May 3, 2012
by Dean Carole Haber
As has become our tradition in SLA we mark the end of the spring semester with a gathering of faculty and staff to celebrate another successful year. On May 2nd, more than 200 people came together to enjoy the food, music, and collegial spirit. Although the weather threatened to put a damper on the party, the rain never came. Instead, we were able to reconnect with old friends and honor this year’s School of Liberal Arts award winners.
SLA selects winners for a number of different awards. Based on nominations from departments, we recognize outstanding accomplishments in teaching, research, service, and staff performance. Due to a generous gift by Craig and Cathy Glick, we name four Glick Fellows each year. These individuals receive research grants to support their fourth-year or sabbatical leaves. Finally, a grant from the Mellon Foundation allows us to name two Young Mellon Professorships in the Humanities.
At the SLA picnic, in addition to the Glick Fellows, we were pleased to announce the following award winners:
This year we renamed the School of Liberal Arts teaching Award the April Brayfield Teaching Award to recognize our much missed faculty member who exemplified the ideal teacher. This year’s award winner, Michele Adams, clearly follows in her footsteps. Her student evaluations are outstanding, with students declaring her “delightful” “amazing” and “perfect.” They speak to her intellectually challenging style that encourages open discussion. Her students develop rigorous research projects and innovative classroom assignments.
Outside the classroom, Michele is equally active. She has worked with students on 37 honors undergraduate theses, as well as 2 doctoral dissertations and 2 MA thesis committees. Currently she is on 14 honors theses committees of which she is chairing 3. She has been active in working with her colleagues to develop a new PhD interdisciplinary program, and is the recipient of grants and awards for her excellent teaching including a NCI teaching grant in 2012. She has advised other faculty in her department on how to develop high quality teaching portfolios for tenure.
Most recently, when April Brayfield could no longer finish her courses, Michele stepped forward and took on the responsibility without asking for anything in return. It was an act of love, both for her friend April and for the students. It is most fitting, indeed, that Michele Adams is the first recipient of the teaching award.
Nora Lustig, the winner of this year’s School of Liberal Arts research award, has amassed a daunting cv. It includes 4 books, nearly 40 journal articles, 50 book chapters, as well as many special editions and reports. She serves on numerous international advisory boards where her name alone brings great prestige.
Numbers by themselves, however, do not speak to her scholarly importance. As her chair states, Nora is recognized as one of the leading experts – probably the leading expert – on inequality and poverty, especially with a focus on Latin American countries. She has held an array of prestigious positions, even serving as president of a Mexican university. Her work is known and cited by all leading researchers in the field of the distributional effects of government policies. As a scholar, she not only speaks to audiences within the ivory tower but takes her research into the policy arena. According to her chair, her research has had a profound effect on the thinking of economists around the world, as well as on the policies that many countries actually enact. Not surprisingly, she is also an outstanding teacher, having recently won the Simon Rodriguez Award for undergraduate teaching in Latin American Economics.
Nearly three years ago, when we convinced her to join Tulane, we knew that we had acquired a superstar. It is my pleasure then to recognize this indisputable status by awarding Nora Lustig the School of Liberal Arts research award.
When Beth Poe came to the university more than three decades ago, I am sure she did not plan to take almost every important service obligations for the department and university. Even early in her career, she seemed to be the go-to person who had energy, wisdom, and common sense. When I went to the archives looking at the history of Newcomb, I found her name on a key report from nearly thirty years ago charting the direction of the College.
Since that time, Beth seems to have served in every major service role for her department. She has been department chair three times, as well as director of graduate studies, and undergraduate advisor. She was instrumental in charting the innovative direction of the Department that has led to an outstanding PhD program.
I got to know Beth best, however, in her role as chair of both the SLA curriculum committee and the Newcomb-Tulane curriculum committee from both 2009-2011. I think during those years, she was camped out in Nicole Westerfield’s office as she worked through proposals, curricular changes, and committee schedules, all with patience and good humor. Her impact on the curriculum of School of Liberal Arts is immeasurable. I am delighted to be able to award the School of Liberal Arts service recognition to Beth Poe.
As we all know, SLA has outstanding staff members. Most not only take on their own job, but assume myriad roles. Especially since Katrina, they have done everything from advising students, fixing computers, answering phones, preparing for storms, and dealing with crisis management.
Susie Chevalier, of the Department of Anthropology, faced an additional task. After the storm, the department was housed in six different buildings; naturally she was supposed to be in six different places at once. When their home was finally renovated, she supervised the move and made sure that everyone ended up in the proper office, with the correct desk, computer, and supplies. According to her faculty, who all wrote letters in her support, she not only dealt with problems of faulty lights, unworkable locks, and a recalcitrant elevator, but even was responsible for finally snaring Ralph the rat. According to her chair, “she is always ready to jump in anywhere and anytime someone needs help. She’ll feed you if you’re in need of sustenance, she’ll provide cough drops if your throat is itchy on your way to class, but most of all, she’ll find ways to ensure that records are kept and deadlines are met, and beyond that, that the teaching and research can proceed smoothly. She is a great coordinator, making sure people get paid despite administrative hiccups, that classroom equipment keeps functioning, and that people’s needs, whatever they are, are satisfied.” It gives me great pleasure, then, to recognize Susie Chevalier as the winner of the School of Liberal Arts staff award.
Our current two Young Mellons Professors in the Humanities, John Charles and Jana Lipman, have, not surprisingly, been granted tenure this year. As such, they pass the crown to a new generation of outstanding scholars. This year, I am happy to announce two new young Mellons, who will receive $5000 research support for each year they hold the title.
The first young Mellon is Elisabeth McMahon of the Department of History. Liz received her PhD from Indiana University and come to Tulane in 2007. Her book, Slavery and Emancipation in Islamic East Africa: From Honor to Respectability, has been accepted by Cambridge University Press. In this book, she breaks away from the traditional economic focus of historians to explore cultural and social practices after emancipation. In addition to her book, Liz has four articles in leading historical journals and two book chapters forthcoming. She is already working on a new book project in which she will explore emotions of freed people as reflected in the Swahili literary tradition. Using this unique focus, she hopes to recapture the values and emotions of the slave communities.
Liz is also a wonderful teacher. She teaches 8 different classes including a service learning class that places students in the Amistad Research Center. Her student evaluations are filled with straight fives and comments that she is the “absolutely the favorite teacher” of many.
Liz has served on numerous departmental committees including the Executive and Graduate Studies Committee, as well as important search committees. She represents SLA on the Senate Committee on Equal Opportunity and Institutional Equity. It is a pleasure, therefore, to recognize these accomplishments by naming Elisabeth McMahon as a Young Mellon Professor in the Humanities.
Our second Young Mellon Professor in the Humanities is awarded to Scott Oldenburg of the Department of English. Scott received his PhD in English Literature from SUNY Buffalo in 2007. Even before he earned his degree, he proved himself a prolific scholar having published 4 peer-reviewed articles and four reviews and short pieces, as well as having given 8 professional talks. Since coming to Tulane in 2008, he has continued this scholarly output. He has published 2 peer-reviewed articles, 1 book chapter, 1 book review, as well as given 2 professional talks. His article published in 2009, “Toward a Multicultural Mid-Tudor England,” in the journal, English Literary History, was the winner of the 2010 Medieval and Renaissance Drama Society’s Martin Stevens award for Best New Essay in Early Drama Studies. This award and the publications as a whole speak to Prof. Oldenburg’s talents as a researcher and a writer.
Prof. Oldenburg has now completed a book-length manuscript, “Alien Albion: Literature and Immigration in Early Modern England” which is under review by the University of Toronto Press. Not to rest on his laurels, he is currently working on a new book project on conceptions of masculinity in the work of poet Edmund Spenser. He is also developing a biography of artisan-poet William Muggins. Active in his professional organizations, he has served on the organizing committee for the South Central Renaissance Society’s annual conference and is co-organizing the next meeting of the Louisiana Consortium for Medieval and Renaissance Scholars.
Scott is also an outstanding teacher, winning rave reviews from his students. Wrote one student, “Dr Oldenburg is the man.” Another proclaimed, “I love Dr. Oldenburg!!! He is one of my favorite professors thus far at Tulane (I'm a second semester Senior.)” Not surprising, he is repeatedly asked to supervise honor theses and independent studies.
Scott also generously serves on most department committees and the university’s honors board. He has worked on the First Year Reading Project and has served as Faculty Marshall at commencement. His commitment to enhancing the humanities at Tulane was evident this year as he chaired the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellows Committee. It seems most fitting then, to name Scott Oldenburg as a Young Mellon Professor of the Humanities.
As you can tell, the quality of the faculty and staff at SLA is nothing short of amazing. I know you join me in congratulating them for their accomplishments. My only regret is that we could not recognize all those who were deservedly nominated for their awards.