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College of Arts and Sciences Faculty Awards 2015

2015 Faculty Award Winners

The College of Arts and Sciences celebrated outstanding faculty with awards in diversity leadership, advising, teaching, research, academic outreach, and service on December 1 at the annual Faculty Awards Ceremony held at the Holiday Inn-World’s Fair Site.   Faculty receiving awards were joined at the event by their nominators and significant others who shared in the celebration of the honorees’ accomplishments.

Diversity Leadership Awards

Derek Alderman, Professor and Head, Department of Geography

Derek Alderman, a cultural and historical geographer, has over 100 peer reviewed journal articles and chapters to his credit, many of which address race, racism, and diversity. Much of his work focuses on the rights of African Americans to claim the power to commemorate the past and shape cultural landscapes as part of a larger goal of social and spatial justice. He is co-founder of RESET (Race, Ethnicity, and Social Equity in Tourism), and is currently working with a team of five universities on a large National Science Foundation (NSF) funded project on race, slavery and plantation tourism. He is in demand as a speaker in communities struggling to commemorate and understand the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and fields frequent media requests for interviews and commentary on issues in the news. His work has appeared more than 180 times in local, regional, and national news outlets.

Michelle Commander, Assistant Professor, Department of English

Since joining the faculty at UT, Michelle Commander has been actively engaged with diversity concerns in her teaching, scholarship and service. In her courses she aims to “encourage her students to speak from their experiences and to discuss respectfully their beliefs with one another.”

Enriched by a year as a Fulbright Lecturer in Ghana, Professor Commander’s first book, Afro-American Speculative Flights: Return, Imagined Africas, and the Black Fantastic, will soon be published by Duke University Press.

A member the College of Arts and Sciences Diversity Committee, she organized last year an Africana Studies Film Series and co-organized a forum for encouraging discussion of the events in Ferguson, Missouri. Last summer she discussed Saidiya Hartman’s narrative of the African slave trade, Lose your Mother with a large gathering at Knox County Public Library. In all these activities, Michelle Commander is helping community members learn about and develop a respect for diversity.

Advising Service Awards

Jennifer Bolden, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

Jennifer Bolden is honored for her role as a dedicated advisor and mentor to a diverse population of psychology majors. She stands out as an advisor in the college’s largest department both because of the meaningful relationships she develops with her assigned advisees and the evident impact she has on the students she mentors in her lab. Since fall 2012, she has supervised over twenty-five undergraduate research assistants, with many of them presenting at the annual EURECA conference as well national meetings such as the Annual Convention for the Association of Psychological Science and the Annual International Conference on ADHD.   Her commitment to the success of students from diverse backgrounds is demonstrated by her work with three undergraduates affiliated with federally funded TRIO programs.   With professor Bolden as their advisor and mentor, these students successfully developed and presented research locally and nationally, and several are currently enrolled in graduate programs.

Michael Handelsman, Professor, Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures and Distinguished Professor of Humanities

Michael Handelsman is recognized for his work with students majoring in Global Studies and Hispanic Studies as well as students seeking prestigious scholarships and fellowships through the Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships (ONSF). Typically, he averages 150 advising appointments a term, and he views each of them as a teaching opportunity to encourage students to invent themselves and see education as a life-long process of self-reflection. He continues to advise UT alumni who are not enrolled at other institutions and who need assistance with graduate school applications, scholarship opportunities, and internships with non-profit organizations as well as applications for Fulbright scholarships.

In the words of his nominator, “Guided by his belief that the undergraduate experience should be transformative, and by his life-long championing of foreign language study as a hallmark of responsible citizenship, Michael Handelsman is our primary difference maker when it comes to helping students realize their potential.”

Excellence in Research & Scholarly Work

Excellence in Research / Creative Achievement Award


Todd Freeberg, Professor and Associate Head, Department of Psychology

Todd Freeberg is interested in vocal communication. His studies thus far have focused on bird species, using a combination of field and laboratory approaches. His research seeks to understand the development, function, and evolution of vocal signals and signaling.

The primary research focus of his laboratory is to understand how the complexity of social groups influences the complexity of communicative signals individual group members use with one another. The work combines naturalistic observation study, controlled experiments, and bio-acoustical analyses to assess how group size and diversity of social relationships within groups affects vocal complexity of songbird species. He uses field and semi-natural aviary approaches in investigations of the development and function of vocal signals and signal diversity. A Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science, Professor Freeberg has presented several invited plenary and keynote lectures at international professional conferences. He recently received a four-year grant from the National Science Foundation.

Robert Norrell, Professor and the Bernadotte Schmitt Chair of Excellence, Department of History

Robert “Jeff” Norrell is a leading voice in the nation on the subject of American race relations and African-American history.

This fall he is publishing three books. Most notable will be a biography, Alex Haley and the Books that Changed a Nation, which covers the rise to national celebrity and great literary influence of Haley. Norrell argues that Haley’s books changed the way Americans, black and white, understood the black experience.

Norrell ‘s numerous scholarly recognitions include the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award for his study of the Civil Rights Movement in Tuskegee, Alabama. He was the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in American Studies at the University of Tuebingen, Germany.

Jeff Norrell’s very impressive body of scholarship speaks to some of the most important, complex, and urgent questions our society faces. Through the award, we recognize his great contributions to the national conversation about race, and the recovery of African-American history.


Shawn Campagna, Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry

Shawn Campagna works at the interface of biology and chemistry.   He has pioneered the use of mass spectrometry for parallel analysis of complex mixtures of metabolytes which has applications in chemistry, microbiology, biochemistry, cellular biology, nutrition, and veterinary and agricultural sciences. Professor Campagna was the driving force for creation of the Biological and Small Molecular Mass Spectrometry Core (BSMMSC) Facility which he directs. His impact on the biological research community at UT has been most significant. In the last five years, he has led or contributed to proposals that have brought over $4M of funding to UT from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Of that funding, $1.5M has been in direct support of his research. He has authored twenty-three publications in the past three years, including ones in two high impact journals—Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and the Journal of Microbial Ecology.

Daniel Magilow, Associate Professor, Department of Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures

Professor Magilow’s research focuses on several thematic strands within the interdisciplinary field of German Studies, including German-Jewish Studies and visual culture of 20th- and 21st-century Germany. The four books and ten articles and book chapters he has published qualify him, at early mid-career stage, as a respected expert in Holocaust Studies, one of the most established specializations in German-Jewish Studies, as well as in the emerging field of Visual Studies. In addition to his outstanding publication record, he has to his credit thirty conference presentations, thirteen photography exhibits, and a considerable record of grants, graduate student supervision, and national and international engagement. By way of context, a newly-tenured professor in German will normally have one book and three to six articles or book chapters. Magilow’s outstanding achievement as a researcher rests on his four books, extremely robust presentation profile, and numerous exhibits underscoring his mastery of both print and photography.

Lois Presser, Professor and Associate Head, Department of Sociology

Lois Presser is recognized internationally as one of the key figures in the emerging field of narrative criminology and the wider field of cultural sociology.  Her work is defined by innovation in both methods and theory, beginning with her earliest work on men’s tales of violence.  Switching from interviews to her recent narrative work,  Presser draws on literature and her expertise in discourse analysis, which involves systematic, deconstructive reading of texts, to weave together theories of harm.  In all her work, Presser asks: what exactly gives stories their extraordinary power?  Those who successfully mobilize mass harm make ample use of explicit and implicit stories.  With understanding and effort, those stories can be changed. Presser’s notable record of publications includes articles in top journals in the field as well as groundbreaking books with prestigious academic presses including Rutgers University Press, the University of Illinois Press, and the University of California Press.

Early Career:

Abner Salgado, Assistant Professor, Department of Mathematics

Abner Salgado joined UT in August 2013. Following the completion of a doctorate in 2010 from Texas A&M University, he held a postdoctoral position at the University of Maryland from 2010 to 2013.

He works on the numerical analysis of partial differential equations (PDEs). A fundamental feature of modern science is that complex physical phenomena are usually modeled via PDEs, but these equations are too difficult to solve explicitly. Professor Salgado’s research focuses on the design and analysis of algorithms for solving these equations computationally, employing deep methods from both numerical and classical analysis.

His publication record is already extensive and includes the most prestigious journals in his field. He received a three-year single investigator grant from the National Science Foundation in 2014. These grants are highly competitive and proposals generally have a very low success rate. He has presented numerous invited lectures and colloquia at high-ranking venues and institutions.

Shellen X. Wu, Assistant Professor, Department of History

Since joining UT in 2011, Shellen Wu has won several of the most competitive national awards—including a Fulbright and an ACLS fellowship. This spring Stanford University Press published her book Empires of Coal: Fueling China’s Entry into the Modern World Order, 1860 t0 1920, described by a reviewer as “a brilliant and original cultural history of industrialization in late Qing China.”

She is the first UT faculty member to publish an article in the American Historical Review, the nation’s lead journal across all disciplines in history. Her book and this article demonstrate her impressive ability to work with both Chinese and German sources, and to integrate the histories of geography, geology, energy policy, and comparative empires to advance our understanding of 20th century geopolitics in both Europe and Asia. She is one of a small number of young scholars who are looking beyond regional barriers to consider global context.

Distinguished Research Career at UT

Sally Horn, Chancellor’s Professor and Betty Lynn Hendrickson Professor, Department of Geography

Sally Horn has served in the Department of Geography since 1987. She has amassed an impressive record that includes over 130 published pieces, over 325 conference presentations, and well over $6.5 million in research grants, with half of that funding coming from the National Science Foundation. A Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, she has played a major role in advancing our understanding of how humans have impacted the past environments of Central America, the Caribbean, and the southeastern U.S., the importance of fire in tropical environments, climate change throughout the Holocene, and how plant communities have responded to these changes. She has done this path-breaking work while advising many graduate students, nurturing undergraduate research experiences, coordinating the Initiative for Quaternary Paleoclimate Research, and carrying a full teaching load throughout her career. She is the recipient of several distinguished career awards within the field of geography.

New Research, Scholarly and Creative Projects in the Arts and Humanities

 Luke Harlow, Associate Professor, Department of History

Luke Harlow has established himself as one of the leading voices in a new generation of scholars who examine the links between race and religion in American history. His book, Religion, Race, and the Making of Confederate Kentucky, 1830-1880, examines why the border state of Kentucky remained in the Union during the war, but developed a Confederate identity during the Reconstruction years, and ever since. His book demonstrates the important, and tragic, role that religion played in the process.

For a brief time during Reconstruction, the religious idealists who led the antislavery crusade enjoyed a privileged place of power in Washington, which they put to use in a failed attempt to create a multi-racial democracy in the South. The role of religion as a motivation for their noble but failed project is a story that has not yet been properly recovered and is the focus of Luke Harlow’s future work.

Interdepartmental Collaborative Scholarship and Research

Nora Berenstain, Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy
Patrick Grzanka, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

Patrick Grzanka and Nora Berenstain co-direct the Intersectionality Community of Scholars (ICOS) at UT, an interdisciplinary network of over twenty faculty whose work engages the ways that systems of inequality co-construct one another.  As a research paradigm, intersectionality is rooted in women of color’s critique of approaches to race that disregard gender dynamics and studies of gender that ignore the significance of race. It has transformed the way scholars and social justice advocates have studied the intersections of race, gender, class, sexuality, and other dimensions of social inequality. The ICOS aims to establish UT as a preeminent center for scholarship and creative activity on this critically important area of social, political, and cultural research. In 2016, the ICOS will bring international leaders in intersectionality studies to campus for a symposium about how intersectionality can inform the complex issues of social injustice and serve as a force for positive social change.

Faculty Excellence in Teaching Awards


Erin Hardin, Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Psychology

Erin Hardin has been recognized by her department twice for her teaching since joining UT in 2013. In the words of a student, she has transformed the teaching of Psychology 110 by making sure they are “getting the ‘bigger picture’” and by teaching them “how to apply psychology outside of the classroom.” Another student writes, “I now look at the world from a different viewpoint and this has caused me to better understand the things that happen around me.” She also makes a difference in the graduate courses she teaches and through her efforts to help improve teaching throughout the department. As her departmental teaching review states, “Erin Hardin is the role model for the rest of us.”

She is Co-PI on a recently funded five- year NIH grant from the Science Education Partnership (R25) designed to work with Appalachian high school students to reduce barriers to going to college.

Harry “Hap” McSween, Chancellor’s Professor and Distinguished Professor of Earth & Planetary Sciences, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences

Harry “Hap” McSween has received multiple awards for his research, service and teaching at the departmental, college, campus, and national level, capped with recognition as UT Macebearer in 2014-15 and as SEC Professor of the Year in 2013. He holds a Leonard Medal from the Meteoritical Society and is a fellow of both the American Geophysical Union and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

His department head and nominator wrote “What is truly remarkable is that throughout his outstanding research and administrative career, Hap McSween has maintained a highly effective teaching program. Over the past 38 years, virtually every undergraduate major in geology and about a third of the graduate students in the department have taken at least one course from him. He is regarded by both students and faculty colleagues as an outstanding teacher, known for his ability to make the complex world of geology easier to understand.


Jioni Lewis, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

Jioni Lewis’s teaching is characterized by her devotion to the issues of diversity and social justice and for providing innovative experiential learning experiences for her students. She received an award from the UT Teaching Learning Center to expand the service-learning opportunities for her students in partnership with the Beck Cultural Exchange Center. She uses these experiences effectively to help students develop critical thinking skills and appreciation of multiple perspectives. A student wrote, “It helped me to not only analyze the material, but also what’s going on in the world around me.” Her teaching evaluations confirm that she impacting her students’ development.

She recently was awarded the nationally competitive 2015 Carolyn Payton Early Career Professional Award from Division 35 of the American Psychological Association. The award recognizes the achievement of a black woman who is an early career psychologist, specifically for published work addressing the concerns of black women and girls.

Joan Lind, Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics

Joan Lind’s teaching is summarized well in her department peer review: “We found excellence in every area. Her students are delighted with her, and many find her teaching inspiring. She prepares carefully, organizing a course that gives students every opportunity to reach her high standards, which many do. Much of her success is due to her genuine concern for her students and her enthusiasm for the course material, regardless of level. Her record convinces us that she is already one of the finest instructors in the mathematics department.” Her care for her students is echoed in comments from her students and her teaching philosophy. She also is making a broader impact through her mentoring of graduate students and in her work to encourage more women to pursue study in math and science.

She specializes in complex analysis and probability and teaches classes on differential equations and other areas of math.

Lecturer Excellence in Teaching Award

Theodora Kopestonsky, Lecturer, Department of Classics

Theodora “Theo” Kopestonsky teaches courses ranging from introductory Latin to some 400-level courses, doing an excellent job in all. She engages the students by relating the ancient to the students’ modern experience. A comment from the faculty nomination meeting perfectly summarizes their view of her contributions, “She is the best teacher in the department and everybody knows it.” Her student evaluations and comments echo this view, with one student exclaiming “She is truly made for teaching – she is wonderful!” Her impact goes beyond the classroom as several students provided unsolicited support saying that her enthusiasm for the material is so contagious that is has changed their lives as learners.

She completed a doctorate in 2009 at the University at Buffalo where she held a Humanities Institute Dissertation Fellowship. Her interests include Greek and Roman Art and Archaeology, Corinthian Studies, Ancient Cult and Ritual Practice, Coroplastic Arts, and Gender in Antiquity.

Malissa Peery, Distinguished Lecturer and Lower Division Chair, Department of Mathematics

Malissa Peery’s list of accomplishments and awards is impressive, and, as her nomination says, “Malissa Peery is possibly the mathematics department’s finest instructor for GenEd and other math courses numbered below Math 141 (Calculus I). She is immensely popular with her students, in courses that students traditionally hate.” Her teaching evaluations are remarkably high for the level and type of courses she teaches. She has developed innovative teaching resources from clickers to note taking guides to a complete set of instructional videos. Beyond her own classes, she has made great contributions to the learning mission of the mathematics department through her tireless work as Lower Division Chair, coordinator of various courses, and as a mentor of first-year graduate teaching assistants.

Student shout outs during the 2015 Faculty Appreciation Week thanked her for “awesome dedication to students, going above and beyond to help students succeed, and taking  stress out of math”.

James R. and Nell W. Cunningham Outstanding Teaching Award

Mary McAlpin, Professor and Associate Head, Department of Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures

Mary McAlpin has been honored three times with teaching awards. Her vast experience in teaching French at all levels gives her a strong basis for understanding the challenges that students face when learning a new language. She is known for creating a comfortable but challenging classroom atmosphere, which has played an important role in her success as a teacher and as she moves towards helping her students learn to make effective oral presentations. Her classroom impact is captured in this comment from a student: “I appreciate your [Dr. McAlpin’s] unending encouragements and amiable attitude. It was my absolute pleasure to be a student under your outstanding instruction….” Her approach to the classroom, she hopes, will give students a “fascinating glimpse into another period and another way of viewing the world….”

Her interests include 18th-century French literature and culture, The Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the history of medicine, and gender theory.

Academic Outreach Awards

Outstanding Service Award

Michael Handelsman, Professor, Department of Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures and Distinguished Professor of Humanities

Since joining UT , Michael Handelsman been engaged in exemplary advising of students in Global Studies, Latin-American Studies, and those whom he mentors through the competitive scholarship process. For decades he has created linkages between UT and institutions in Latin America, forging cultural, economic, racial, ethnic, and linguistic ties on which our different societies have established cooperation and exchange. At UT his service learning course places Spanish majors in Project Grad, Head Start, East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, and Centro Hispano. His regularly offering of in-service teacher workshops in the local schools, earned the 2010 Jacqueline Elliott Award for outstanding postsecondary service to the profession. Since 2011 he has served as Faculty Director of UT’s Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships (ONSF), helping to shape a campus culture that motivates undergraduates to compete for such nationally prestigious scholarships and fellowships as the Rhodes, Marshall, Gates-Cambridge, Fulbright, Udall, Truman and Goldwater awards.

Faculty Academic Outreach Award

Joe Miles, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

In 2011 Joe Miles held an on-campus workshop on intergroup dialogue with the goals of building relationships across groups, developing critical understandings of social issues, and developing capacities to work toward social justice. Leaders of Together! Healthy Knox (T!HK), a community-based initiative that seeks to provide a “community approach to better health”, attended the workshop and invited Miles to join their Health Equity Action Team. Stemming from his work with T!HK and his expertise in intergroup dialogue and social justice, in 2012 the Knoxville City Council appointed Miles to the Community Health Council (CHC) which serves the City of Knoxville, Knox County, and the Town of Farragut. Since then he has been an active leader in efforts to improve community health. He chairs the CHC’s Policy and Advocacy Committee, charged with developing an advocacy agenda for the CHC around improving community health, to be taken to local and state legislators.

Lorayne W. Lester Award

Suzanne Lenhart, Chancellor’s Professor, Department of Mathematics

Suzanne Lenhart is a renowned researcher in the field of differential equations, and a leader in the pursuit of applications of optimal control theory to biological, medical, environmental, and epidemiological problems. She has published around 160 papers and presented over 260 invited seminars, colloquia, and conference presentations, including the Eighth Annual Sonya Kovalevsky Lecture at the 2010 annual meeting of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. She was a co-founder and is Associate Director of the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS), which has been supported by $34 million in NSF grants. In 2014 she received an NIH-funded Program for Excellence & Equity in Research (PEER) grant for $6 million.

Her career is characterized by tireless, award-winning efforts to encourage women and members of other underrepresented groups to pursue careers in mathematics, the sciences, or engineering. She was President of the Association for Women in Mathematics (2001-2002).

College Marshal

John Scheb, Professor, Department of Political Science

John Scheb is Faculty Fellow at the Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy.  He earned a doctorate from the University of Florida and came to the University of Tennessee as an Assistant Professor of Political Science in 1982.  From 2007 to 2014, he was head of the Political Science Department.  Before that, he served as Associate Head, Director of Graduate Studies, and Undergraduate Director in Political Science. He also has served as Director of UT’s Social Science Research Institute, and Chair of the Legal Studies Program. His specialty areas include law, courts and the judicial process. He has authored numerous articles in professional journals and is coauthor of several books, including: Criminal Law and Procedure, Law and the Administrative Process, An Introduction to the American Legal System, American Constitutional Law, and Government and Politics in Tennessee. He is a recipient of the UT Alumni Association Outstanding Teacher Award.