Three Faculty Members to Receive All-University Awards

Three College of Arts & Letters faculty members are being recognized for their outstanding work and will receive distinguished awards at this year’s Michigan State University Awards Convocation.

Rob Roznowski, Professor in the Department of Theatre, will receive two university-wide awards, the William J. Beal Outstanding Faculty Award and the President’s Distinguished Teaching Award. The William J. Beal Outstanding Faculty Award, supported by the Office of University Development, is presented to faculty members for their comprehensive and sustained record of scholarly excellence in research and/or creative activities, instruction, and outreach. The President’s Distinguished Teaching Award, which is supported by an endowment from Carl and Margaret Leidholm, is given to faculty who have created innovative teaching environments that enable student learning within and across disciplinary, cultural, and ethnic boundaries

Amy DeRogatis, Professor in the Department of Religious Studies, also is a recipient of the William J. Beal Outstanding Faculty Award. 

Kyle Powys Whyte, Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Timnick Chair in the Humanities,  will receive the Community Engagement Scholarship Award recognizing his environmental, community, and sustainability contributions. This award is supported by the Office of the Associate Provost for University Outreach and Engagement.  

The MSU Award Convocation is scheduled for Tuesday, February 4, at 3:30 p.m. at the University Club in Lansing. Colleagues, family, and friends are welcome to attend.

picture of a man with brown, rectangular glasses and gray suit

Robert Roznowski, Department of Theatre

Robert Roznowski is an award-winning actor, director, writer, and educator who uses theatre as a tool for deeper learning and its collaborative nature to influence the lives of students, faculty, and audiences. 

As a researcher, Roznowski examines the intersection of acting and psychology. His books, Inner Monologue in Acting and Roadblocks in Acting, examine the complex thought processes of actors when creating characters and the self-imposed barriers actors place on their work with suggested strategies to combat these challenges. His upcoming book, The Introverted Actor: Practical Approaches, again examines the actor’s psyche. 

In his position as head of Acting and Directing, Roznowski has created two unique academic graduate and undergraduate programs. The distinctive focus of the Master of Fine Arts program is its preparation of both the artist and university-level educator; it is the only theatre program of its kind in the nation. Numerous graduates who have obtained prestigious teaching positions cite Roznowski’s influence and compassion on their current teaching practices. 

His curricular innovations to the Bachelor of Fine Arts program also challenges the traditional, rigid set of prescribed tracks to allow students the opportunity to explore film, musical theatre, classical theatre, and other subjects that complement students’ individual artistic development through careful mentorship. 

Roznowski’s teaching has brought numerous awards, including the Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year from the President’s Council of State Universities of Michigan. His classes are intellectually challenging, pedagogically experimental, and require deep self-analysis related to the craft. 

A student wrote: “This is by far the hardest class I’ve taken in the department, and I’ve simultaneously loved and hated every moment. I’ve improved tenfold as an actor.”

Since arriving at MSU, Roznowski has directed nearly 50 productions on campus and internationally. He uses these productions to engage undergraduate and graduate student actors and designers in developing their skills.

As a playwright, Roznowski’s work helps shape students’ education in play development. His plays tackle serious subjects, handled with humor, to make difficult issues easier to consider. In each of his new dramatic works, students helped shape the premiere productions while learning advanced theatrical skills and engaging with the deeper philosophical thoughts inherent in creating new theater.

Roznowski’s service to the University is tireless, including his most recent endeavor in which he created resources for faculty and staff to work with students in distress in the classroom. He also guides the Department of Theatre’s largest outreach effort as the Artistic Director of Summer Circle Theatre. 

For effectively teaching the finer points of acting and character development by engaging and collaborating with students and for his collaborative and pioneering accomplishments that he has attained at MSU and abroad in his work as an artist, scholar, and educator, Robert Roznowski is most deserving of the William J. Beal Outstanding Faculty Award and the President’s Distinguished Teaching Award.

picture of a smiling woman with short hair and a long blue top

Amy DeRogatis, Department of Religious Studies

Amy DeRogatis is a transformative scholar and teacher who has shaped the next generation of religious studies thinkers and broadened both the scope and reach of religious studies scholarship.

Her principal scholarly interests are American religion and culture; 19th century Protestant home missionaries; religion, gender, and sexuality; American evangelicalism; and religion in the Midwest. 

DeRogatis and her co-PI, Isaac Weiner, from The Ohio State University, work collaboratively on a groundbreaking digital humanities initiative, entitled the American Religious Sounds Project (ARSP). The project curates sound samples that document religious traditions and practices across the United States, presenting a vivid, experiential portrait of religious and cultural diversity.

With more than $1 million in funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Henry Luce Foundation, the ARSP has grown into a resource for scholars conducting primary research, while fostering broad public engagement through an online gallery and exhibits.

DeRogatis is the author of two well-regarded monographs: Saving Sex: Sexuality and Salvation in American Evangelicalism and Moral Geography: Maps, Missionaries and the American Frontier, as well as more than 30 scholarly articles and book chapters. “Saving Sex” has been favorably reviewed in both academic journals and the popular press, having found a public audience upon being featured in The New York TimesThe Atlantic, and 

DeRogatis creates extraordinary opportunities for students to learn and to grow. Her passion for creating inclusive learning spaces has been a valuable component of her work as the Faculty Excellence Advocate for the College of Arts & Letters and in her own classroom.

A former student who is now a faculty member at the University of Massachusetts wrote: “Dr. DeRogatis’ course showed us the value and virtue of bringing a scholarly rigor to some of the most controversial topics in American society today. Her teaching was a model for how to foster an inclusive classroom space in which students could discuss these ideas openly, fiercely, and always with empathy, and it showed me a way forward for my career in academia.” 

For all that she has done to help the MSU community live up to its highest values of inclusion and excellence through her research, teaching, and service, Amy DeRogatis is a most worthy recipient of the William J. Beal Outstanding Faculty Award.

picture of a man with rectangular glasses and long beard

Kyle Powys Whyte, Department of Philosophy

Kyle Powys Whyte along with Chris Caldwell, Director of the Sustainable Development Institute at the College of Menominee Nation, are this year’s recipients of the Community Engagement Scholarship Award.

Whyte and Caldwell, through the cooperative work of Michigan State University and the Sustainable Development Institute at the College of Menominee Nation, are working to support the Menominee people and Indigenous peoples globally in their efforts to draw lessons from their histories and cultures to empower them to plan a sustainable future.

Whyte’s work as a philosopher has centered on environmental justice. He is an extremely devoted and popular teacher, holding the Timnick Chair in the Humanities in recognition of his dedication to effective pedagogy and public philosophy, and holds a joint appointment in the departments of Philosophy and Community Sustainability, bridging the concerns of two widely distinct colleges at MSU.

He is a nationally and internationally recognized expert on the relationship between communities and their environment, particularly among Indigenous North American nations that have faced historic and continual injustice while attempting to preserve cultural practices that value the environment.

A member of the Potawatomi nation, Whyte began working with Caldwell in 2011, and when Caldwell became director of the Sustainable Development Institute the following year, their collaboration intensified.

They share a vision of empowering Indigenous peoples, as sovereign nations, to become leaders in the practice and promotion of sustainability.

Whyte and Caldwell have pursued a variety of initiatives together. They have made the Sustainable Development Institute a hub for Indigenous perspectives on climate change. They have set up educational efforts, ranging from events for students at the College of Menominee Nation, to workshops extending to other tribes, to a national summer institute for Indigenous students from all parts of North America and the world.

They have supported students from Michigan State University, the College of Menominee Nation, and various other universities in conducting research through the Sustainable Development Institute.

Whyte and Caldwell have received more than $1 million in grants to aid their efforts. Publications resulting from these diverse endeavors have appeared in major journals across the field.

Befitting their mission as educators, Whyte and Caldwell have encouraged both graduate and undergraduate students to take major roles in this research, including as lead authors on publications.

The Community Engagement Scholarship Award recognizes and honors collaborative projects between MSU individuals and community partners that affect both the community and the University.

The work that Whyte and Caldwell do through the Sustainable Development Institute benefits Michigan State University, particularly students conducting research and the Menominee and Indigenous communities, who are seeking leadership in addressing sustainability issues tied to injustice, climate change, and cultural resurgence.

Whyte and Caldwell, along with their respective institutions, deserve recognition for their work. They are nurturing future leaders and scholars emerging from Indigenous communities who will point the way for sustainability amid climate change.