The Michigan State University community gathered at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts on Sept. 14 for the investiture of the 2022 class of endowed chairs, endowed professors, and MSU Foundation professors. The ceremony was a celebration of their accomplishments and a celebration of the philanthropic support that makes these esteemed positions possible.
Dr. Kristen Renn, newly named Mildred B. Erickson Chair in Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education, spoke on behalf of her fellow honorees about the duties they hold to the University, to their fields, to their students, and to themselves as MSU’s best and brightest faculty.
Presided over the medaling ceremony were President Samuel L. Stanley, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Teresa K. Woodruff, and Executive Vice President for Health Sciences Norman J. Beauchamp.
The College of Arts & Letters faculty members who were among those honored include:
- Kristin I. Arola, Karen L. Gillmor Ph.D. Endowed Professor in Professional and Public Writing
- Ruth Nicole Brown, MSU Foundation Professor
- Christopher P. Long, MSU Foundation Professor
- Morgan Shipley, Foglio Endowed Chair in Spirituality
- Silvia Tita, Carol Ann Bennett-Valles Professor
- Jeff Wray, Timnick Chair in the Humanities
Kristin l. Arola
Established through a gift from Karen L. Gillmor, Kristin I. Arola is the Karen L. Gillmor Ph.D. Endowed Professor in Professional and Public Writing and an Associate Professor in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures.
Arola’s research and teaching focus on composing as culturing. She explores how the acts of writing, designing, and making — as well as the ways those skills are taught — culture people into particular ways of being and sets of values. Her work brings together composition theory; making culture; and digital, environmental, and cultural rhetoric.
Ruth Nicole Brown
In recognition of her innovative community-engaged scholarship and outstanding record of visionary leadership, research, and pedagogy, Ruth Nicole Brown, Inaugural Chairperson of the Department of African American and African Studies, became the first faculty member from the College of Arts & Letters to be awarded an MSU Foundation Professorship.
An internationally recognized leader in Black Girlhood Studies, Brown’s impressive record of community-engaged scholarship and entrepreneurial leadership has proven to be transformational in its impact. Her research documents, analyzes, and interrogates Black girls’ lived experiences and explores the gender and racialized power dynamics of collectivity, particularly as it relates to Black girlhood. This innovative research and significant theoretical contributions have helped create the field of Black Girlhood Studies, which is now a globally recognized area of study.
Christopher P. Long
In recognition of his outstanding scholarship, leadership, and service to Michigan State University, Christopher P. Long, Dean of the College of Arts & Letters, Dean of the Honors College, and Professor of Philosophy, was named an MSU Foundation Professor in 2021.
As a leader, Long is recognized for his commitment to the transformative power of liberal arts research and teaching by enriching graduate and undergraduate education, advancing equity and inclusion, recruiting and retaining world-class faculty, and creating new opportunities for collaboration. As a professor, he is an expert in both ancient Greek and contemporary continental philosophy. An advocate of public scholarship, open access, and digital scholarship and pedagogy, Long frequently has written about the benefits of values-enacted leadership to empower public education, scholarship, and collaboration.
An engaged and dynamic scholar committed to expanding inclusion, fostering empowerment, and developing citizen leaders, Morgan Shipley’s tenure as the inaugural Foglio Endowed Chair of Spirituality at Michigan State University began in August 2021. The position is the first of its kind at MSU and at any U.S. educational institution and is named in honor of the late Father Jake Foglio, an MSU alumnus who served as a faculty member, priest, and mentor to student-athletes and coaches.
Shipley is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies whose research and teaching has three main focuses: understanding mystical and esoteric new religions that highlight spirituality as opposed to institutional religiosity, positioning individuals and groups who increasingly identify as spiritual but not religious, and situating the nature and manifestations of secular spirituality.
Art Historian and Digital Humanities Researcher Silvia Tita is the first appointee of the Carol Ann Bennett-Vallès Professorship in Art History at MSU. A $1 million gift from MSU alumna Carol Ann Bennett-Vallès, who earned her B.A. in Fine Arts from MSU in 1957, and her husband Jean-Paul Vallès established this first-ever endowed professor position in art history to support an outstanding art historian in providing Department of Art, Art History, and Design students with a broad understanding of art history.
Dr. Tita has received several awards, fellowships, and grants to support her research, which focuses on early modern art in transnational contexts through diplomatic and missionary channels.
Jeff C. Wray
An accomplished filmmaker, screenwriter, and educator, Jeff Wray, who has served as a core faculty member in MSU’s Film Studies program since 2002, is the Timnick Chair in the Humanities, a position that was endowed in 2015 by MSU alumnus and retired businessman Henry O. Timnick in honor of his mother to reflect her belief in the value and promise of a liberal arts education.
Wray is a Department of English Professor who has developed and teaches courses in film directing, screenwriting, and narrative film fiction, as well as in African American cinema and cinema of the African Diaspora. As a filmmaker, Wray makes features and short films about Black perspectives and Black experiences that have been screened in the United States and abroad.