2017 Alumni Board Faculty & Student Awards

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In recognition of their outstanding achievements in leadership, teaching, innovation, and community engagement, five deserving individuals were presented with CAL Alumni Board Awards at the annual CAL Alumni Board Faculty & Student Awards Reception hosted by the College of Arts & Letters on April 1.

This year’s award recipients include:

Paul Varg Award

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Ellen McCallum

McCallum is a Professor in the Department of English and Film Studies program. Her teaching and research range across feminist and queer theory, psychoanalysis, deconstruction, aesthetics, American literature, and film studies. She published Queer Times, Queer Becomings (SUNY 2011) and The Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature (2013), both of which were coedited with Mikko Tuhkanen. In 2018, her book, Unmaking the Making of Americans (SUNY), will be published.

“Professor McCallum is a superb and engaged scholar. She teaches with passion, discipline, rigor, and empathy. Her energy and devotion to student learning is unlimited,” said Professor of English Stephen Arch. “She is the very model of a dedicated professional scholar who is committed to involved, inspiring teaching. Simply put, Professor McCallum is one of the best teachers at MSU.”

Named after the College’s first dean, the Paul Varg Award recognizes excellence in teaching that intellectually challenges students and instills in them a desire for continuing inquiry and growth beyond their university experience.

Alumni Award for Innovation and Leadership in Teaching and Learning

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Deric McNish

McNish is an Assistant Professor of Acting, Voice, and Speech in the Department of Theatre. He performs audiobook narration and acts in the theatre, on television, and in film. Additionally, he has won the Best Director Pulsar for his 2015 production of HAIR and directed the Thespie Award-winning production of Off With Her Head. His research explores inclusive approaches to actor training, training actors with disabilities, and utilizing theatre techniques to improve language skills for non-native speakers.

“Not only has his leadership enhanced my life, but the lives of my colleagues, our students, and the broader community we all serve,” said Department of Theatre Chair Kirk Domer, who nominated McNish for the award. “His imaginative leadership style has created connections that have forged new and exciting pathways for the department’s continued growth.”

Created by the College of Arts & Letters Alumni Association, the Alumni Award for Innovation and Leadership in Teaching and Learning recognizes excellence among faculty who have served the College between three and 10 years. Nominations begin with students and are then supported by department chairs.

 Faculty Leadership Award

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Jon Frey

Frey has been dual appointed as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design and the Department of Romance and Classical Studies since 2007. He has spent more than two decades conducting fieldwork in Egypt, Crete, and Greece, where he is developing digital tools for the exploration and publication of archaeological archives. Frey has used these digital and open source techniques to discover an ancient gymnasium in Isthmia, Greece.

“Professor Frey has earned a reputation as a diligent and reliable colleague who works for the good of the university and its students,” said nominator and Department Chair Chris Corneal. “In terms of his research, Professor Frey is quickly becoming a leader in the field.”

The Faculty Leadership Award was created through private gifts to the College. This award recognizes faculty who go beyond the routine tasks, are generous in sharing insights, and provide hard work and mentorship to others that creates excellence and vision in programs and departments.

Community Partner Award

Dionne O’Dell

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O’Dell, an Academic Specialist and Associate Director of the Arts and Cultural Management program, is this year’s recipient of the Community Partner Award for her involvement with the Spartan Public Outreach Team (SPOT). For four years, O’Dell has mentored MSU students in running theatrical workshops for students with autism and other special needs. She works closely with 4th Wall Theatre Company, a theatre program that encourages individuals with special needs to break through the fourth wall to sing, dance, and act onstage. She also teams with the Autism Alliance of Michigan, which encourages engagement and collaboration in students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) within the Greater Lansing area, Flint, and beyond.

“I am continuously amazed by the great work that Ms. O’Dell produces with regard to outreach and engagement,” said Department of Theatre Chair Kirk Domer. “SPOT, under her mentorship, is a prime example of MSU’s outreach and engagement mission in connecting knowledge to serve society.”

The Community Partner Award was created in 2015 by the College of Arts & Letters Alumni Association to recognize an Arts & Letters faculty member’s community contributions at the local, state, national and/or global levels.

Community Partner Award for a Current Student

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Devin Simoncic

Simoncic is a senior in the English Education and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) programs and the first-ever recipient of the Community Partner Award for a Current Student. Simoncic volunteers for the Capital Area Literacy Coalition, a nonprofit organization that focuses on improving the literacy rate in children and adults across Michigan. He also is student president of the MSU Student Literacy Corps and a participant in the development of the Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Prevention Program (SARV) on campus.

“Devin has demonstrated himself to be a leader who is engaged in his campus and local community,” said nominator and Associate Professor of English Emery Petchauer. “He is an excellent representative of the College of Arts & Letters and the community-engaged graduate we wish to develop.”

The Community Partner Award for a Current Student recognizes the local, state, national, and/or global community contributions of a current Arts & Letters student. This is the first year the award has been presented.

Written by Alexandria Drzazgowski, Professional Writing Major