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Summer 2006

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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: Jennifer Salk, Sarah Keller, Shanga Parker, Robin Stacey
Distinguished Staff Award: Gary Pedersen, MaryEllen Anderson

Other UW Recognition Awards
Other Awards, Honors, and Professorships

Kudos for A&S’s Top Teachers

2006 Distinguished Teaching Award recipients from Arts and Sciences (from left) Jennifer Salk, Sarah Keller — holding newborn Pascale Keller Carlson — and Robin Stacey. Shanga Parker, busy rehearsing a play when this photo was taken, is not pictured.Photo by Mary Levin.

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 2006.

Jennifer Salk
Assistant Professor, Dance

Students in Jennifer Salk’s dance history course should expect to hit the dance floor. To teach about a choreographer’s approach to making dance, Salk has students experience the choreographer’s creative processes firsthand—with appropriate concessions to bodies not trained in dance.

“I think it’s important in the lecture class that we do a lot of experiential learning,” Salk says. “The best way for students to learn about the creative process of masters in a field is to experience it.”

Salk has brought a similar experiential approach to preparing dance teachers, forging partnerships with local dance schools and studios where they could go to teach.

She also tries to apply information that students have learned elsewhere. In modern dance technique classes, Salk helps dance majors retain what they’ve learned in a required anatomy class by choosing a part of the body, discussing its mechanics, and exploring all its possible movements through partner exercises. Salk’s “experiential anatomy” technique has been attracting attention nationally.

“Her way of teaching makes people feel at home,” says student Alice Gosti, “but at the same time they feel challenged and are moved to improve, to work hard and to always reach for new goals.”

Sarah Keller
Associate Professor, Chemistry

Sarah Keller’s path to teaching success was decidedly unconventional—taking on the course she disliked the most and had the most difficulty with as an undergraduate. The senior-level physical chemistry course for biochemistry majors is, at least initially, probably the least favorite for her students, too.

At its root, the course is freshman chemistry with calculus thrown in for good measure. The calculus helps to show exactly how and why the chemistry works, but Keller believes it also is the biggest psychological roadblock for students.

“I want them to come out of this thinking this material is useful and can even be fun,” says Keller. “And I also want them to think in terms of learning how to work together.”

Keller encourages students to think independently, both in her class and in her research laboratory. “I had my own project and I got to make all of the decisions on the specifics of that project,” says undergraduate Emily Terrell. “…After I obtained some results, Sarah asked me what I felt the next step should be rather than telling me where she thought the research should go.”

“My goal is not for all students to become physical chemists,” says Keller. “I know most of them are not going to do that. But I want to give them life skills and I can do that with physical chemistry, even if that makes the course more challenging.”

Shanga Parker
Associate Professor, Drama

Shanga Parker never thought much about teaching as he pursued his professional acting career on stage and television in California. But that was years ago.

Since coming to the UW as a lecturer in the School of Drama in 1996, Parker has become an associate professor, headed BA Studies for the School of Drama, and has taken on directing duties at times.

Sarah Nash Gates, director of the School of Drama, says that Parker helped address two major problems plaguing the undergraduate population at the school: absence of playwriting in the curriculum and low morale due to lack of performance opportunities. He introduced “Once Upon a Weekend,” an event that brings undergraduate playwrights and actors together to write and stage short plays in a mere 24 hours.

“He shattered the status quo when he challenged the undergraduate students to ‘create your own opportunities … if you don’t get cast in one of the mainstage productions, do your own!’” says Gates.

Adds Professor Robyn Hunt, “I have been inspired by Shanga’s wit and sharp intelligence, surprised and delighted by his instincts for innovation and invention. His sensitivity to the individual needs of each student is remarkable.”

Robin Stacey
Professor, History

The Middle Ages may not be something that 21st century students readily gravitate toward, but Robin Stacey has found a way to engage and capture their attention.

Stacey produced a buzz in the History Department in the past year when she created a new course that uses the fictional writings of J.R.R. Tolkien to understand England’s past by probing how mythology and history overlap yet differ. She taught the class last fall as an honors course, drawing rave reviews from students. This spring she taught it again as a senior capstone course.

“The next step is to turn it into a regular history class, and our main concern will be trying to find seats for the numbers of students who will want to take it,” says History Department Chair John Findlay. “Robin has created a means to make history compelling to students who would otherwise not find their way to our curriculum.”

Alumnus Byron Nakamura describes Stacey as having an “uncanny knack of stewarding discussion almost effortlessly where historical revelations and insights are revealed as if by accident. ...I continue to be amazed at her technique.”

Another former student says, “If there was any way that I could take any additional courses with her, I would in a heartbeat. It doesn’t matter what the topic is or the difficulty associated with it. Just to be her student again would be reward in itself.”

Kudos for Distinguished Staff
The Distinguished Staff Award recognizes staff who contribute to the mission of their unit or the University, respond creatively to challenges, maintain the highest standards in their work, establish productive working relationships, and promote a respectful and supportive workplace.

Gary Pedersen, Chemistry

Gary Pedersen. Photo by Mary Levin.

Gary Pedersen’s nomination for the Distinguished Staff Award was submitted by the chair of the Chemistry Department and the director of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, who have taken turns recruiting Pedersen away from each other in recent years.

Pedersen’s financial, analytical and problem-solving skills, combined with his gentle manner with people, made him well qualified to lead Chemistry’s staff of 50, a position he held from 1987 until 2000.

“During this remarkable time, instructional and research programs in Chemistry nearly tripled in size,” says Chemistry chair Paul Hopkins. “Gary handled the resulting growing pains with efficiency and grace.”

When Aquatic and Fishery Sciences snatched Pedersen from Chemistry in 2000, he immediately faced the significant task of compiling data for the school’s 10-year academic review—and impressed his new colleagues with his work. “Although new to the department, Gary astounded us all,” recalls director David Armstrong.

“The best part of my work is the diversity of tasks,” says Pedersen, who late last year got recruited back to Chemistry. “You handle TA assignments, human resources issues, budget problems, fires and floods, sometimes all in the same day.”

MaryEllen Anderson, Art History

In most every academic division or department, there is one staff member so central to the operation as to almost define it. In the Division of Art History, anyone will tell you, that person is MaryEllen Anderson.

MaryEllen Anderson. Photo by Mary Levin.

Anderson, secretary and graduate program assistant for the art history division of the School of Art, says she has good reasons for keeping the word “secretary” in her job title. “I don’t want to give in to the people who see secretaries as nothing but bubble-headed, gum-chewing blondes,” she explains with an amused look.

Feeling slightly awkward about her Distinguished Staff Award, Anderson jokes that “I feel as though somehow I need to up my act.” Her departmental colleagues, of course, beg to differ.

“All my colleagues agree that she is the most able administrator we have had the privilege to work with—in any venue,” writes Patricia Failing, interim chair of the art history division. “She displays a genius for organization and insight that has anchored the operations of the division.”

School of Art director Christopher Ozubko describes Anderson as “not only the glue, but also the engine that keeps everybody going.”


Additional UW Recognition Awards

The College congratulates all recipients of UW recognition awards. For more information about the honorees listed below—all representing the College of Arts and Sciences—visit University Week .

Excellence in Teaching Award recipients Deborah Paulsen (left) and Georgia Roberts. Photo by Mary Levin.

Excellence in Teaching Award
Recognizes graduate student teaching assistants who demonstrate outstanding skills in the classroom.
Deborah Paulsen, Psychology
Georgia Roberts, English

James D. Clowes Award for the Advancement of Learning Communities
Recognizes a faculty/staff member who creates or sustains learning communities among students.
Angelina Godoy, assistant professor of law, societies, and justice, and international studies

Marsha L. Landolt Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award
Recognizes faculty for outstanding contributions to the education and guidance of graduate students.
Joel Migdal, professor of international studies

Alumna Summa Laude Dignata Award
The highest honor that the UW can bestow on a graduate, for a lifetime record of achievement.
Linda Buck, Psychology, ‘75

David B. Thorud Leadership Award
Honors faculty/staff who lead, serve, inspire and collaborate with broad-ranging impact that is beyond their regular responsibilities.
Mike Wallace, professor of atmospheric sciences

President’s Medal
Recognizes two top seniors in the graduating class, one of whom completed at least three-fourths of their degree requirements at the UW and the other who entered the University with at least 60 transfer credits from a Washington community college.
Sariah Khormaee, Neurobiology and Biochemistry
Heather D. Evans, Anthropology and
Comparative History of Ideas

Other Awards and Honors

Linda Bierds, professor of English, was recognized for her book, First Hand. The Library Journal named it one of nine of the best individual books of poetry published in 2005; USA Book News selected it as the best 2005 poetry book.

The Biology Department won the Goldstar Award from the UW Graduate and Professional Student Senate (GPSS), which recognizes superior graduate student services and commitment to enhancing the student experience.

P. Dee Boersma, professor of biology, received a Distinguished Service Award from the Society for Conservation Biology.

Susan Casteras, professor of art history, was appointed to the American Art History Endowed Professorship.

Thomas Ebrey, research professor of biology, received the American Society for Photobiology’s Research Award for lifetime research achievements.

Daniel Gamelin, assistant professor of chemistry, has received a 2006 Sloan Research Fellowship.

David Knechtges, professor of Asian languages and literature, has been elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

June Morita, acting associate professor of statistics, and Jon Wellner, professor of statistics, have been elected Fellows of the American Statistical Association.

Charles Nelson, Ford and Louisa Van Voorhis Professor in Political Economy, was honored at a conference at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta that highlighted his contributions to economics and econometrics.

Isabella Novik, assistant professor of mathematics, has received a 2006 Sloan Research Fellowship.

Barbara F. Reskin, S. Frank Miyamoto Professor of Sociology, was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Lorna Rhodes, professor of anthropology, has received the 2005 Anthony Leeds Prize in Urban Anthropology for her book, Total Confinement: Madness and Reason in the Maximum Security Prison.

Sievert Rohwer, curator of ornithology at the Burke Museum, has been named associate editor of The Auk, the world’s leading bird journal.

Timothy Salzman, professor of instrumental conducting, and Larry Starr, professor of music history, have been appointed to three-year terms as Ruth Sutton Waters Endowed Professors of Music.

John E. Toews, professor of history and director of the Comparative History of Ideas Program, was awarded the 2006 A&S Alumni Distinguished Term Professorship, a one-year appointment that celebrates, rewards, and recognizes faculty whose work embodies the highest values of a liberal arts education.

Keiko Torii, associate professor of biology, won the 2006 Prize for Young Japanese Female Scientist of Excellence from The Society of Japanese Women Scientists.

Doug Wadden, professor of visual communication design, was appointed as the Marsha and Jay Glazer Endowed University Professor for a five year term.

Jamie Walker, professor of ceramics, and Michael Spafford, professor emeritus of painting, have received Flintridge Foundation awards, which recognize artists whose work demonstrates high artistic merit and a distinctive voice.

Marek Wieczorek, assistant professor of art history, was awarded a Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowship for the 2006-07 academic year.

Robin Wright, professor of art history and curator of Native American Art at the Burke Museum, has been appointed to the Bill Holm Endowed Professorship.

[Summer 2006 - Table of Contents]