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Prison Education, Fossil Naming, and Other Honors

Story by
Nancy Joseph
An Advocate for Prison Education
An Astronaut Joins Hall of Fame
A Whale of an Honor
Faculty Artwork Takes First Place
Husky 100
Other Awards, Honors, and Professorships


An Advocate for Prison Education

When Gillian Harkins started volunteering with University Beyond Bars (UBB), she noticed that many UW faculty and graduate students did work related to prisons and education but few spoke to each other about it.  So Harkins, associate professor of English, started the Transformative Education Behind Bars (TEBB) working group through the Simpson Center for the Humanities. The goal was to encourage collaboration in developing course offerings for prison education programs while thinking critically about accountability to the students being served.

Gillian Harkins

“I think those of us at the UW do have a lot to offer, but only if we find ways to do this work collaboratively,” says Gillian Harkins.

That was ten years ago. Harkins has since worked with a wide range of leaders, students, faculty, staff, and activists across a variety of programs, campuses, and communities to help build coalitions dedicated to increasing access to higher education for those who face the greatest barriers to it. For this collaborative work, Harkins recently received the Barclay Simpson Prize for Scholarship in Public from the Simpson Center, which carries an award of $10,000.

“What so impressed the board is Gillian Harkins’ profound dual commitment to both building programs and networks to make higher education available to incarcerated adults and to writing about it,” says Kathy Woodward, director of the Simpson Center and professor of English. “She is known across the country not only for her deeply collaborative work in Washington state but also for her influential writing on prison education.”

Harkins is currently leading the Simpson Center’s 2018-2019 Prison Education Collaboration, part of a longer-term project that gathers teachers from across campuses and prisons to create a model for inside-outside collaboration. The goal is to support the work of other prison education groups, including programs founded by currently incarcerated individuals.

“I think those of us at the UW do have a lot to offer, but only if we find ways to do this work collaboratively,” says Harkins. “It’s not an intrinsic good to have resources and bring them somewhere. You have to think of and center the goals of the community you are partnering with and ask: who is benefiting?”

Excerpted from an April 1, 2019 article published by the Simpson Center for the Humanities.


An Astronaut Joins Hall of Fame

Growing up in small-town Missouri, Janet Kavandi had a fascination with the night sky. She dreamed of being an astronaut but never thought it would happen. “When I was young, space flight was a cold war competition between two world powers, and the only astronauts were male military test pilots," she explains.

Janet Kavandi in a bright orange spacesuit and helmet during a shuttle mission countdown test.

Janet Kavandi settles into her seat inside Space Shuttle Endeavor during a test simulation of the final launch countdown. Media credit: NASA

By the time Kavandi (PhD, chemistry, 1990) finished college, more opportunities had opened up and in 1994, she was selected as a member of the 15th class of U.S. astronauts. Earlier this year she was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, joining two previous honorees from the UW College of Arts and Sciences, Richard F. Gordon Jr. (BS, Chemistry, 1957) and George Pinky Nelson (MS, PhD, Astronomy, 1974, 1978).

In a 1998 story for Perspectives newsletter, Kavandi recalled her first launch, on a space shuttle headed for space station Mir. "I had been told by other astronauts not to assume you were going anywhere until the solid rocket boosters ignited, so as the countdown was proceeding, I was almost expecting a hold or an abort,” she said. “When the main engines ignited six seconds before liftoff, I was thinking, `Hey, this might just happen!' Then the solid rocket boosters went and shot us off the pad. I just started laughing and crying all at the same time. It was a very special moment.”

Kavandi would go on to fly into space two more times and log more than 13.1 million miles in 535 orbits of Earth. She then took on a leadership role at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, serving as the director of Flight Crew Operations. She currently serves as director of NASA’s John H. Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

Being inducted into the astronaut hall of fame is “a huge honor," says Kavandi. Of course, so was flying on three NASA missions. “I had the best job in the world flying into space,” she says. “Nothing compares to that.”

This article is excerpted from a February 27, 2019 Columns magazine story and an October 1998 Perspectives newsletter story.  


A Whale of an Honor

Elizabeth Nesbitt, curator of invertebrate paleontology and micropaleontology at the Burke Museum, has been recognized in a big way. Smithsonian scientists have named a newly discovered species of long-extinct whale in her honor.

Liz Nesbitt holding a skull-size fossil at the Burke Museum.

Elizabeth Nesbitt, in whose honor a newly described whale fossil was named. Media credit: University of Washington

A fossil of the whale, dating back about 33 million years, reveals a whale species notable for both its lack of teeth and of baleen — rows of flexible hair-like plates that filter relatively tiny prey from gulps of ocean water. An article in the journal Current Biology explains that the lack of these features "represents a surprising intermediate stage between modern filter-feeding whales and their toothed ancestors."

The species has been named Maiabalaena nesbittae. Carlos Mauricio Peredo, the lead author of a study of the fossils explains that Maiabalena combines the words for “mother” and “whale,” and nesbittae honors Nesbitt “for her lifetime of contribution to the paleontology of the Pacific Northwest and her mentorship and collegiality at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.”

Nesbitt, also an associate professor of earth and space sciences, studies fossils throughout the western North America. She works primarily with marine fossils, investigating, variously, the most recent major extinction event of marine fauna, which occurred over 30 million years ago, the biotic communities around hydrocarbon seeps, the microbiota of Puget Sound, and how implications of modern microbiota called foraminfera are key indicators of the Sound’s health today.

In addition to her research, Nesbitt is committed to public outreach, and as curator of invertebrate paleontology and micropaleontology at the Burke Museum, she has put together exhibits on everything from the Pacific Northwest’s seismic history to fanciful imaginings of fossils brought to life.

Learn more about Maiabalaena nesbittae​ and the clues it provides.


Faculty Artwork Takes First Place

The jury has spoken. An oil painting by Philip Govedare, UW professor of painting and drawing in the School of Art + Art History + Design (SoA+AH+D), received the first-place Juror’s Choice award in the Whatcom Museum’s Bellingham National 2019 Juried Art Exhibition and Awards earlier this year.

landscape painting by Philip Govedare

"Artifact" is the Philip Govedare painting that earned top honors at Whatcom Museum's juried art exhibition.

Fifty-seven artists from across the US were chosen for the exhibition by guest juror Bruce Guenther, an art historian and independent curator who has served as curator at the Portland Art Museum, Orange County Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and Seattle Art Museum. In addition to Govedare, the exhibition featured works by SoA+AH+D alumni Sharon Birzer (MFA 1995), Emily Gherard (MFA 2004), and Cable Griffith (MFA 2002).

Govedare’s award-winning artwork, “Artifact,” is a landscape painting. The artist explains that his landscapes are derived from sites that are both visually compelling and charged with implications of use, development, and ownership. The work, he says, “comes from a perspective of anxiety about the condition of landscape and nature in our world today.”


A Third of "Husky 100" from CAS

Each spring, the UW announces its Husky 100, recognizing 100 undergraduate and graduate students who are making the most of their time at the UW. Of the students honored for 2019, 37 are from the College of Arts & Sciences, from undergraduates planning academic conferences to doctoral students promoting diversity in their field. To learn more, visit the UW’s Husky 100 webpage, which features photos and brief profiles of all 100 students. Congratulations to the honorees for this well-deserved recognition!


Husky 100 honorees from the College of Arts & Sciences include (from left) Peji Hota Wakhan, Rodha Sheikh, Miha Sarani, and Marí Ramirez.


Other Awards, Honors, and Professorships



Honorary Awards

Chris Bretherton, professor of applied mathematics and professor of atmospheric sciences, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Bretherton is one of 100 new members elected for their “distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.” Bretherton studies how clouds form and change over time and how to better represent these processes in global climate and weather-forecasting models. His research also looks at the role that clouds may play in climate change.

Zhen-Qing Chen, professor of mathematics and Victor Klee Faculty Fellow, was awarded the 2019 Itô Prize (jointly with Masatoshi Fukushima, Osaka University), which is awarded every two years to recognize significant contributions to the advancement of the theory or applications of stochastic processes over the corresponding period.

Brandi Cossairt, associate professor of chemistry, received the National Fresenius Award from Phi Lambda Upsilon. The award recognizes outstanding chemists whose early achievements are of an exceptionally high quality and who show great promise for distinguished careers in chemistry.

David Ginger, Alvin L. and Verla R. Kwiram Professor of Chemistry, Sotiris Xantheas, affiliate professor of chemistry, and Lynne Riddiford, professor emeritus of biology, were elected Members of the Washington State Academy of Sciences.

Benjamin Mako Hill, assistant professor of communication, received the second annual General Symbiosis Award at the Pacific Symposium on Biocomputing. The award is given to "a scientist working in any field who has shared data beyond the expectations of their field.”

Ralina Joseph, associate professor of communication, has been named an inaugural Mellon/ACLS Scholars & Society Fellow. The fellowship offers faculty who teach and advise PhD students opportunities to serve as ambassadors for humanities scholarship beyond the academy and deepen their support for doctoral curricular innovation on their campuses. Joseph received the fellowship for her project, Interrupting Privilege, an intergenerational, skills-building, and anti-racist space for dialogue and critique. The UW Alumni Associated cited the same project — and Joseph’s ability to bring together UW students and alumni to explore race and equity — when it chose Joseph for the UWAA Distinguished Service Award. The award recognizes outstanding service or devotion to the Alumni Association, the University of Washington, and the alumni community.

Sarah Keller, professor of chemistry, received the 2019 Cottrell Scholars STAR (Science Teaching and Research) Award from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, which recognizes the outstanding research and educational accomplishments of members of the community of Cottrell Scholars.

Munira Khalil, professor of chemistry, was named a fellow of the American Physical Society.

Patricia Kuhl, co-director of the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS), professor of speech and hearing sciences,  and Bezos Family Foundation Endowed Chair for Early Childhood Learning, was awarded a 2018 Distinguished Scientific Contributions Award from the American Psychological Association. The award recognizes scientists for their excellence in theoretical or empirical research in the field of psychology and is considered by psychologists to be one the highest honors for scientific achievement. Kuhl was honored for her “seminal contributions to understanding the foundations of speech perception in human infancy and the impact of early speech perception on later language acquisition.”

Margaret Levi, professor emerita of political science, received the 2019 Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science from the Skytte Foundation. The prize is a lifetime achievement award for a scholar who, in the view of the committee, has made the most valuable contributions to political science. Levi’s work often revisits the sources of legitimacy behind state coercion and coercion exercised by other collectives. She conducted much of the research at the UW and now serves as director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and professor of political science at Stanford.

Alshakim Nelson and Cody Schlenker, both assistant professors of chemistry, received CAREER Awards from the National Science Foundation. CAREER awards are presented to junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through research, education, and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations. Nelson also received a 3M Faculty Award.

Sharlene Santana and Verónica di Stilio, associate professors of biology, have received Fulbright Scholarships. The Fulbright Program aims to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries, and is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government.

Kristina Scharp, assistant professor of communication, received two awards from the Central States Communication Association: the Dawn O. Braithwaite Award for Qualitative Research (Interpersonal and Family Communication Division), presented to the qualitative paper with the highest evaluative ranking, and the Pearson and Nelson Outstanding New Teacher Award, presented to individuals early in their professional career who have shown distinction as teachers. 

Julie K. Stein, executive director of the Burke Museum, received Seattle Business magazine's Executive Excellence Award. The award “recognizes Washington executives who have demonstrated extraordinary, consistent leadership in guiding their companies or nonprofit organizations to success.” Stein has been at the Burke’s helm throughout the planning, fundraising, and construction of the Burke’s new facilities, which will open later this year.

Abigail Swann, associate professor of biology and atmospheric sciences, was named an Ecological Society of America (ESA) Early Career Fellow, an honor for individuals early in their careers who have begun making, and show promise of continuing to make, outstanding contributions to a wide range of fields served by ESA. 

Ashleigh Theberge, assistant professor of chemistry, received a Beckman Young Investigator Award from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, and the Maximizing Investigators' Research Award from the National Institutes of Health. Theberge’s research group develops microscale devices to better understand cell signaling in human diseases such as asthma, as well as other technologies designed to be user friendly so they can be used widely in clinical and biological research.

Tatiana Toro, Craig McKibben & Sarah Merner Professor in Mathematics, was named a Simons Fellow in Mathematics by the Simons Foundation. The award enables recipients to focus solely on research for the long periods often necessary for significant advances.

Mary Pat Wenderoth, principal lecturer in the Department of Biology, received the Claude Bernard Distinguished Lectureship Award from the American Physiological Society, which “recognizes an established investigator with a history of excellence in education, who is making outstanding contributions to teaching and learning.”


Publication Awards

Devon Peña, professor of anthropology and American ethnic studies, was awarded Outstanding Academic Title designation by Choice Reviews in Academic Publishing for his book Mexican-Origin Foods, Foodways, and Social Movements. The list this year includes 455 titles out of more than 4800 reviewed and more than 21,000 titles submitted to Choice during this period.

Thomas Rothvoss, associate professor of mathematics and computer science & engineering, was awarded the 2018 Fulkerson Prize, which is awarded jointly every three years by the Mathematical Optimization Society and the American Mathematical Society for outstanding papers in the area of discrete mathematics.

Megan Ybarra, associate professor of geography, received the Outstanding Publication Award from the American Association of Geographers' Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group, for her book Green Wars: Conservation and Decolonization in the Maya Forest (University of California Press). The award recognizes an individual who publishes a book or journal article that exemplifies creativity and rigor, and has the potential to be seminal in its field.


Chair & Professorship Appointments

Timothy J. Bond, professor of drama and head of the Professional Actor Training Program, was appointed to the Donald E. Petersen Endowed Professorship in Drama.

Amanda Elaine Doxtater, assistant professor of Scandinavian studies, was appointed to the Barbro Osher Endowed Chair of Swedish Studies.

Olivia N. Gunn, assistant professor of Scandinavian studies, was appointed to the Sverre Arestad Endowed Chair in Norwegian Studies.

Gary Handwerk, professor of English and comparative literature, cinema & media, and director of the Program on the Environment, was named the Bruce J. Leven Endowed Chair for Environmental Studies.

Lynn M. Thomas, professor of history, was appointed to the Floyd U. Jones Family Endowed Chair in Drama.

Cuong Vu, professor and chair of jazz studies in the School of Music, was appointed to the Floyd and Delores Jones Chair in the Arts.


Other Honors

Kemi Adeyemi, assistant professor of gender, women & sexuality studies, received a Career Enhancement Fellowship for Junior Faculty from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation.

Bing Brunton, assistant professor of biology, received a $7.5 million Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) Grant Since its inception in 1985, the tri-service MURI program has successfully convened teams of investigators to combine insights from multiple disciplines to both facilitate the growth of newly emerging technologies and address unique problem sets. 

Ben Marwick, associate professor of anthropology, has been named a 2019-2020 TIER Faculty Fellow by Project TIER, which promotes the integration of principles and practices related to transparency and replicability in the research training of social scientists.”