Celebrating the faculty

Mount Holyoke College held its annual Faculty Awards Ceremony and celebrated five faculty members for their teaching, research and service.

Mount Holyoke College’s faculty are intense, passionate, innovative and determined. They challenge their students to think deeply and examine critically. The College’s faculty celebrated their own at the Faculty Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, March 6, to laud key faculty’s intellectual achievements.

“The annual Faculty Awards Ceremony is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate faculty research, teaching and service,” said Provost Lisa Sullivan. “The Mount Holyoke College faculty is truly inspirational, and I was delighted to share in recognizing this year’s honorees!”

Preston H. Smith II, Class of 1926 Professor of Politics, was awarded the Mount Holyoke College Faculty Award for Teaching for his achievements in the classroom and in independent work with Mount Holyoke College students. Students describe learning with him using endless superlatives and expressing gratitude: “A great, balanced and clear instructor”; “A course with very insightful critiques that helped me think differently about our society and its problems”; “A very engaging and challenging” course with “close readings of the assignments”; “He is intense! He asked really good questions and strengthened my argumentation skills”; “This is one of those courses where what you learn is specifics about a particular case … [and he highlights] themes that can be applied more broadly.”

Morena Svaldi, senior lecturer in Italian, was also awarded the Mount Holyoke College Faculty Award for Teaching. Her classroom is a place for learning, a place for joy and a safe place to build a long-lasting community. Generations of Mount Holyoke students have praised Morena as “extremely clear,” “extremely respectful,” “always attentive,” “very patient” and “encouraging and supportive,” while also always stressing how hard they worked. In the words of another student: “The material was difficult at times, but Morena’s teaching style made it easier to learn.”

Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Patricia Brennan was awarded the Meribeth E. Cameron Faculty Award for Scholarship. Her work can be shocking, as it encourages us to candidly consider and discuss genitalia. As an evolutionary morphologist, she investigates the diverse genitalia of animals to understand their function and what that function can tell us about the lifestyles of the animals and about animal evolution writ large. She has been recognized as one of the world’s most distinguished scientists, being named a AAAS fellow in 2022 and receiving the highly prestigious NSF CAREER award in 2021. Brennan brings many Mount Holyoke students along this incredible research path with her, having mentored 42 students in independent research and supervised 10 theses so far.

Professor of Sociology Patricia Banks was also awarded the Meribeth E. Cameron Faculty Award for Scholarship. Widely recognized as a leading voice in cultural sociology, Banks has produced research at an impressive pace. She is the author of four books, beginning with her first, “Represent: Art and Identity Among the Black Upper-Middle Class,” published in 2010. She currently serves as the co-editor of the journal Poetics, one of the highest-rated journals for cultural sociology, in addition to serving on multiple advisory boards and professional association committees. In recognition of her work, Banks has received numerous grants and fellowships, including a residential fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study at Stanford University in 2018 and a residential fellowship at the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University in 2009, as well as grants from institutions such as the UNCF/Mellon Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and the American Association of University Women. Her most recent book, “Black Culture Inc: How Ethnic Community Support Pays for Corporate America,” won the 2023 American Sociological Association Oliver Cromwell Cox Book Award from the Section on Racial and Ethnic Minorities, as well as a Gold Medal Axiom Business Book Award and a Bronze Medal Independent Publisher Book Award.

Eva Paus, professor of economics on the Ford Foundation, was awarded the inaugural Mount Holyoke College Faculty Award for Service. Paus served as the founding co-director of the Weissman Center for Leadership and the inaugural Carol Hoffman Collins director of the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives. Paus has connected scholars and practitioners from around the world with the College. She advocated for embedding experiential learning throughout the curriculum, creating research and internship opportunities for students to connect classroom learning and study abroad with local community-based projects. Notably, Paus set up the College’s signature BA/MA Program with the Graduate Institute in Geneva.

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