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2018 Faculty Award Winners

Outstanding Faculty Recognized at Annual Convocation

The annual College of Arts and Sciences Faculty Awards Ceremony took place Thursday, December 6, 2018, at the Holiday Inn Downtown. Dean Theresa Lee, associate deans, and directors recognized faculty from across the college for their teaching, research, creative activity, advising, and leadership in diversity efforts, as well as name the College Marshal, the highest honor for the college.

Knoxville Poet Laureate and Professor Emerita Marilyn Kallet opened the ceremony with a poem titled “How to Reply to a Major General,” a love poem for the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, which she wrote in response to the question, “How did you end up in Knoxville?”

jioni lewisJioni Lewis, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, received the first award of the night for her passion and commitment to diversity issues. The Diversity Leadership Award recognizes the extraordinary efforts of a staff or faculty member of the College of Arts and Sciences to support the college and university’s commitments to diversity.

Lewis has provided education to students, staff, faculty, and administrators in the larger campus community about microaggressions in higher education by presenting and facilitating workshops and presentations across campus. She has served on several diversity-related committees at the department, college, and university levels including the Psychology Diversity Council, the College Strategic Planning Committee, the Commission for Blacks, and the Chancellor’s Council for Diversity and Interculturalism. Professor Lewis also teaches courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels pertaining to multicultural and social justice issues. Finally, she focuses her research on diversity-related issues and mentors many diverse undergraduate and graduate students in her lab to train them to become teachers, researchers, and professionals in a diverse world.

“In sum, Dr. Jioni Lewis provides the UT community with exceptional leadership, guidance, vision, and activism as part of her commitment to diversity,” said Angie Batey, associate dean for diversity. “She has inspired her faculty colleagues and many students through her scholarship, practice, training, and leadership roles, as well as through the many personal and mentoring relationships she has established.”

Missy Parker, director of advising for the college, presented the Faculty Advising Service Awards, which recognize two faculty members for their excellence in undergraduate advising.

“This recognition provides rewards for past achievement and encourages future resourceful and creative efforts in departmental advising,” Parker said.

Alison Buchan, Carolyn W. Fite Professor of Microbiology, received an award for her leadership in the coordination of advising within the Department of Microbiology. Professor Buchan serves as an excellent advisor to her caseload of students. She has also facilitated and improved the quality of advising throughout the department. She consistently anticipates complications students may face when changes are made in general education, the microbiology concentration, and even courses in other departments. She has proactively worked to create equitable solutions that ensure microbiology students are not delayed in graduation and has allowed the faculty to focus more on career and graduate school discussions.

“As the college moves toward full implementation of Advising 2020 with faculty serving in mentor roles, Dr. Buchan has already initiated discussions with the microbiology’s faculty advisors to determine what their priorities will be when they meet with students and how they will maintain interactions and relationships with advisees to complement, not compete with, their professional advisors,” Parker said. “Dr. Buchan’s dedication to advising and mentoring continues to have a positive impact on the Department of Microbiology and the experience of its students.”

jim hallJim Hall, associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Cellular & Molecular Biology, received an award for his work with students in BCMB as well as his extraordinary commitment to the students in neuroscience.

“Jim has been an indispensable leader of the neuroscience major since its inception,” stated one of his nominators.

In the five years since neuroscience was first offered as an interdisciplinary studies concentration, the program has grown to more than 400 majors. Jim Hall currently advises 140 them.

“What is truly remarkable are the lengths to which he goes to provide each of these students with a meaningful experience,” Parker said. “In the words of a colleague, ‘Jim’s knowledge regarding the constantly shifting undergraduate university, college, and departmental requirements is encyclopedic. His down-to-earth style interactions with the students makes them feel valued and lets them know they have someone they can turn to if there are problems.”

Professor Hall has also served as a resource to faculty who are advising neuroscience and BCMB students. He trains new faculty advisors and provides them the tools they need to mentor students effectively within both majors.

“He was prepared to see my college career all the way through and knew so much about me as a student before I ever sat down with him,” stated one of his advisees.

Professor Hall’s commitment to advising embodies his mantra: “Students should be the primary focus of the university and therefore, the primary focus of the faculty.”

Associate Dean for Research and Facilities Christine Boake presented awards for research and creative activity, which recognize faculty excellence in research and creative achievement at three levels – early career, mid-career, and senior career – and a distinguished research career at UT.

Matt Buehler, assistant professor of political science, and Tore Olsson, assistant professor of history, received Early Career Excellence in Research and Creative Activity Awards.

matt buehlerIn his five years in the Department of Political Science, Professor Buehler has put together a distinguished resume. He came to UT after a prestigious post-doc and hit the ground running. He has published seven articles, many in top journals in his field. In addition, he has published three chapters in edited volumes. His crowning achievement, to this point, is a book manuscript at a top university press in the field. His success and increasing visibility in the discipline has resulted in other recognitions. He was invited to become a Research Fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, in the Belfer Center for Science & International Affairs, as part of the Middle East Initiative.

“He is an excellent and gifted teacher,” Boake said. “In a department that prides itself on strong teaching, he is one of the best. He has been successful in attracting grants for his research and his teaching.”

tore olssonTrained as a historian of the American South, Professor Olsson’s research contributes to an important new direction in the field of American history, work that looks beyond the limits of national borders to trace the flow of ideas, goods, and people across political boundaries. Last year, Princeton University Press published his book, Agrarian Crossings: Remaking the U.S. and Mexican Countryside in the Twentieth Century. His research has been recognized with a remarkable string of accolades—three dissertation awards, several prizes for best journal article, and an NEH fellowship, among the most competitive in all fields of the humanities. Most historians hope to make a significant contribution to the scholarly conversation in one major field, but Tore’s work has been published and awarded in several sub-disciplines.

“The range of his work is best shown by the fact that this year his book received three book prizes—it was judged to be the best book last year in the fields of American foreign relations, Latin American history, and agricultural history,” Boake said. “A remarkable recognition for a scholar at any stage of career.”

Jessica Hay, associate professor of psychology, and Brandon Matheny, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, received Mid-Career Excellence in Research and Creative Activity Awards.

jessica hayProfessor Hay’s research program broadly focuses on language acquisition. Hay seeks to understand how infants’ cognitive and perceptual systems allow them to learn so much about language so quickly, especially given that natural language is so complex. To gain this understanding, she studies children across early development, from preverbal infants to young children just learning to string words together and manipulates the complexity of the learning environment in the lab to simulate real world learning challenges faced by infants. Her methodological work suggests that even before infants can talk they begin learning the language around them by picking up on regularities in their environment. Using behavioral methodologies, Hay has found that this ability to detect statistical regularities, referred to as statistical learning, not only helps infants find words in continuous speech, but also helps them to make the mapping between words and meanings. Her research program has been almost continually funded by NIH since 2008 and is widely cited in the field of developmental psychology.

brandon matheneyProfessor Matheny has compiled an outstanding record of research in the field of fungal biology. He has been involved in collaborative studies that produced a synthesis of overall fungal diversity in Australia, South America, and locally in the Smokies. His work on plant root-associated fungi helped to show that this syndrome has evolved multiple times and in multiple places. He has described more than 100 new species and multiple new genera and documented that post-burn fungi in the Smoky Mountains are not simply opportunists, but rather fungal symbionts that colonize burned areas from surviving vegetation and lichens. He has integrated both undergraduate and graduate students into his research, and has been active in sharing his expertise with the public. His research has been funded by multiple major grants, documented in almost 100 publications, and honored by the prestigious Fellows Award from the Mycological Society of America.

Erin Hardin, professor of psychology, and Heather Hirschfeld, professor of English, received Senior Career Excellence in Research and Creative Activity Awards.

erin hardinProfessor Hardin’s research program focuses on the empirical investigation of effective teaching practices as well as on projects that combine research and theory from basic and applied research to address pressing contemporary issues pertaining to career development. She is currently implementing an NIH-funded career education intervention in multiple rural Appalachian high schools aimed at reducing perceived educational barriers, facilitating career exploration, and encouraging engagement in STEMM. To extend the impact of this intervention study, Hardin and her colleagues obtained additional funding to provide job coaching and career counseling to adults in the same Appalachian communities. She is also conducting a study funded by NSF that provides undergraduate scholarships and support to facilitate success of low-income rural Appalachian students in Tennessee. Hardin is a member of the UT team that was recently awarded an NSF ADVANCE grant designed to increase the participation and advancement of women in academic STEM careers.

“Dr. Hardin’s research program clearly is highly regarded and aimed at making a meaningful difference in our community,” Boake said.

heather hirschfeldProfessor Hirschfeld is an internationally recognized specialist in Shakespearean and non-Shakespearean English Renaissance drama. She is the author of two important monographs—as well as 24 articles and essays in prestigious edited collections. Recently, Hirschfeld has completed two major projects, which are being published by the two most important presses in her field. She is the editor of the just-published 34-chapter Oxford Handbook of Shakespearean Comedy to which she also contributed the introduction. She has also produced a revised edition of the New Cambridge Shakespeare Hamlet. Her contributions to this volume include a 35,000-word introduction.

“The fact that she was able to complete these two volumes simultaneously is testimony to her tremendous productivity,” Boake said. “She is now returning to work on her third monograph, The Resources of Hell, a study of the concept of Hell in early modern literature and culture.”

yuri efremenkoYuri Efremenko, professor of physics, received the Distinguished Career in Research and Creativity Activity Award for his accomplishments over the last decade, which have placed him as a worldwide leader in the important field of neutrino research. Neutrinos, elementary subatomic particles with infinitesimal mass and no electric charge, are extremely challenging to detect. Professor Efremenko was on the team proving that neutrinos have in fact a tiny mass and change ‘flavor’ as they travel through space. He recently led a team of 80 researchers that spotted these elusive particles when bouncing off atomic nuclei in a coherent fashion. This achievement fulfilled a four decade-long search, using a portable detector that weighs as little as a microwave oven. Such small neutrino detectors might someday help monitor nuclear reactors to ensure they are running according to nuclear nonproliferation regulations, or search for even-more-elusive sterile neutrinos. This work was featured on the cover of Science Magazine and selected by the public as the second most important breakthrough of 2017.

emily bivensThe award for New Research, Scholarly, and Creative Projects in the Arts and Humanities went to Emily Bivens, associate professor of Art.

“Emily Bivens is easily one of the most productive and exciting faculty artists and a leader in the organization and direction of the School of Art,” Boake said. “Her leadership has been transformational in moving the program to be in line with critical, contemporary art practice.”

Bivens’s unique and fascinating project will be presented at the fast disappearing American institution of local drive-in theaters and involve the engagement of local community. It is sure to have broad appeal and the potential to become a feature length film. Bivens has a stellar exhibition and performance record and staged 35 exhibitions and performances at critically significant venues over the past six years. She was recently awarded the Tennessee Arts Commission Individual Artist Fellowship, which includes a solo exhibition at the new Tennessee Museum. Bivens’s individual creative research is in installation, video narratives, and stop motion animation. Her stories come to life, bewitching space and time, through the video and sound interactions of costumed performers, augmented objects, and stop-motion animation that reanimates stuffed animals and inanimate objects.

nebenfuehr & maroulasThe scientific collaboration between Andreas Nebenführ, professor of biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology, and Vasileios Maroulas, professor of mathematics, helped them receive the Interdepartmental Collaborative Scholarship and Research Award. Their collaboration stems from Professor Nebenführ’s long-standing cell biology research agenda to develop a rigorous, quantitative basis for the dynamic molecular movement processes known as cytoplasmic streaming, which is the movement of organelles in plants, a process that is essential to plant viability.

“Professor Nebenführ realized he needed careful and thorough quantitative analysis to further understand the underlying mechanisms,” Boake said. “Looking for a solution, he engaged Professor Maroulas, a mathematician internationally recognized for creating innovative methods to solve difficult data science problems.”

Maroulas’s vision to incorporate three distinct areas of mathematics—statistics, topology, and geometry—led to the creation of a novel organelle tracking algorithm with high accuracy. His foundational methods have also found applications in problems related to materials and chemistry. Their collaboration has produced joint publications in high impact journals and a substantial NSF award that involves training students in interdisciplinary research.

Next, Associate Dean for Academic Programs Chuck Collins recognized faculty for excellent in teaching at the lecturer, junior, and senior levels. These award winners showcase both their excellence in the classroom and excellence across campus.

kelli maccarteyKelli MacCartey, distinguished lecturer in the Department of English, received the Lecturer Excellence in Teaching Award.

“There are so many reasons she deserves this award, but I think her nominator sums it up the best – ‘The most striking feature of Dr. MacCartey’s teaching career is her sustained pursuit of pedagogical innovation, never for the sake of mere novelty, but always with an eye toward what would work best to suit the learning styles and immediate pedagogical needs of a diverse student body,’” Collins said.

The result is excellent evaluation results across a wide range of courses and recognition by the college and her department for the development of several new courses, including a successful online version of a poetry course.

sean lindsaySean Lindsay, lecturer and coordinator of astronomy, received the second Lecturer Excellence in Teaching Award. Lindsay brings new life to the astronomy courses through his scientifically rich, technology adept, and student focused classes.

“Sean is a real star in the classroom,” Collins said. “As a student says – ‘best instructor I’ve had at UT. His passion for astronomy lights up the room. You can’t help but be excited with him.’ Another echoes this sentiment – ‘terrific teacher and went the extra-mile to make sure I succeeded.’”

One of the best indication of his excellence is that since his arrival, the astronomy program has seen a remarkable renaissance.

manuela ceballosManuela Ceballos, assistant professor in the Department of Religious Studies, received the Junior Excellence in Teaching Award.

“Her selection should come as no surprise to her students, who, as her nominator wrote, used the word ‘amazing’ in her evaluations too many times to count,” Collins said.

This achievement comes while teaching challenging topics (e.g. The Qur’an and the Literature of Islam). She makes this happen through a combination of content expertise in engaging in difficult texts, and a desire to connect to the students by building classroom communities in which vulnerability is not punished, but rather encouraged. Ceballos is making an amazing impact in and out of her classroom.

kelsey ellisKelsey Ellis, assistant professor in the Department of Geography, also received the Junior Excellence in Teaching Award. She was nominated based on both her excellence in the classroom and her contributions to the new geography curriculum. In her classes, she focuses on the students acquiring skills and lessons that can be part of their life beyond the semester. One of the ways she achieve this, even in the larger sections, is by designing the course to engage the students in different ways, and to let them know that she truly cares about their success.

“As one of her students wrote – ‘students want to be in her classes because she knows how to teach and takes the time to personally engage the students,’” Collins said.

greg stuartGreg Stuart, professor of psychology, received a Senior Excellence in Teaching Award. Instead of running down a list of his accolades, Collins read a quote from a student that captured Professor Stuart as a teacher and a mentor.

“Dr. Stuart reflects a humble excellence in research, an unparalleled zeal for the field, and a genuine desire to invest in each and every student he encounters,” the student said. “From the help of his incredibly brilliant and dedicated lab team to his valuable, enriching way of teaching his class, I have personally been cultivated and invested in by Dr. Stuart and have watched countless other students, graduate students, faculty members, and patients experience the same day after day. Dr. Stuart deserves the teaching award because he embodies the future of the department as I believe in it and is a foundational piece of what makes our university what it is.”

ed schillingEd Schilling, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, also received a Senior Excellence in Teaching Award. Professor Schilling brings his 40-plus years of experience and his early inspiration from the awe of the natural world to create a classroom where students want to learn. He is known for using hands-on materials whenever he can, for example, using supplies from the grocery store and his own kitchen for his Socio-economic Impact of Plants course. Another distinguishing aspect of his courses is the detail of his preparation for each class, taking advantage of all available materials and methodologies.

The final award in teaching excellence is the James R. and Nell W. Cunningham Award, which is awarded to a tenured faculty member who demonstrates outstanding classroom teaching.

erin hardinErin Hardin, professor of psychology, has been the recipient of several awards since coming to UT in 2013. In addition to the excellence in research award from this year’s convocation, Hardin has received departmental, college, and society awards. The evidence of her excellence comes through clearly through a student’s comment from a large lecture, introductory general education course.

“Dr. Hardin is an outstanding professor,” the student stated. “She made sure that we were getting the ‘bigger picture’ and taught us how to apply psychology outside of the classroom. I now look at the world from a different viewpoint and this has caused me to better understand the things that happen around me.”

Dean Lee took to the podium next to present the faculty academic outreach awards for teaching, service, and research and creative activity.

Barry Bruce, professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology, is changing the world with his research in the areas of photosynthesis, plant cell biology, and bioenergy. He was named “Ten People That May Change the World” by Forbes Magazine in 2007 and again in 2010. Bruce received the Academic Outreach Teaching Award for a variety of his outreach activities at the local, national, and international levels. From Queens, New York, to Tibet, India, Bruce has shared his scientific expertise to help scores of individuals understand basic biology and help change the world through science. As a faculty mentor of high school students in both New York and Hawaii, he provided supplies, equipment, and technical advice for students competing in state and international science and engineering competitions. He has run solar cell workshops in Knoxville, East Tennessee, California, and Costa Rica for high school science teachers.

“Perhaps his most intriguing outreach teaching endeavor was his visit to the Sarah Institute for Tibetan Studies in India to introduce Tibetan Buddhist monks to the basics of biology – concepts none of the monks had been exposed to previously,” Lee said. “He helped choreograph the Central Dogma of Molecular Biology, a play where the Monks acted out the process of transcription and protein synthesis. These are just a few examples of the impact his outreach teaching has beyond the UT community.”

erin darbyEver since she stepped foot on campus in 2011, Erin Darby, associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies, has engaged in outreach with members of the community, both in East Tennessee and around the world, and received the Academic Outreach Service Award.

“For years, Dr. Darby has introduced archaeology and the Middle East to our students and our community through several events, including the highly-successful Arab Fest,” Lee said. “Her deep engagement with outreach integrates her research expertise in archaeology with local and international communities in ways that improve the lives of people in our region as well as in Jordan.”

Darby’s largest project, ‘Ayn Gharandal Archaeological Project, expands her research in Jordan into numerous outreach and service learning programs that benefit undergraduate students at UT and the University of Missouri at Columbia, the East Tennessee community, and the government and people of Jordan. Her study abroad program, Dig Jordan, is the only faculty-led study abroad program to the Middle East in the entire UT system. Her outreach has impacted scores of UT students as well as large audiences in East Tennessee and significant international communities.

vejas liuleviciusVejas Liulevicius, director of the Center for the Study of War and Society, received the Academic Outreach Research and Creative Activity Award, for his work with the Veterans Legacy Project. UT is one of a half dozen schools across the country funded as part of the Veterans Legacy Project, which uses national veterans cemeteries as a way to help communities remember our nation’s history and the contribution of our veterans. Through the project, Liulevicius created a partnership between UT, the Knox County School System, the East Tennessee History Society, and the Knoxville History Project. He recruited, trained, and supervised several UT undergraduate students to conduct research about the lives of some of the veterans buried in the Knoxville National Cemetery, one of the oldest in the country. His work brings together the shared resources of UT faculty and student researchers, the local school system, and two of our most important local historical societies and expands the community outreach role of the Center across the East Tennessee region.

kurt butefishAssociate Dean for Academic Personnel Andy Kramer recognized faculty who have university and college professorships before awarding the Lorayne W. Lester Award for outstanding service through research, outreach, administration, teaching, or advising to the college, the local community, the state, and beyond to Kurt Butefish in the Department of Geography.

“In the words of his nominator, Kurt Butefish ‘embodies the description’ of the Lorayne W. Lester Award with his outstanding service and outreach as coordinator of the Tennessee Geographic Alliance,” Kramer said.

Since taking the reins as executive director in 2001, Butefish has built an extensive network of dedicated teachers and professionals to support geography education at the K-12 level in Tennessee and focused on providing professional development and resource materials for teachers and students. He has also worked diligently since 2012 to influence the inclusion of geography in Tennessee’s social studies standards, including the addition of a new Introduction to GIS course. Butefish has served two, four-year terms as the elected executive director of the Tennessee Council for the Social Studies, the statewide professional organization representing social studies teachers. He is also on the board of directors of the Tennessee Geographic Information Council, the largest organization in the state for GIS professionals, where he works to bridge the gap between K-12 education and the needs of GIS professional communities. At the national level, Butefish ensured geography was adequately represented in the final version of the Every Student Succeeds Act.

“Kurt has helped put UT geography on the map at local, state, and national levels,” Kramer said. “He is an integral member of the geography department and our college.”

bill blackDean Lee returned to the podium to present the final honor of the evening – College Marshal Award, which in the college equivalent of the university Macebearer and the highest college honor awarded to a member of the faculty. This year, the honor went to Bill Black, professor in the Department of Theatre.

“Professor Bill Black is a model of teaching excellence, professional accomplishment, and university service,” Lee said. “This year, he celebrates his 41st year with the Department of Theatre. And this year, we honor his commitment by naming him College Marshal.”

Professor Black joined the university in 1977 as the supervisor of the costume shop. He became a member of the faculty in 1984, teaching courses in costume technology. Since his appointment, Black has distinguished himself in all areas of teaching, service, and research and creative activity and has designed extensively for numerous theatres across the United States. He is a regular costume designer at the Utah Shakespearean Festival. His costume designs have also appeared at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Denver Theatre Center, and PlayMaker’s Repertory. Current and former students, including Dale Dickey, sing his praises as a teacher, mentor, and advisor.

“His contribution to the education of hundreds of young costume designers and technicians is impossible to calculate,” Lee said.

Black has amassed an impressive record of professional and administrative accomplishments while at UT. He served as interim head for the theatre department on two separate occasions and, since 2006, has served as the associate head.

Nominations for the 2019 faculty awards will be open in fall of 2019. Learn more about the nomination process and see lists of past winners on the nomination website.