We are deeply honored to announce this year’s recipients of the Awards for Academic Excellence. These awards recognize faculty and librarians who have made outstanding contributions to teaching, research, scholarship and social justice. The extraordinary work and dedication of these faculty members and librarians contributes to the vibrancy of intellectual life on our campus, the richness of our educational offerings and the success of our students. Their work is an inspiration to all of us.
Lifetime Faculty/Librarian Achievement Award
This annual award is intended to honor distinction in the full range of faculty and librarian professional roles achieved over the span of an individual’s career at Bridgewater State University.
Dr. Kevin Curry
Department of Biological Sciences
In his 26 years at Bridgewater State, Dr. Kevin Curry has created opportunities for students and faculty to explore their dreams and to discover new avenues for professional growth and service. Through collaboration and grant funding, such as that from The National Science Foundation and The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Dr. Curry founded the Watershed Access Lab, a Watersheds course, and the Stormwater Stewardship Program. In collaboration with BSU colleagues, Dr. Curry was instrumental in changing the Bridgewater Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program into the Adrian Tinsley Program for Undergraduate Research. He also created a one-credit Research Problems in Biology course, has mentored more than 25 undergraduate research students, and presented more than 60 scholarly papers, at least half of them with students. Dr. Curry and his students have studied dragonflies, ebony jewelwings, nutrient loading issues in rivers, aquatic insect communities, American eels, and access to clean drinking water. Dr. Curry won the DiNardo Teaching Award, a Rotary University Teaching Fellowship, a Fulbright, and the Presidential Fellowship. With support of grants and awards, he has changed access to clean drinking water in Siem Reap Province in Cambodia and established a relationship with Paññāsāstra University (PUC) in Phnom Penh. Since January 2011, students, faculty and staff have traveled to Cambodia every winter break, until January 2021, to work alongside Cambodian students and staff from PUC and Water for Cambodia and to serve the needs of the people of Cambodia. PUC agreed to a BSU faculty and student exchange and students from Cambodia have attended BSU every year since 2012. Kevin’s lifetime achievements while at BSU have been transformative and impactful; you see them, you hear about them.
Class of 1950 Distinguished Faculty Research Award
The Class of 1950 Distinguished Faculty Research Award was created through an endowment established by the class on the occasion of its 50th reunion. This award is presented annually to full-time faculty members or librarians and recognizes two distinct categories of work, published books (monographs, edited volumes, textbooks, etc.) and scholarly papers or creative works, both published or presented during the previous year.
Dr. Heidi Bean
Department of English
Dr. Heidi Bean’s book, Acts of Poetry: American Poets' Theater and the Politics of Performance, published by the University of Michigan Press, lives at the intersection of poetry and drama to examine the relationship between page and stage. As both a poetry and theater scholar, Dr. Bean is among the first to address the rhetoric, history and performance of American poets’ theater from multiple angles. Deborah Geis, a theater scholar, wrote that Acts of Poetry’s “originality, depth of coverage, and readability are impressive.” Tyler Hoffman, a scholar of performance poetry, called Acts of Poetry “carefully researched and well-written” and wrote that it “sheds light on a type of theater that mostly lies in the shadows.” Dr. Bean’s text highlights theater and poetry connections, calling attention to a frequently overlooked area.
Dr. Thilina Surasinghe
Department of Biological Sciences
Dr. Thilina Surasinghe’s article, Challenges in Biodiversity Conservation in a Highly Modified Tropical River Basin in Sri Lanka, published in Water, 12(1), 1-25, demonstrates a deep appreciation for, and understanding of, the role of ecological systems in the workings of the biosphere. As the lead author, Dr. Surasinghe developed the field survey protocols and survey designs, recruited international collaborators, managed the data and the geospatial data analyses, and led the writing. The research goals were to document biodiversity in the Kelani river basin and to establish its conservation potential. Findings indicated the need for a landscape-scale ecosystem-based conservation approach and environmental legislation to support buffer zone delineation for aquatic habitats, wetland restoration, and landscape-scale connectivity. Dr. Surasinghe’s study should influence Sri Lankan environmental and conservation policies for freshwater ecosystems.
Presidential Fellowship Award
This highly competitive annual award affords a faculty member the opportunity to focus exclusively on research for an entire academic year. In addition to two semesters of course release time, recipients are granted a budget of up to $10,000 to pay for travel expenses, equipment, books or other related materials. Preference is given to faculty members who have an original proposal for research or creative activity, whose scholarly work is poised for significant growth and who have a carefully designed plan for the use of their release time. Upon completion of the fellowship year, the awardee is expected to present a public lecture or presentation to the campus community.
2021 Presidential Fellow Research Update
Dr. Deborah Nemko
Department of Music
Dr. Deborah Nemko faced COVID-19 travel restrictions during her Presidential Fellowship yet successfully pivoted in pursuit of her project goals. Though in-person concerts were no longer possible, Dr. Nemko performed a live-streamed concert at the Telefunken studios in Connecticut in November 2020. She played works by Dutch composers for an international audience, including the Jewish community of Scotland. In addition, she collaborated with cellist Ariana Falk to record a concert of chamber music for the National Fulbright Alumni Association in February 2021. Dr. Nemko’s proposal to perform and present works by Dutch composers at the prestigious National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy was accepted. An additional proposal on the works of Fania Chapiro was submitted to the International Conference on Women’s Work in Music. Dr. Nemko also recently completed a book review of the two-volume work, Acclaimed and Accused: Conductor Willem Mengelberg for the Journal of Netherlandic Studies and is presently writing an article on Daniel Belinfante for the same peer-reviewed journal. Currently, she is learning Sibelius notation software and learning to record and live-stream concerts with equipment purchased through the Fellowship research funds. Though unable to travel to Amsterdam to take an in-person Dutch course, she is studying the Dutch language through Duolingo, textbooks, and reading materials. Early this summer she will record a full-length compact disc of compositions by Dutch composers of the Holocaust including works by Belinfante, Chapiro, and Kattenburg. She is also developing an interdisciplinary course on Music and Art of the Holocaust Period for the academic year 2022-2023. Finally, she was elected to the Board of Directors of the International Association for Women in Music and is chair of development given her advocacy for the performance of women composers, in particular selected composers from her Presidential Fellowship.
Dr. Robert A. Daniel Award for Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice:
Supporting the Success of BSU's Students
Efforts that facilitate academic access, excellence and success for students from a broad range of diverse identities are an essential form of diversity, inclusion and social justice work. This award recognizes the efforts and achievements of full-time faculty members and librarians whose teaching, research, creative work, librarianship, advising and other activities support the success of BSU students. At the request of President Clark, this award (formerly the President’s Award for Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice), was renamed to the Dr. Robert A. Daniel Award for Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice. The late Dr. Daniel, an artist and pioneering educator, was the first full-time African-American professor hired at Bridgewater State University. He helped launch the university’s scholarship for African-American students, which was renamed in his honor when he retired after 30 years at the institution.
Dr. Castagna Lacet
School of Social Work
Dr. Castagna Lacet centralizes racial equity and other social justice issues in her teaching, scholarship, activism, and community service. Dr. Lacet has provided leadership in the School of Social Work, in the Office of Teaching and Learning, and in campus-wide equity, inclusion and social justice efforts. Her work is a testament to her application, which notes: “I have had the privilege to rise to the terminal degree in my field and be able to teach future social workers justice-based practice with vulnerable communities. My own journey mirrors that of many of our students’ – first generation, minoritized, working class, immigrants – facing discrimination on every rung of the ladder. I have committed myself to leveling the field for those who come after me, students as well as faculty and staff.”
Dr. Michele Meek
Department of Communication Studies
Dr. Michele Meek provides students with support essential to their success both inside and outside of the classroom. In a recent publication, Dr. Meek notes that it is important to examine course content and curricula to “acknowledge and dismantle long-standing existing discrimination.” In her role as First- and Second-Year Seminar Coordinator and through her leadership on the Diversity Committee for the Department of Communication Studies, Dr. Meek has worked diligently to infuse equity-minded practices that support all of Bridgewater State University’s students while emphasizing strategies that will help to close educational equity gaps. Dr. Meek stated that “as teachers, we have an opportunity and responsibility to improve the educational and societal inequities that have persisted for generations.”
Presidential Award for Distinguished Teaching
This award recognizes outstanding performance and/or innovation in teaching at either the undergraduate or graduate level. It is presented annually to no more than two Bridgewater State University faculty members who have taught as full-time faculty at the university for at least four years.
Dr. Sarah McQuarrie
Department of Music
Dr. Sarah McQuarrie aspires to give her students the balance of knowledge and skills necessary for real-life situations while helping them grow as musicians and as people. She fosters inquisitiveness, caring, a strong work ethic, dedication to their passion and initiative. Dr. McQuarrie teaches in varied areas, such as piano, music education pedagogy and early childhood education, serves as a key departmental resource, mentors student projects and advises students on all aspects of becoming a music educator. She is an outstanding performer who has presented lecture recitals throughout New England and the United States, demonstrating her respected academic and musical expertise. She is also deeply dedicated to her community as a teacher of music; she teaches children in afterschool programs, adult beginners, the church choir and more.
Dr. Ellen Scheible
Department of English
Dr. Ellen Scheible uses a student-centered approach to teach modern and contemporary British and Irish literature. Her pedagogy is informed by student feedback, her own observations and interests and her drive for continued teaching effectiveness. As a fierce advocate for students, Dr. Scheible’s advising approach includes helping students navigate being in college while attending to other demanding obligations, such as a full-time job or care for elders or children. Dr. Scheible mentors both honors and undergraduate research projects and is currently the Commonwealth Honors Faculty Fellow. She is the founding coordinator of BSU’s Irish Studies Program and minor and serves as the faculty advisor to the Celtic Club and the BSU Irish Steppers. Dr. Scheible has exceptional and wide-ranging scholarship, including a recent co-edited collection of essays, Rethinking Joyce’s Dubliners.
Presidential Award for Distinguished Part-time Teaching
This award recognizes outstanding performance and/or innovation in teaching at either the undergraduate or graduate level. It is presented annually to Bridgewater State University faculty members who have taught as part-time faculty at the university for at least eight of the last twelve years.
Dr. Paula Bishop
Department of Music
Dr. Paula Bishop teaches comprehensive musicianship and music history and has taught First- and Second-Year Seminars. In the classroom, she helps students discover the forces that shape music, contemplate how music shapes others and explore issues that have implications for society. In 2017, her Folk Music of the U.S. course won the BSU Innovative Teaching with Technology Award. Through participation in the Online Course Design Certificate Program at BSU and Universal Design for Learning, Dr. Bishop has created classroom assessments that allow students to choose how to demonstrate their competence toward a specific learning outcome. Her most public role is that of ‘conductor’ of the BSU ukulele jam that offers musicians of all levels the opportunity to learn a new instrument in a fun and safe environment.
Professor Regina Daus-Haberle
Department of English
Professor Regina Daus-Haberle teaches first-year writing, personal and public writing, introductory literature courses, and First-Year Seminars. Her teaching philosophy is grounded in the belief that “we are richer as a community for the contributions of our writers, and we are better equipped to navigate our world if we can come to understand it and articulate it through the written word.” She creates safe, rigorous classrooms that ask students to read and think deeply and to write honestly. She demands excellence of her students’ work and uses pedagogical tools that support them. Through her incredible warmth and empathy, Professor Daus-Haberle connects with our students and helps them to achieve their potential. She is the faculty member who walks students over to counseling services and makes sure they know about the food bank and the emergency fund.
Dr. Marino Fernandes
Department of English
Dr. Marino Fernandes, a 2006 BSU graduate, teaches first-year writing and the more demanding supported section of first-year writing. Dr. Fernandes sees his role as teaching students how to ultimately triumph over various obstacles, “some minor and some not, that keep them from taking real and meaningful control of their academic and everyday lives.” He has a charismatic presence in the classroom and has created a safe, rigorous space for all students, especially Black and Brown students, to gain confidence. Students indicate that Dr. Fernandes pushes them to ‘dig deeper, ‘treats them like mature human beings,’ ‘balances deeper learning with humor,’ and fosters learning ‘about life.’ He consistently holds office hours in the Lewis and Gaines Center for Inclusion and Equity, where he provides students with “unconditional support without enabling them.”
Dr. V. James DiNardo Award for Excellence in Teaching
The Bridgewater Alumni Association established this award in 1984 in honor of Dr. V. James DiNardo, executive vice president and professor emeritus. The award is presented to a full-time faculty member whose contributions include mastery of subject matter, enthusiastic teaching style and personal attention to students.
Professor Leigh Craven
Department of Art and Art History
Professor Leigh Craven is an exceptional teacher who shows an unwavering commitment to her students. She is dedicated to inspiring them to strive for excellence in their chosen field and she takes a keen interest in their development, personally, technically and conceptually. Within a supportive studio environment, Professor Craven asks tough questions that encourage students to think about their own work and about each other’s work on a deeper level. During remote online teaching due to the pandemic, Professor Craven effectively adapted her teaching virtually by using Blackboard and Zoom and in-person by creating a safe space to generate art within the studio. One of her Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) students remarked that “not only is Leigh deserving of this award because of her mastery of printmaking, her enthusiastic and intellectually stimulating teaching style, her empathy for and keen interest in students, her effective modes of communication and meaningful evaluation of students' progress, but she is also deserving for everything else she does on top of being an amazing educator.” As the Graduate Coordinator for the MAT in Creative Arts, Professor Craven created the first pathway program for undergraduate art students, making it possible for recent graduates to matriculate by completing the basic application and foregoing the additional references and essays. Her students say, “Leigh Craven is a force to be reckoned with and a worthy candidate for the Dr. V James DiNardo Award for Excellence in Teaching.”
Presidential Award for Excellence in Collaboration to Improve Teaching
This award recognizes innovation in the development of teaching programs at either the undergraduate or graduate levels with well-documented need and/or impact. Examples include, but are not limited to, collaborative teaching, faculty/librarian collaboration, program-specific faculty development, curriculum development or revision improvement in the quality of teaching through assessment or other means and new-program initiatives.
Dr. Fernanda Ferreira, Department of Global Languages and Literature
Dr. Melissa Keh, Department of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
Dr. Emily Spitzman, Department of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
Drs. Fernanda Ferreira, Melissa Keh, and Emily Spitzman collaborated to address the fact that many English language learners are academically at risk, that is, in Massachusetts, 30% of them do not graduate on time and one in seven drop out of school (The Massachusetts Education Equity Partnership, 2018). In 2018, 57% of English language learners at Brockton High School graduated. These data prompted the collaborators to create a course that would promote opportunities for multilingual Brockton High School students, 48.5% of whom are First Language Not English learners and 21.6% of whom are English learners (Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 2018). With support from a National Education Association grant, these collaborators created a dual-enrollment course, Portuguese for Special Purposes. The intended outcomes were to enhance students’ academic language in one of their home languages, to facilitate their awareness of global learning, and to promote college readiness. Twelve students were selected, and nine students completed the free course in Spring 2020. Academically, students read in Portuguese, discussed in both English and Portuguese, and created online books in Portuguese with Book Creator. The students were particularly excited about taking the van to campus and completing a college course. Students did improve their academic language in Portuguese and English, experienced increased confidence in their academic careers, gained a college credit, and were able to envision themselves as college students. When COVID-19 safety precautions went into effect, the instructor and students successfully shifted to online pedagogy experiences.
Online Teaching Innovation Award
The Online Teaching Innovation Award focuses on innovations in online teaching by faculty in their hybrid online or fully online courses. The range of acceptable entries is broad and includes the incorporation of a new technology or the use of an existing technology or teaching method in a unique way in an online course.
Dr. Jessica Birthisel
Department of Communication Studies
Dr. Jessica Birthisel’s academic expertise is in the areas of digital media, journalism, public speaking, media literacy, and cultural studies. She is active in targeted initiatives focused on student success and retention, such as the Bears Summer Scholar program. Her online innovation was the use of a variety of online teaching approaches and applications in her Visual Strategies for Digital Media course to create an inclusive classroom environment that mimicked a professional digital media agency. Dr. Birthisel is passionate about the utilization of Open Educational Resources (OER) in lieu of costly textbooks and in this course, she created or adopted video lectures and tutorials for students and had students use free multimedia design applications for media projects. The projects could then be included in their professional portfolios.
Dr. Thayaparan Paramanathan
Department of Physics, Photonics and Optical Engineering
Dr. Thayaparan Paramanathan teaches calculus-based General Physics, Modern Physics, Optics, Electronics and Biophysics. His research interests are in applying physics techniques to explore biological systems at the single-molecule level. Dr. Paramanathan is extraordinarily passionate about helping students learn, so he delivered his General Physics II course in a HyFlex mode during the pandemic. Instead of a single video camera that could broadcast his course to students joining remotely, Dr. Paramanathan collaborated with Information Technology to establish individual gooseneck video camera stands at each lab station so that safely distanced students in the physical classroom could collaborate in real-time with remote students to conduct hands-on lab experiments. This innovative enhanced HyFlex approach built a unique sense of community among students learning remotely and in person.