MSU geosciences faculty member to receive prestigious distinguished educator award

Contact: Karyn Brown

Brenda Kirkland (Photo by Russ Houston)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—A Mississippi State faculty member will become the first woman to receive an international award given by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists this weekend during the organization’s convention in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Brenda Kirkland, an MSU associate professor of geosciences, is being honored with the Grover E. Murray Memorial Distinguished Educator Award, Sunday [June 19] during what is termed “the premier science and technology event for petroleum geologists.”

The award, bestowed on a professional who has significantly contributed to geological education, emphasizes the recipient’s success in teaching, guiding student research, and other university and professional research and involvement.

Kirkland served as a faculty member at the University of Texas for six years before joining the MSU faculty in 2000.  She said her research and teaching have flourished at MSU, and she is extremely honored to receive this award.

“I was especially humbled by the list of previous recipients.  I took classes from R.L. ‘Luigi’ Folk, Wayne Ahr and Clyde Moore, my friend and doctoral adviser.  I learned, and continue to learn, from textbooks by Jim Wilson, George Asquith and Paul Wright.  I’ve met many of the men on this list, and I am humbled to have my name with theirs,” Kirkland said.

Over the course of Kirkland’s academic career, she has supervised 34 graduate students, many of whom wrote letters of support for this award. She has developed and taught 23 different courses for classroom, field and online venues. 

Kirkland’s research covers a broad spectrum of topics – from ancient reef systems to studies of calcification in the human body.  She has published 34 papers, co-authored or edited three books, and participated in acquisition of more than $5 million in grants, many as a member of the MSU Materials Working Group.  Her current research is focused on finding uses for captured carbon dioxide. 

“This is an amazing honor and speaks to Dr. Kirkland’s unfailing commitment to teaching excellence,” said Bill Cooke, head of MSU’s Department of Geosciences. “Dr. Kirkland welcomes her students into her office at any time, and I often see them in her office working hand-in-hand with her on research.  The Department of Geosciences is truly fortunate to have Dr. Kirkland as a member of our faculty.”

Kirkland’s service efforts are guided by her strong commitment to K-12 education and promotion of diversity.  She was granted the MSU Faculty Diversity Award in 2013 and now serves on the President’s Commission on the Status of Minorities.

With more than 5,000 students, 300 full-time faculty members, nine Ph.D. programs, and 24 academic majors offered in 14 different departments, the College of Arts and Sciences is MSU’s largest academic unit. The college also is home to the most diverse units in regard to research and scholarly activities: natural and physical sciences, social and behavioral sciences, and the humanities.

Research in the natural and physical sciences has received funding from the National Institute of Justice, Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation. Scholarly output from the humanities placed MSU in the National Science Foundation top 50, and the NSF ranked MSU in the top 25 for research expenditures in the social sciences. 

For more on MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences, visit To learn more about the Department of Geosciences, visit

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