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Federation names leaders in research and teaching

By Amy Agronis on December 7, 2001 in University

UC Davis will honor three of its non-tenured faculty members Thursday for their outstanding teaching and research.

The winners of the Academic Federation Awards for Excellence in Teaching - lecturers Brenda Schildgen and Victor Squitieri - and associate adjunct professor Ramona Vogt, winner of the Award for Excellence in Research, will be recognized in a 5 p.m. reception in the Carbernet Room of the Silo.

The teaching awards are given to faculty who display such characteristics as great subject knowledge - and the ability to convey that to students; innovative teaching approaches and effectiveness in student advising, said Cherie Felsch, a federation administrative analyst who helps coordinate the awards program.

Brenda Schildgen

Schildgen, an expert in Medieval and Biblical literature, has lectured at UC Davis since 1988. Over the years, she's gained the admiration of graduate students in comparative literature, pre-med undergraduates and retirees taking her University Extension courses. Students from the diverse groups all wrote Schildgen letters of recommendation for the teaching award. Lecturer Kevin Roddy, director of the Medieval Studies program, nominated her for the prize.

Relating great works such as Dante's "Inferno," Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales" and the Bible to all students is essential to her teaching, Schildgen said. And so is transferring her passion to students.

"You have to treat all your students as though they are individual people. You have to make contact with them even if there are 150 people in your class," she said. "That's how you get what's inside you out to them."

Schildgen received her doctorate in comparative literature from Indiana University in 1972. She taught at the University of San Francisco before coming to UC Davis.

"It's funny about a career," she said. "The students that pass through your life mean so much more than anything else."

Victor Squitieri

Squitieri - who teaches composition and English classes on topics as diverse as scientific and technical report writing and the early work of Shakespeare - was lauded by students and colleagues for his enthusiastic and caring teaching style and innovative classroom approach.

He conducts his classes - whether his roster numbers 25 students or more than 80 students - as a series of workshops emphasizing great student participation and collaboration.

Squitieri, whose contract was not renewed for next year, declined to be interviewed. In his personal statement for the award, he described his teaching philosophy.

"I can tell my students about dangling modifiers or basic principles of effective report design, but some students will get the point only when another student explains it again during a draft workshop or collaborative exercise," he wrote.

Some of the most spirited recommendations of Squitieri's talents have come from students like Shiloh Sorbello, a senior studying managerial economics.

"Mr. Squitieri unearthed my writing potential and helped me see that hard work truly pays off," Sorbello said.

Much to the surprise of her friends, she enrolled in another writing course after completing Squitieri's class.

Squitieri, who received his doctorate at UC Berkeley in 1993, has been teaching at UC Davis since 1995. He was nominated for the award by English lecturer Linda Bates.

Ramona Vogt

Vogt, a theorist in nuclear physics, divides her office time between the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and UC Davis. However, through the Internet, she collaborates with colleagues all over the world on projects involving computer simulations and analytic calculations of elementary particle processes.

She studies the physics of the quark-gluon plasma, a state of matter that existed naturally only in the first moments of the universe. Today, the plasma can only be studied using relativistic heavy ion collisions, such as those carried out at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. Vogt's calculations helped interpret the first evidence for the quark-gluon plasma from experiments at the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN), announced last year.

It was for that work that Winston Ko, physics department chair, nominated her for the award. "It is an exciting time for relativistic heavy-ion physics, and Dr. Vogt is right in the middle of the excitement," Ko said in his nomination letter.

Vogt received her doctorate from the State University of New York, Stony Brook in 1989. She has been an adjunct faculty member at UC Davis since 1995.

"I liked the idea of being able to interact with people in specialties other than my own," she said. "It's a much richer experience being in a multidisciplinary department. And I get to work with students."

Tom Gutierrez, a doctoral student Vogt worked with last year, was recently named one of UC Davis' first Faculty Fellows in research and teaching.

Vogt lives in Berkeley with her husband, Jorgen Randrup, also a physicist, and their daughter Kristina, 3. On Sunday, she completed her 16th marathon, the California International Marathon in Sacramento.

Research award winners, according to Felsch, are considered for such feats as meritorious publications, approaching research in innovative ways and successful mentoring of student researchers.

Winners of the teaching and research awards receive $500 grants from the federation, an organization of about 850 non-tenured faculty members including lecturers, researchers, librarians, adjunct professors and Cooperative Education specialists.

Media contact(s)

Amy Agronis, Dateline, (530) 752-1932,