier reference guide for how to practice WASH engineering in developing world settings. He is currently co-editing the Sanitation Technology chapters for the "Global Water Pathogen Project."
Jim has pushed himself and those with whom he works to broaden the participation of groups underrepresented in the Environmental Engineering field. Since joining USF in 2008, Jim has successfully mentored six assistant professors in our department through tenure; 50% of them are female and 40% are underrepresented minorities. His commitment to broadening participation is also apparent the grants he directs, e.g. an NSF S-‐STEM needs based grant for graduate students, and an NSF PIRE grant in partnership with the University of the Virgin Islands, a recognized HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). He has supervised to completion 20 doctoral (40% female and 30% URMs), and 121 research-based master's students. He has also supported undergraduate research as PI of an NSF REU in Sustainability (2005-2007) in partnership with Southern University and A&M College (an HBCU). These students have made significant contributions to scholarship in the areas of sustainability, the impact of anthropogenic stressors on water resources, water reuse, nutrient management, and developing world WASH solutions. According to Web of Science, Jim and his students have published 135 peer-‐reviewed articles which have been cited > 3,000 times.
He has been a past president and Board Member of AEESP, served 6-years as a Board Trustee for the AAEES, and two 3-year terms as an EPA Chartered Science Advisory Board member.
Prof. Mihelcic was honored at the AEESP 2018 Meet & Greet at the Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition & Conference (WEFTEC) in New Orleans.