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Summer 2004

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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.

Distinguished Teaching Award: Ann Baker, Betsy Cooper, Stephen Hanson
Distinguished Staff Award
Excellence in Teaching Award: Lance Rhoades, Britt Yamamoto

Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award
Outstanding Public Service Award
S. Sterling Munro Public Service Teaching Award
President's Medalists
Other Awards, Honors, and Professorships

Kudos for A&S’s 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. Three Arts and Sciences faculty are among the recipients for 2004.

Ann Baker, Senior Lecturer, Philosophy

In 1994, Ann Baker did the unthinkable: she gave up a tenure track position at Illinois’ Wesleyan University to come to the UW as a senior lecturer, preferring to make teaching—rather than research and writing—her primary focus. She recently signed her third five-year contract renewal.

2004 Distinguished Teaching Award recipients from the College of Arts and Sciences (from left) Stephen Hanson, Betsy Cooper, and Ann Baker. Photo by Mary Levin.

A Spokane native, Baker earned her doctorate from the UW in 1990. She found that she was “in love with the world of ideas,” but she chose philosophy almost by accident. She took two philosophy courses the same quarter—general philosophy and philosophy of religion—and was hooked.

“I thought, ‘Finally I found a group of people who ask the questions I ask, who aren’t satisfied with the easy answers.’” She has tried to bring that same feeling to the classes she teaches, giving students new ways of seeing things, instilling critical and creative thinking.

“From the first day of class, I could see that Ann was a great teacher because she seemed so focused on us, the students, and our learning,” wrote Brooks Miner, who went on to become the 2003 President’s Medalist. “Ann always made it clear to us that the best way to learn was to express our ideas and defend them, no matter what the ideas were,” he wrote.

Colleagues also give her high marks. When Professor Angela Smith came to the UW in 1999, she sat in on Baker’s Philosophy 100 course and was struck by how Baker “made a classroom of over 200 students feel like a small lecture hall of 30, by asking engaging questions and actively encouraging her students to participate in finding answers to them.”

Baker realizes that only a small fraction of the students she sees will make philosophy a major. Most students in her introductory classes will never take another philosophy course. “But if they do what I ask them to do,” she says, “they will think more philosophically, more critically, more imaginatively, and that can stay with them the rest of their lives.”


Elizabeth “Betsy” Cooper, Associate Professor and Director, Dance

Though it might have surprised the Betsy Cooper of two decades back—a talented young New York ballet dancer with her eyes on performance—she has come to love teaching almost as much as dance itself.

As dancers in one of her UW classes sweep across the studio floor and leap into the air in groups of four—seemingly weightless with grace, athleticism, and youth—an uninhibited grin spreads across Cooper’s face. “Well, that was fun!” she says brightly. “I hope you had fun, because I had fun watching!”

The students smile even as they fuss over stretched muscles or movements that felt slightly off. Cooper briefly stands alongside one girl and softly advises her on mechanics of posture and balance. It isn’t crucial to Cooper which of these dancers is bound for a professional career, at least not at this stage.

“When we are in the studio we are dancers, plain and simple,” she says. “Just as they have individual goals, I have teaching objectives for the class that are more general and specific ones for students based on their needs.”

The students clearly appreciate Cooper’s accessible style of teaching. Kelly Knox sums up Cooper’s spark saying, “Her sheer joy for the art form makes the grueling effort toward perfection a pleasure.”

Cooper is equally comfortable in a lecture hall teaching dance history as in a dance studio. In fact, she says she likes and needs both settings. And in both she provides an educator’s light touch of patience and support.

“I encourage the students to bring a playfulness to class, to challenge themselves,” she says. There are high standards in the codified world of dance, to be sure, “but if they can’t have fun in class while they’re working hard, to me that’s lamentable. You have to find the joy in life.”


Stephen Hanson
Boeing International Professor, Political Science
Director, Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies, International Studies

Here are the three reasons why political science professor Stephen Hanson won a 2004 Distinguished Teaching Award:

1. He gives each lecture a “storyline” that hooks students into following the “soap opera” to the end.

2. He imparts to young students his own fascination with the “big puzzle of the world we’re living in.”

3. He uses time-tested teaching tricks—such as presenting facts in lists of three.
“Lists of two and four just don’t work as well,” Hanson admits. “For some reason, the mind can follow groups of three.”

If that sounds like a reductionist gloss on the art of teaching, it’s hard to argue with the accolades that Hanson has earned since joining the UW faculty 14 years ago.

An expert in Russia and Eastern Europe, Hanson influences generations of UW undergraduates through his Introduction to Comparative Politics, where in ten weeks he promises something like an overview of world politics.

His students have called him “the best teacher I ever had” or “the reason I decided to major in political science.” The Hanson difference, one student explains, is the way his lectures engage students, making them laugh and “lighting idea bulbs.”

Hanson draws equal praise from the graduate students. “Steve treats all students — from undergraduates to doctoral candidates — as colleagues,” comments graduate student Jonathan Carver.

As director of the Jackson School’s Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies Center, Hanson enjoys launching students toward globally oriented careers in government, academia, business, and nonprofits. His own interest in Russia sprang from his love of the language, but it flowered during graduate study in the period when the Soviet empire was collapsing in the late 1980s.
“It’s just another example,” Hanson says, “of the big puzzle of the world we’re living in.”

Now, for the three reasons the Soviet empire collapsed…

Alan Weldin: Setting the Stage for Distinguished Staff Award

Sometimes, Alan Weldin’s job leads to sleepless nights. And it’s not just the usual worry about getting work done that keeps him up.

Alan Weldin. Photo by Kathy Sauber.

As scene shop manager for the School of Drama, Weldin is responsible for the physical safety of the student actors who perform on the sets he’s constructed. It’s a job that often involves curbing the ambitions of the graduate students who design the sets. But Weldin is not a man who wants to put a damper on big dreams. Whatever a designer envisions, he does his best to turn into reality, no matter how nervous it may make him.

Weldin spent two years studying structural analysis and design in the School of Architecture just to be able to predict the behavior of the materials he uses. His obsessive devotion to safety is why there have been no serious injuries on drama school sets under his supervision. And it’s one of the reasons he is being honored with a Distinguished Staff Award.

Weldin has been quietly making practical magic in the drama school’s scene shop for 30 years. He began as a stage carpenter at Meany Hall (then under the supervision of the drama school), then rose through the ranks in the UW’s backstage world.

“I love working with the creative team that is assembled when we do a production,” Weldin says. “You bring this disparate group of people together in one place and focus on one particular piece of work.”

Weldin builds sets for 10 drama school productions and two operas every year. “I am consistently astonished and gratified by his expertise, his attention to detail, his high standards, and his ability to supervise large projects in an efficient, calm, and congenial manner,” comments drama professor and frequent play director Steve Pearson.

That last point is echoed by Weldin’s scene shop crew, who joined together to write a nomination letter in which they said he was “such a great supervisor that it almost isn’t fair. He ruins the curve for other supervisors.”

Weldin laughs when the letter is mentioned. “I truly believe this should have been a team award,” he says. “Nobody stands alone in this line of work. It’s a team sport.”


Teaching Assistants Honored for Teaching Excellence

Excellence in Teaching Awards are given to graduate teaching assistants who demonstrate outstanding skills in the classroom.

Lance Rhoades, Comparative Literature

When Lance Rhoades walks into a classroom, he’s thinking as much about his own learning as he is about his students’ learning.

Lance Rhoades.Photo by Kathy Sauber.

“I think of the class as a chance for us to explore the material together,” he says, which is why his main teaching method involves asking questions for which he doesn’t have answers. It’s a method that earns enthusiastic praise from students.
“He brought all members of the class out of their shells and into our discussions,” Katherine Copland wrote in her nomination letter. “He has a very genuine interest in the views of others,” adds Stephen Holmes.

Last quarter Rhoades became the first TA in his department to teach a 300-level core course required of all majors, which involved a lot of writing. “It was a lot of work,” Rhoades says in his typically understated way. “It took a lot of time.”

But then, Rhoades has never been one to avoid hard work or worry about the time it takes. Letter after student letter tells of how Rhoades always had time for them, to review their essays or talk about their ideas or encourage their dreams.

Such conversations led to the creation of the Filmmakers’ Collective. Rhoades found that many an after-class discussion revolved around film (Cinema Studies is a program within the Comparative Literature Department), so he and some of his students started a group that eventually became the Filmmakers’ Collective, which includes students interested in directing, writing, and acting in films—or just viewing them.

“I’m very keen on getting people who are working on the artistic end of films together with people who are working on the critical end—really sharing in their experience and perspectives,” Rhoades says.

It’s much like what he does in class, drawing students of diverse backgrounds into a process of mutual inquiry.

“I think that’s the most satisfying thing for me—seeing students take an interest in things that I’m interested in and getting an opportunity to take an interest in what students are interested in,” Rhoades says. “That sort of satisfaction comes almost daily in teaching. It’s a nice, constant reminder of why I’m drawn to this profession.”


Britt Yamamoto, Geography

Even though he’s not currently in the classroom—he is in Japan doing fieldwork research—Britt Yamamoto says that teaching figures to be a central focus in his future professional career.

Britt Yamamoto

Yamamoto is being honored with a teaching award in large part for an innovative course, Critical Engagements with Service and Community: Working in a Civil Society, which he created and taught last year. The class, which he developed with a Huckabay Teaching Fellowship, used service learning as the core element to help students analyze their experiences and understand the theoretical foundations that underlie concepts of service, philanthropy, and civil society.

The course has drawn glowing remarks from students. “It was the best class I have ever taken and the content of it completely changed the course of my academic and professional focus,” comments one student. “I have never before worked so hard, or felt more fulfilled doing so,” writes another.

While he is a strong proponent of working for social change, Yamamoto believes service learning programs for students need to be carefully thought out and require more resources than are presently available.

“Service learning can be a very powerful pedagogical tool if used carefully and with great sensitivity,” he says. “However, to get to this point, a great
deal of time is required on the part of the instructor, student, and community. My experience has taught me that service learning done improperly can do more harm than good. As long as there are not ample resources available to instructors, service learning is something that should be approached carefully.”

Yamamoto is currently involved in dissertation fieldwork concerning newly emerging food production, distribution, and consumption networks for soy and soy-based products in Japan. Once he’s received his doctorate, he is fixed on returning to teaching, perhaps at a small liberal arts college.

“In my professional life there is perhaps nothing that I enjoy more than working with students,” he says, “so teaching will always be an important part of my life.”

Mona Modiano: “Tireless” Graduate Mentor Honored

“When you go into Mona’s office, you can expect a warm smile and genuine inquiries about your life, your own teaching, your dog; and then a rigorous quiz about your progress, your deadlines, and your goals,” writes one student of Raimonda “Mona” Modiano, UW professor of English and comparative literature, and recipient of the 2004 Marsha L. Landolt Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award.

Mona Modiano. Photo by Kathy Sauber.

Letter after nomination letter remarks on Modiano’s personal generosity in addition to her intellectual example, her demanding lesson plans—“the sheer volume of reading was breathtaking”—and her tireless ability to foster opportunities for her students.

One former graduate student comments on Modiano’s efforts to link him to top scholars in his field. Others write of her help obtaining fellowships, submitting manuscripts, and cultivating opportunities to present their work.

“Students need to be in touch with people whose influence can help new academics achieve professional success,” Modiano says. To do this she not only fosters ways to send students to renowned conferences, but each year arranges for three to four distinguished speakers to come to the UW for a week each of formal talks and socializing.

A former Distinguished Teaching Award recipient, Modiano is an expert on British romanticism. In 1998 she and associate professor Miceal Vaughan established the Textual Studies Program, which considers how texts are altered
over time.

“Students in textual studies have rich interactions with faculty on a professional and social basis, encouraging a natural mentoring and sense of community,” writes 2002 graduate Meg Roland, now an assistant professor and chair of the English Department at Marylhurst University. “This is due to Professor Modiano’s unequaled personal hospitality.”

Other students also praise Modiano’s ability to foster a sense of community. “She has hosted countless informal dinners and brunches at her home,” says Rene Murphy. “Those that I have attended were exquisitely hosted, such that each person present felt welcome upon arrival and replenished upon departure.”


Millie Russell: A Lifetime of Public Service

Officially, Millie Russell is an assistant to the vice president for minority affairs and a biology lecturer. More telling is her professional objective listed on her curriculum vitae: in a nutshell, to help disadvantaged and minority youths complete undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs so they can assume leadership positions to serve those who lack services.

Russell has worked toward that end through countless hours spent in service to numerous organizations, for which she is being honored with the UW’s 2004 Outstanding Public Service Award.

Millie Russell. Photo by Kathy Sauber.

Russell grew up in Seattle, one of seven children in a family with a strong spiritual sense and an emphasis on education, leadership, and helping others. She earned a degree at Seattle University and began a career in health care, then came to the UW in 1974 as director of the Preprofessional Program for Minority Students in Health Sciences. She went on to earn a master’s and doctorate degree from the UW, while continuing her work with students and her involvement with a variety of organizations.

“Millie’s contributions to students, families, and the community are not limited to one specific area or time period, but span many generations,” says Pollene Speed McIntyre, one of the first two recipients of a scholarship from a fund
that Russell organized.

That’s the sort of thing Russell’s parents had in mind for their children. Even though they didn’t have much money, Russell recalls, they found other ways to give.

“There was leadership, there was community service all around us,” she says. “When we went to college we went to get an education, and we took it back to the community.”


Jim Clowes: Teaching Through Service

Jim Clowes died of cancer before he could accept this year’s S. Sterling Munro Public Service Teaching Award, but not before he expanded the definition of a college education as associate director of the Comparative History of Ideas Program (CHID).

Jim Clowes

College students go to Europe; Clowes’ students started a basketball camp mixing Catholic and Protestant teens in a polarized part of Belfast.
College students intern at newspapers; Clowes’ students worked at Real Change.

College students study international affairs; Clowes’ students brought to Seattle young dancers from an impoverished township in South Africa.

“Jim has a way of making you believe that anything is possible,” CHID senior Erin Anderson commented in her nomination letter, “and then forcing you to figure out exactly how to do it on your own.”

Learning through public service—the point of the Munro award—is ingrained in the interdisciplinary, undergraduate CHID program, whose mission is to test ideas through encounters with the world in all its troubled splendor.

“The problems Jim asked students to tackle have yet to be solved by the world’s brightest minds,” says Michaelann Jundt, director of the Carlson Leadership and Public Service Center.

Sometimes the problems are close at hand—Clowes’ course, “Rethinking the University,” explored the future of the UW itself—but Clowes probably made his strongest mark in expanding the possibilities of study abroad.

CHID had programs in Rome, Prague, and Berlin, and then added programs in Cyprus and South Africa, where students could test themes like ethnic conflict in places where such issues were most visible.

John Toews, who heads CHID, considers his late colleague a visionary
and a national leader in “rethinking the whole nature of undergraduate study through the lens of engaged community learning.”

“His experimental fearlessness, expansive visions, and remarkable networking abilities,” Toews says, “have made him an innovator who has given the idea of service learning a whole new dimension.”

Click here for more about Clowes, and two funds created in his honor.


President’s Medal for Two A&S Grads

Marie Ng. Photo by Kathy Sauber.

The UW has selected two Arts and Sciences students—Tan Hung “Marie” Ng and Anna Lynn Fortin—as President’s Medalists this year. They were chosen as the top students in the graduating class based on overall academic record.

When Marie Ng, a psychology major, came to the UW as a freshman, she was the first family member to enter college. It was her first time living outside of Hong Kong, and she remembers being “completely overwhelmed and perplexed” by her new environment.

“As it turned out, it was precisely this huge setting at the UW which enabled me to learn to seek opportunities, to learn to be bold, and to learn to create my own unique path,” she says. These opportunities included working with several faculty on research projects in psychology and neurosurgery, serving as a teaching assistant, and playing in the University Symphony Orchestra.

Anna Fortin. Photo by Kathy Sauber.

Ng will begin graduate study in psychology at the University of Southern California in August.

Anna Fortin transferred to the UW from Yakima Valley Community College, where she became intrigued by cell biology. At the UW, she majored in biology and participated in genetics research, but also found time to study Spanish and study in Equador. She will be attending the UW School of Medicine in the fall.

“My career goal is to work as a family physician for underserved populations,” says Fortin, “as well as be involved in public health research, education, and administration.”


Other Awards and Honors

Mina Aganagic, assistant professor of physics, has been selected as an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow, which carries with it a grant of $40,000.

John M. Armentrout, affiliate professor of earth and space sciences, was awarded honorary membership in the Society for Sedimentary Geology.

Jerry Baldasty, professor and chair of the Department of Commu-nication, has been named Distinguished Educator of the Year by the Mass Communication and Society Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

Bruce Balick, professor and chair of the Department of Astronomy, and colleague Bob Brown (Cornell University) had the radio antenna of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory named in their honor, recognizing their discovery of the black hole at the center of the Milky Way using this antenna 30 years ago.

George Bertsch, professor of physics, has received an honorary doctoral degree, laurea honoria causa, from the University of Milan.

Julian Besag, professor of statistics, has been elected a Fellow of The Royal Society, for his pioneering work on the statistical theory and analysis of spatial processes.

Jane K. Brown, professor of Germanics, was awarded a Charlotte M. Craig Distinguished Professorship of German Studies at Rutgers University for Spring 2005.

Leah Ceccarelli, associate professor of communication, has won the Rhetoric Society of America Book Award for her book, Shaping Science with Rhetoric: The Cases of Dobzhansky, Schrodinger, and Wilson.

Darrel Cowan, professor of earth and space sciences, was elected to the governing council of the Geological Society of America, 2004-2007.

M ichael Hechter, professor of sociology, was recently elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Ernest M. Henley, professor emeritus of physics, has received The Ohio State University’s Honorary Degree Doctor of Science to recognize his distinguished career in theoretical nuclear physics.

Mary Hu, professor and director of the School of Art’s Metals Program, and emeritus professors Ramona Solberg and John Marshall, have been invited to donate their early sketchbooks, drawings, and other historical documentation to the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art.

Ray Jonas, professor of history, has been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for research on Ethiopian resistance to Italian imperialism during the late 19th century.

Kannan M. Kirshan, professor of materials science and adjunct professor of physics, has received a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship.

Alan Marlatt, professor of psychology, has received the Distinguished Researcher Award from the Research Society on Alcoholism.

Linda Nash, assistant professor of history, won a fellowship from the National Library of Medicine for her research on environment and illness in California’s Central Valley during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Ann E. Nelson, professor of physics, has received a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship to further her work in cosmological physics.

Gordon Orians, professor emeritus of biology, has received the National Wildlife Federation’s National Conservation Achievement Award for his leadership in protecting the environment and natural resources.

Dorothy Paun, Canadian Studies Affiliated Faculty, was awarded a Fulbright Pacific Northwest Visiting Research Chair in Canada-US Trade for her research on the Canada-US forest products industry.

R.G. Hamish Robertson, professor of physics, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Sarah Stein, associate professor of history and international studies, is co-winner of the Salo W. Baron Prize for her book Making Jews Modern: The Yiddish and Ladino Press in the Russian and Ottoman Empires, and has been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship.

Lani Stone, lead undergraduate advisor in the Department of Chemistry, received the 2004 Pangaea Award for Global Citizenship from the UW Office of Undergraduate Education and Office of International Education, for her efforts to expand international opportunities for undergraduates, particularly those in the sciences.

George Wallerstein and Julie Lutz, professor and research professor of astronomy, respectively, have received the President’s Award from the United Negro College Fund for their contributions to diversity.

[Summer 2004 - Table of Contents]