Graduate School Alumni Society Lifetime Achievement Award winner named

April 07, 2011

University Park, PA -- Elizabeth J. Susman is the recipient of the 2011 Graduate School Alumni Society (GSAS) Lifetime Achievement Award. Susman is the Jean Phillips Shibley Professor of Biobehavioral Health at Penn State and is internationally recognized for her innovative research that combines the study of psychological processes of stress and adaptation with biological markers of key stress hormones. Her research has focused on the important life stage of adolescence.

To be considered for this award, the recipient must have a minimum of 20 years of professional experience since receiving his or her graduate degree from Penn State; achieved exceptional success throughout the course of his or her profession and made substantive contributions to the professional field at the regional and national levels; exemplified him or herself as a mentor and role model; and demonstrated a lifetime of service and contributions to their community, as well as loyalty to the University and the Alumni Association.

Susman examines how biology and psychology interact during critical transitions, such as the onset of puberty and teen pregnancy. She has been a pioneer in taking research out of stress into naturalistic settings and in demonstrating how new biological markers can be obtained in order to help us understand how adolescents cope, or fail to cope, with major challenges in their lives. The research approaches that she has helped to develop have become models for major research initiatives at the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation, which aim to integrate biological and psychosocial perspectives in the study of human development and adaptation. Her standing and influence in her field is marked by the fact that she has served on some of the most prestigious task forces and committees that have shaped directions in research, policy and practice.

She has also had an exceptional career as a role model, mentor and teacher. Among her numerous honors and awards, she has been recognized with the Excellence in Teaching Award from the Department of Biobehavioral Health and the Outstanding Faculty of the Year Award from the Golden Key Honor Society. Many of her doctoral students have gone on to various leadership roles in research in applied settings, such as the pharmaceutical industry and in universities.

In addition, she has given back to Penn State in many ways. Among other activities, she served on the advisory board of Creating Health for WPSX and was a long-standing member of the Developmental Council of the College of Health and Human Development. Most notably, she served as co-chair of the Faculty Staff Committee of Penn State's Grand Destiny Campaign with her husband Gerald Susman.

To quote one of her nominators, "Liz is a wonderful colleague and collaborator. She has been a loyal Penn Stater, with all her degrees from Penn State, and a faculty member since 1977. While she has been highly sought after by other universities, and has held visiting roles while on sabbatical at many distinguished universities around the world, she has continued her loyalty to Penn State. I can think of no one more deserving of the GSAS Lifetime Achievement Award."

Susman earned a bachelor's degree in individual and family studies in 1971, a master's degree in 1973, and a doctorate in 1976, with both graduate degrees in human development and family studies.

Last Updated April 07, 2011