Award winners

SASN Faculty and Staff Honored for their Exceptional Contributions 

Six faculty and one staff from the School of Arts & Sciences-Newark (SASN) were included among the 2019-20 Faculty Year-End Awards from Rutgers University.   

Every year, Rutgers honors outstanding faculty and staff across the university with its Faculty Year-End Awards. The awardees are selected by their colleagues for exceptional contributions to teaching, research, or public service. For each award, the recipient receives a commemorative certificate and an honorarium.  

The Board of Trustees Research Fellowship for Scholarly Excellence Award recognizes the exceptional research accomplishments of newly promoted and tenured (as of July 1, 2020) faculty members. Among the six awardees this year, two were from SASN: Rachel M. Mundy, Assistant Professor in the Department of Arts, Culture and Media, and Audrey A. Truschke, Assistant Professor in the Department of History.  

Mundy’s research shows how music has been used to navigate changing boundaries between race, species, and culture in the twentieth century. Her book, Animal Musicalities, traces comparisons between human and animal songs from social Darwinism through the postwar rejection of racial science. By exploring song as an object of study, she locates postmodern notions of art and science as the refrain of a century-long encounter with life’s inequalities. 

Truschke's expertise is on the cultural, imperial, and intellectual history of early modern and modern India. Her most recent book, Aurangzeb: The Life and Legacy of India's Most Controversial King, is a historical reassessment of one of the most hated kings in South Asian history. More broadly, she publishes on cross-cultural exchanges, historical memory, and imperial power. 

“I am honored to have my research recognized by an institution committed to scholarship and excellence,” said Truschke. 

 

The Board of Trustees Award for Excellence in Research honors tenured faculty members who have made distinguished research contributions to their discipline and/or society at large. Michele Pavanello, Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chair of Physics, was one of six awardees in this category. “Winning this was really unexpected,” said Pavanello. “Since I got tenure in 2018, I have been Chair of the Physics department and raising three kids at home with my wife who also works full-time. This means that I could only devote to research about 40% of my time. What really made this possible are my research group members who are smarter and stronger than I am, not to mention the undergraduate students who work hard daily and strive to raise the bar. I am so grateful to have them in my lab and to learn from them every day.”  

Pavanello is a theoretical chemist who specializes in the development of electronic structure methods based on Density-Functional Theory (DFT). He not only develops new computational methods but applies them to address current problems of fundamental importance in chemistry and materials science. As one of the foremost researchers in his field, Pavanello has achieved both national and international recognition for his work on Sub-System Density Functional Theory. 

Chemistry Department Chair Frieder Jaekle said “Unlike most scientists in the field, Dr. Pavanello does not restrict himself to either the development of new computational tools or the application of established computational methods to investigate experimental phenomena, he does both, and very successfully so.”  

This is not the first time Pavanello has been honored; he previously received the 2017-18 Board of Trustees Research Fellowship for Scholarly Excellence.  

 

The Scholar-Teacher Award honors tenured faculty who have made outstanding synergistic contributions in research and teaching. Often the most effective faculty members are those who are able to integrate their teaching with their research, whose research informs and adds excitement to their teaching, and whose interactions with students in the classroom stimulate and inform their scholarship. This award recognizes those who make visible the vital link between teaching and scholarship, by contributing to the scholarship of teaching and by bringing together scholarly and classroom activities. Through their example, by their efforts in the classroom and their reflection on those efforts, and/or by their contributions to the literature of teaching and learning, those who are honored add to our knowledge of a specific discipline and offer a model of how scholarship and love of learning can be transmitted to students. Jamie Lew, Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and Mara S. Sidney, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science, who together co-direct the Global Urban Studies PhD program, were among the five honorees. 

“About six or seven years ago, I decided that I wanted more collaboration in my work life. That decision has opened so many doors,” said Sidney. “Soon after, SASN Deans Jan Lewis and Sherri-Ann Butterfield presented the opportunity to work with Jamie Lew to create GUS. Jamie and I built faculty-student collaboration into the program from the start.” Sidney added that support from SASN deans Denis Paré and Eva Giloi, along with seed grant funding from Chancellor Nancy Cantor was crucial to building the program and enabling creative collaborations with community partners to work with her undergraduate classes.  

On working with GUS co-director and fellow awardee Jamie Lew, Sidney added, “Through our co-directorship, I experience the joy that is possible from collaborative work, and its power. Each of us has developed student-faculty collaborations of our own, and we also work together with students on our joint research about urban refugees.” 

Lew stressed that the program wouldn't be possible without support from colleagues and students. "None of us do our work that we truly care about for recognition, but it is so heartening when this work actually makes a difference, albeit in a small way. it is humbling to know that we couldn't develop a program like GUS without tremendous support from faculty and colleagues who  share similar commitments, not to mention our dedicated students, administrators, staff, etc. There is no way, we could have done this alone."

 

The Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching is awarded annually to non-tenure-track, full-time faculty members in the arts and humanities, sciences, and social sciences who have demonstrated outstanding teaching skills in classroom instruction, clinical instruction, curriculum development, or mentoring. Diane Jammula, Assistant Teaching Professor, Department of Physics is one of five winners in this category. 

Jammula recently led an overhaul of the Physics Department’s introductory physics courses for science majors, which serve 450 students per semester, to be interactive and aligned with the cutting edge of physics education research, including a research-based instructional approach designed by Distinguished Professor Eugenia Etkina (Rutgers-New Brunswick); space renovation; instructional technology; new scheduling; and instructor training. Tenured, tenure-track, non-tenure track faculty, and part-time lecturers and doctoral students participated in trainings and taught and helped troubleshoot the newly designed courses. The non-tenure track faculty designed the curriculum, led the trainings, and are evaluating the reform. “I spearheaded this project, but the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching is a win for the whole department,” said Jammula, who also credited the SASN Dean’s Office, Academic Scheduling, Technology and Learning Spaces, and the Rutgers Learning Center, for making the project a success. 

She added that she was grateful to Physics Chair Michele Pavanello, who nominated her for the award and was a strong supporter of the overhaul from the start. “When I faced resistance, Dr. Pavanello came to my office and said, 'Not everyone likes what you're doing, but I support you because I think it’s important to take risks.'” The project has since been a great success, among students and faculty and staff alike.   

“The students are the center of our work,” said Jammula, “Our world will be a better place with them as our future leaders, and we seek to offer them a first-class physics education built on love and care.” 

 

The Rutgers College Class of 1962 Presidential Public Service Award, funded by the Class of 1962 of Rutgers College, honors members of the faculty, student body, or staff in recognition of distinguished and non-compensated service to government bodies, professional or scholarly organizations, and/or the general public, such as voluntary community leadership, or personal acts of heroism. Christina Strasburger, Department Administrator for the Department of History and African American and African Studies is one of two winners.  

In his nomination letter, History Department Chair Gary Farney said, “It would be impossible to catalog comprehensively all the ways in which Christina has contributed, in part because she does many things under the radar. Indeed, I cannot stress how humble she is in all her interactions... Christina is, simply put, one of the most generous, competent, and dedicated people I have ever known, and, as I’ve already said, she is enormously deserving of this award.”  

"Christina works within the university to further our ties with and provide service to the broader community. She rarely misses an opportunity to take a leading role in public-facing and public-serving work,” Farney added, citing her crucial help with the Price Institute’s flagship event, the annual Marion Thompson Wright Lecture; her work with the Queer Newark Oral History Project; and numerous other volunteer activities Strasburger participates in throughout the Newark community, all work that is well outside the scope of her already considerable job duties. 

Strasburger said she was deeply honored to receive this award.  “As an alumna and staff member of Rutgers University-Newark, I strongly support the belief that we are not only in Newark but that we are of Newark and that we need to be in service to and collaboration with the communities that we serve.”