The 2016 Faculty Alumni Board Awards, which recognize College of Arts & Letters faculty for their outstanding achievements in leadership, teaching, innovation, and community engagement, were presented during the Faculty Alumni Board Reception on April 23 at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center.
Hosted by the College of Arts & Letters Alumni Board, this year’s award recipients include:
- Paul Varg Award
Associate Professor Jeff Wray
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
Assistant Professor Valentina Denzel
Created by the College of Arts & Letters Alumni Association to recognize excellence among faculty who have served the college between three and 10 years.
- College of Arts & Letters Faculty Leadership Award
Professor Rocio Quispe-Agnoli
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.
- College of Arts & Letters Community Partner Award
Assistant Professor Tamara Butler
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.
“Faculty research and teaching are at the heart of a leading-edge arts and humanities education in which the enduring strengths of the liberal arts—excellent communication, critical thinking, ethical imagination, and global engagement—combine with new and emerging scholarship committed to digital fluency, civic leadership, and innovation to deepen our understanding of the world and to address the most complex challenges we face,” said Christopher Long, Dean of the College of Arts & Letters. “All of these award recipients embody those aspects of an excellent and engaged liberal arts education.”
Wray is an associate professor in the Department of English and Film Studies program. He is a nationally recognized film director and screenwriter who has created a number of award-winning films, including “China,” which was broadcast nationally in the United States on PBS. He also has been featured in the Chicago Film Festival and the Los Angeles Pan-African Film Festival.
“Jeff has established a remarkable record of success as a teacher who successfully integrates his interdisciplinary skills and knowledge, and his creative activity, with his work in the classroom,” said David Stowe, who nominated Wray for the Paul Varg Award. “Student comments bear this out, the word ‘amazing’ occurring frequently with his ability to motivate students and give them space to do their best creative work while attending to their professional development.”
Denzel is an assistant professor in the Department of Romance & Classical Studies and the French Literature program. She has set a new standard for engaged teaching, both for students and for community partners. Her courses make innovative use of visual culture and cultural artifacts designed to show students how such artifacts embody characteristics of an era, period, or movement.
“Dr. Denzel’s teaching is characterized by an ability to excite and involve students in their study of French language and culture,” said Department of Romance & Classical Studies Chair Douglas Noverr, who nominated Denzel for the Alumni Award for Innovation and Leadership in Teaching and Learning. “Valentina has a passion for her field that students recognize as genuine and natural. Students identify her as part of a culture they find exciting and attractive for social and intellectual development.”
Quispe-Agnoli is a professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Romance & Classical Studies and the Latin American Studies program. She has demonstrated leadership in bringing the language sections within the college together in a fruitful collaboration between faculty working in the areas of critical theory and cultural studies.
“Rocio truly cares about bonds that make others care about each other, and she provides an example of how this works to everybody’s advantage and benefit,” said Department of Romance & Classical Studies Chair Douglas Noverr, who nominated Quispe-Agnoli for the College of Arts & Letters Faculty Leadership Award. “Her presence makes the department, college, and university a better place to work, and community where people aspire to be. Such individuals are truly invaluable to a culture of trust and mutual respect and appreciation.”
Butler is an assistant professor in the Department of English and African and African American Studies program. Her research and pedagogy reflect her commitments to youth civic engagement, social justice education, critical literacies, cultural sustaining pedagogies, urban education, multicultural education, and secondary education. She fosters a spirit of collaboration within communities and bridges her work in the classroom with the work of scholars in various fields from MSU and other universities.
“Professor Butler is a committed scholar and teacher who uses her versatility and training to build bridges across the MSU Campus, the East Lansing and Lansing communities, and (at the national and international levels),” said Professor Yomaira Figueroa, a colleague of Butler’s in the Department of English who nominated her for the award. “Her interest in youth activism, youth research, and social justice education is evident in her continual engagement and development of community partnerships.”