Posted: February 18, 2008
Four Mount Holyoke faculty members will be honored for outstanding teaching and scholarship on Monday, February 25, when the College community gathers to celebrate the professional accomplishments of its faculty.
Robin Blaetz, associate professor of film studies and gender studies, and Frederick McGinness, professor of history and chair of complex organizations, will receive the Mount Holyoke College Faculty Prize for Teaching; Wei Chen, associate professor of chemistry; and Daniel Czitrom, professor of history, will receive the Meribeth E. Cameron Faculty Prize for Scholarship.
The recipients will give brief speeches at the awards ceremony, which will take place at 4 pm in McCulloch Auditorium in Pratt Hall. A reception will follow at 5 pm in the music library lounge, where recent faculty publications will be on display.
Blaetz is an associate professor of film studies and gender studies and chair of film studies. She teaches a wide range of courses, including Introduction to Film, History of World Cinema, and Experimental Film. She also teaches courses in documentary film and various genres, including the musical and science fiction. Last fall, she ventured outside the traditional classroom, teaching an online course titled Inside the Art and Craft of Film, through the New York Times.
Blaetz's scholarly work centers on women and film. She focuses on both the work of little-known women avant-garde filmmakers and the representation of women in historical film. She has published widely both in the United States and internationally. She is the author of Visions of the Maid: Joan of Arc in American Film and Culture, which examines the image of the fifteenth-century French heroine in the United States over the course of the twentieth century. The book was named a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title in 2002. Most recently, Blaetz published an anthology entitled Women's Experimental Cinema: Critical Frameworks (Duke University Press, 2007).
Blaetz received a B.A. in English and French literature from the Honors College at Ohio University in 1978. She discovered her passion for film after college, when she spent a year in Paris working as an au pair. She said that while watching the films of Jean-Luc Godard, she realized, "This is it. This is the language of our time." She earned her Ph.D. in cinema studies from New York University in 1989. She came to Mount Holyoke in 2001, after nearly 20 years of teaching at NYU, Adelphi, George Washington, and Emory.
Blaetz is one of the most highly respected and beloved professors at Mount Holyoke. Her teaching evaluations are always full of superlatives. "She is the most amazing professor I have ever had," wrote one student. "This woman is a real thinker, and not only that but she asks you to think with her," wrote another. "I think she just might know everything," added a third. It's not just her intellectual prowess that draws students to her classes. Blaetz's students are equally impressed by her "joyful approach to life." One student noted that she's "always smiling." Another wrote, "Her constant cheery mood certainly made the early class a little easier to get through."
McGinness is a professor of history and chair of complex organizations. Much to his students' delight, he teaches courses as varied as his interests. His introductory history courses include The Middle Ages: 312 to 1300 and Europe and the Atlantic World. He also has taught a first-year seminar titled Heroes and Heroines and a complex organizations course, Leadership and the Liberal Arts.
McGinness's scholarly work focuses on European history, theology, and rhetorical tradition. He is the author of many publications on European theological history in such journals as Studies in the Sixteenth Century, Historical Reflections, and Roma moderna e contemporanea. His book, Right Thinking: Sacred Oratory in Counter-Reformation Rome (1995), received acclaim for his thorough analysis of the entire religious organization and structure of preaching in Rome during the Counter-Reformation. He also addresses what the Roman Catholic Church became after the Counter-Reformation and how it is struggling with the repercussions of this today. Presently he is working on an edition of Erasmus of Rotterdam's major treatise on the application of classical rhetoric to Christian preaching for the University of Toronto Press.
For his work, McGinness regularly uses Italian, Greek, German, French, Spanish, Latin, and Hebrew. McGinness completed studies at Loyola University and the Hochschule Sankt Georgen in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and continued his studies in Madrid, Spain at La Universidad de Comillas and the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas. He is a fellow of the American Academy in Rome, and a member of the American Historical Association, the Renaissance Society of America, and other scholarly organizations.
McGinness received his B.A. in classics from the University of Detroit, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. He joined the Mount Holyoke faculty in 1985. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, McGinness served for 12 years as director of internship programs and is credited with helping build the CDC's online internship resources.
Students praise McGinness for his "incredible knowledge and intellect." They describe him as "caring" and "amazing" and call his classes "awesome" and "excellent." "He is a must-have prof for anyone at MoHo; you'll never look at history the same again," wrote one student. Another said, "McGinness rocks my world!"
Chen is an associate professor of chemistry, specializing in polymer science and surface chemistry. Through her cutting-edge research, Chen has helped create a world-class undergraduate polymer research program at Mount Holyoke and has been instrumental in integrating polymer chemistry into the traditional chemistry curriculum.
In 2007, Chen received a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for her project "The Exploration of New Bio-Relevant Materials Using Surface-Initiated ROMP of Low Strain Cyclic Olefins in the Vapor Phase." She is researching the biocompatibility of biomaterials used in artificial implants (tubes, pacemakers, artificial organs, prostheses). Earlier in 2007, Chen secured a patent--no easy task--for her discovery titled "Surface Modification of Solid Phase Objects by Poly (vinyl alcohol)," a process for modifying the surface properties of polymers. This process offers a possible way to get around blood compatibility problems that arise when using artificial implants in human bodies.
In addition to independent research grants from the NIH, the National Science Foundation, the Petroleum Research Fund, and the Dreyfus Foundation, Chen has several joint grants from the National Science Foundation to help integrate polymer science into the chemistry curriculum and to purchase a collection of state-of-the-art equipment for surface preparation and analyses.
The author or coauthor of numerous scientific articles, Chen has been an invited lecturer at the American Chemical Society, the World Polymer Congress, PacifiChem, and colleges and universities in the U.S. and abroad.
Chen, who grew up in Shanghai, China, as the daughter of physicist parents, received an A.B. from Smith College, an M.S. from Yale University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts. She spent two years in the for-profit world at W.L. Gore and Associates in Delaware before coming to Mount Holyoke in 1999.
Chen teaches Quantum Mechanics, Chemical Thermodynamics, Experimental Methods, General Chemistry, and Polymer Chemistry. Known as a dedicated mentor, Chen insists that all of the students who work in her lab do productive research and publish their findings. In fact, Chen values the work of her students so much that she includes them (all of them since 1999!) and their research on her Web site.
Czitrom, who was born and raised in the Bronx, specializes in American cultural and political history, including the history of New York City and American media history. He has written extensively on the history of American mass media and popular culture, as well as the history of New York City. Czitrom recently published Rediscovering Jacob Riis (with Bonnie Yochelson, The New Press 2007), which offers the first in-depth study of Riis's pioneering documentary photography, as well as a critical reevaluation of Riis's career as a social reformer and journalist.
Czitrom was awarded a 2005-2006 faculty fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities for his current book project, Mysteries of the City: Politics, Culture, and New York's Underworld in Turn-of-the-Century America. The book examines the origins, revelations, and legacies of the explosive 1894 Lexow Committee inquiry into the New York Police Department.
In addition to these works of cultural history, Czitrom has coauthored two historical dramas, both based on his published writing. His first play, Big Tim and Fanny (with Sarasota-based playwright Jack Gilhooley), dramatized the world of Timothy D. "Big Tim" Sullivan, a larger than life Tammany Hall politician in turn-of-the-century New York, who forged a unique alliance with the young social reformer and 1902 Mount Holyoke alumna Frances Perkins, in the aftermath of the disastrous 1911 Triangle Fire. His second play, Red Bessie (also coauthored with Gilhooley), explored the arc of American radicalism from the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s to the McCarthyite repression of the 1950s. In 2003, the play was produced at the Edinburgh Fringe, the largest arts festival in the world, where it received enthusiastic critical acclaim.
Czitrom has worked as a consultant for several recent historical documentaries. He served as an on-camera commentator and historical advisor for New York, the seven-episode PBS series, directed by Ric Burns and broadcast in 1999 and 2002. Czitrom also contributed the essay "The Secrets of the Great City," to New York: An Illustrated History (Alfred A. Knopf, 1999), a companion book to the TV series. He also served as on-camera commentator and historical advisor for several other PBS projects, including American Photography: A Century of Images (1999), Slumming It: Myth and Culture on the Bowery (2001), and most recently the American Experience documentary, The Great Transatlantic Cable (2005).
Czitrom is also author ofMedia and the American Mind: From Morse to McLuhan (North Carolina, 1982), which received the First Books Award from the American Historical Association and has been translated into Chinese and Spanish. The journal Critical Studies in Media Communication just published a critical forum, "Media and the American Mind: 25 Years Later," a collection of essays celebrating the book's impact. Czitrom is coauthor of Out of Many: A History of the American People (5th ed., Prentice Hall, 2006), one of the best-selling college textbooks for U.S. history. In 2005, he was elected to the Executive Board of the Organization of American Historians (OAH). He has also been named an OAH Distinguished Lecturer for 2006-2009.
At Mount Holyoke, Czitrom regularly teaches The American Peoples Since 1865; "We Didn't Start the Fire": The United States Since 1945; Reading the New York Times: Journalism, Power, History; New York City: Capitol of the Twentieth Century; and American Radicalism, among other courses.