Dr. Bryan Lai, professor of mathematics, is the 2022 recipient of the Chris P. Plyler Excellence in Service award from the University of South Carolina. The award is given to recognize outstanding service by a full-time faculty member at a Palmetto College campus.
"It is hard to imagine anyone being more devoted to an institution and its various missions than Dr. Lai. Everyone who has worked with Dr. Lai has seen his quiet, humble devotion to serving students, colleagues, the USC Salkehatchie campus, the greater UofSC system, and his profession,” Dr. Bryan Love, associate dean for academic and student affairs, said. “Indeed, he has been deeply and profoundly influential in all facets of USC Salkehatchie's mission and work, which is why virtually no one who knows him is surprised that he is the first faculty member in the system to earn Palmetto College's prestigious faculty awards in all three areas: teaching, service, and scholarship."
Lai was previously awarded the John J. Duffy Excellence in Teaching award in 2013 and the Denise R. Shaw Excellence in Scholarship award in 2018.
Dr. Lai has demonstrated a record of outstanding service that spans all four areas including campus, system, community, and profession. He has served on various campus committees and as a faculty advisor for the USC Salkehatchie International Student Organization. As part of that organization, Dr. Lai helps international students to file taxes and to apply for driver's licenses. He also gives these students rides and even provides meals to students in need.
“He does all of this quietly, with no fanfare, and with no expectation of anything from anyone except for those students to feel supported and cared for while at Salkehatchie,” retired Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Jane Brewer said. “I cannot imagine how these students would fare or how much less of an experience these students would have at Salkehatchie if it were not for Dr. Lai. To me, that is real service – doing for others with no expectation of anything in return.”
In the mathematics profession, Professor Lai currently serves as vice chair for two-year colleges at the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) Southeastern Section and representative-at-large for interests of faculty at two-year colleges for the MAA. He has organized and spoken at the Carolina Mathematics Seminar, reviewed articles for mathematics journals, reviewed National Science Foundation grants, and judged Discover UofSC presentations.
In the community, Dr. Lai has led workshops and activities for local high school teachers and volunteered with charity events through local churches. He has served as treasurer for the Lowcountry International Society and sings with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Chorus where he is the bass section leader.
“I am fortunate to have the chance to help my local community, math community, Salkehatchie family, and the entire UofSC system,” Dr. Lai said. “For me, it is a way to pay it forward for all the help I have received in the past. It makes me grateful, and it makes me smile.”