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14 Recognized With Dean's Scholarly Achievement Awards


Dean of Faculty Suzanne Keen presented 14 faculty members with Dean’s Scholarly Achievement Awards at the May 3 faculty meeting. The Dean’s Scholarly Achievement Awards recognize individual accomplishment and reflect a richness and depth of scholarship and creative activity across the entire faculty. Scholarly awards are presented in three categories; the Notable Year Achievement Award marks particular achievement in 2021.

Philip Klinkner, the James S. Sherman Memorial Professor of Political Science and Professor of Government, and Professor of Art Katharine Kuharic received the Career Achievement Award.

Assistant Professor of Psychology Vikranth Rao Bejjanki, Assistant Professor of Government Kira Jumet, and Associate Professor of Biology Max Majireck were honored for Early Career Achievement.

Notable Year Achievement awards went to Associate Professor of Asian Studies Abhishek Amar, Assistant Professor of Mathematics Jose Ceniceros, Associate Professor of Government Erica De Bruin, Assistant Professor of Biology Natalie Nannas, Assistant Professor of History Celeste Day Moore, Professor of Literature Katherine Terrell, Associate Professor of Africana Studies Nigel Westmaas, Assistant Professor of Psychology Rachel White, and Steve Wu, the Irma M. and Robert D. Morris Professor of Economics.

Award descriptions and a list of previous recipients may be found on the Dean of Faculty site.

Philip Klinkner
Philip Klinkner

Career Achievement Award

Philip Klinkner is a critically acclaimed scholar, popular teacher/mentor, and highly regarded public intellectual who has written and taught courses on American politics, including parties and elections, race relations, Congress, and the presidency. He joined the faculty in 1995, and when he was first named to an endowed chair just seven years later, then-President Gene Tobin said, “As a teacher, a scholar, and a public intellectual, he represents the highest ideals of the professoriate.”

At the time, Klinkner was already the author, co-author, or editor of four books, including The Unsteady March: The Rise and Decline of America’s Commitment to Racial Equality [University of Chicago Press], for which he was awarded the 2000 Horace Mann Bond Book Award from Harvard University’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute. The book was also named one of the 1999 Best of the Best university press books by the American Library Association. Reviewers called it a “masterful achievement,” “a thoroughly researched, brilliantly written, detailed and unblinking look at relations between blacks and whites in America,” and an “important book [that] should be read by all who aspire to create a more perfect union.”

Klinkner has also written numerous book chapters, journal articles, and articles that have appeared in such outlets as The Washington Post, The Nation, The Boston Review, Newsday, USA Today, The Los Angeles Times, Vox, and Salon. “[Klinkner’s] work has impressively bridged both the quantitative, analytical aspects of political science and more qualitative, historically oriented scholarship. Few political scientists operate so successfully in both realms,” a nominator wrote. Throughout his 27-year career at Hamilton, Klinkner has served as chair of the Government Department, director of the Arthur Levitt Public Affairs Center, and associate dean of students.

Katherine Kuharic
Katharine Kuharic

Katharine Kuharic joined the faculty in 2007 as the inaugural Kevin W. Kennedy Professor of Art. An innovative artist whose work is known for allegorical paintings consisting of thousands of details, multiple figures, and complex technique, her work contributes to what art critic David Humphrey calls “Queer Populist Hallucinatory Realism.”

Kuharic’s paintings have been exhibited in group shows throughout the U.S. and abroad, and she has had 14 solo exhibitions, including seven at P.P.O.W. Gallery in New York, which describes her work as “always insisting that things are different from what they seem. … Her consistently multi-layered symbolism, hyper-realistic style, and highly keyed pallet, [form] a dizzying yet incisive picture of America.”

One critic said her work “is a fastidiously executed pictorial indictment of contemporary American society,” … that is “Captivating and unnerving, beautiful and subversive [and] an assertive, uncompromising look at the underbelly of excess.” Kuharic has received grants from the Vogelstein Foundation, the Penny McCall Foundation, Art Matters, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. She was named the Milton and Sally Avery Fellow for 2003 and 2004 at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, N.H., and was a fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation Study and Conference Center in Bellagio, Lake Como, Italy.

In 2018, Kuharic was named the Richard Diebenkorn Fellow at the San Francisco Art Institute. Her work is included in the public collections of the St. Louis Art Museum and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and is featured in many private collections. She received extraordinary accolades last year, with a positive review in artnet news, for her contributions to the Art Dealers Association of America Art Show in New York last November.

Vikranth Bejjanki
Vikranth Rao Bejjanki

Early Career Achievement Award

Vikranth Rao Bejjanki is a highly regarded cognitive neuroscientist with, according to one of his reviewers for tenure, “a more impressive list of publications than any cognitive neuroscientist up for tenure at an R1 university.” During the past decade, a nominator wrote, he has pushed the boundaries of neuroscience research. “His findings have enhanced our understanding of learning in adults and children, and his creative approaches to designing computational methodologies have opened doors to novel research in his field.”

Bejjanki’s research uses functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS), and he is regularly sought out by colleagues at Princeton, Yale, and Washington University (St. Louis) for his expertise. He and his collaborators received a $705,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to use fNIRS to examine predictors of neurodevelopmental outcomes in children in low-income settings across the world. He publishes in top journals, and his work “has the potential to fundamentally change the way we understand and study learning in the human brain. His novel approaches ... make him a highly sought-after collaborator [as] one of only a handful of neuroscientists capable of the complex analyses needed to investigate the inner workings of neuroimaging data.”

Kira Jumet
Kira Jumet

In nominating Kira Jumet, a colleague reported that she has a peer-reviewed article, three published or forthcoming book chapters, three published or forthcoming book reviews, and another article underway. Jumet also has a book project in progress and is working on a co-edited volume. “But this is on top of an earlier accomplishment. For only one year into her time at Hamilton, Oxford University Press published her book [Contesting the Repressive State: Why Ordinary Egyptians Protested During the Arab Spring],” said Keen. The International Journal of Middle East Studies said it “offers a fresh perspective on a much-debated question in the study of collective action and social movements: why do some people engage in protests under a repressive regime while others do not?” The reviewer called Jumet’s book, “a valuable addition to the literature on social movements that will be widely appealing to students of authoritarianism and contentious politics in Egypt and beyond.”

According to one of her external tenure reviewers, Jumet’s research is “both timely and pathbreaking, offering both theoretical and methodological innovations in a writing style that is widely accessible to a variety of audiences.”

Max Majireck
Max Majireck

Since joining the Hamilton faculty in 2013, Max Majireck has done ground-breaking research, published extensively – often with students – and won major grants from national foundations. According to a colleague, “He has published seven articles with undergraduates appearing as co-authors 42 times and facilitated many more undergraduates on 18 poster sessions. This significantly outpaces the norm for scholarship productivity for an organic chemist at a [primarily undergraduate institution].”

Last fall, Majireck published with 20 Hamilton student co-authors in The Journal of Organic Chemistry, a top journal in his field. He’s also won highly competitive grants, including approximately $250,000 from the National Science Foundation “to support his pioneering work on novel reaction discovery.” That grant, plus a second from Organic Synthesis Inc – one of only 12 awarded nationwide – “fund a project that came out of a once-in-a-career discovery made in [his] lab regarding an unusual type of molecule that, at least theoretically, should not have been stable enough to be isolated. [Majireck’s] team not only proved this notion to be false, but also quickly capitalized on their seminal discovery by publishing the first isolated structure of this new class of molecules, then [leveraged] its unusual features to develop a broad range of useful chemical reactions that can be applied to fields like drug discovery.”

Majireck has also received a grant from the American Heart Association to collaborate with MMRI, a highly regarded cardiovascular disease research institute in Utica “on developing small molecule-embedded nanoparticles to study atherosclerosis.” According to a nominator, “[Majireck’s] lab has opened up a brand-new subfield of chemistry that has already attracted other chemists to study, and will productively occupy [him] and his future student researchers for, most likely, his entire career.”

Abhishek Amar
Abhishek Amar

Notable Year Achievement Award

According to a colleague, Abhishek Amar had “a banner year in publications in his field that build upon his already impressive publishing résumé.” This included three collaborative monographic and journal publications, a series of single-author peer-reviewed articles, public-facing scholarship, the launch of a digital project, as well as invited talks and workshop presentations. “The publications are only the most recent in a series of important peer-reviewed articles [Amar] has published in the last few years in leading disciplinary and area journals, and they continue a prolific publishing record for [him] as he examines the material history of Buddhism and Hinduism in South Asia, specifically sacred sites associated with the life of the Buddha in the region of Bihar, India,” Keen said.

Jose Ceniceros
Jose Ceniceros

“Simply astonishing” is how one colleague described Jose Ceniceros’ scholarly productivity during the past year. Here’s why, according to the nomination. “Together with various co-authors, he published a total of seven papers, all in international, peer-reviewed journals. Additionally, an eighth paper was accepted for publication, a ninth (which includes results obtained with a Hamilton student) was submitted, and a 10th (which includes results obtained with another Hamilton student) is in preparation.” Keen said he also presented a virtual talk at a professional meeting, contributed a recorded presentation to an asynchronous seminar on knot theory, and wrote a book review for a special issue of the Notices of the American Mathematical Society dedicated to Hispanic Heritage Month. “All this while teaching 141 students, at least one of whom called him ‘one of the best instructors I have ever had,’” Keen said.

Erica De Bruin
Erica De Bruin

Erica De Bruin published seven items in 2021, including two peer-reviewed articles and an editor-reviewed essay in the American Political Science Association’s Comparative Politics newsletter. She also gave 17 invited talks at Cornell, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Duke, Boston University, UVA, and Yale, and gave six conference presentations. Three additional items were accepted for publication this year. “Much of the activity stemmed from her widely acclaimed book, How to Prevent Coups d'État, (Cornell University Press, 2020), and a new project focused on militarized policing,” Keen said. The book was reviewed in venues including the Journal of Peace Research, the Journal of the Middle East and North Africa, and The Strategy Bridge. It was also the subject of an Author-Meets-Critics panel at the 2021 American Political Science Association annual meeting, and generated much media interest, resulting in a full-page feature in The Washington Post and coverage by The New York Times, Bloomberg, Newsweek, and C-SPAN.

Celeste Day Moore
Celeste Day Moore

In nominating Celeste Day Moore, a colleague said Moore’s “work as a researcher and writer has been recognized not only in the publication of her research in a range of top-tier journals and presses, but also in fellowships and awards.” In the course of her research, Moore received multiple competitive internal and external grants, including a 2019 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) summer stipend for research on her book. Last year, she published [that] book, Soundscapes of Liberation: African American Music in Postwar France, which traces the popularization of African American music in postwar France, where it signaled new forms of power and protest. “So dazzling and so deeply researched was Soundscapes of Liberation,” said Keen, “that it recently received the 2022 Gilbert Chinard Prize from the Society for French Historical Studies as one of the best books published in either the history of French American relations or the comparative history of France and North, South, or Central America. Perhaps even more exciting, it has also been shortlisted for the 2022 Ralph J. Gleason Book Award, given by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame,” Keen said.

Natalie Nannas
Natalie Nannas

In 2021, Natalie Nannas published two papers, submitted a third, and received an NSF grant, according to a nominator. The first manuscript was an invited review paper co-authored with two Hamilton students in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, and the second appeared in Bioscene: Journal of College Biology Teaching. The latter paper described how Nannas connects her teaching and scholarship by incorporating her research using the new genome editing technology CRISPR into her Genes and Genomes course. The third paper, which was submitted to the Journal of Cell Science, is also co-authored with Hamilton students. In their nomination, Nannas’ senior colleagues proudly noted her selection in 2021 to receive an $87,000 National Science Foundation Research Opportunity Award, which provides access to 2-photon microscopy and super-resolution microscopy at Cornell for her projects, which have initiated a new collaboration and facilitated new projects. She also used a grant from the Levitt Center to launch a YouTube channel called SciKids Network, which focuses on building excitement and literacy in STEM for elementary age children, Keen said.

Katherine Terrell
Katherine Terrell

Katherine Terrell in 2021 published a monograph that established her as one of the foremost experts in the field of Middle English and Middle Scots literature. Scripting the Nation: Court Poetry and the Authority of History in Late Medieval Scotland, is the product of many years of research, Keen said. The chair of the Scottish Medievalists and editorial secretary of the Scottish Text Society called the book “a persuasive and deeply scholarly study,” and the founding director of the St. Andrews Institute of Scottish Historical Research and former president of the Scottish History Society, said it “contributes substantially to ongoing research in the fields of Scottish and English literature as well as engaging with issues of cultural and national identity.” Another specialist in medieval Scots literature called the book “an extremely significant publication in the field [that will] become essential reading for all students and scholars engaging with late 11 medieval Scottish historiography and with the poetry of the court of James IV.”

Nigel Westmaas
Nigel Westmaas

A nominator described Nigel Westmaas as “moving into overdrive” during the pandemic and offered a few numbers as illustration: The first is 99 – which was the number of students Westmaas worked with in classes, independent studies, and senior projects – far more than anyone else in the department, the nominator said. Despite that extraordinary teaching load, Westmaas published a 535-page monograph, A Political Glossary of Guyana, had two book chapters published, was an invited presenter and panelist for seven in-person or distanced events, and was also deeply engaged as a public intellectual contributing some eight thought-provoking articles and newspaper columns in journals and newspapers across the Caribbean and Guyana. His colleague also called attention to Westmaas’ “often unseen, but vital support and nurturing of students of color on this campus” and concluded the nomination by calling him “a genuine inspiration to his colleagues and students.”

Rachel White
Rachel White Photo: Nancy L. Ford

Several nominations for Rachel White mentioned how the pandemic disrupted her research agenda by limiting data collection for the study of the role of play and fantastical thinking in young children’s development of self-control. She published four peer-reviewed articles, two of which she served as first-author, in well-respected journals. A colleague noted, “Publishing four papers in one year would be considered exceptional even for researchers in an R1 [university].” White also had two conference presentations and four conference abstracts accepted for presentation later this year, attended to two ongoing research grants, and served as a reviewer for leading journals in her field. White and her colleagues also submitted a grant proposal to the U.S. Department of Education that would allow them, over four years, to replicate and extend their work on play and school readiness in children from low-income families. A colleague noted that White’s ability to develop and maintain a prolific, externally funded research program has made seminal contributions to our understanding of early childhood and instilled a passion for scientific inquiry in numerous Hamilton students. She “is a wonderful model for all of us in the faculty.”

Stephen Wu
Stephen Wu

Stephen Wu is “another prolific scholar who has published widely in many areas of applied microeconomics. In fact, this marks the second time he has won this award,” Keen said. In 2021, Wu published five papers in academic journals, including one with a former student Qi Ge ’06. According to a senior colleague, “This is a spectacular record for most, but it is particularly impressive for [Wu] because it comes after many years of consistently good performance, year after year.” She noted that Wu’s work spans a broad range of topics, involves several different Hamilton collaborators, is often cited by national media, and was produced while maintaining a strong commitment to exemplary teaching and significant contributions to service, including co-chairing a search committee for a new vice president.

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