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2020 College of Arts and Sciences Dean's Awards Winners Faculty and Staff recognized for outstanding contributions

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Peter Starr standing in Katzen
Jeff Watts

Every year at this time, we honor those faculty and staff who have made outstanding contributions to our College over the past year by recognizing them through the College Dean’s Award competition. At a time when all of us are deep into adapting to the new realities imposed by the COVID-19 crisis, the Dean’s Award process takes on a special resonance. 

As you join me in congratulating this year’s winners (listed below), please recognize that, now more than ever, colleagues across the College are stepping up in exceptional ways. Outstanding as their contributions may be, this year’s winners only exemplify a spirit of creativity and collegial commitment that is one of the strengths of our College. 

Hearty thanks to all of you for all you do, every day, in support of our students, college, and university!

College Dean’s Award for Exceptional Impact:

Rachel Louise Snyder, Department of Literature

Rachel Louise Snyder wins the Dean’s Award for Exceptional Impact for giving voice to victims of one of the darkest and most hidden crimes: domestic and gender-based violence. Her recent, globally praised book, NO VISIBLE BRUISES: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us, was honored by the New York Times as one of “The 10 Best Books of 2019,” and was instrumental in helping her win a 2020 Guggenheim Fellowship. No Visible Bruises is today proving prescient: domestic violence has been revealed as one of the hidden calamities of this global coronavirus pandemic, with victims unable to leave their abusive partners. 

Chuck Cox, Writing Studies Program, Department of Literature

Chuck Cox wins the Dean’s Award for Exceptional Impact for creating an inquiry-oriented environment in his role as Faculty Director of Complex Problems and University College. His nominator, Cindy Bair Van Dam, writes that “under Chuck’s leadership, Complex Problems has emerged as an exciting intellectual space for both faculty and students. He fosters an intellectual space that frees faculty and students to pursue their interests while allowing students to develop academic habits that will prepare them for future success in the Core and in their majors.”

College Dean’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to an Inclusive Community:

Tanja Aho, Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies Collaborative

Tanja Aho wins the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to an Inclusive Community for their impassioned commitment to fostering campus-wide discussions about how better to serve our disabled students and faculty. Their attention to structural transformation at AU is as apparent in their teaching as it is in their service activities, as witnessed by their development of AMST 296: Disability, Health, and Normality. Tanja’s nominator, Eileen Findlay, writes, “Visionary, energetic, and deeply collaborative in all [their] work, Tanja Aho inspires faculty, staff, and students throughout the AU community to recognize the importance of disability rights, indigenous studies, and gender studies.”

Noemí Enchautegui-de-Jesus, Department of Psychology

Noemí Enchautegui-de-Jesus wins the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to an Inclusive Community for her outstanding work as chair of the AU Core’s Diversity and Equity committee. In that role, Noemí has overseen the review process of nearly 60 course proposals, striking a welcome balance between academic rigor and the need to build good will across AU’s schools and colleges. Her nominator, Cindy Bair Van Dam, writes that “Noemí shines brightly both as a thought leader on topics relating to diversity and equity, and as a patient and generous colleague.”

College Dean’s Award for Exceptional Innovation:

Phil Johnson, Department of Physics

Phil Johnson wins the Dean’s Award for Exceptional Innovation for his excellent work in building and supporting the externally funded Institute for Integrated Space Science and Technology (ISSTI) at American University. In his role as ISSTI director, Phil has found himself becoming an expert on the handling of immigration visas, federal financial reporting, and the field of astrobiology. His nominator, Nate Harshman, writes, “By building ISSTI at AU, Phil is leading the transformation of the Physics Department, and the sciences more generally, to the next level of productivity and impact.”

Mary Hansen, Department of Economics

Mary Hansen wins the Dean’s Award for Exceptional Innovation for her exceptional contributions tothe team that devised learning outcomes for the AU Core Capstone requirement. Over the past year, she has helped individual departments and schools ready their submissions, developed model proposals, and crafted a rubric for proposal review. Her nominator, Cindy Bair Van Dam, noted that Mary’s efforts created continuity between the Capstone requirement’s design and execution and ensured that every proposal submitted thus far was approved the first time it was reviewed (an accomplishment not matched in any other space).

College Dean’s Award for Outstanding Staff:

Mike Murphy, Department of Sociology

Mike Murphy wins the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Staff for his exceptional dedication to the Department of Sociology and to sociology as a discipline. His nominator, Gay Young, cited Mike’s capacity to see the organization as a whole and to grasp its interconnections, building crucial and diverse networks among the administrative and professional staff and engaging in ongoing skill and knowledge enhancement. Gay writes, “All of this work has been done with one paramount intention: to enhance his capacity to support our educational mission and the well-being of AU students and faculty.”

Jaylynn Saure, Department of Art

Jaylynn Saure wins the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Staff for consistently exceeding expectations in her daily contributions to the Department of Art. One of her nominators, Andrea Pearson, noted how Jaylynn “masterfully and expeditiously resolves any number of recurring problems, from the mundane to the profound.” Her second nominator, Lauren Pav, calls Jaylynn is “the backbone of the Department of Art,” noting that she “demonstrates two qualities needed in a good leader: determination and humility. She quietly goes above and beyond all the time.”

Richard Streeks, Department of Performing Arts

Richard Streeks wins the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Staff for being incredibly supportive and responsive to many varied demands of the Department of Performing Arts. In the words of his first nominator, Rogerio Weis Naressi, Richard “undertakes and manages constant requests in a calm and professional manner and singlehandedly does a job that could easily take two or more staff members.” Richard’s second nominator, Andrew Taylor, writes that his “constant focus is the success and progress of our students, our faculty, and our work. Richard is a proactive, creative, resilient, and dedicated staff member who almost single-handedly manages our deeply complex department with grace and care.”