Outstanding A&S teachers, advisors honored with 2024 awards

Several awards given by the College of Arts and Sciences honor faculty members annually for excellence in teaching and advising. Among the faculty members and teaching assistants being recognized this year for exceptional teaching and mentorship are: Liliana Colanzi, recipient of the 2024 Robert and Helen Appel Fellowship for Humanists and Social Scientists; Durba Ghosh, recipient of the 2024 Robert A. and Donna B. Paul Award for Excellence in Advising; and Nick Admussen, recipient of the 2024 Morgan Chia-Wen Sze and Bobbi Josephine Hernandez Distinguished Teaching Prize.

The Robert and Helen Appel Fellowship, which has recognized faculty excellence since 1995, gives recipients a semester’s study leave at full salary to write, develop new courses, conduct research or otherwise enrich their teaching and scholarship.

Colanzi, assistant professor of Romance studies, is a celebrated writer of fiction and an accomplished scholar of Latin American literature who directs her expertise bridging both fields into her teaching and academic advising. She has earned a reputation among students as a brilliant and caring instructor who motivates her students to explore their full creative potential. Colanzi’s fiction has been noted by critics and scholars for its innovative nature and its influence on the short story genre, within the Latin American canon and beyond. She has three full-length short story collections; two have won awards and have been translated into seven languages, with the most recent, “Ustedes brillan enlo oscuro” (“You Glow in the Dark,” 2022) receiving the prestigious Ribera de Duero Prize. Her work has appeared in some of the world’s best literary publications, including, recently, The New Yorker. Colanzi’s creative work informs her scholarship in generative ways. Colleagues note not only her significant contributions to creative writing, but also her exemplary scholarship and a classroom approach that builds an inclusive environment while challenging students and supporting their growth as scholars. Students find Colanzi’s passion for creative writing “contagious” and say they are inspired by her deep knowledge of literature, as well as an ability to connect fiction to contemporary issues. Said one student, “she stimulated us to think beyond the bounds of our own perspectives to gain a larger understanding of the world around us.”

The Robert A. and Donna B. Paul Academic Advising Award was established in 1992 to honor undergraduate advisors who make a difference in the lives of their students. Recipients receive one-half an academic year’s salary and fringe benefits for a leave that is taken within the next three years.

Ghosh, professor of history, is a distinguished scholar of South Asian history known for her rich scholarly contributions, wide range of leadership experience in Cornell academic programs and reputation as an engaging teacher and dedicated mentor. In particular, she is appreciated for an advising style characterized by her sincere interest in her students’ ideas, thoughtful counsel, and genuine care and concern. Both undergraduate and graduate students find her to be an expert advisor who offers generosity and warmth in addition to scholarly expertise. As the inaugural director of the Humanities Scholars Program, Ghosh built a rich and collegial culture, helping students navigate the opportunities and challenges of humanistic research with rigor and compassion. Students note her commitment to fostering an inclusive learning environment and her ability to listen for students’ genuine scholarly interests while offering guidance effectively. “Durba was an ideal advisor,” said one advisee. “Rigorously attentive to the needs of her advisees, in my experience she still surrendered sufficient oversight for me to develop my own research interests and questions. Yet whenever her counsel was needed or called upon, she unfailingly gave of her energy and wisdom.” Ghosh devotes seemingly superhuman amounts of time to preparing for and meeting with advisees, say many students. Her department chair, similarly, says Ghosh takes time to get to know students’ backgrounds and intellectual curiosities, finding ways to connect them to the resources that support their research. Ghosh’s own research focuses on the history of British colonialism on the Indian subcontinent. The author of two books with a third underway, Ghosh has taught courses at Cornell on modern South Asia, the British empire, gender and colonialism. Ghosh will begin as Taylor Family Director of the Society for the Humanities starting on January 1, 2025.

The Morgan Chia-Wen Sze and Bobbi Josephine Hernandez Distinguished Teaching Prize, first awards in 2018, honors faculty members for excellence in teaching. Honorees are encouraged to use a portion of the $25,000 award to travel anywhere in the world of interest to them and, through travel, to “bring the world back to Cornell.”

Admussen, associate professor of Asian studies, is a scholar of contemporary Chinese poetry who teaches broadly across many elements of Chinese culture. In his popular introductory course “Getting Rich in Modern China,” he uses fiction, film, drama, sociology and history to examine contemporary social and political situations that apply not only to China but also to places all over the world, including the economic decisions that Cornellians make. His longest-running seminar, “The Literature of Leaving China,” starts a conversation around migration, exile and belonging that begins in 300 BCE with the poetry of Qu Yuan and ends with science fiction from the present day. Admussen fosters intellectual curiosity in students while also giving attention to their well-being, and he is known for his ability to meet students where they are. “Seeing the lengths professor Admussen took to engage more with students is indicative of his heartfelt care for us,” said one. Admussen is also an essayist, poet and translator. He is the author of “Recite and Refuse: Contemporary Chinese Prose Poetry,” the translator of “Floral Mutter” by the poet Ya Shi, and the author of the prose poetry collection “Stand Back, Don’t Fear the Change.” With the Sze-Hernandez Award, Admussen plans to bring his family to Taiwan in fall 2024 where he will read, audit classes, and reconnect with day-to-day Chinese culture. It will be the first time he’s made a protracted visit to Asia since 2020.

Other 2024 College of Arts and Sciences honors:

  • The Stephen and Margery Russell Distinguished Teaching Award goes to faculty members Richard Bensel, the Gary S. Davis Professor of Government; Timothy Riley, professor of mathematics; and Irina Troconis, assistant professor of Romance studies. Teaching assistants receiving the 2024 Stephen and Margery Russell Distinguished Teaching Awards are Judith Tauber, Romance studies; and Chase Vogeli, mathematics.
  • The Deanne Gebell Gitner ’66 and Family Annual Prize for Teaching Assistants goes to Elias Beltran, comparative literature; Susannah Sharpless, literatures in English; and Adam Szetela, literatures in English.
  • The Rosenthal Graduate Student Award goes to Amanda Domingues, science and technology studies; Emily Jackson, government; Zhang Lijun, history; and Cibele Moura, music.
  • The Sophie Washburn French Instructorship goes to Eriko Akamatsu, lecturer in Asian studies; and Banu Ozer-Griffin, senior lecturer in Near Eastern studies.
  • The Zhu Family Graduate Fellowship goes to Bonnie Chung, literatures in English; Matthew Finck, history; Zachary Thomas, Medieval studies; and Praveen Tilakaratne, comparative literature.
  • The Sadov Graduate Student Fellowship goes to Edvard Meza, philosophy.

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