Published: Nov. 10, 2022

With approval by the CU Board of Regents, the University of Colorado has announced seven newly designated distinguished professors—the highest honor bestowed upon faculty across the system's four campuses. Four of the awardees are affiliated with the CU Boulder campus: Robert Davis, Kira Hall, Rebecca Maloy and Leysia Palen.

Also designated as distinguished professors are Dr. Ronald Sokol from the CU Anschutz Medical Campus and Carlos Paz de Araujo and Dorothea Olkowski from the Colorado Springs campus. A CU Connections article earlier today recognized all of the newly appointed distinguished professors across the CU system.

Distinguished professors are tenured faculty members who demonstrate exemplary performance in research or creative work; a record of excellence in promoting learning and student attainment of knowledge and skills; and outstanding service to the profession, the university and its affiliates. Including this year’s honorees, 136 distinguished professors have been named since inception of the title in 1977.

On Nov. 3, the Board of Regents voted to approve the cohort of faculty members, recommended by President Todd Saliman with the concurrence of the systemwide Committee of Distinguished Professors. This year’s honorees will be formally recognized during a board meeting in spring 2023.

Read more about CU Boulder's 2022 distinguished professors:

Rob DavisRobert Davis, Chemical and Biological Engineering

A member of the faculty since 1982, Robert Davis has spent more than 40 years demonstrating exemplary scholarly, instructional and leadership contributions to CU.

The recipient of numerous scholarly honors and awards, Davis also was recognized by CU Boulder in 1989, 1996, 2000, 2002 and 2018 with Outstanding Teaching Awards and by the AlChE, a leading organization for chemical engineering professionals, with the Warren K. Lewis Award in Chemical Engineering Education in 2019. Service honors and awards include the CU Boulder Robert L. Stearns Award and Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award, among others.

Davis’ research encompasses a broad array of chemical engineering topics. He and his students engage in modeling and experiments in the areas of fluid dynamics, biotechnology and membrane filtration. A paper he coauthored on the topic of microfiltration in the Journal of Membrane Science is one of the most highly cited publications ever published in the journal. Davis has published 240 peer-reviewed journals and books, with over 19,000 citations.

He has secured grants as principal investigator from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Department of Education and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The funding secured through those numerous grants has allowed him to support an active cohort of postdoctoral, doctoral, master’s and undergraduate researchers. Having mentored approximately 35 doctoral students, 30 master’s students and more than 165 undergraduate researchers, he has been enormously impactful in his program at CU.

Throughout Davis’ 25-year tenure as department chair and then engineering dean, CU Engineering has improved in areas of degrees awarded, ranking increases and growth in research output. His peers attribute this impact in recent decades largely to his leadership.

Kira HallKira Hall, Department of Linguistics

Kira Hall is an expert in sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology, and retains a well-deserved reputation as a sophisticated theorist and rigorous analyst of fundamental questions regarding the relationship of language to gender and sexuality, social class, identity, modernity and globalization, and contemporary Indian society.

In her career, Hall has helmed nine edited volumes and coedited four special journal issues. Currently authoring two books and serving as co-editor of the journal Gender and Language, her work is regularly included in anthologies of the most important work in the field and discussed in introductory textbooks to sociolinguistics, language and gender studies, and linguistic anthropology.

Hall’s work is of a rare quality in that it has shaped the direction of her field in a number of ways. Her articles theorizing the relationship between language and identity rank among the most highly cited publications in the history of sociolinguistics. She is widely recognized for bringing sexuality into the study of language and gender: She founded the field of queer linguistics and is coeditor of the first Oxford Handbook of Language and Sexuality. Past president of the Society for Linguistic Anthropology, her work takes many forms—including ethnographic work with hijras, a nonbinary “third gender” category in India—and is foundational to the study of the fields she has advanced.

As associate chair of undergraduate studies, Hall revitalized the undergraduate degree program, resulting in a substantial increase in undergraduate majors. She established the interdisciplinary graduate program in Culture, Language and Social Practice and developed it into a research center with an international reputation.

She has received numerous recognitions for her improvements to the Literacy Practicum, a community-based learning program. A popular professor, her work with undergraduate and graduate students—who leave glowing reviews—attests to the professorial impact she has had in addition to her prowess in scholarly research.

Rebecca MaloyRebecca Maloy, Musicology

Rebecca Maloy specializes in early medieval music. Her primary interests are liturgical chant, liturgy and ritual, and the theory and analysis of early music. The author of four books and many articles and book chapters, Maloy has substantially contributed to her field and is a leading voice in musicology. Her current and recent work has been supported by funding from the European Research Council, the Arts and Humanities Research Council in the United Kingdom, the American Council of Learned Societies and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Within CU, she is recognized as among the most respected and dedicated teachers in the College of Music. A part of the CU faculty since 2002, Maloy has demonstrated a deep commitment to teaching. From the beginning of her time at CU, she has taught 18 different courses, ranging from introductory courses for non-music majors to doctoral seminars in musicology.

In her tenure at the university, she has served as a member of many university and college committees and as a frequent peer reviewer and external evaluator for presses, journals and other institutions.

Leysia PalenLeysia Palen, Department of Computer Science, Department of Information Science

Having joined the CU faculty in 1998 as an assistant research professor in the Department of Computer Science, Leysia Palen has served the CU community in a variety of roles, culminating in her current roles as professor in the departments of computer science and information science. She also founded this latter department as its chair in 2015, a department that has attracted world-class faculty who engage in a wide variety of pressing problems in information science, and that offers new bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs to CU students. 

Palen is widely credited with pioneering the field of crisis informatics, which examines the role of information and computing in mass emergency and disaster situations. Her scholarly work engages with the areas of human-computer interaction, human-data interaction, and computer-supported cooperative work. Her work has been cited more than 20,000 times, and its longevity has been recognized by the ACM SIGCHI Societal Impact Award (2015) and her inclusion in the ACM SIG Computer Human Interaction Academy (2016).

Palen has been a principal investigator in research projects supported by the National Science Foundation (about $5 million), which has expanded the CU Boulder scholarly community through interdisciplinary multi-faculty and multi-student teams that cross computer and information science with the social sciences.

She has mentored 15 doctoral students who engage in interdisciplinary work; 13 of these students are women, which is a rarity in male-dominated tech fields. Her former students have gone on to conduct research and lead impactful labs in their own specialized areas of crisis and disinformation at top universities in computer and information sciences. A dedicated instructor and administrator, Palen has continued to innovate curriculum, mentor researchers and stimulate student engagement.