Dr. Sierra Howry gained much by attending East Central University and going through its McNair Scholars Program more than 20 years ago.
Howry, who graduated with a degree in mathematics in 1997, qualified for the McNair program by virtue of coming from a first generation/limited income family and being of minority decent (Howry is Cherokee).
Howry has now come full circle with the McNair program as she serves as its director at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and also is an associate professor of agricultural economics at that university.
For her efforts, Howry was the recipient of the 2018 Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA) Distinguished Teaching: Less than 10 Years’ Experience Award this past summer in Washington, D.C.
What makes this honor unique is that she is the first recipient of the award, in its 22-year history, to come from a small, regional, undergraduate teaching university.
“I can’t believe I won this award, it is one of the highest teaching awards in my field. It gets you to think ‘how do you compete against such places as Cornell, Kansas State and Purdue?’ I am very honored,” said Howry.
In receiving the award, she earned high marks from student and peer evaluations as well as showing the ability to attract students to the program at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She has also been praised for her academic advising, counseling and working with students in extracurricular activities at the university.
Those attributes are rooted with her start at ECU.
“I was a McNair Scholar in the summer of 1996 and did my summer institute research at the U.S. EPA National Risk Management Research Laboratory in Ada,” Howry said.
That experience, along with earning an undergraduate degree in math, certainly prepared Howry for her career.
“By going through the McNair program it prepared me for graduate (school) work,” said Howry. “The (ECU) Math Department had to be one of the strongest around, because I thought my graduate courses were easier than my undergraduate math courses.”
When interviewing for graduate school, Howry was told she would need to write a research report (thesis) and present her work at a regional conference. With her McNair research experience and having written a research paper and presenting it, she was already prepared for graduate school research requirements.
Howry, who was a resident of Allen and Ada High School graduate, went on to earn both her master of science (2001) and Ph.D. (2008) from Oklahoma State University.
She has spent nearly five years at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls after working five years at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas.