Three departments in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences are being honored by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost in partnership with the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning with the 2019 University Exemplary Department or Program Award.

The Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought (ASPECT); the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures; and the Department of Sociology will join the Department of Chemistry in the College of Science in being recognized for excellence in teaching and learning during a reception on Feb. 20 at the Inn at Virginia Tech. The event is open to the campus community, but registration is required to attend.

The four units earned distinction for their focused efforts and achievements in exemplifying inclusive excellence in teaching and learning as well as maintaining exemplary instructional environments for students and faculty. The University Department or Program Award recognizes departmental and program effectiveness in engaging students in collaborative environments that work beyond boundaries to provide exceptional student learning opportunities.

Since its launch in 2008, the ASPECT program has built its scholarly success on providing students with innovative, inclusive learning and teaching opportunities as a result of its diverse curriculum; the creative interdisciplinary research endeavors of its core faculty members; the events, workshops, and lectures it has organized; and the research projects it has encouraged students in the program to undertake. François Debrix leads ASPECT, whose faculty and students are deeply committed to diversity and inclusion considerations in pedagogical, educational, and scholarly domains.

The Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures’ commitment to inclusive excellence in teaching and learning is grounded in both its structural commitment to and valuing of good pedagogical practices. Led by Janell Watson, the department ensures tenured and tenure-track faculty continue to be excellent teachers and mentors, while instructor and fixed-term faculty understand the value of teaching in their own promotion at the university. Teaching is never an afterthought in the department’s hiring, evaluation, and promotion processes, as it focuses on embracing and advancing a teacher-scholar model.

Inclusive engagement is a central concept in all aspects of academic life within the Department of Sociology, which is led by interim chair James Hawdon. Virtually all of the department’s faculty members are scholar-activists whose research has had practical implications for the communities and populations with whom they work. Such engagement is as crucial within the academy, and specifically the classroom, as it is in the world community. Inclusivity through engagement is the operative concept that motivates students and faculty in the Department of Sociology and binds them together.

The Department of Chemistry has embarked on a multifaceted approach to providing its students with an inclusive environment during their undergraduate experience. Committed to the effectiveness of its pedagogy programs, the department is focused on improving the experiences of students with an additional goal to provide the field of chemistry with best practices for inclusivity. In addition to providing undergraduate students with inclusive engagement experiences, the department has undertaken a number of initiatives to enhance and retain diversity and inclusiveness among graduate students.

Presented annually since 1994, the University Exemplary Department or Program Award was developed as a part of Virginia Tech's Faculty Rewards Project, which sought to clarify the expectations of faculty and define appropriate rewards for their accomplishments. The annual awards program is presented by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost through the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

Nominations were submitted based on this year’s theme of “exemplifying inclusive excellence in teaching and learning.” The award selection committee has selected “developing and sustaining effective approaches to teaching with a global perspective at the graduate or undergraduate levels” as the theme for the 2020 program.

For more information, visit the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning website or contact To attend the reception, please register here.

Written by Dave Guerin