College awards recognize faculty and staff achievements
April 29, 2020
In the spring of 2020, the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences honored a number of its faculty and staff members with awards in research and creative scholarship, diversity, advising, teaching, and employee excellence.
“The winners of these awards represent the breadth of programs in the college, including social sciences, performing arts, humanities, education, and human sciences,” said E. Thomas Ewing, the college’s associate dean for graduate studies and research, who administers the annual awards program. “The winners demonstrate through their record of excellent performance how the college contributes to Virginia Tech’s mission of serving the public as a comprehensive research university.”
Excellence in Research and Creative Scholarship Awards went to Alexander Dickow, an associate professor of French in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures; Charlene Eska, an associate professor in the Department of English; and Richard Masters, an assistant professor of piano in the School of Performing Arts.
Dickow’s nomination noted that while he “is easily one of the department’s most distinguished researchers,” he is also a translator and a “prolific creative artist who writes poetry and prose in both English and French.” Dickow was touted for expanding the scope of his research beyond traditional domains. “It is precisely this innovation, combined with the importance and astonishing breadth of his work,” the nomination concluded, “that the department emphatically feels merits recognition with this award.”
Eska, an expert in Old Irish legal texts, is being celebrated for her work in decoding the intricacies of Old Irish legal language to provide insights into the medieval Irish legal system. In addition, her detailed work on paleography, the study of medieval handwriting, has led to a reconsideration of both the earliest attested Irish literary manuscript and the practice of medieval Irish paleography.
Masters is being recognized for broad contributions in music, including performances as both a solo and collaborative pianist. He also combined his research with his teaching when he unearthed a 1961 musical, The Sap of Life, by Tony-winning lyricist and director Richard Maltby Jr. and Academy Award–winning composer David Shire. He collaborated with Amanda Nelson, an associate professor of theatre and arts leadership in the School of Performing Arts, in creating a workshop performance from the score, which culminated not only in a performance, but also in master classes for Virginia Tech students with Maltby and Shire.
The Diversity Award went to Karl Precoda, an advanced instructor in cinema studies and dramaturgy in the School of Performing Arts, and Carolyn Shivers, an assistant professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Science.
Even though his principal faculty appointment is with the School of Performing Arts, Precoda devotes one-quarter of his time to the Department of Sociology, and it’s for that work that he received the Diversity Award. Precoda offers many diversity-focused undergraduate courses — including African American Images in Film, Introduction to American Indian Studies, and American Indians in Cinema — and his graduate-level courses, according to his nomination, offer “uniquely diverse learning environments.”
Shivers is being recognized for her leadership role in “expanding the depth and the width of diversity at Virginia Tech by including disability as a critical component of diversity.” A scholar who focuses on siblings of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Shivers developed a Pathways minor in disabilities studies at Virginia Tech.
Aarnes Gudmestad, an associate professor of Spanish in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures, was one of two faculty members to receive the Excellence in Advising Award. Through her roles as Spanish advisor, Spanish program director, associate department chair, and prospective student recruiter, Gudmestad has advised an estimated 2,000 students since she joined Virginia Tech in 2008.
Laura Welfare, an associate professor of counselor education in the School of Education, also received the Excellence in Advising Award. Her nomination noted that, as a result of her advising and leadership, at least 95 percent of the students enrolling in the master’s program in counselor education complete the program and secure jobs as professional counselors.
Six faculty members received Certificate of Teaching Excellence Awards: Andrea Baldwin, an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology; Matthew Goodrum, a collegiate associate professor in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society; Heather Gumbert, an associate professor in the Department of History; Richard Masters, an assistant professor of piano in the School of Performing Arts; Ashley Reed, an assistant professor in the Department of English; and Yumiko Younos, an adjunct instructor of Japanese language in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures.
The Staff Employee of the Year Award went to Kathy Tickle, enrollment services specialist in the School of Education. For more than 30 years, Tickle has served in a range of roles in what is now the School of Education. In her current position, which she has held since 2007, Tickle assists more than 200 students in four degree programs with 20 faculty members, many of whom work outside Blacksburg.
Honorable mentions for the Staff Employee of the Year Award went to Lisa Burns, administrative assistant in the Office of the Dean; Adnan Saeed, web applications analyst in the Office of the Dean; and Pam Saville, office services specialist in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures.
“We were very impressed by the superb contributions our colleagues are making to the intellectual, educational, and creative life of the college,” said the Honors and Awards Committee chair, Deborah Milly, an associate professor in the Department of Political Science. “The committee had a tough time making the final selection choices.”
Committee members include Joyce Arditti, a professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Science; Trudy Harrington Becker, a senior instructor in the Department of History; Colonel Eric Dorminey, a professor of aerospace studies and head of Virginia Tech’s Air Force ROTC; Wallace Easter, an associate professor of horn in the School of Performing Arts; Nyuysa Milman-Miller, an associate professor of Russian in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures; Carol Mullen, a professor in the School of Education; and Philip Olsen, an associate professor in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society.
“As I near the end of my first year as dean, I am filled with great pride at the achievements of our faculty and staff,” said Laura Belmonte, dean of the college. “Their productivity, creativity, and dedication are truly inspiring.”