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Awards of Excellence—and More

A&S Awards, Honors & Professorships

From Distinguished Teaching Awards to President's Medals, it's awards season at the UW. Check out the many UW Awards of Excellence presented to Arts & Sciences faculty, students, and alumni—and the many other national and international awards received over the last few months.

2015 Awards of Excellence
Other Awards, Honors, & Professorships

A&S Faculty, Students, and Alumni Receive 2015 Awards of Excellence

At a special celebration on June 11, the University of Washington presented Awards of Excellence to faculty, staff, students and distinguished alumni to recognize their exceptional contributions to the UW and the community. Among the recipients were ten from the College of Arts and Sciences.

The following is based on remarks made by Interim President Ana Mari Cauce and Interim Provost and Executive Vice President Gerald J. Baldasty.

Distinguished Teaching Award
Chris Laws, Senior Lecturer
Department of Astronomy
Chris Laws

After earning a PhD in astronomy from the UW in 2004, Chris Laws became associate director of the UW’s Manastash Ridge Observatory—the site of a telescope in the foothills near Ellensburg aimed at hands-on research training of our undergraduate astronomy majors.

Laws managed and did much of the work to renovate the observatory, making it a welcoming and functional facility, obtaining funding for new instrumentation, and spending many nights and most weekends during the summer at the observatory, working with undergraduates taking Astronomy 481, a capstone course.

For the more than two-dozen distinct offerings of a half-dozen different courses that Laws has taught, his near-perfect student evaluations remain unsurpassed in the Astronomy Department. This includes an innovative Interdisciplinary Writing Program course in the Department of English linked to the astronomy class for non-majors that Laws created.

“He is absolutely the most versatile, forward-looking and innovative member of the Astronomy teaching faculty, receives the highest evaluations and brings his A game each and every day,” says a colleague.

Distinguished Teaching Award for Innovation with Technology
Andrew Boydston, Assistant Professor
Jasmine Bryant, Lecturer
Colleen Craig, Lecturer
Stefan Stoll, Assistant Professor
Department of Chemistry
Chemistry faculty receiving the Distinguished Teaching Award for Innovation with Technology

The Department of Chemistry team is using technology to improve the student experience in both large introductory classes and in upper‐level classes.

Each team member has improved student learning in his or her courses by implementing instructional “mini‐modules,” video quiz keys, and online office hours and review sessions. A common thread in the team’s work is facilitating peer learning communities through technology, opening different pathways for the student to engage with the material.

The team’s impact has extended throughout the department, as thoughtful application of technology increases coordination and cooperation among instructional faculty. The team serves as a resource, vetting new technologies and advising Chemistry faculty on how best to adopt them, and by sharing modules, video mini-lectures, and tutorials.

Team members have shared their work across campus in collaboration with the Center for Teaching and Learning as well as nationally through presentations at American Chemical Society meetings and as Cottrell Scholars, an award that acknowledges excellence in both teaching and research for early career faculty in the physical sciences.

Excellence in Teaching Award
Matthew Junge, Graduate Student
Department of Mathematics
Matthew Junge

Originality is evident in Matt Junge’s teaching. He considers the student perspective and puts effort into making course material interesting and accessible for every level and type of learner.

In the inaugural offering of an online calculus class, Junge served for two quarters as a TA and inspired greater student engagement. Participation on the online discussion board jumped from 195 contributions in the first quarter to 711 contributions in the following quarter.

After becoming the department’s Lead TA, leaving him less instructional time, Junge volunteered at the Washington Correctional Center for Women to continue teaching. He also was a research advisor, volunteered as a mentor for the undergraduate student research program in mathematics, and served as a TA mentor to graduate students.

“He is engaging, exciting, practical, fair, knowledgeable, and just about any other synonym for fantastic,” writes a former student. “All things that are absolutely critical in teaching youths of any age.”

Distinguished Retiree Excellence in Community Service Award
Alvin Kwiram, Professor Emeritus
Department of Chemistry
Alvin Kwiram

Alvin Kwiram retired from the UW in 2007 and immediately returned to work as an invaluable volunteer, serving on and often chairing UW committees. His work has led to successful strategy and development projects in the departments of Chemistry and Physics and the Graduate School.

Kwiram also works to connect the UW with universities across the globe by serving on the Academic Advisory Board of the Worldwide University Network and by engaging the UW with its community of retirees through service on the Board of Directors of the UW Retirement Association.

To raise visibility for the UW’s outstanding research in clean energy production and storage, Kwiram founded and chaired a steering committee comprised of Seattle business and civic leaders, and led the group to host the 2007 International Conference on Molecular Photonics at the UW’s Friday Harbor Labs. The group continued to meet monthly for five years, developing several successful strategies that ultimately resulted in the Washington State legislature allocating $6 million in support of the UW’s Clean Energy Institute in 2013.

Kwiram has contributed much and influenced many for the greater good, leading an admirer to name a very generous donation to the University of Washington in Kwiram’s honor, creating the Alvin and Verla Kwiram Professorship in Chemistry.

University Faculty Lecture Award
Donald K. Grayson, Professor
Department of Anthropology
Donald  Grayson

Donald Grayson has been selected for his stellar accomplishments as a teacher, researcher, and leader in the Department of Anthropology as well as his contribution to the creation of the subdiscipline of archaeology known as zooarchaeology — a science that studies faunal remains and answers questions about how humans lived in their environments in the past.

His research on pikas, a small mammal, was crucial to getting them listed on the federal Endangered Species Act, and his research on Neanderthals—his discovery that diet did not cause their demise—is a matter of enduring public interest. His work related to the Pleistocene extinctions of large mammals in North America, arguing that they were not caused by human activity, also received significant media attention.

A faculty member since 1975, Grayson has received numerous prestigious honors that testify to the extremely high regard in which his scientific peers hold his work, including being named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

President’s Medalist
Sara Leonetti
BA, Philosophy, History


Sara Leonetti

When Sara Leonetti came to the University, she was undecided about what field of study to pursue.  She eventually chose to prepare for a career as a public interest attorney, focusing on women’s rights. She majored in philosophy to sharpen the critical thinking and argumentation skills she would need to become an effective attorney, and she majored in history to better understand and challenge certain race, gender, and sex stereotypes.

Leonetti says that the most influential aspect of her undergraduate career was participating all four years as a member of the UW Mock Trial team.

The 2015 team came in second to Yale at the American Mock Trial Association’s national championship tournament, just missing an opportunity to battle Harvard for the national title. But Leonetti walked away with a personal victory, becoming the first attorney in collegiate mock trial history to win a perfect 30-rank attorney award at the national level.

For the past academic year Leonetti has been a mentor in the Youth Program at the Refugee Women’s Alliance (REWA) in Seattle, where she tutors the children of immigrant and refugee families. She recently received the Department of History’s Thomas Power Prize for Outstanding Senior.

Alumnus Summa Laude Dignatus
The Honorable Norman D. Dicks
BA, Political Science, 1963; JD, 1968
Norm Dicks

A true statesman and native son, former U.S. Representative Norm Dicks has spent his career serving the people and protecting the environment of our great state of Washington.

He began his career as a legislative aide to Senator Warren G. Magnuson and became his chief of staff at the age of 28. In 1976, Dicks beat three competitors in the Democratic primary and won the general election to replace Representative Floyd Hicks, the longtime 6th district incumbent. He then went on to win reelection seventeen times, serving as a Member of Congress over a span of 36 years and six Presidents.

Dicks prioritized representing his own district, but he often lent his clout and experience to areas throughout the state, earning him a de facto title of “Washington’s Third Senator.” His accomplishments include creation of a vast array of environmental, military, and economic-development projects.

After retiring from Congress, Dicks joined Van Ness Feldman law firm where he advises the Puyallup Tribe, Boeing, and other clients. He also serves on the boards of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife, and chairs the Outreach and Advocacy Committee of the UW Medicine Board.

Dicks' commitment to public service and exceptional leadership have made a lasting impact on the lives of Washingtonians, residents in the greater Pacific Northwest region and across the nation. For his extraordinary contributions, his alma mater, with great pride and admiration, honors Norman D. Dicks as the 2015 Alumnus Summa Laude Dignatus.

Other Awards, Honors, & Professorships

Honorary Awards

W. Lance Bennett, professor of political science, Ruddick C. Lawrence Professor of Communication, and director of the Center for Communication and Civic Engagement, was named an ICA Fellow by the International Communication Association, in recognition of distinguished scholarly contributions to the broad field of communication.

Kam Wing Chan, professor of geography, has received a Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Department of Geography and Program Planning, University of Toronto.

Douglas Collins, associate professor of French, and Hélène Vilavella-Collins, senior lecturer in French, received the prestigious Chevaliers dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques from the French government. The award recognizes those who have rendered eminent service to French education and have contributed actively to the prestige of French culture. 

Rebecca Cummins, professor of photomedia in the School of Art + Art History + Design, is a recipient of a 2015 Artist Trust Fellowship in the realm of Emerging Fields/Cross Disciplinary work. The fellowship is awarded to “practicing artists of exceptional talent and ability.”

Mark Ellis, professor of geography, was elected to the Washington State Academy of Sciences (WSAS). All WSAS members, nominated and elected by their peers, are “outstanding leaders in their respective fields with a commitment to science in service to the public.”

Anne Greenbaum, professor of applied mathematics, was named a 2015 Fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics for her outstanding contributions to theoretical and numerical linear algebra.

Juan Felipe Herrera, visiting professor of American ethnic studies, was appointed Poet Laureate of the United States—the first Chicano to receive this honor. For more about Herrera and this honor, see the June 11, 2015 article in UW Today .

David Kaplan, professor of physics and director of the Institute for Nuclear Theory, was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, in recognition of broad contributions to particle physics, nuclear physics, and cosmology.

Marsha Linehan, professor of psychology and director of the Behavioral Research and Therapy Clinics, received the James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award from the Association for Psychological Science, which honors individuals for their lifetime of significant intellectual achievements in applied psychological research and their impact on a critical problem in society at large.

William Moody, professor of biology, received the 2015 Mortar Board Excellence in Teaching Award from the UW’s Tolo Chapter. The award comes 29 years after Moody received a UW Distinguished Teaching Award, demonstrating a sustained record of outstanding teaching and mentorship.

Tim Nyerges, professor of geography, was named a Fellow of the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science, and received the Aangeenbrug Award from the Geographic Information Science and Systems Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers, which honors senior scholars for sustained and effective research contributions in geographic information science and/or systems.

Helen O'Toole, chair and professor of painting and drawing and Jack and Grace Pruzan Endowed Faculty Fellow in the School of Art + Art History + Design, is a winner of a 2015 Contemporary Northwest Art Award. Her work will be featured in an exhibition at the Portland Art Museum from October 2015 through January 2016.

Yuichi Shoda, professor of psychology, received the Golden Goose Award from the Association of American Universities together with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Science Coalition, and other agencies. The award is presented annually to groups of researchers whose seemingly obscure, federally-funded research had led to major breakthroughs. Shoda is one of three psychologists honored for a famous longitudinal research project that has come to be called “the marshmallow study,” which looks at the ability of children 4 to 5 years old to delay gratification. Golden Goose Award winners are honored at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., where Members of Congress of both parties speak to the importance of the award and of federal funding of scientific research.

Stefan Stoll, assistant professor of chemistry, was named a 2015 Cottrell Scholar by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement. The award is presented to early career scientists who are outstanding teacher-scholars with innovative research programs and academic leadership skills.

Sarah Stuteville, artist in residence in the Department of Communication, received the Journalism Educator of the Year Award from the Western Washington Chapter of Society of Professional Journalists for her “exceptional contribution to journalism education and the standards of the profession through her work as co-founder of The Seattle Globalist and artist in residence at the University of Washington.”

Billie Swalla, professor of biology and director of Friday Harbor Labs, received the Outstanding Diversity Commitment Award from the UW College of the Environment, recognizing her efforts in promoting diversity and inclusion in the College of the Environment.

Quintard Taylor, professor of history and Scott and Dorothy Bullitt Chair of American History, was the grand winner at the 2015 Washington State Jefferson Awards, for his work establishing and developing

Keiko Torii, professor of biology, won the prestigious Saruhashi Prize, awarded annually to an outstanding female scientist who also has distinguished herself as a mentor of early-career women.  Torii was also named a Fellow of American Society of Plant Biologists in recognition of distinguished and long-term contributions to plant biology and service to the Society.

Tatiana Toro, professor of mathematics and Robert R. and Elaine F. Phelps Endowed Professor, was named a Guggenheim Foundation fellow. The honor includes a grant to pursue a creative project of six to twelve months in length.  Toro’s research focuses on mathematical analysis and geometric measure theory.

Publication Awards

Megan Francis, assistant professor of political science, won two book prizes for Civil Rights and the Making of the Modern American State:  the American Political Science Association's 2015 Ralph J. Bunche Award,  awarded annually for the best scholarly work in political science that explores the phenomenon of ethnic and cultural pluralism; and the W.E.B. DuBois Distinguished Book Award from the National Conference of Black Political Scientists.  

Juan Felipe Herrera, visiting professor of American ethnic studies, won the Pura Belpré book award, presented annually by the Association for Library Service to Children to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. 

Robert Pekkanen, professor of international studies, has been awarded the ISS/Oxford Prize for Modern Japanese Studies for 2014 for the article "The Logic of Ministerial Selection: Electoral System and Cabinet Appointments in Japan." 

Kenneth B. Pyle, professor of international studies, has been awarded the Charles Gates Prize from the Washington State Historical Society for “Hiroshima and the Historians,” an article in the Pacific Northwest Quarterly (Summer 2013, vol. 104, no. 3).

Rebecca Thorpe, assistant professor of political science, won the Richard Neustadt Award from the Presidency and Executive Politics section of the American Political Science Association for her book, The American Warfare State: The Domestic Politics of Military Spending. The award is given annually for the best book on executive politics.  

Chair and Professorship Appointments

Susan Casteras, professor of art history in the School of Art + Art History + Design, has been appointed Endowed Professor of American Art History, for a three-year term.

Raymond Jonas, professor of history, received the Colonel Donald W. Wiethuechter, USA. Ret. Endowed Faculty Fellowship in Military History, for a two-year term.

Other Awards

Katherine Beckett, professor of sociology and law, societies, and justice, and Canadian radio journalists Sam Fenn and Gordon Katic, won documentary of the year at the National Campus and Community Radio Association Awards for their radio documentary, “Superpredators Revisited.” Read more about this project in an April 2015 Perspectives article.

Amie McNeel, professor of 3D4M, and Mark Zirpel, Chihuly Endowed Chair in Glass, both in the School of Art + Art History + Design, are included in the May 2015 issue of New Glass Review 36.  The publication is the result of an annual competition. 3D4M MFA student Anna Mlasowsky is also included.

David Perkel, professor of biology and otolaryngology, has been selected as a Bloedel Scholar by the Virginia Merrill Bloedel Hearing Research Center at the UW, to pursue his research on song learning in birds and auditory processing in mice.

Brian Reed, professor of English and comparative literature and chair of the Department of English, has been appointed to the Editorial Board of Contemporary Literature, the top journal for the study of English language literature.

Frederic Wan, professor emeritus of applied mathematics, now has a conference room in Lewis Hall named in his honor. The Frederic Wan Conference Room was dedicated on May 5, 2015 to acknowledge Wan’s great service and contributions to the Department of Applied Mathematics, including serving as chair of the department from 1983 to 1988 before becoming the College’s Divisional Dean for the Natural Sciences from 1988 to 1992.

Fei Xia, associate professor of linguistics, has received an IBM Faculty Award, given to faculty with an outstanding reputation for contributions to their field. The award is intended to foster research collaboration and/or curriculum innovation.