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Distinguished MU professor wins SEC award

Kenneth Sher receives SEC Faculty Achievement award in recognition of his 40 years of work in the Department of Psychological Sciences.

April 2, 2021
Contact, Sara Diedrich, diedrichs@missouri.edu, 573-882-3243

Kenneth Sher, a curator’s distinguished professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Missouri, has been honored today by the Southeastern Conference (SEC) with the 2021 Faculty Achievement Award.

Kenneth Sher, a curator’s distinguished professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences at Mizzou.

Kenneth Sher, a curator’s distinguished professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of Missouri, has been honored today by the Southeastern Conference (SEC) with the 2021 Faculty Achievement Award. This recognition is given annually to one professor from each college within the SEC. Of those recipients, one is awarded the SEC Professor of the Year Award, which will be announced later this month.

“It’s such an honor,” Sher said. “Most of us live our lives in our labs, so this award is very validating and humbling.”

Latha Ramchand, provost and executive vice chancellor at MU, said Sher is one of the most prolific researchers at Mizzou.

“He is recognized nationally and internationally for his work as an addiction scientist,” she said. “Not only is his research nationally recognized in academic circles, but his work has also shaped alcohol decisions on state and national levels. In addition, he is unmatched as a mentor to both students and colleagues.”

Sher received his doctorate in clinical psychology in 1981 from Indiana University and completed his pre-doctoral internship at Brown University. Over the years, his education and career have taken him to Seattle, San-Francisco, Providence, Rhode Island, and even to Brighton, England at the University of Sussex. However, for 40 years, Sher has lived and worked in Columbia.

“To be honest, neither my wife nor I thought we would stay here that long,” Sher said, adding it was the growing strength of Mizzou’s psychology department that convinced him to stay. “Over time, the strength of the faculty, our collegiality and our success in training students continued to increase, and we were able to generate a number of resources.”

Sher joined the faculty at MU as an assistant professor. In 2000, he was named Curators’ Distinguished Professor, the highest and most prestigious academic rank awarded by the University of Missouri Board of Curators.

Sher has received dozens of awards and honors throughout his career, including the Chancellor's Award for Outstanding Faculty Research and Creative Activity, the James H. Tharp Award and the Research Society on Alcoholism’s Distinguished Researcher Award. Sher is grateful to add this SEC award to his list of achievements.

Beyond his own career, Sher also takes pride in the accomplishments of his trainees, a group of graduate and post-doctoral students who work alongside him in his NIH research-training grant.

“If you look at the accomplishments of the people have trained with, I have just been blessed,” he said.

Sher especially finds joy in mentoring his students.

“Most of us are not going to be able to make that much of an impact on the world ourselves,” Sher said. “But if you’re effective as a mentor and a teacher, you get to influence a lot more people, and then they go on and do extraordinary things.”

He describes the lineage that has formed between his mentees and the people they go on to mentor as “academic grandchildren.”

“I am able to trace certain characteristics from my mentor, like abstract pieces of DNA have been passed down to them, even though they may have never met,” he said.

Sher’s research primarily focuses on alcohol use disorders. He has been the principal investigator of numerous federally funded research grants, many of which were sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Sher began taking an interest in this research area while at Indiana University.

“As I got more involved with alcohol research, the more I enjoyed it,” he said, noting the growing importance of studying alcohol use and alcohol use disorders, “There is increasing recognition of the role of alcohol on health over the course of the entire human lifespan, from effects on the developing fetus to effects on the aging brain and numerous serious health consequences in between, such as gastrointestinal and cardiovascular disease and unintentional injuries. The effects of alcohol on health are extraordinarily wide ranging.”

The SEC Faculty Achievement Award was established to honor and celebrate university faculty at the conference level. Award recipients receive a $5,000 honorarium and become their universities nominee for Faculty of the Year Award.

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