Women of USU: Then and Now, Women in Research

Since its earliest days, women at Utah State University have had a huge impact on the cultural, scientific, economic, and social fabric of the institution. The Year of the Woman shares these critical voices simply because their stories matter.

Research at Utah State University has been a priority since its founding. Undergraduates conducted guided research in the course of learning with a focus on agricultural innovation. Students and their faculty mentors won a gold medal for its research exhibits at the World’s Fair in St. Louis in 1904. In 1914, the Utah Cooperative Extension Service was founded to bring research-based knowledge to people, especially farmers, in the Intermountain West. The Research Foundation was established in 1947 to support and highlight faculty research. In 1955, the Division of Research was created, headed by D. Wynne Thorne. Twenty years later, the Undergraduate Research Program was established, making it second only to MIT.

Then: Ethelyn O. Greaves

In a time when a women’s place was primarily in the home, many women worked hard to break down barriers and pursue their goals. Ethelyn Oliver Greaves is just one example of these women in Utah State’s history. Dr. Greaves graduated from Agricultural College of Utah (ACU) in with a bachelor’s degree in Home Economics 1920. Just one year later, she became the first woman in the history of ACU to earn a master’s degree, obtaining a degree in Foods. What is even more remarkable was that Dr. Greaves finished both of these degrees after marrying Joseph E. Greaves, a UAC professor and widower with five children. His wife perished in the Spanish Influenza Epidemic in 1918. Following her completion of a master’s degree, Dr. Greaves joined her husband in co-authoring the text Elementary Bacteriology, acting as secretary (1924-25) and president (1929-30) for the Faculty Women’s League, and giving birth to three children.

In 1930, just one year after the birth of her youngest child, Dr. Greaves became a teaching fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, while pursuing a Ph.D. in nutrition. Leaving her husband and seven of the children in Logan, Utah, Dr. Greaves and her newborn moved to California. After the completion of her doctorate in 1934, Dr. Greaves returned to UAC as part of the Extension service only to lose her position a year later due to anti-nepotism rulings. Dr. Greaves went on to become associate director of the state Rehabilitation of Resettlement Administration, state director of the Farm Security Administration, and chair of the Home Economics Department at the University of Utah in 1944.  After a year at U of U, Dr. Greaves returned to the UAC as the Dean of Home Economics with the retirement of her husband. In addition to acting as the Dean of Home Economics, Dr. Greaves also became head of the Foods and Nutrition Department.

In addition to her work as Dean, Dr. Greaves published numerous articles on foods and nutrition, was known for her excellent work with students encouraging them both personally and professionally and her generosity to the University. She donated her late husband’s 417-volume book collection and established a $100 scholarship in honor of him. Originally, the scholarship was called the “Doctors Joseph E., Ethelyn O., Greaves Memorial Scholarship” fund. This scholarship has since been divided into two distinct scholarships, with the Joseph Greaves Scholarship available to students in the College of Science, and the Ethelyn O. Greaves Scholarship available through the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences. In addition to these scholarships being offered today, both Dr. Ethelyn Greaves and her husband have individual buildings named after them on USU’s Logan campus.

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Now: Lisa Berreau (1998 – Present)

Just three years after joining USU as an assistant professor in 1998, Dr. Lisa Berreau was recognized by the National Science Foundation with an Early Career Research Fellowship, the most prestigious award to support faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department. The Foundation’s prediction came true. Dr. Berreau was elected a Fellow of the American Chemical Society in 2019. She is also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and currently serves as USU’s Interim Vice President for Research.

Additional accolades include being awarded Faculty Researcher of the Year for USU’s College of Science in 2019; earlier, she was named Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year for the College. An active researcher, she invests unstintingly in mentoring both graduate and undergraduate students. An inorganic chemist, Berreau is recognized internationally for developing synthetic systems for examining biologically relevant non-redox and O2 activation chemistry involving first row metals, and for the development of flavonol-based carbon monoxide-releasing molecules. Her work investigates the role metal ions play in human health, the environment and catalysis.Dr. Berreau encourages and enables future scientific researchers through mentorship and lab work. She has published over 75 peer-reviewed research publications and been awarded more than $3 million in grants and sponsored research funding. In her current position, Dr. Berreau continues to interact with students as they pursue their own research and helps meet the mission to facilitate a culture of excellence in research, scholarship, and creative activity. 

Credit: Mary-Ann Muffoletto, Public Relations Specialist, College of Science

Sources: https://research.usu.edu/undergradresearch/history/

Dr. Alison Comish Thorne, “Women in the History of Utah’s Land-Grant College,” a paper prepared for the USU Faculty Women’s League in commemoration of its 75th year, presented 7 March 1986. The paper can be found in USU Special Collections and Archives.

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