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Ten Mentors in Arts and Sciences to Receive Distinguished Faculty Awards

Columbia University announces the ten recipients of the first annual Distinguished Columbia Faculty Awards. The awards honor exceptional teaching in the Arts and Sciences, recognizing faculty who demonstrate unusual merit across a range of professorial activities, including: scholarship, University citizenship and professional involvement. The awards place a primary emphasis on the instruction and mentoring of undergraduate and graduate students.

The Distinguished Columbia Faculty Awards are made possible by a $12 million donation from Columbia Trustee Gerry Lenfest (Law '58). Lenfest is a longtime supporter of the University, who donated $15 million to the Earth Institute in May 2004 and previously contributed $15 million toward the construction of Lenfest Hall, a residence for students at Columbia Law School.

"The recipients of the Distinguished Columbia Faculty Awards have achieved great distinction as teachers, scholars, and citizens, and serve as excellent role models for our students," said Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger."We are grateful to Gerry Lenfest for his continued support of Columbia and for this most generous gift, which gives us another way to recognize our faculty for the important work they do."

The honored faculty members receive annual awards of $25,000 for a three-year period. The honorees for 2005 were selected by a committee of six senior Columbia faculty, as overseen by Nicholas Dirks, the Vice President for Arts and Sciences.

"By acknowledging achievement in the classroom, we reinforce Columbia's commitment to excellence in teaching. The 2005 Distinguished Faculty honorees are inspirational teachers, as well as distinguished scholars," said Nicholas Dirks. "They span a full spectrum of disciplines -- from particle physics to art history to sociology -- which represent both the quality and diversity of academic experience offered to Columbia's students."

The Arts and Sciences at Columbia comprise 29 academic departments whose faculty teach courses in five schools -- Columbia College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the School of General Studies, the School of the Arts, and the School of International and Public Affairs.


The 2005 Distinguished Columbia Faculty Honorees

Janet Conrad is a particle physicist whose award-winning research has helped to clarify the way neutrinos can change identity from one type to another . Her research field exists at the forefront of modern physics, in part because the phenomena she investigates represent important violations of the "Standard Model." During her ten years on the Columbia faculty, Conrad has been the recipient of several honors, including a Sloan Fellowship, a National Science Foundation Presidential Early Career Award and the Maria Goeppert-Mayer Award of the American Physical Society. Known as an outstanding teacher, her courses range from introductory physics for pre-med students to a senior seminar designed for Physics majors. She also has developed popular innovative courses such as "From Quarks to the Cosmos." Her mentoring and teaching of graduate students is equally distinguished, and her students achieve significant positions in the field.

Jonathan Crary is an inspiring professor of art, illuminating art's connections to history and to society. He explores classic or standard models of art historical method, and is quick to recognize changes in the way art is made and distributed, which in turn suggests changes in the way that art is studied. During more than 18 years in the art history department, he has established himself as a modernist of world renown, admired for both the originality and breadth of his scholarship and teaching. His major writings include Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century, a study of visual culture and technology in the 19 th century which has had a transformative impact on the discipline; and Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle and Modern Culture, a major critical inquiry at the intersection of art history, commercial media, and politics. Crary's work has been widely translated, and his ideas have served as a catalyst in debates on visuality and modernity in many different cultural contexts.

Jenny Davidson, assistant professor of English and comparative literature, has written widely and with force on 18 th century British culture and society. In the words of the chair of the English department, Davidson "is a force of nature. She is a brilliant teacher, demanding, imaginative, and caring….and already a major scholar, successful novelist, and a substantial intellectual presence inside and outside the academy." A major work, Hypocrisy and the Politics of Politeness: Manners and Morals from Locke to Austen ( Cambridge, 2004), soon will be followed by Breeding: Nature and Nurture Before Biology. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship for 2005-06 to pursue her seminal research, and has been named a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Already, as a junior member of the English department, Davidson has established herself as a unique presence, an inspiring pedagogical and scholarly figure, and outside Columbia, a public intellectual of consequence.

Gil Eyal is a sociologist whose work focuses on issues of knowledge, power, and identity. His numerous, path-breaking publications include Making Capitalism without Capitalists (1998) and The Origins of Post-Communist Elites: From the Prague Spring to the Breakup of Czechoslovakia (2003), along with the forthcoming The Disenchantment of the Orient: Expertise in Arab Affairs and the Israeli State. He has been especially concerned with examining the role of intellectuals and professionals amid transitions from socialism to some form of capitalism, and in geographic contexts that range from Czechoslovakia to Israel. Eyal is also a brilliant teacher of undergraduates -- in his popular course on social change -- and of graduate students -- in his sociological theory course. For the latter, the graduate students in Sociology voted him "Teacher of the Year." His teaching and his scholarship reveal a profound commitment, as one colleague remarks, "to the idea that ideas matter," providing a model for a Sociology that speaks to current issues of global importance, and for understanding across divides often thought unbridgeable.

Pierre Force is a leading scholar of 17 th and 18 th centuryFrench intellectual history, with major studies devoted to Pascal and Voltaire. His research and teaching spans the humanities and the social sciences, and as chair of the French department, he has energized and expanded the scope of French studies beyond the philological into history and diasporic culture, leading the way toward a research and pedagogical embrace of Francophonic studies. Force is a committed teacher of undergraduates, both of French majors or upper-division students interested in the French department, and of students taking the core courses. He teaches the undergraduate courses "Contemporary Civilization" and "Literature Humanities" on a regular basis. His graduate students also benefit from his superb teaching and mentoring. To all colleagues in the French department, he has provided inspired leadership, and he has served his colleagues in the Arts and Sciences on numerous evaluative or planning committees. He has provided crucial counsel as well on the management of Reid Hall, the Maison Française and the Language Resource Center.

Farah Jasmine Griffin is adistinguished scholar of African-American literary and cultural studies. Currently, she is the director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies. Her several seminal writings include Who Set you Flowin'?: The African-American Migration Narrative (Oxford, 1995) and If You Can't Be Free, Be a Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday (The Free Press, 2001), and an acclaimed edited volume, Beloved Sisters and Loving Friends: Letters from Rebecca Primus of Royal Oak, Maryland, and Addie Brown of Hartford, Connecticut, 1854-1868(Knopf, 1999). Griffin's current writing projects include a forthcoming book, Miles Davis and John Coltrane, along with a major study of women in the cultural life of Harlem, to be titled Harlem Nocturne: Black Women Artists in New York, 1938-1948. In addition to her significant contributions to both undergraduate and graduate instruction, Griffin has been an outstanding contributor to interdisciplinary dialogue, to governance throughout the University, and to academic planning, especially relating to matters of race, gender and ethnicity.

Matthew Jonesis acultural historian of science and philosophy in early modern Europe. Both his scholarship and his teaching provide crucial links between the humanities and the sciences. He is regarded by his colleagues in the history department as a lynchpin in its nascent History of Science program. He is the author of The Good Life in the Scientific Revolution: Descartes, Pascal, Liebniz on Mathematics and Self-Cultivation (forthcoming, University of Chicago Press). He is a regular and highly praised teacher of the undergraduate course "Contemporary Civilization," as well as the course "Introduction to Historiography" designed for history majors. He has led the department's efforts to provide a professional development program for its graduate students. In this and other areas requiring leadership and initiative, Jones has consistently distinguished himself.

James Leighton is widely viewed as a major force in synthetic organic chemistry. His laboratory is developing new chemical reactions that allow researchers to control the "handedness" of molecules (that is, a right-handed molecule can be created rather than its left-handed mirror twin). These methods have been widely applied in his group and in other groups to allow for the synthesis of potential pharmaceuticals, including those that might be used in the regulation of cholesterol. Leighton also is regarded as a teacher of rare talent and excellence, whether he is communicating chemistry to a non-specialized audience of undergraduates, to chemistry majors, or to his graduate students, who number among the most highly prized in organic chemistry. For his range of qualities and achievements, he has been awarded the Camille Dreyfus Teacher Scholar Award, and the Philip and Ruth Hettleman Award for distinguished teaching.

Eric Urban, a mathematician, has emerged as one of the most renowned number theorists of his generation. Urban has carried out a proof of the p-adic analogue of the Birch Swinnerton-Dyer Conjecture, one of the Clay $1 million problems in Mathematics. His work and that of his research group has contributed greatly to the vibrancy and visibility of the Mathematics department. Urban has been invited to address the International Congress of Mathematicians next year in Spain, as the top-ranked number theorist among the invited speakers. In addition, he has contributed to the teaching programs of mathematics at every level, and took the lead in organizing a recent department-wide colloquium and other conferences, which brought leading mathematicians from around the world to Columbia.

Gareth Williams is an authority on Latin literature of the early empire. Williams is the Violin Family Professor in the Core Curriculum and chair of the Classics department. Williams is an especially engaged scholar committed to undergraduate education and to a central course of the undergraduate curriculum, "Literature Humanities," serving as a mentor for teachers who are new to this core course. For his own teaching, he has been called, by a former student, "one of Columbia's gems." His conspicuous achievements as a teacher earned him the Mark Van Doren Teaching Award in 2003, and in 2005, The Annual Great Teacher's Award presented by the Society of Columbia Graduates. Williams has been selfless in his service to the Arts and Sciences, as a two-term chair of the Classics department, and as a valuable and trusted voice on crucial committees concerned with academic excellence and faculty governance.

Published: Dec 19, 2005
Last modified: Feb 27, 2006

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