2017 Faculty Awards Honor Teaching and Scholarship

Ten professors received awards from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences this year.

Ten members of the faculty have been recognized by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences for their contributions as scholars, teachers, and mentors.

“Every year, Dartmouth recognizes the accomplishments of faculty whose scholarship and teaching exemplify the highest values of the liberal arts,” says Dean of the Faculty Elizabeth Smith. “Dartmouth and its students are the richer for their contributions.”

The Jerome Goldstein Award for Distinguished Teaching was selected by the vote of members of the graduating class of 2017. The other awardees were selected by the deans.

The awardees:


Susan Ackerman ’80 (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)

Susan Ackerman ’80

Preston H. Kelsey Professor in Religion

Elizabeth Howland Hand-Otis Norton Pierce Award for a Faculty Member Who Is an Outstanding Teacher of Undergraduates

When I came to Dartmouth as an undergraduate, my adviser said, “Liberal arts is for exploring; take courses in things you know nothing about.” One of the things I decided I knew nothing about was religion. I grew up in Arkansas in a very nonreligious family, and all I knew about religion was what my family said, which was dismissive, or what my peers said, which was a very literalistic reading of the Bible. So I took “Religion 1” and loved it. It was a way of thinking about the Bible as a body of literature created by an ancient people who were trying to express something about their religiosity. Now I work on the religions of the ancient Middle East. My professors opened up new worlds to me, and coming back to Dartmouth as their colleague was tremendously exciting. And teaching Dartmouth undergraduates is fun. It allows me a kind of freedom compared to when I was teaching in a graduate program. Most are not going to go be Bible scholars, so I get to play a bit more with them to help them analyze and think critically about complex and rich material.


Sonu Bedi (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)

Sonu Bedi

Hans ’80 and Kate Morris Director of the Ethics Institute, Joel Parker 1811 Professor in Law and Political Science, and Associate Professor of Government

Jerome Goldstein Award for Distinguished Teaching

My work focuses on some of the toughest puzzles of our day regarding issues of identity, race, constitutional law, and justice. I may not solve these issues in some definitive way, but it’s thrilling to think and write about them. And it’s that passion for thinking about these puzzles that I aim to instill in my students. I often use the lens of the law to teach students the value of asking normative questions about how we ought to structure society’s social and political institutions. I believe that students should not be spoon-fed a particular answer or way of thinking. Rather, they should arrive at these conclusions on their own. My job is to help them with that intellectual journey (making sure, for instance, they have the tools to undertake it) but not complete it for them. It’s a joy seeing students take up this challenge and become independent thinkers. Dartmouth takes seriously the idea that being a good scholar should not just be compatible with teaching but synergistic with it. Dartmouth has been very supportive of my teaching and research. And with some of the best students in the country, it’s a privilege to be here.


Ryan Hickox (Photo by Rob Strong)

Ryan Hickox

Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy

Karen Wetterhahn Memorial Award for Distinguished Creative or Scholarly Achievement

My research group uses telescopes all over the world and in space to study the supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies like the Milky Way. When black holes grow in mass by “eating” the gas around them, they become quasars, the most luminous objects in the universe. Quasars are amazingly powerful: They can give off as much energy as 10 hydrogen bombs, every second, for every grain of sand on the Earth. It’s remarkable that humans can observe these exotic objects, and it’s a privilege to spend every day unlocking their secrets. I enjoy guiding students on the path to discovery, whether it be undergrads with their first exposure to astronomy or PhD students completing a thesis that makes a major contribution to the field. Dartmouth provides a unique opportunity for faculty who love working with undergraduates, but who also seek to carry out a world-class research program. I lead a research group with exceptional grad students, postdocs, and institutional resources, and also work closely with talented undergraduates in class, in research, and in the West House residential community, where I am a house professor. It’s a special combination, and I’m delighted to be here.


David Lagomarsino (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)

David Lagomarsino

Charles Hansen Professor and Associate Professor of History Emeritus

Robert A. Fish 1918 Memorial Prize

As a historian of early modern Europe, my beat stretches from the Black Death to the Enlightenment. The discoveries, crises, and conflicts of the age forged the foundations of the world we know today. This is the context for my research on the controversial reign of Philip II, the 16th-century Spanish king whose dominions became so vast that the sun literally never set on them. It’s a joy to share with students my own passion and curiosity. On a good day, we work off each other’s enthusiasm as we dig into the past. But I had to learn how to do this on the job. Arriving on campus in 1974 with a Cambridge University doctorate, I had no clue about teaching. Luckily, I profited from the example of great senior colleagues and exceptional students who challenged me to do my best. Dartmouth students have kept me and my courses evolving for the past 43 years. Each term, every course still feels like a new adventure, no matter how many times I’ve taught it before. I’m particularly gratified when former students report how their training in history benefited their various careers and professions. A liberal education really works!


Robyn Millan (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)

Robyn Millan

Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy

John M. Manley Huntington Award for Newly Promoted Faculty

I’m interested in particle acceleration—processes that affect energetic particles, primarily in space. I study the Van Allen radiation belt, the region of space around the Earth where a lot of high-energy particles are accelerated and trapped. NASA has a mission called the Van Allen Probes, and my team did four balloon campaigns making observations from a high-altitude balloon at the same time as those spacecraft made measurements in space. We can involve undergraduates in pretty much all aspects of the research—it’s just a matter of finding the right project and mentoring them. I try to bring research into the classroom, as well. Last winter I was asked to give a presentation for the NASA science directorate. I was teaching introductory physics, and I was able to do that presentation over Skype in front of my class. I encourage students to get into research early in their time at Dartmouth and try a few different things. I had really great mentors and opportunities as an undergrad, and that’s why I’m where I am today. I’d like all of our students to have as many opportunities to figure out what they really love to do.


Terry Osborne (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)

Terry Osborne

Senior Lecturer in the Environmental Studies Program and the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric

Dean of Faculty Teaching Award

Inspired by so many students and colleagues at Dartmouth, and by the beauty of the Upper Valley, I’ve come to believe that the way humans are taught to perceive the environment determines how we treat it. Drawn from that belief, my writing explores humans’ (particularly Americans’) psychological, spiritual, and cultural relationships with both human and nonhuman communities, and my teaching tries to bring awareness to the unnoticed elements of those relationships. Over the last decade, those ideas have developed further through community-based learning projects in my courses. During the term, students collaborate with local community partners on projects that both meet the partners’ needs and allow students to assess course theories in “real world” contexts. I’ve marveled at the way the Upper Valley community and environment have affected the students—complicating their thinking and writing, their video compositions, their sense of themselves—and in turn at students’ sense of devotion to the community partners and the important work those partners do. And the collaboration has reinforced for me the deep, often unseen influence that local human and nonhuman communities can have on academic learning.


Soo Sunny Park (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)

Soo Sunny Park

Professor of Studio Art

John M. Manley Huntington Award for Newly Promoted Faculty

I’m an immigrant—I moved to the States at age 10—and for me there’s always been a sense of displacement, or of trying to negotiate between dualities. So I’m interested in the boundaries between categories and in the notion of liminality, the things in-between. Early on I recognized that I was seeing the world through an eye. Your experience depends on what you decide to focus on, or where you’re placing yourself in space. In my installations I make environments; you’re inside a space, and as you move around it, it changes as the light changes. I came to Dartmouth without knowing a lot about the area, but after 13 years, it’s just an amazing place to be. I love the mountains and the woods—the nature around us is such a nurturing environment. And teaching feeds my creativity. It’s interesting when students recognize how their rational mind plays into the way they see things. My role is to help students develop a keen eye. They can apply that to their entire life, whatever profession that they have.


Nina Pavcnik (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)

Nina Pavcnik

Niehaus Family Professor of International Studies and Professor of Economics

Dean of the Faculty Award for Outstanding Mentoring and Advising

My research studies the channels through which international trade affects economic growth and inequality. I am interested in how companies respond to the opportunities and challenges of globalization, and how this process in turn affects the lives of individuals and their families. One of my favorite classes to teach is “Topics in International Economics,” a culminating-experience seminar. I structure the course to challenge and empower students to apply the analytical frameworks, quantitative methods, and data literacy skills they acquired in previous economics courses to their own empirical research project on a topic they care about. I lecture very little in this course; instead, I guide students as they prepare for and lead class discussions of published research and work on the intermediate steps toward completion of their own project. This experience not only hones students’ analytical and quantitative reasoning, but also exposes them to the challenges of the uncertain nature of research projects. I love the unique blend of research and teaching/mentoring opportunities that Dartmouth offers. I am fortunate to be part of a very research-active and collegial department and to work with intellectually engaging, smart, and dedicated undergraduates. For a native of Slovenia, the Skiway and all the other outdoor opportunities are a nice bonus.


David Plunkett (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)

David Plunkett

Associate Professor of Philosophy

John M. Manley Huntington Award for Newly Tenured Faculty

Much of my current research concerns the foundations of ethics, as well as connected issues in the philosophy of language and the philosophy of law. One current project is about ethical disagreements. I am interested in what such disagreements are ultimately about, how we express them using natural language, and how (if at all) making progress on these first two questions might help us figure out how we should actually live our lives. I am also interested in parallel questions about legal disagreements. Since coming to Dartmouth, I have taught courses on topics ranging from the philosophy of science to political philosophy. I have especially enjoyed teaching smaller, discussion-based classes at Dartmouth, and I look forward to continuing to teach such classes in the future.


Jonathan Smolin (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)

Jonathan Smolin

Associate Professor and Chair of Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures

Frank J. Guarini Award for Extraordinary Contribution to Off-Campus Programs

Off-campus programs are absolutely central to the mission of Dartmouth College and one key area in which we’re true innovators. In the past few years, I’ve been working closely with the Guarini Institute to establish our new Arabic program in Rabat, Morocco. We don’t think of it simply as an intensive language program. Instead, it’s full cultural immersion. From living in homestays, visiting NGOs, and meeting with famous writers and filmmakers to traveling in the Sahara, High Atlas Mountains, and cities like Fez and Marrakech, every moment in the country is a learning opportunity. With all of Morocco as our classroom, study abroad becomes a life-changing experience for students. In the process of learning how to navigate Morocco for a full term, students discover who they are as people and what they want to do with their lives.