Faculty Teaching, Scholarship Celebrated

Wednesday, March 5, 2014 - 11:45am
Left to right: Lee Bowie, Elizabeth Markovits, President Lynn Pasquerella, Karen Hollis, and Robert Shaw. Photo by Ben Barnhart

Four professors with a total of 108 years of service to Mount Holyoke were honored at the annual Celebration of Faculty Accomplishments on March 4.

Awards for teaching excellence were presented to Lee Bowie, professor of philosophy, and Elizabeth Markovits, associate professor of politics. Karen Hollis, professor of psychology and education, and Robert Shaw, Emily Dickinson Professor of English, were honored for their extraordinary scholarship.

Excerpts from each professor’s award citation follow. Read the full citations.

• Lee Bowie—Mount Holyoke Award for Teaching

Lee Bowie began teaching at Mount Holyoke College in 1975, and since then has taught students how to think logically, to argue persuasively, and to write and speak with precision, coherence, and clarity. He has also inspired confidence in them, challenged them to excel, encouraged them to be intellectually adventurous, and without exception, made them laugh. 

The cases, questions, and dilemmas Lee brought to the classroom served as the basis for a body of work he developed with Meridith Michaels, Robert Solomon, and Kathleen Higgins. The first, Twenty Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy, written with Michaels and Solomon appeared in 1988, and most recently in 2011. Four years after Twenty Questions appeared, a new volume was introduced, Fifteen Questions in Ethics. While the number of questions seems to be dwindling, the critical importance of introducing them to students in philosophy classes around the world is burgeoning.

As founding codirector of the Weissman Center for Leadership; founding director of the Speaking, Arguing, and Writing Program; Dean of the College; chair of the Philosophy department; and chair or member of each of the College's standing committees, Lee has been an advocate for academic excellence, student leadership, and the seamless integration of the curricular and cocurricular in the lives of our students.

(Citation written by President Lynn Pasquerella)

• Elizabeth Markovits—Mount Holyoke Faculty Teaching Award

Video: Embedded Practitioners

Elizabeth Markovits “has successfully found her niche in life,” one of her students writes in an evaluation. Yes, we respond, she certainly has.

In her book The Politics of Sincerity: Plato, Frank Speech, and Democratic Judgment, her numerous refereed publications, conference presentations, and book reviews, Liz calls into question the usefulness of the sincerity ethic for political deliberation. She shows her readers and her students “the trouble with being earnest”—the fact that someone’s sincerity is unknowable means that words and deeds should be the real material of political debate.

From her Feminist Studies classes, her seminars on Politics and Truth and Family Ties, to her classes on Ancient and Medieval Political Thought and her advanced class on Politics and Rhetoric, Liz’s students praise her “approachability,” her “passion,” her speedy return of the daily response papers, and her “rigor.” “Over and over, they attest to how challenging her classes are, how interactive the class is and how thoroughly engaged they, as students, feel in every class period. 

Please join me in celebrating Liz’s work: her compelling and deeply researched scholarship, her brilliant teaching, and her amazing ability to bring the world into the classroom and the classroom to world.

(Citation written by Margaret Robinson, Julia and Sarah Ann Adams Professor of Mathematics)

• Karen Hollis—The Meribeth Cameron Prize for Scholarship

Video: Ants Go Marching

“God may be in the details, but the goddess is in the questions. Once we begin to ask them, there's no turning back.” This quote by Gloria Steinem beautifully sums up Karen Hollis and her research. Karen has always asked the right questions and then answered them by identifying the important details.

She has studied learning in animals including dogs, fish, and most recently insects. Her careful observations and cleverly designed experiments reveal that some insects are capable of surprisingly sophisticated learned behaviors.

She has authored 44 papers and book chapters, but her contributions to behavioral psychology do not stop there. Karen has been a member of the editorial board or a reviewer for 17 different journals, has reviewed grants for the National Science Foundation, has collaborated with scientists in Great Britain, Slovenia and France, and has served as president of two separate divisions of the American Psychological Association. Karen stands out in the number of students she has trained in the laboratory; she has published scientific papers with more than 20 of them.

Given her groundbreaking research, devotion to teaching, and selfless service to the College, it is a “no brainer” for us to come together today to celebrate her outstanding contributions and achievements.

(Citation written by Susan Barry, professor of biological sciences)

• Robert Shaw—The Meribeth Cameron Prize for Scholarship

Video: The Poet, on Poetry

“Becoming a poet is no easy task,” reflects Robert Burns Shaw. For over 30 years, in one stunning volume of poetry after another, Robert Shaw has shown us that the task of poetry is truly his calling.

Robert has emerged as among the most important, indeed serious (although often wonderfully wry and witty) poets of his generation. When we consider his vast catalogue of poetry criticism—writing with verve and generosity on virtually every major modern and contemporary poet of our time in such important journals as the Nation, Poetry magazine, the Yale Review—along with his now standard academic study Blank Verse: A Guide to Its History and Use (2007)—it is clear that Professor Shaw stands as a towering figure in the world of poetry, and in the landscape of contemporary letters.

What Robert observes about the achievement of one of his own major influences, our local Valley luminary Richard Wilbur, might be said of Robert himself: his poems “explore, from various angles, the interactions of perception and memory and speculate on the hows and whys of such negotiations. They exemplify what they are about, because the poet’s keenness of perception and the substantial presence of what he describes are equally vivid in his lines.”

(Citation written by Donald Weber, Lucia, Ruth and Elizabeth MacGregor Professor of English, and Andrew Lass, Professor of Anthropology on the Ford Foundation)