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UW Awards of Excellence Feature A&S Faculty and Students

Individuals who have made important contributions to the University of Washington community were honored in June at the annual Awards of Excellence ceremony. Among them were eight Arts and Sciences faculty and students honored with five awards, including:

David B. Thorud Leadership Award: Nancy Alarcon, Speech and Hearing Sciences
Distinguished Teaching Award: Holly Barker, Anthropology; John Manchak, Philosophy; Phillip Thurtle, CHID
Excellence in Teaching Award: Deepa Bhandaru, Political Science
Outstanding Public Service Award: Katherine Beckett, Law, Societies and Justice, Sociology
President's Medal: Bethanny Danskin, Michelle Drews

Below are the remarks about the A&S honorees, delivered at the ceremony by UW President Michael Young and Gerald Baldasty, senior vice provost for academic and student affairs.

David B. Thorud Leadership Award

Nancy Alarcon Portrait

Nancy Alarcon.

Nancy Alarcon
Senior Lecturer, Speech and Hearing Sciences

As both a senior lecturer and director of the UW Speech and Hearing Clinic, Nancy Alarcon is used to wearing many hats and juggling a hectic schedule. On top of these demands, she is active in her field at the state and national levels, having served in numerous leadership positions. Her contributions have been recognized with numerous honors and awards. But as busy as Nancy is, she consistently goes out of her way to make a difference in the lives of her students and patients, modeling professionalism as well as compassion and kindness.

Students see the level of caring Nancy has for her patients, staff, and other students, and it inspires them to do more than just seek a degree—it inspires them to be thoughtful, kind, and better citizens. Says one colleague, "While it takes many hands to run a successful clinic, Nancy is the one constant that gives it heart."

Distinguished Teaching Award

Holly Barker Portrait

Holly Barker.

Holly Barker
Lecturer, Anthropology

In addition to teaching in the Department of Anthropology, Holly Barker has conducted extensive research in the Marshall Islands, focused on the environmental and health consequences of nuclear bomb testing, particularly consequences related to women's reproductive health. For years, she worked at the Embassy of the Marshall Islands and has written two award-winning books about her research on this topic.

Outside of class time, Holly volunteers hours to help her students apply for jobs and internships, build their resumes, and complete individual projects. Her teaching philosophy is to guide every student to his or her academic potential. 

The chair of the Department of Anthropology says, "I have had many occasions to witness the positively electrifying effect that Holly Barker has on students. She is the kind of teacher who changes people's lives. …She empowers students to make anthropology their own, and put the concepts and research methods of the discipline to use in producing knowledge that can contribute to efforts to change the world and make it a better place."

John Manchak Portrait

John Manchak.

John Manchak
Associate Professor, Philosophy

When John Manchak arrived at the UW, members of the Department of Philosophy knew they had snagged someone special. Professor Manchak possesses the unique ability to integrate the abstract principles of logic with examples that are relevant to the lives of his young students.

John is not only an outstanding logic teacher, but he deeply cares about his students. Many say his energy for bringing complicated and abstract material to life in the classroom has inspired them to think more deeply. A former student says, "When he is teaching, it feels as if time stops. I am always learning about something wonderfully exciting and meaningful."

After just four years at the UW, Professor Manchak has become an indispensable resource to the Department of Philosophy.

Phillip Thurtle
Associate Professor and Director, Comparative History of Ideas

In his two decades of teaching, Professor Thurtle has created a philosophy that centers on three tenets:
1) Education happens through research.
2) Education should prepare you to take risks.
3) Education should be an adventure.

Research, risks, and adventures have been happening in Professor Thurtle's ​classroom since he started lecturing at the UW in 1997. As the Comparative History of Ideas director and associate professor, he has thoughtfully questioned
everything from the meaning of love and attraction to the politics of memory in his lectures. He also led a study abroad program in Iceland to study the history, anthropology, and unique geography of the island.

A student from that program says, "We hiked along paths described in medieval Icelandic sagas and discussed volcanism sitting on cooled lava flows. …Dr. Thurtle's integration of location and subject matter really made a difference in my ability to grasp the topics while living in a foreign culture."

Excellence in Teaching Award

Deepa Bhandaru Portrait

Deepa Bhandaru.

Deepa Bhandaru
Graduate Student Teaching Assistant, Political Science

As a TA for a variety of courses in the Department of Political Science since 2005, Deepa has been pushing students out of their comfort zones and encouraging them to see the world through a different lens.

Deepa's enthusiasm for her subject is contagious. One student says, "As someone who was often reluctant to speak in other classes, Deepa's method of teaching is encouraging and brings the whole class into the discussion. She is more of a facilitator than lecturer."

Deepa is also an advocate for first-generation college students, women, and minorities. She has mentored with the UW Dream Project and worked as a research assistant for the National Education for Women's Leadership Program. She'll soon be earning her PhD from the UW—and we will be proud to call her an alumna.

Outstanding Public Service Award

Katherine Beckett Portrait

Katherine Beckett.

Katherine Beckett
Professor, Law, Societies and Justice; Sociology

Professor Beckett is committed to ensuring that academic research serves the larger goals of a more just and equitable society. Critical to her efforts in achieving this is her willingness to put herself on the line and to cultivate connections outside of academia.

What is particularly noteworthy about Professor Beckett is her ability to marry her academic work with local policy initiatives. She has actively engaged entities across the criminal justice system so that her research and data capture the
actual reality of our systems. 

She has become a key resource to local communities and judges. Judge Mary Yu of the King County Superior Court says, "Professor Beckett's comprehensive work on the topic of race in our criminal justice system provides the framework for examining the myriad issues and solutions to the problem of racial disproportionality. Without a factual predicate based on solid data and interpretation, we simply could not even begin to address the topic in a credible way."

President's Medal

Bethany Danskin Portrait

Bethany Danskin.

Bethanny Danskin
President's Medal for the student who entered the University from a Washington community college.

Wanting the freedom to learn about the topics that interested her most, Bethanny chose to participate in the Running Start program at Bellevue Community College rather than attend a traditional high school. Having long held a passion for figuring out how things work, she began wondering if it would be possible to ever fully understand that which allows us to understand. And thus another neurobiology student was born at the UW.

A National Merit Scholar, Bethanny also received a Mary Gates Research Scholarship and an undergraduate training grant in computational neuroscience from the National Institutes of Health. She is a member of the Neurobiology Club, and worked as a volunteer for the Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking and Technology summer program.

Bethanny will be applying to graduate school in neurobiology with the eventual career goal of primary research.

Michelle Drews Portrait

Michelle Drews.

Michelle Drews
President's Medal for the student who has completed most of his/her degree requirements at the University.

With parents who are both Husky alumni, Michelle was born with some strong purple and gold bloodlines. The strength of those bloodlines proved too much for Michelle to resist, and she enrolled at the UW after graduating from Eastside
Catholic High School. She is graduating with majors in biochemistry and neurobiology and a minor in bioethics and humanities.

Michelle has participated extensively in undergraduate research since she was a freshman. She started with basic cell culture and chemistry, but now designs, executes and analyzes her own experiments, while also mentoring younger students.

Michelle hopes to spend the next year working in a neuroimaging research lab while preparing her medical school application.