|Awards, Honors, and Professorships|
Each year, the University of Washington honors faculty, staff, teaching assistants, and programs for exceptional dedication and innovation. Arts and Sciences recipients of these awards are profiled below. These stories are excerpted from the University Week Awards Supplement.
for A&S's Top Teachers:
James Morrow; Enrique Bonus;
Lisa Coutu; Richard Johnson
Kudos for A&Sís Top Teachers
The UW Distinguished Teaching Award honors faculty who show a mastery of their subject matter, intellectual rigor, lively curiosity, a commitment to research, and a passion for teaching. Four Arts and Sciences faculty are among the recipients for 2003.
Jim Morrow’s teaching philosophy is similar to his attitude about life. He says his aim is to show students how to approach solving problems while enjoying the process, which nearly always involves making mistakes and encountering failures. And students say that although he challenges them with tough problems, he also provides motivation and support throughout the process of discovering solutions.
Undergraduate Jeff Giansiracusa believes Morrow is the primary reason he decided to become a math major. “Professor Morrow’s influence extends far outside the classroom,” says Giansiracusa. “He maintains strong relationships with many of his students and guides us through independent projects, group endeavors, and provides personal advice.”
“Everything he does is centered on getting students to appreciate mathematics, to learn to discover and create,” adds Selim Tuncel, acting mathematics chair.
A UW professor since 1969, many of Morrow’s contributions have taken place outside the classroom. He founded the Math Study Center, where students can work on problems independently and collaboratively with their peers. He oversees Math Day, which attracts 1,200 high school students each year. He directs the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program, a two-month summer program that allows undergraduates from around the country to work together on new research for unsolved math problems. And he serves as adviser to UW math department teams that have entered the Mathematical Contest in Modeling. This year, both teams Morrow coached took home top honors in the prestigious international competition.
Tom Duchamp, a mathematics professor, says, “The enormous amount of time he devotes to his students is one of the many measures of Morrow’s commitment to math education. His dedication, his carefully planned lectures, his warmth, his enthusiasm for teaching and for mathematics, and the profound effect he has had on almost every student are what make him a perfect candidate for the Distinguished Teaching Award.”
Rick Bonus will do just about anything to make his classes—even big survey courses—engaging. He draws participation by leaving the podium to roam the aisles, as well as by inventing exercises such as assigning each student to be the teacher for one minute.
Such audience-participation techniques have led to a doubling of enrollment in Introduction to the Cultures of American Ethnic Groups since he took over the course.
“I put myself in the students’ shoes,” Bonus says. “What would make me sit here with this guy for two hours?”
Stephen Sumida, the American Ethnic Studies department chairman, says that when he sat in a Bonus lecture, “I, too, felt like participating in the discussion.” Sumida also has lauded Bonus’ scholarly work as “breaking the mold” — especially Bonus’ 2000 book, Locating Filipino Americans: Ethnicity and the Cultural Politics of Space.
High praise for an academic career that, Bonus says, almost fizzled before it began. In graduate school, Bonus grabbed the only teaching-assistant stipend that was available: a course in ethnic studies. It was a revelation. In its exploration of power, language, and culture in America, ethnic studies was a subject that finally made sense to Bonus, who grew up in a Filipino family in both the United States and Manila.
“The first day of that class, my mouth was literally wide open,” he said. “It was a spiritual experience.” Now, when he teaches comparative ethnic studies, Filipino American history, and Asian American immigration, Bonus seems to have the same effect on a new generation.
“I just don’t feel like it’s worth my time or my students’ time to spend four or five hours a week together and not get something done,” Lisa Coutu says of her courses. “So I have relatively high standards for how much work students will do and the quality of the work they will produce.”
That challenging approach has inspired her students. “As students we were challenged, expected to ground our observations in the text and class readings, and provoked to respond to, not observe, class discussions,” one student comments. Another, who admits to being “difficult” at times, says of Coutu, “She gave me a chance, and brought the best out of me. In doing so, I believe that she affected the direction of my life more than any other professor in my education.”
Many of Coutu’s classes include more than 200 students; some have
450 students. She tries to know each and every one of the students in
the large lecture halls, at least by face. She asks her students to say
hello to her when they see her on campus so she can better learn who they
Coutu earned her Ph.D. in 1996 from the UW and says she remains happy and at home on this campus. She continues to do research and to publish, but her primary focus remains squarely on the classroom.
“I guess I just really get a kick out of being with the students,” she says. “I feel like I have the opportunity in really small ways to make an impact on people’s lives.”
Recently, Richard Johnson sat in his office, deeply engaged in a book on the practice of tarring and feathering. Asked if the research related to course content or to a troublesome pupil, the professor of early American history laughed.
“Actually, it came up in class,” he explained. “A student asked where the practice originated and I didn’t know, so I’ve been making some inquiries.”
It’s this sort of responsiveness, say Johnson’s students and colleagues, that has earned the British-born professor a Distinguished Teaching Award.
“Simply put, his devotion to teaching and to students, his constant effort to improve his own work in the classroom, and his utter selflessness as a colleague provide a wondrous example,” says John Findlay, chair of the History Department.
To help bring students into the early American world, Johnson has them study original source material—pamphlets, advertisements, newspaper articles—and then write about their explorations. That prepares them to more meaningfully engage in class discussions. For his part, Johnson makes the material engaging by using anecdotes, examples, and humor. The act of teaching itself, over the years, has provided illustrations as well.
“I think of the person who wandered into my class on the religious revival of 1740, shouting ‘Jesus is coming to campus on Wednesday!,’” recalls Johnson. “It was the perfect moment for me to use her as an illustration of the itinerant evangelist.”
Johnson says that’s how he views himself as a teacher—not especially inspired, but one who has worked hard to develop his abilities, gain experience, and take advantage of the things that come his way.
“The TAs thought I had hired that woman to come in,” he says, adding that he still uses the incident as an example to help students connect past and present. “In reality, it was quite, as the Puritans would say, providential.”
“In my 23 years in the department, I have never seen any teaching assistant surpassing Rebecca’s quality,” comments Peter Guttorp, chair of the Department of Statistics. He’s referring to graduate student and teaching assistant Rebecca Nugent, who has received the University’s Excellence in Teaching Award.
“The challenge is in discovering the best way for each student to visualize the problem,” Nugent says about teaching. “Some work better with repetition, others with practical examples. Helping people determine what works best for them and helping them discover that, yes, they will use math again in their lives and that, yes, they are capable of it, is immensely satisfying. ”
Sophomore Alison Johnston says that Nugent “has the rare ability to make any subject matter fascinating.” Senior Tran Niki Chau adds that fun and statistics don’t usually go together in students’ minds but they do for Nugent’s students.
Nugent’s energies and organizational skills were instrumental in helping create the Statistics Tutoring and Study Center, which began trial operations Spring Quarter 2003, serving up to 50 students a day.
Both Guttorp and June Morita, acting assistant professor of statistics, express appreciation for Nugent’s help following the death of professor David Brooks last November. Nugent, who had previously been Brooks’ teaching assistant for Statistics 311, provided the temporary faculty replacement with insights about the course and stepped in to organize the work of the teaching assistants for several weeks.
“Given the tragedy of Professor Brooks’ death, the transition went remarkably smoothly,” says Morita. “I credit the smoothness of the transition largely to Rebecca.”
Charles “Biff” Keyes has mentored so many graduate students
that it is almost
“He devotes passionate energy to every student,” says Miriam Kahn, chair of the Department of Anthropology, “always making himself accessible for them, carefully, thoughtfully, and critically reading their work, …writing letters of recommendation, assisting them in career preparation, involving them in his conference panels and publications, and bringing career opportunities to their attention.”
Keyes has been a member of the UW faculty since 1965 and has done extensive
fieldwork in Asia, particularly working among rural people and minorities
of Thailand and Vietnam. Recognition
Keyes has mentored several generations of scholars and has worked particularly hard to find the necessary funding to enable many students from Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, China, and Afghanistan to pursue graduate work at the UW.
Perhaps the story that best illustrates Keyes’ commitment and respect for his students’ goals concerns one woman who was battling breast cancer while finishing work on her Ph.D. Completing that work was important to her and kept her going, something she achieved several months before dying.
“Biff’s gentle love and concern inspired her to carry on,” says Kahn. “But most touching of all was that he arranged a trip to Thailand and personally carried her ashes for a ceremony at the confluence of the Mun and Mekong rivers. Together with seven of her friends (all former students of Biff’s) he spread her ashes. This is love and respect that goes beyond mentoring, even beyond life.”
A&S Staff Honored
As James Gladden concluded his undergraduate career at the UW, little did he realize he was about to encounter a big “detour” sign. He received his psychology degree in 1972, then three years later went to work for his alma mater full time—as an engineering technician in the Chemistry Department.
Now, nearly 28 years after being hired, he is the technical services manager in chemistry, a key player in the department’s administrative team, and the recipient of a UW Distinguished Staff Award.
“It’s just one of those journeys,” Gladden says. “I had a childhood interest in science and technology and electronics. I was an electronics hobbyist as a kid, but that’s when electronics were a lot simpler, in the pre-personal computer days.”
As an undergraduate, Gladden worked in electronics jobs on campus, including a stint with the Physics Department research group of Nobel Prize winner Hans Dehmelt. “By the time I graduated, it was the path of least resistance and it was something I was interested in doing,” he says.
In the Department of Chemistry, Gladden has worked as computer manager and designer of electronics instruments, including a console for a powerful spectrometer. The console was so advanced that a leading vendor of such equipment studied and replicated parts of Gladden’s design. His work in that instance saved the department about $1 million, says Paul Hopkins, chair of the Department of Chemistry.
Now, as a member of the department’s staff leadership team, Gladden is involved in many management decisions. “When Jim speaks, I listen very carefully,” says Hopkins. “He is intensely analytical, he is creative and he is humane.”
“I never thought of myself as a manager,” admits Gladden. “I’m not a natural manager, but I’m a detail person and that’s what matters in management—to keep track of details.”
Although she’s being honored as a distinguished staff member, Laurel Sercombe seems to have a foot in the faculty and student worlds as well.
During her more than 20 years as archivist for Ethnomusicology in the School of Music, she’s sat in on faculty meetings, mentored generations of graduate students, and even gone through the doctoral program herself.
Sercombe presides over Ethno-musicology’s research archive, a library with 6,000 hours of audiotapes, 300 video-tapes, 150 films, 500 phonograph records, and about 300 musical instruments. A violinist with an undergraduate music degree and a master’s in library and information science, she’s the perfect person to take care of such a treasure trove.
But it isn’t just her academic credentials that endear Sercombe to her colleagues. Ethnomusicology Chair Philip Schuyler says Sercombe “does not just contribute to a positive work environment, she creates it.”
Graduate student Andrea Emberly, who works with Sercombe in the archive, says, “I know that my work with Laurel has been one of my core learning experiences at the UW and that everything she has taught me, about life, about archiving, about music, will stay with me forever.”
Learning that students consider her a mentor was a surprise to Sercombe. “Students make my work life so much richer, it didn’t occur to me that there was any mentoring going on,” she says. “Students continue to give me reason to be excited about this work and this program.”
Sercombe’s job is complicated by lack of space and lack of funds. The archive reached capacity five years ago, and Sercombe has been struggling to find places to store the materials that continue to flow in. She has sought outside funding for the task. She’s secured two grants to transfer deteriorating film to other media. A third grant brought a curator to campus to evaluate the musical instrument collection.
She also has worked to make the archive’s materials more accessible to the larger community. Thanks to her efforts, the instrument collection will soon be available through a multimedia database on the UW Digital Libraries Portal.
Ethnomusicology recently celebrated its 40th anniversary with a weekend symposium, largely planned by Sercombe. Asked if she thinks she’ll be around for the 50th, she says it wouldn’t be a bad thing if she were. “But,” she adds with a twinkle, “at some point I should get out of here and let somebody else have some of the fun.”
Many undergraduates who enter the UW’s School of Drama are focused on becoming professional actors and actresses. They arrive thinking they will be starring in an endless cycle of theater productions.
Instead, they find a program that requires them to spend time backstage as well as onstage and to dip into fields outside drama. Moreover, many of the plum roles go to graduate students. Yet there are no riots breaking out in the School. Instead one finds an undergraduate program so vibrant that it has won a Brotman Award for Instructional Excellence.
The dedicated faculty are certainly one reason. “Every professor I have had here has always said that if you want to work on something—even if it is for an audition and not for class—just ask,” says senior Andy Kidd. “This work ethic is never the exception; it seems to be the rule.”
The School requires students to complete rigorous courses in critical theory and theater history, stubbornly insisting on producing broadly educated graduates. There are performance opportunities, of course, through regular productions and special programs like Once Upon a Weekend—in which anyone can sign up to write a play overnight, then see it produced the following night with a volunteer cast and crew. And the Cabaret in Hutchinson Hall is available for student-initiated productions.
“Whatever idea you have in your head, you can propose,” Kidd says. “It’s a really great way for people to experiment.”
Ken Bube, professor of mathematics, has been elected to the European Academy of Sciences.
The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture was presented with a certificate by Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed as part of the 150th anniversary of Washington Territory, for its commitment to the preservation of Washington history.
Joost A. Businger, emeritus professor of atmospheric sciences, has been awarded the 2003 Vilhelm Bjerknes Medal by the European Geophysical Society.
Gary Christian, professor of chemistry, received a Geoff Wilson Medal from Deakin University, Australia, for exemplary research achieve-ments in Flow Analysis.
Norman Dovichi, professor of chemistry, received the 2003 Spectrochemical Analysis Award sponsored by the Analytical Division of the American Chemical Society.
Daniel Gamelin, assistant professor of chemistry, has received a 2003 Cottrell Scholar Award, designed for faculty members who are beginning their career and wish to excel at both teaching and research.
Michael Gelb, professor of chemistry, was among a group of scientists honored with a “Project of the Year Award” by the Medicines for Malaria Venture based in Geneva.
Robin Held, associate curator at the Henry Art Gallery, has recieved a Getty Grant Program Curatorial Research Fellowship.
Stephen Hinds, professor of classics, was awarded a Sabbatical Fellowship in the Humanities and Social Sciences by the American Philosophical Society.
Christine Ingebritsen, associate professor of Scandinavian Studies, has been elected Vice President/President-Elect of the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study.
Lyatt Jaeglé, assistant professor of atmospheric sciences, has received a National Science Foundation Early Career Development Award.
Charles Johnson, professor of English, was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Sarah Keller, assistant professor of chemistry, has received a 2003 Cottrell Scholar Award, designed for faculty members who are beginning their career and wish to excel at both teaching and research.
Victoria Lawson, professor of geography, has been elected Vice-President/President Elect of the Association of American Geographers.
Bethann Pflugeisen, outreach program manager for the UW State GEAR UP Project, has received the Yakima Valley GEAR UP Project ‘Person Who Makes a Difference’ Award for her outstanding work in coordinating mentor-outreach activities.
Jonathan Mayer, professor of geography, has been elected to membership in the American College of Epidemiology.
Martina Morris and Mark S. Handcock, both professors of statistics and sociology, and director of the Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology and core member of the Center for Statistics and the Social Sciences respectively, received the Cornell Center for the Study of Inequality Distinguished Book Award for Divergent Paths: Economic Mobility in the New American Labor Market.
Adrian Raftery, Director of the Center for Statistics and the Social Sciences and professor of statistics and sociology, has been elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Thomas Richardson, associate professor of statistics, has been named a Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Palo Alto.
R. G. Hamish Robertson, professor of physics, was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Naomi Sokoloff, professor of Near Eastern languages and civilization, has been appointed to the Samuel and Althea Stroum Endowed Chair of Jewish Studies.
Ramona Solberg, professor emeritus of art, won this year’s Twining Humber Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, administered by Artist Trust.
Wes Wehr, affiliate curator of paleontology at the Burke Museum, was awarded the Harrell L. Strimple Award by The Paleontological Society.
Sabine Wilke, chair and professor of Germanics, has received a Fulbright Research Award and a Guggenheim.
Barry Witham, professor of drama, has been selected to receive the 2003 Betty Jean Jones Award, presented by the American Theatre and Drama Society.
The Department of Women Studies has received the Gold Star Department
Award from the UW Graduate and Professional Students (GPSS) for its efforts
to create an environment in which students thrive academically and emotionally.