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Senate, federation awards: And the winners are …

By Dave Jones on April 29, 2014 in University

Other award news: Nash Prize and Distinguished Emeritus of the Year


By Dateline staff

Awards season is here in the Academic Senate and the Academic Federation, which are once again honoring their members for achievement in research, teaching and public service.


The senate announced that its highest accolade, the Faculty Research Lecture Award, will be presented to Howard Spero, geology professor.

Other Academic Senate awards: Distinguished Scholarly Public Service — Jamal Abedi, Randi Hagerman, James Sanchirico and J. Edward Taylor. Distinguished Teaching — Munashe Chigerwe and Faith Fitzgerald at the graduate-professional level; and Emily Albu, James Carey, Seeta Chaganti and Susan Keen at the undergraduate level.

Academic Federation awards: Excellence in Research — Sonia Yeh. Excellence in Teaching — Amy Clarke and Shayma Hassouna.

Read about the recipients below, but first, here are the details for the awards reception: 5:15 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 13, in the Vanderhoef Studio Theatre. RSVPs: Use this link; call Ceremonies and Special Events, (530) 754-2262; or send an email. (Note: Spero is on sabbatical this quarter, so his lecture will wait until the fall.)

Academic Senate: Faculty Research Lecture Award

Howard J. Spero, professor, geology — Recognized for his groundbreaking work in the development and application of geochemical tools to reconstruct Earth’s climatic history from the marine fossil record. His research has helped increase knowledge of ocean temperatures, acidity and ocean chemistry in Earth’s past, and has led to a fundamental understanding about rapid changes in ocean circulation and the hydrologic system during the past 500,000 years. His published work ranges from the study of living and fossil planktonic organisms through nanoscale studies of microfossil shell chemistry to archaeological studies using oyster shells from the Jamestown Virginia colony to reconstruct regional environmental conditions in the early 17th century. A highly productive, accomplished and creative scientist, Spero’s research crosses boundaries between geology, biology, oceanography, climatology, chemistry and archaeology to provide important insights into the causes of contemporary environmental change and their impact on aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

Academic Senate: Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Awards

Jamal Abedi, professor, School of Education — He is a scholar of educational assessment and testing, who has volunteered countless hours to national and international groups engaged in making standardized testing practices more equitable. Linguistics professor Robert Bayley, in nominating Abedi, wrote: “I witnessed firsthand not only the scholarly rigor that Professor Abedi brought to (a project to examine reading assessments in children with disabilities), but also the kindness and graciousness with which he treated all members of the research team and his passion to ensure that the work we are doing would have a positive impact on the life chances of American children, regardless of disability status.”

Randi Hagerman, distinguished professor, pediatrics; Endowed Chair in Fragile X Research; and medical director, MIND Institute — Selected for her seminal scientific contributions and pioneering efforts to characterize and develop new targeted treatments for fragile X syndrome, the most common heritable form of intellectual disability, autism and related disorders. She has established fragile X clinics in many countries, and is an active and vocal champion for people with fragile X-related disorders around the world. She has lobbied Congress to increase funding for fragile X research, is a founder of the National Fragile X Foundation and is spearheading efforts to develop fragile X treatment studies worldwide, including her most recent efforts in Colombia, where she has launched Project Hope.

James Sanchirico, professor, environmental science and policy; and associate director, Coastal and Marine Science Institute — This scholar has dedicated a substantial amount of time and effort working at the science policy interface on ocean and coastal resources. He testified in 2008 before the U.S. Senate on commercial fisheries management, and the next year made a presentation to President Obama’s Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force — giving advice that contributed directly to the first ever U.S. National Ocean Policy. In his most long-standing public service activity, he served on the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s science advisory board, to which he brought his social science perspective and expertise on ocean and coastal policy.

J. Edward Taylor, professor, agricultural and resource economics  — Recognized for his work as a development economist, in making “an exceptional number of significant contributions” around the world, and at the nation, state and local levels. Among his biggest accomplishments: co-founding PRECESAM, a network of 15 universities across Mexico, as a major center of research, training and policy analysis on rural economic development in that country. His expertise ranges from international migration, farm trade and labor, to ecotourism. In a new book, he shows how African incomes climb by upwards of $2 for every $1 spent on poverty programs. Closer to home, he has documented a declining supply of labor from rural Mexico to U.S. farms and pointed to an intensification of this trend in the future.

Academic Senate: Distinguished Teaching Awards (graduate-professional)

Munashe Chigerwe, assistant professor, livestock medicine and surgery — Described by his nominators as having an “infectious enthusiasm for teaching and learning” that rubs off on both students and colleagues. He joined the UC Davis faculty only six years ago, and has already received six teaching awards in the School of Veterinary Medicine. Students say he has a knack for learning each student’s name and requiring class participation in a nonthreatening manner. They add that his lectures and clinical teaching rounds are organized and focused, designed to enable students’ absorption and retention of the information that he presents. In addition to the demands of teaching and an active research program, Chigerwe has pursued the scholarship of education, publishing two scholarly manuscripts on student career-path choices and learning styles.

Faith Fitzgerald, professor, internal medicine — A master educator and diagnostician whose ability to guide clinicians in the science and art of medicine and compassionate patient care has been described as “legendary,” “inspirational” and “an unforgettable experience.” With a focus on putting patients first, she highlights essential components of the doctor-patient interaction — from curiosity to storytelling — and demonstrates their importance in gathering information to make sound clinical judgments. In one of her widely read essays, she wrote, “To participate in the feelings and ideas of one’s patients to empathize — one must be curious enough to know the patients: their characters, cultures, spiritual and physical responses, hopes, past and social surrounds. ... Both the science and art of medicine are advanced by curiosity.”

Academic Senate: Distinguished Teaching Awards (undergraduate)

Emily Albu, associate professor, classics — Praised for expanding the reach of the classics throughout and beyond the campus. “There can be few faculty members at the entire university who have brought so many new students to the subject over the past four years,” wrote Classics Program Director Rex Stem in nominating Albu for the award. Albu headed the Classics Program from 2010 to 2013, increasing its relevance throughout all areas of the university. For example, in developing Classics 30 (“Greek and Latin Elements in English Vocabulary”), she focused the syllabus on scientific terminology appropriate for students in biology and engineering programs and thereby created a heavy demand for the course, which has become one of the largest and most successful courses in the Division of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies. “(She) is leading the way in asserting the humanities’ relevance for a new generation,” wrote John S. Rundin, continuing lecturer in classics.

James Carey, professor, entomology — He’s as innovative as he is seasoned, his nominators say, pointing to his use of digital technology to motivate, encourage and inspire students to learn in novel ways. For example, he developed a class in which students produced their own “One-Minute Entomologist” videos. He also led undergraduate and graduate students in producing 11 short videos that demonstrate different aspects of insect collecting. Although trained as a demographer and widely known as an authority on the Mediterranean fruit fly, Carey has broad interests that have richly benefitted his students. He developed and teaches a course on longevity, which grew out of his fruit fly-based “oldest of old” research; and created the course “Terrorism and War” in the Science and Society program. He continually receives high marks from his students, one of whom noted that the professor routinely came “prepared to each lecture, excited and passionate to teach.”

Seeta Chaganti, associate professor, English — While her field, medieval literature, is often perceived as challenging and even daunting, her methods of introducing students to this material create joyful learning experiences. As she says in her teaching statement, she encourages students “to see what can be gained from thinking about poetry produced in cognitive and cultural environments dramatically unlike theirs.” Clearly, she succeeds, wrote Frances E. Dolan, chair of the English department’s honors and awards committee. “One reason she does is her passionate enthusiasm for the literature she teaches and her willingness to share with students her heartfelt responses.” One student attested to being “gladly swept away” by Chaganti’s teaching approach, “causing me to believe that there was nothing better to study in this world than Chaucer,” and a vocal performance major praised Chaganti’s compelling, dynamic and even dramatic lectures.

Susan Keen, senior lecturer, evolution and ecology; and associate dean, College of Biological Sciences — An enthusiastic, thoughtful, effective and compassionate teacher and administrator, Keen is credited with invigorating and strengthening lower division undergraduate biology education at UC Davis. Keen made significant contributions to a multiyear effort to integrate, revamp and modernize the introductory biology curriculum, which sets the foundation for a large percentage of undergraduates. As a teacher of two of those large lecture courses, she embraces and shares new teaching technologies and techniques, including clickers and three-dimensional visualizations to enhance student learning. She directed the complete revision of the lower-division laboratory courses, collaborating on lab design with many colleagues. Keen consistently receives outstanding student reviews: “She is by far the best biology professor I have ever had,” one student said in an evaluation.

Academic Federation: Excellence in Research

Sonia Yeh, associate professional researcher, Institute of Transportation Studies — An international expert on transportation fuel greenhouse gas regulations. During the past four years, she led two major research teams in analyzing and designing national low carbon fuel policies. She also authored a widely read status report of California’s low carbon fuel standard. The studies she managed are providing the analytical foundation for state, national and international debates over low carbon fuel standards. Yeh’s research team studies the sustainability impacts of large-scale fuel production to examine how future transportation fuels can be more socially and environmentally sustainable. She also has led efforts to assemble prominent energy systems modelers in California with leading state climate policymakers to align the models with the needs of policymakers.

Academic Federation: Excellence in Teaching

Amy Clarke, continuing lecturer, University Writing Program — She has taught numerous undergraduate upper division writing courses for the writing program, from classes on the essay and advanced composition, to “Harry Potter as Cultural Phenomenon” and “The Twilight Phenomenon.” All of her work, say colleagues, highlights her care, support and enthusiasm for students and helping them in their writing. Said one student evaluation: “Everything was ideal, actually. So good I might have dreamt it.” Another student wrote: “I would take this course from Amy every month for the rest of my life.”

Shayma Hassouna, lecturer, classics — In nominating her, colleagues said the time had come to recognize this “unsung architect” of the campus’s now-flourishing Arabic language program. She has served as the primary teacher since 2007, shouldering this responsibility almost entirely by herself in the early years. “But her sterling teaching and incredible dedication to her students inside and outside of the classroom soon caused the program to grow,” wrote Rex Stem, director of the Classics Program. Hassouna remains the program’s “heart and soul,” he noted, describing her as “a master teacher and mentor in a league that few of us will ever reach.”

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Media contact(s)

Dave Jones, Dateline, 530-752-6556,