Faculty Members to Receive All-University Awards

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Four College of Arts & Letters faculty members will receive All-University Awards on Tuesday, February 5, during a special ceremony held at the Heritage Room of the University Club from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.          

The awards and the winners are:

  • William J. Beal Outstanding Faculty Award – Jeff Wray, Professor, Department of English
  • Teacher-Scholar Award – Deric McNish, Assistant Professor, Department of Theatre
  • Distinguished Academic Staff Award – Karen Kangas-Preston, Senior Specialist, Department of Theatre
  • Excellence-in-Teaching Citation – Bree Straayer-Gannon, Ph.D. student and Teaching Assistant

Jeff Wray, William J. Beal Outstanding Faculty Award

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Professor Jeff Wray

Jeff Wray is a Professor of Film Studies and Creative Writing in the Department of English. A filmmaker and screenwriter, he has produced several films including The Evolution of Bert (2014), which premiered at the 50th Chicago International Film Festival, China (2003) a made-for-PBS television movie, and the music concert film BLAT! Pack Live (2015). Upcoming projects include the independent feature films Eclipse and Detroit, My Love.

His grants and awards include: Independent Television Service (ITVS) American Stories Production Grant, John Anson Kittredge Foundation Fellowship, Art Serve Michigan Individual Artist Award, Ohio Arts Council Major Fellowship, and residencies at the Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University, and the Vermont Studio Center.   

“The Beal Outstanding Faculty Award is really a testament to the many students over the years who have challenged me and made me want to be a better teacher and professor,” Wray said.  “I am appreciative of my many colleagues in the Department of English and College of Arts & Letters for their guidance, support, and opportunities provided throughout my career at Michigan State University. Finally, my family has been my rock. Thank you Tama, Jasmine, Kimani, and Elijah.” 

The William J. Beal Outstanding Faculty Award honors faculty members for outstanding service to the University. Nominations are based on teaching, advising, research, publications, art exhibitions, concert performances, committee work, and public service. Nominees usually have five years of service at the University, although length of service may not be part of the sole criteria.

Deric McNish, Teacher-Scholar Award

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Assistant Professor Deric McNish

Deric McNish, Assistant Professor in the Department of Theatre, is the Program Director for the BFA in Acting, and in this role, he has directed 12 university productions, coordinated nine honors projects, overseen six research assistants and six independent studies, served on 15 graduate committees, and developed three online courses.

He centers his work around inclusivity, accessibility, and interdisciplinary teaching and develops performance-based approaches to English language learning. McNish also serves as the Senior Editor of the International Dialects of English Archive.

“It’s an honor to be in the company of such accomplished teachers and scholars,” McNish said. “This award is a testament to MSU’s belief that excellence in teaching and the pursuit of research go hand in hand. It’s exciting to be in an environment where professors and students seek knowledge together and where education and scholarship enhance one another.”

The Teacher-Scholar Award honors faculty members who have earned the respect of students and colleagues early in their career for their devotion to teaching and whose success is linked to their research and creative activities. The award is reserved for assistant or associate professors who have served at MSU for seven years or less and have no more than 10 years of working experience in their disciplinary field.

Karen Kangas-Preston, Distinguished Academic Staff Award

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Karen Kangas-Preston, Senior Academic Specialist, Head of 
Design, and Instructor of Costume Design and Technology

Karen Kangas-Preston is a Senior Academic Specialist, Head of Design, and Instructor of Costume Design and Technology in the Department of Theatre. She teaches costume design/technology and stage makeup and leads the Theatre in London summer study abroad program. She is a member of the United States Institute of Technical Theatre and its costume commission as well as the Costume Society of America.

Kangas-Preston has designed costumes for several MSU Department of Theatre and local professional theatre productions. Some of her costume design credits include Mom’s GiftThe All Night Strut (Meadowbrook Theatre); Smell of the Kill (Williamston Theatre/Tipping Point Theatre); the Greater Tuna seriesOur Lady of Poison (Williamston Theatre); The Jack Sprat Low Fat World Tour (a Wharton Center and MSU Department of Theatre collaboration); Cyrano de BergeracThe Wizard of OzOne Flew Over the Cuckoo’s NestThe LifeUrinetown, and Three Sisters/Anton in Show Business (MSU Department of Theatre); The Drunken CityFallen Angels, and Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play (MSU Summer Circle Theatre). Upcoming costume designs can be seen this spring for MSU’s production of Oklahoma! and at Meadowbrook Theatre for Stick Fly and The Marvelous Wonderettes.

“I am honored to be representing the Academic Specialists in the College of Arts & Letters who are so varied in their appointments,” Kangas-Preston said. “It is also wonderful to be supported by my colleagues who recognize the balance of teaching, scholarship, and service to the university and profession.”

The Distinguished Academic Staff Award honors academic specialists for outstanding achievements in advising, curriculum development, outreach, extension, research, and teaching.

Bree Straayer-Gannon, Excellence-in-Teaching Citation

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Bree Straayer-Gannon, Ph.D. student
and Teaching Assistant

Bree Straayer-Gannon is a Ph.D. student and Teaching Assistant in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures. She currently serves as a Research Assistant for the Writing program administrator in the first-year writing program. She previously had served as the Project Manager for the American Religious Sound Project, which was funded by the Henry Luce Foundation.

Straayer-Gannon’s research areas include feminist rhetoric, religious rhetoric, embodiment, and writing and digital pedagogy, which transfers over to her representative works, My Dream Life: Negotiating Religious Ideologies on PinterestMaking Writing Matter(s): Portrait of Multilingual Writers from an Ethnographic Study, and What Do You Dream of: Identity and Social Literacy Practices of Religious Young Women on Pinterest.

“Receiving the Excellence-in-Teaching Citation means a lot to me as it recognizes the sometimes-hidden work teachers do,” Straayer-Gannon said. “It is a privilege to be a writing teacher and to listen to students tell their stories in a myriad of ways. Teaching at its best is a collaborative and communal vocation, learning with both students and fellow teachers. I am grateful for the openness students have had in my classrooms, and I am most grateful to learn with a group of thoughtful, creative, and caring colleagues, mentors, and friends.”

Excellence-in-Teaching Citations are allotted to graduate teaching assistants who have shown dedication, care, and skill in meeting classroom responsibilities. This citation requires at least one semester of assistantship and a significant measure of responsibility for the conduct of undergraduate courses.