Faculty honored for teaching and advising

College of Arts and Sciences faculty members Benjamin Anderson and Saida HodžIć have been awarded the Robert and Helen Appel Fellowship for Humanists and Social Scientists, and Vivian Zayas and Edward Swartz have been awarded the Robert A. and Donna B. Paul Academic Advising Award in the College of Arts and Sciences. They will be honored at a May 26 trustee-faculty dinner recognizing university-wide teaching and advising and newly tenured faculty. 

“These awards celebrate faculty who have made outstanding contributions to the college and to our students,” said Gretchen Ritter, the Harold Tanner Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “We are grateful to the Appels and the Pauls for their commitment to teaching and advising in the college, and their generous support of our exemplary faculty.”

Anderson, assistant professor of history of art and visual studies, focuses his research on the visual and material cultures of the eastern Mediterranean and adjacent landmasses, with a particular focus on late antique and Byzantine art and architecture. His book “Cosmos and Community in Early Medieval Art” presents the first comparative study of cosmological art between 700 and 1000 A.D. and received the Charles Rufus Morey Book Award by the College Art Association. In evaluations, students praise his pedagogical skills and innovative teaching methods, as well as his generosity with his time and expertise. 

HodžIć, associate professor of anthropology, has research interests in the areas of development, human rights, gender and sexuality studies, postcolonial studies, critical theory in anthropology, and transnational feminisms. Her book, The Twilight of Cutting: African Activism and Life after NGOs, examines the effects of Ghanaian advocacy against female genital cutting and its transnational dimensions, and was awarded the Association for Feminist Anthropology’s 2017 Michelle Z. Rosaldo Prize. Students call her a “dynamic” facilitator who makes effective use of interactive learning and teaching strategies and praise her generosity and commitment to her advisees. 

Zayas, associate professor of psychology, studies the “relational mind,” asking questions like how do we mentally represent the emotional complexity of our close relationships, why we are drawn toward some people and not others, and how do we regulate threats to our self-esteem. Her students call her passion for her research an inspiration and emphasize her extraordinary dedication to teaching and advising. She was faculty mentor for the third cohort of Posse scholars, chair of the Psychology Honors Program from 2008-2013, and has been director for undergraduate studies since 2016. 

Swartz, professor of mathematics, focuses on the interplay between combinatorics, geometry/topology and algebra, with an emphasis on matroids and combinatorial properties of simplicial complexes. His students praise his enthusiasm for his subject and his talent for making difficult material seem easy; they particularly appreciate how easy he is to approach and how generous he is with advice and encouragement. Swartz served from 2014-2017 as director of undergraduate studies and as director of the 2012 Summer Math Institute. During the summers of 2006 and 2011, Swartz ran Research Experiences for Undergraduates.

The Paul academic advising fellowship was established in 1992 to honor undergraduate advisers who make a difference in the lives of their students. Recipients receive a stipend and a TA package for their department.

The Appel fellowships have recognized faculty excellence since 1995 and give recipients a semester's sabbatical leave at full salary to write, develop new courses, conduct research or otherwise enrich their teaching and scholarship.

A new award this year, the Morgan Chia-Wen Sze and Bobbi Josephine Hernandez Distinguished Teaching Prize, was endowed by Morgan Sze ’87, the founder of Azentus Capital Management Limited, and his wife, Bobbi Hernandez ’87. The Prize recognizes professorial faculty for excellence in teaching, and is awarded annually with a three-year cycle that alternates among the humanities, social sciences and sciences. Award recipients are encouraged to use a portion of the award to travel anywhere in the world of interest to them and through that travel “to bring the world back to Cornell” by hosting a reception on campus or writing about their experience upon their return.

The 2018 Sze/Hernandez Prize was awarded to Amy Villarejo, professor of performing and media arts, comparative literature, and feminist, gender and sexuality studies. The prize was also awarded posthumously to Lydia Fakundiny, senior lecturer in English, who passed away in 2013, in recognition, said Sze, “of her transformative teaching of writing that benefited so many Cornell students through her class, The Art of the Essay.”

Other College of Arts and Sciences honorees include Aurora Masum-Javed, lecturer in English; Suman Seth associate professor of science and technology studies; Debak Das, government teaching assistant; Ethan Jost, psychology teaching assistant; and Claire Leavitt, government teaching assistant, recipients of the Stephen and Margery Russell Distinguished Teaching Award; and graduate students Jessica Abel, English, and David Peck, neurobiology and behavior, recipients of The Deanne Gebell Gitner ’66 and Family Annual Prize for Teaching Assistants. The Dean’s Prize for Distinguished Teaching was awarded to graduate students Kacie Armstrong, psychology; Magdala Jeudy, Romance studies; and Elizabeth Wijaya, comparative literature.

The Advancement of College of Arts and Science Women Faculty was awarded to HodžIć and the Advancement of Non-Stem Graduate Research Fund was awarded to graduate student Stav Atir, psychology. These two awards were given by a generous anonymous donor.

A version of this story also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

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