Hamilton College's highest awards for teaching were presented on May 9 to five faculty members. Professor of Biology Ernest Williams Jr. received the Christian A. Johnson Professorship; Associate Professor of Physics Brian Collett was awarded the Samuel & Helen Lang Prize for Excellence in Teaching; Associate Professor of English Catherine Gunther Kodat received the Class of 1963 Excellence in Teaching Award; Assistant Professor of Anthropology Haeng-Ja Chung was honored with the John R. Hatch Excellence in Teaching Award; and Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology Mark Oakes received the Sidney Wertimer Award. They were honored during the college's Class & Charter Day celebration, an annual convocation recognizing student and faculty excellence during the preceding academic year.
Ernest Williams Jr., The Christian A. Johnson Professorship
Through field work in New York and Wyoming and in collaboration with Hamilton students, Williams studies the population biology, chemical ecology and conservation of butterflies. His most recent book is The Nature Handbook: A Guide to Observing the Great Outdoors, which is a field guide to patterns in nature and was released in 2005 by Oxford University Press. He is also co-author of The Stokes Butterfly Book, published by Little, Brown and Co., and editor and co-author of A Marsh for all Seasons, published locally by the Utica Marsh Council. His recent publications have appeared in The Journal of Animal Ecology, The Journal of Biogeography, and American Butterflies. Williams currently works with Associate Professor of Biology Bill Pfitsch on habitat restoration and management in the Rome Sand Plains of Central New York.
In nominating Williams for the award, a student called him "a very effective and captivating lecturer." Another wrote "He enjoyed his subject and got us all to think about it," and a third commented, "Professor Williams was always excited to teach. He made the course stimulating and enjoyable."
The Christian A. Johnson professorship for Excellence in Teaching was created in 1990 through the generosity of the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation and the extended Hamilton community. This endowed chair which recognizes exceptional commitment and interest in undergraduate education represents one of the College's most prestigious honors.
Brian Collett, the Samuel & Helen Lang Prize for Excellence in Teaching
Before coming to Hamilton in 1986, Collett was a staff fellow at National Institutes of Health and a visiting assistant professor of physics at Mt. Holyoke College. He received a Ph.D. from Princeton University. Over the past few years Collett has concentrated on computational and electronic projects. He is developing programs to help teach various aspects of physics, such as time dependent wave functions and three dimensional models of electromagnetic fields. Current projects include developing a 1-D CCD detector system for spectroscopy, visualizing electromagnetic fields, using finite element methods to find quantum mechanical wave functions, and developing robots for teaching electronics.
A student who nominated Collett for the award wrote "He gains his students' respect almost instantly; not by his achievements, qualifications or knowledge (though there are plenty), but by the tremendous devotion he bring to every lecture he gives." Another said, "As Mr. Lang put it 'I have truly majored in a great professor,' and in fact a phenomenal department."
Collett is the eighth recipient of the Samuel & Helen Lang Prize for Excellence in Teaching, which is given annually to a senior, tenured faculty member. It is presented on the basis of superior teaching and for having a significant and positive impact on students. The fund was established by Helen Lang, the mother of Michael C. Lang, class of 1967.
Catherine Gunther Kodat, The Class of 1963 Excellence in Teaching Award
A member of the faculty since 1995, Kodat earned her Ph.D. at Boston University and is currently chair of the department of English and director of the Program in American Studies. Her essay "Making Camp: Go Down, Moses," was published in the winter 2007 issue of American Literary History (ALH), a quarterly journal of U.S. literary and cultural studies published by Oxford University Press. She also contributed a chapter on the work of William Faulkner to the just-released Cambridge Companion to the Modernist Novel.
Kodat's essays on 20th century literature and culture have appeared in journals such as Representations, American Quarterly, Boston Review and Mosaic. An inaugural recipient of a Millicent C. McIntosh Flexible Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, Kodat has been a research fellow at the Rothermere American Institute at the University of Oxford and Fulbright lecturer in American Studies at Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem (ELTE) in Budapest. She is completing a book about the uses of culture during the Cold War.
A student who nominated Kodat wrote "Professor Kodat teaches in a way that requires students to stretch their critical capacities until they almost snap. It's well worth the effort though." Another student, who plans to pursue a Ph.D. in English literature, wrote, "I know that when I'm learning to be a professor myself I'll be thinking about Professor Kodat as my model," and a third added, "She's brilliant!"
The Class of 1963 Excellence in Teaching Award was established in 1988 by members of the class on the occasion of their 25th reunion to recognize one Hamilton faculty member each year who demonstrates extraordinary commitment to and skill in teaching.
Haeng-ja Chung, The John R. Hatch Excellence in Teaching Award
Haeng-ja Chung, assistant professor of anthropology, joined the Hamilton faculty in 2006 after serving as a fellow at Harvard University and Colorado College. A native of Kyoto, Japan, she earned her Ph.D. from UCLA. In April she received a fellowship from the Social Science Research Council and Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. While being affiliated at the Department of Cultural Anthropology at the University of Tokyo in 2008-2009, Chung will conduct research on performative, emotional and affective labor of Korean nightclub hostesses in Japan. Based on this research, Chung plans to work on two book projects in English and Japanese.
A student wrote in a nomination, "Professor Chung's teaching style really made me want to participate and learn. She is really a star teacher." Another said, "As a senior I can say that Professor Chung is the most invested, interesting and engaging professor I have had in my time at Hamilton." Another student wrote "Her enthusiasm in class in contagious."
The John R. Hatch Class of 1925 Excellence in Teaching Award was established in 1998 by Alfrederic S. Hatch, a 1958 Hamilton graduate, in memory of his father, who graduated from Hamilton in 1925. It supports an annual prize for a tenure-track faculty member who has been employed by the college for fewer than five years, and who has demonstrated superior teaching, high-quality scholarly research and a significant and positive impact on students.
Mark Oakes, The Sidney Wertimer Award
Mark Oakes received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington. He is author or co-author of several papers in such publications as Memory and Cognition, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology and Social Cognition. Oakes has taught social psychology and cognitive psychology at the University of Washington. His research interests include social and cognitive psychology and autobiographical memory.
Hamilton's Student Assembly initiated the Wertimer Award in 2005 in memory of the late Sidney Wertimer, professor of economics, emeritus, who died in February, 2005. The award recognizes a faculty member "who is recognized as a mentor and active participant within the Hamilton community."