2020 Faculty & Staff Awards

Created in 2010, the annual School of Liberal Arts faculty and staff awards recognize the the amazing talent of those who work diligently to promote the vision of the school.

Outstanding Faculty Research Award

Professor Marcello Canuto, Department of Anthropology, Tulane University

Professor Marcello Canuto is the 2020 winner of the SLA Faculty Research Award. Professor Canuto is a world-renowned archaeologist whose expertise is the sociopolitical organization of the ancient Maya. He has both an academic and administrative appointment. He is Professor of Anthropology (for which he teaches classes on the archaeology of Mesoamerica, as well as a wildly popular class on hoaxes in archaeology. On the administrative side, he is the fifth Director of the storied Middle American Research Institute (MARI), founded at Tulane in 1924, and one of the world’s premier institutes dedicated to the study of Mexico and Central America.

Over his career at Tulane, Marcello has won several hundred thousand dollars in research grants, and just this year he secured almost a million dollars in funding from the Hitz Foundation to support a complete overhaul of MARI’s GIS (Geographic Information System) laboratory. These improvements promise to make MARI’s lab one of the premier GIS laboratories in the Gulf South.

Among Marcello’s most important and highly publicized works is his co-authored 2018 paper published in Science (a top-tier journal) reporting the surprising results of his research team’s LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) surveys in Guatemala. This groundbreaking contribution detailed the discovery of dozens of previously unknown ancient cities in lowland Guatemala via the use of LiDAR technology. LiDAR “sees” previously unseen settlements by penetrating dense jungle plant cover from the air. Among the many findings reveled in the paper, Prof. Canuto, Tulane researcher Francisco Estrada-Belli, and their team discovered 61,480 ancient structures, yielding an estimated population size in northern Guatemala of around seven to eleven million people during the height of the Late Classic period (ca. 650-800 CE).

Since arriving at Tulane in 2009, Marcello has published 9 peer-reviewed journal articles, 13 chapters in edited volumes, 16 papers for academic conference proceedings, 11 technical reports, and has given 67 presentations at academic conferences in both national and international venues. His innovative fieldwork promises to bring more renown to Tulane and to SLA. We are proud to recognize him with this award.

Outstanding Faculty Service Award

Professor Susann Lusnia, Department of Classical Studies, Tulane University

This year’s Outstanding Service award is presented to Susann Lusnia, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Classical Studies. Susann has a long and impressive record of service to her department, the university, and SLA. After a long stint as the first Executive Director of Tulane’s Center for Engaged Learning and Teaching (CELT), Susann took on the chairship of the Department of Classical Studies. In her role as chair, she has successfully helped to mentor new junior faculty, and strives to create community in Classical Studies even during COVID-19 by hosting regular departmental happy hours on Zoom.

While many would find a department chairship more than enough in terms of service, Susann has taken on a number of other roles in SLA. She was instrumental in creating our new Lurcy Affiliated Fellowship at the American Academy in Rome, a fantastic opportunity for one Tulane faculty member per year to spend a month in residence at the American Academy in Rome. A former Fellow and a former Director of the AAR Summer School in Classical Studies, Susann continues to serve as Tulane’s liaison to the American Academy. Susann has also served SLA on the Executive Committee, and was recently elected to be the Faculty Secretary, so we will have her sage presence with us “on stage” at faculty meetings this fall.

As if all of this weren’t enough, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Susann agreed, with enthusiasm, to co-chair our SLA Faculty Task Force on teaching during the crisis. She agreed to this appointment even at the last minute at the end of the harrowing semester we all experienced. Her appointment was in recognition of her many skills—from pedagogy to research to faculty mentoring and engagement. Susann is a thoughtful, rational presence, and she has the trust and respect of the faculty. She genuinely cares about improving life at the university for everyone and is incredibly generous with her own time in working towards that goal.

The April Brayfield Outstanding Teaching Award

Roxanne Dávila, Department of Spanish & Portuguese, Tulane University

Roxanne Dávila had one of the toughest jobs in mid-March 2020, namely: how do you transform 50 sections of the basic Spanish courses to an online-only environment? How do you calm over 800 students? Support those instructors? All the while, teaching your own courses and being attentive to the changes on the horizon?

Roxanne Dávila manages, supervises, and coordinates the largest language program on Tulane’s campus, which requires providing mentorship and training to 24 instructors, including graduate students and adjuncts. She creates all curriculum, assessment tools, and supplementary material for nearly 100 Spanish language sections per year.

Roxanne’s teaching evaluations throughout the crisis were consistently stellar. Wrote one: “Prof Dávila was extremely understanding of the stressors and challenges of the switch to online classes. She remained extremely positive and curated the class to be a time of relaxed discussion while still learning and practicing our Spanish. Also, she worked extremely hard on her reformatting and made it very clear what was expected of us with the changes. I always looked forward to going to this online class as I knew it would be a time of passionate learning in a relaxed and supportive group.”

Beyond the pandemic, Roxanne shows her clear dedication to the pedagogy and training of graduate students and adjuncts in teaching basic language courses. She has special interests Roxanne came to Tulane in 2010. She became director of the Spanish language program, the largest in the School in 2018. She holds an undergraduate degree from Harvard and a PhD from Yale in Latin American Literature.

Christopher Dunn, the Chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, observes: “Since becoming the Director of the Spanish Language Program, Roxanne has become a true leader within our department. With the pandemic crisis, her leadership abilities have been put into high relief with her tireless commitment to pedagogical excellence as instruction abruptly shifted to virtual space.

Outstanding Staff Award

Elizabeth Marie Reyna, Department of Classical Studies, Tulane University

Elizabeth Marie Reyna, or Liz, as we know her, is the winner of the 2020 SLA Staff Award. Liz came to Tulane in August 2011 as Administrative Secretary for Classical Studies. After three years of excellent service, she was promoted to Executive Secretary, the position she currently holds.

Liz has modernized the Classical Studies office workflow by digitizing documents and filing systems, and has brought our website into the new platform. With an eye for detail, Liz keeps the faculty well informed about the budget, navigates the Concur system like a pro, and manages departmental expenses and supply needs with efficiency. She even gave faculty work spaces the “Marie Kondo treatment” long before that was a cool trend.

Liz is responsible for the logistics and marketing of all department events, including the annual Dennis A. Georges Lecture in Hellenic Culture. For these events, she has developed checklists and time-lines that she revises each year as needed. Liz does more than reserve the event spaces and set up receptions, she attends the events, which means staying on campus well beyond the usual 5 pm end of the workday. Lecture coordinator last year, Emilia Oddo, offers these remarks: “On multiple occasions, I have been impressed at the positive impact that Liz has had on our speakers, who have praised her poise, her wit, her helpfulness.”

According to the department nomination letter “The most important aspect of Liz’s presence in our office is that she sparks joy.” As Allison Emmerson comments: “Liz never overreacts or creates stress. Even in a high-pressure situation, she finds ways to do whatever needs to be done without any drama. She knows how to prioritize and how to separate tasks that are important from those that are not, and she facilitates the work of the faculty so we can focus on the important things.”

Liz brings a warmth and bubbly enthusiasm to everything she does, embracing life among classicists with unparalleled gusto, referring to her faculty as the “Classy Classicists.” She has also made New Orleans her true home, dancing with the Muff-a-lottas each Mardi Gras season, and she challenges us all to do more and be better people, especially in her work for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Liz truly embodies the famous phrase from Horace, Odes 1.11: carpe diem –Pluck the day, as she lives and works in the moment, not frustrated about what might be or has been.

Mellon Assistant Professor in the Humanities

Professor Cheryl Narumi Naruse, Department of English, Tulane University

Cheryl Narumi Naruse is the new Mellon Assitant Professor in the Humanities. Professor Naruse’s research profile, innovative teaching, and commitment to the department, university, and field make her an obvious choice for the award. Professor Naruse specializes in Anglophone literatures with a focus on Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands as well as the Asian diaspora. Her work examines literary and cultural production within the context of late capitalism and postcolonialism yoking together theoretical, historical, and literary discourses. Her cutting-edge work extends the borders of postcolonial studies to consider advanced capitalist regions like Singapore and Southeast Asia more broadly, a move that leads to an important rethinking of postcolonialism in the context of late capitalism.

When Professor Naruse arrived at Tulane in 2017, she had already made significant contributions to her field in articles on such topics as Singaporean identity in the film Perth, Singapore as a “corporate nation,” and neoliberal subject formation in Hwee Hwee Tan’s Mammon Inc. Since arriving at Tulane, she has coedited a special issue of Social Text Online–“Global Asia: Critical Aesthetics and Alternative Globalities”–and a special issue of Ariel–“Literature and Postcolonial Capitalism.” Professor Naruse thus provides forums not only for her own work but the work of other up-and-coming scholars in her field. In addition to these projects, she has published on Goh Poh Seng’s If We Dream Too Long, Lydia Kwa’s Pulse, the novels of Maxine Hong Kingston, Naguib Mahfouz, and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, and on topics like Asian American transnationalism and other areas in postcolonial and diasporic Asian studies.

Professor Naruse is currently nearing the completion of what promises to be a groundbreaking monograph, Postcolonial Capitalism: Setting Singapore as Global Asia, an intense and rigorous engagement with postcolonial theory in light of literary and cultural production in the advanced capitalist setting of Singapore and the Singaporean diaspora. What Professor Naruse pulls together in this work is a complex process of neoliberal nationalist incorporation as manifested in and questioned by recent Singaporean novels and films. The work has important implications for Asian studies, postcolonial theory, analyses of neoliberal capitalism, theories of nationhood, and, the rethinking of the literary canon.

Moreover, Professor Naruse is a significant force in her field and subfield. Based on her publications and numerous conference presentations, Professor Naruse currently serves as the South East Asia section review editor for The Year’s Work in English Studies. This appointment is indicative of Professor Naruse’s visibility in her field. She is also a founding member of the Modern Language Association’s Southeast Asian and Southeast Asian Diasporic Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies Forum and currently serves on its executive committee. Of very special note is Professor Naruse’s contribution to the larger field of literary studies: Professor Naruse did extremely important work in restructuring the MLA’s Delegate Assembly and as chair of the Delegate Assembly’s Organizing Committee. Her leadership is described by MLA Executive Director Paula Krebs as “transformative” and “extraordinary.”

Professor Naruse brings this same energy and insight to her teaching and service at Tulane University. In just three years, she has served on the department’s executive committee, on a creative writing events committee, on a PoP search committee, on a committee to rethink the major, on the department’s Strategic Planning Committee, and on and on and on. But such a list does not capture the many incidental contributions Professor Naruse makes to the direction of the department in meetings and informal conversations. And Professor Naruse is a superb teacher. In her courses Professor Naruse brings her innovative research agenda to Tulane’s students, challenging them to rethink their understanding of Asia and the Asian diaspora, the innate goodness of the free market, and American exceptionalism.

A leader in her field and a generous, insightful colleague, Professor Cheryl Narumi Naruse is the ideal candidate for the Mellon Assistant Professor in the Humanities.

Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities

Professor Jesmyn Ward, Department of English, Tulane University

Jesmyn Ward is the new Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities. Professor Ward is a writer, novelist and Professor of English who joined the faculty in 2014. She is the first woman to win two National Book Awards for fiction.

A native of DeLisle, Mississippi, Professor Ward was the first in her family to attend college. In 2005 she was stranded in a farm field with her family after the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina destroyed their DeLisle home. This experience informed Ward’s first novel "Where the Line Bleeds.” Though it would win multiple awards and acclaim, including an Essence magazine Book Club Selection, the novel was rejected numerous times by publishers, causing Ward to consider giving up writing to enroll in a nursing program.

After "Where the Line Bleeds," Professor Ward published five more works, including "Salvage the Bones” in 2011 which was a National Book Award winner. In 2013, her book “Men We Reaped” was on the shortlist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography. The New York Times named it one of the best 50 memories of the last 50 years.

In 2016, the American Academy of Arts and Letters selected Professor Ward for the Strauss Living Award.

Her 2017 novel, “Sing, Unburied, Sing” won the Ainsfield-Wolf Book Award and the National Book Award. The New York Times, the Washington Post and Time Magazine all picked it as one of the best books of the year.

In 2017, Professor Ward was the recipient of a MacArthur "genius grant" from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Professor Ward was named by Time Magazine to the Time 100 in 2018, an annual list of the most influential people in the world.

Her latest book, “Navigate Your Stars” is based on her speech at Tulane’s commencement in 2018. Persistence is one of the themes of “the book as Ward shares the story of her experience as a Southern black woman and all the challenges she and her family faced – and later overcame with tenacity and determination.

“Weather the setbacks until you meet the gatekeeper who will open a door for you,” she writes. “Sometimes you are 20 when you stumble upon an open doorway. Sometimes you are 30. Sometimes you are 40 or 50 or 60. I remembered this when I felt like giving up. When I thought I’d pack all my notebooks and stories into plastic bins and put them away, when I thought I would resign them to the recycling bin.”

The Tulane University Georges Lurcy Affiliated Fellow at the American Academy in Rome

Professor Teresa Cole, Department of Art, Tulane University

We are pleased to announce that Professor of Art Teresa Cole is the winner of this year's Lurcy Affiliated Fellowship at the American Academy in Rome. Teresa will spend a month in residence at the Academy working on a new printmaking project based on the intricate patterns and vibrant colors found in the medieval mosaic floors created by the Cosmati brothers. To inspire her new work, she will study the mosaic floors and patterned columns in buildings like the Pantheon and the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere.

2020 Tulane School of Liberal Arts Faculty & Staff Slideshow

Although we wish we were celebrating the end of another successful year together, enjoy this slideshow featuring many of our amazing liberal arts faculty and staff, bringing us together virtually.