College Celebrates 2024 Faculty and Staff Awards at Meeting

College Celebrates 2024 Faculty and Staff Awards at Meeting

College of Arts and Sciences faculty standing and celebrating during awards ceremony.

The College of Arts and Sciences honored five distinguished faculty and staff members on April 26.

The College of Arts and Sciences announced 2024 Faculty and Staff Distinguished Award recipients at an April 26 faculty meeting, in recognition of the achievements of select faculty and staff for their exceptional work and dedication to the University. These awards are a celebration of the awardees' hard work and accomplishments, and serve as a reminder of the importance of their contributions to the College.

Awards were presented to the following people: Staff Distinguished Service Award: Kyle Russell, Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts; Staff Distinguished Service Award: Julia LaVecchia, Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences; Award for Distinguished Teaching: Professor Shannon Kelley, Department of English; Award for Distinguished Student Advising and Mentoring: Professor Mark Demers, Department of Mathematics; Award for Distinguished Faculty Mentoring: Professor William Abbott, Department of History.

2024 Award for Distinguished Teaching in the College of Arts & Sciences, Professor Shannon Kelley, PhD, Department of English:

For her outstanding and sustained dedication to students in the area of teaching, Dr. Shannon Kelley, associate professor of English and director of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program, was awarded the 2024 College of Arts & Sciences Distinguished Teaching Award. More than 11 colleagues nominated Dr. Kelley, citing her innovative teaching, course development, engagement with the Magis core, and her mentoring of students, as evidence of her extraordinary teaching. Dr. Kelley uses a variety of methods including dramatizations, map-making, debates, group discussion, and digital media to bring Shakespeare to life for her students. Dr. Kelley develops new courses that bridge teaching and scholarship, including Digital Publishing in the Humanities, in which students gain experience as editors of the undergraduate journal, Apollon. According to one former student, Dr. Kelley "shows her students that learning doesn't have to be a 'sit and listen' experience, but an opportunity for us to get moving and get thinking."

Dr. Kelley is a leader in Community-Engaged Learning, bringing her Fairfield English majors together with middle-school students in Bridgeport to stage scenes from Shakespeare plays. As one student wrote, “Creating lessons that engaged our community partner while still making sure class time was relevant to the college students was no easy feat, but Dr. Kelley did it every time.” Dr. Kelley's colleagues stated, “We have never worked in proximity to someone who devotes such energy to student success while also setting such a high bar of achievement.”

2024 Award for Distinguished Student Advising and Mentoring in the College of Arts and Sciences, Professor Mark Demers, PhD, Department of Mathematics:

For his exceptional advising and dedication to student research mentorship, Dr. Mark Demers, professor of mathematics, was given the 2024 College of Arts & Sciences Distinguished Student Advising and Mentoring Award. The awards committee recognized the remarkable research program that Dr. Demers established, mentoring students in summer research through support from the National Science Foundation, for more than ten years. Nominators acknowledge that undergraduate research can be time-consuming and difficult to do in the mathematics field, making Dr. Demers’ work to build a sustainable research program that is meaningful to undergraduate students that much more special.

Students wrote that their research experiences with Dr. Demers instilled "an appreciation for collaborative, respectful, and reflective inquiry," and were "fundamental" to going on to earn graduate degrees in mathematics. His students consistently present their work at the department’s colloquium, and at many academic research conferences. His nominators noted that a "majority of students that Dr. Demers has mentored are women. In a field that is dominated by men, building a pipeline of women who are researchers is the most important thing to reach a gender balance in pure mathematics…silent, constant, and strong work by people like Dr. Demers make that change possible."

2024 Award for Distinguished Faculty Mentoring in the College of Arts and Sciences, Professor William Abbott, PhD, Department of History:

In recognition of his years of exceptionally generous service to his colleagues in the College and across the University, as a mentor committed to peer-review of teaching, faculty advancement, and faculty governance, Dr. William Abbott, associate professor of history, was awarded the College of Arts & Sciences Distinguished Faculty Mentoring Award. Dr. Abbott’s nominators — including the entire Department of History as well as 15 other University colleagues — all praise Dr. Abbott’s renowned care and attention to detail when visiting the classes of other faculty. It was noted that he consistently provides detailed and insightful letters that "reflect his genuine investment in the success of his colleagues and his desire to see them thrive in their academic careers."

Dr. Abbott’s commitment to his colleagues’ success also extends to helping with research, publications, and the tenure and promotion process. He mentors faculty throughout the process, offering color-coded edits and comments on numerous dossier drafts. Finally, Dr. Abbott has a deep commitment to faculty shared governance. He has not only served on a wide variety of committees, but he also mentors faculty as they serve and lead themselves. With deep respect, Dr. Abbott’s nominators expressed that they would not be where they are now without his help. As stated by one colleague, “Our manuscripts would be less polished; our applications for tenure and promotion, less clear; our teaching, less effective.”

2024 Staff Award for Distinguished Service in the College of Arts and Sciences, Kyle Russell:

For his exemplary leadership in service to the College, the University, and the greater community, Kyle Russell, Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts box office manager, was a 2024 Staff Distinguished Service Awardee. Russell’s nominators note his service to the box office for more than 22 years, his genuine care for patrons, the support and training he provides to numerous student employees, and his willingness to go above and beyond in the work that he does. Each year, he serves more than 40,000 in-person patrons and many others taking advantage of online offerings, summer camps, and educational programs. As his nominators described, “Kyle truly cares about the audience and patron experiences, and not just ticket buyers.” Kyle’s work involves managing a team of student employees. He "prioritizes learning and high-quality work, while being supportive of his whole team." One student wrote, "He really cares about all of us." Another wrote that Russell has been a driving force in her personal and professional development.

While he excels in his box office work, Russell also contributes in other areas such as processing gifts, ensuring equitable access for all, marketing tasks, and incredible proofreading. Russell’s nominators especially praised him for how he transitioned the Quick’s ticketing software from PatronManager to Paciolan. By working tirelessly with various on-campus offices and outside vendors, he set up the system in under six months, when it was expected to take over a year. He then focused on helping others to navigate the new system, ensuring a smooth transition for all.

2024 Staff Award for Distinguished Service in the College of Arts and Sciences, Julia LaVecchia:

For her remarkable leadership in service and her extensive impact on the faculty and departments she has served in the College, Julia LaVecchia, senior program coordinator for Psychological and Brain Sciences, is a 2024 Staff Distinguished Service Awardee. LaVecchia’s whole department nominated her for this award, along with colleagues from the other departments she has served over the years: physics, chemistry, and biochemistry. All of her nominators praised her efficiency, ability to anticipate needs, tireless work ethic, and generous spirit in the face of numerous challenges. Working to serve the largest department in the College, which has gone through tremendous change during her tenure, LaVecchia manages a complex number of tasks on a daily basis with ease. As one nominator wrote, “Julia’s orchestration of the incredible amount of work in our department is masterful, born of enthusiasm, personal experience, intellectual strength, and charisma.”

LaVecchia goes above and beyond to fix problems and create community in her department, keeping it going while also making it a fun and welcoming place for all. In addition to being "the driving force behind the smooth operation of her department," LaVecchia is a mentor for other department coordinators, always willing to lend a helping hand. Finally, she was commended for her coordination of the work of Fairfield’s chapter of the Sigma Xi Scientific Research Honor Society. As one colleague summarized, “Julia's graciousness, professionalism, and cheerful spirit are beacons of light that shine brightly, and she so very much deserves an award.”




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