By Jack McLaughlin
Arts & Features Editor
By Owen Glancy
Asst. Arts & Features Editor
The Center for Excellence in Learning, Teaching, Scholarship, and Service (CELTSS) hosted an award ceremony in the McCarthy Alumni Room Oct. 19 to recognize distinguished faculty.
For the 2022-23 academic school year, seven faculty were recognized. Psychology and Philosophy Professor Jen Lin, History Professor Lori Bihler, English Professor Alexander Hartwiger, English Professor Lorianne DiSabato, Marketing Professor Ella Karat, Sociology and Criminology Professor Demetrios Brellas, and Chemistry and Food Science Professor Lisa Savini.
Of the seven recipients, five were present and were given the chance to talk about their journey in education.
Lori Bihler, history professor, is the recipient of the 2023 Distinguished Faculty Award for Excellence in Service.
She told the audience the story of how she received the medal awarded to her at this year’s commencement. She said she joked to her youngest daughter that she received the award because she attends so many meetings.
“I told her the reason I go to so many meetings when I’m part of different committees is I like to see how systems work and how change can [be made],” she said.
Bihler talked about her experience as part of an advocacy group for secondary education history educators in Massachusetts - and her involvement in getting a civics bill passed in 2018.
“We ended up going to Beacon Hill and giving testimony in front of the subcommittee on the civic education bill, and in 2018 … it was signed by former Gov. Baker,” she said.
Bihler talked about a graduate student whom she had previously taught. She said the student’s progress between the time she originally taught them and now has had an impact on her.
For an in-class assignment, this student had to teach the class and the experience moved her, she said.
“He was like a professional teacher,” she said. “I even wrote him a note - I’m like ‘I have tears in my eyes.’”
She recounted that she’s had many experiences like this as a teacher, and it always leaves a positive impression for her when thinking about her job.
“It’s such a rewarding job,” she said.
Alexander (Sandy) Hartwiger:
Sandy Hartwiger, professor of English, was presented the 2023 Distinguished Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching. Mei Hara, professor of education and director of CELTSS, introduced Hartwiger as an associate professor who teaches postcolonial global and world literature, as well as routinely teaching the RAMS 101 program, and supervising students.”
After introducing Hartwiger, he stepped in front of the audience to give thanks, deliver a speech, and tell a personal story.
“I want to start by thanking CELTSS for sponsoring this event and all the work you do to support faculty,” Hartwiger said.
“I also want to acknowledge that I am indebted to all the amazing teachers I've had along the way. There are too many. I am grateful and a little intimidated to be surrounded by so many wonderful teachers who will not presume that I can offer something that you do not already possess,” he added.
Hartwiger then told a story about when his conviction to be a teacher began. He talked about how he felt stuck in life and at a crossroads after quitting his job as a contracts writer for a pharmaceutical company. He credits his decision to teach to his experience teaching Frisbee™ at a summer program in Otisfield, Maine.
He concluded by saying, “The reward for that risk is the deep human connections that provide daily affirmations - that, despite all of the horrible things that happen in the world, we still have the capacity to love. Maybe cry, but maybe never die of heartbreak.”
Lorianne DiSabato, English professor, is the recipient of the 2023 Distinguished Faculty Award for the College of Arts & Humanities.
DiSabato began by talking to the audience about her teaching philosophy.
“Writing is a skill and skills can’t be taught - they have to be practiced,” she said.
She continued this by explaining how this took her some time to figure out, and said she came to this realization around a decade ago when she became a senior Dharma meditation teacher.
“You can show [people] how to meditate but you can’t tell them … you can’t speak wisdom into their brain,” DiSabato said.
DiSabato recalled a time recently when a student came to her struggling to think of what to write, and she encouraged the student to write about their feelings that are holding them back from writing.
“So when I saw her like an hour and a half later … she sits down and she opens up her laptop and she’s like, ‘Look what I just did!’ and it was all these words on the page,” she said.
She elaborated on her experience as a senior meditation instructor, sharing more insight to what she’s learned in that position.
One of the concepts she learned in this position was being able to share an experience through her teaching, which she applies to teaching writing.
“Trust the process. I’m here to kind of root you on, but I don’t have any answers for you because you have to do the thing to learn the thing,” she said.
Jen Lin, professor of psychology, received the 2023 Distinguished Faculty Award for Excellence in Scholarship and like her peers, gave a speech.
Lin began by telling the audience about when she switched her major from engineering to psychology in her first year of college.
Lin next spoke on what led her to teach about subjects like anti-racism. She didn’t credit a particular moment like many of the other speakers, but rather said, “There was this voice in me that kept saying, ‘I can do more.’ And what I thought I could do was take our invisible struggles and try to publicize them.”
Later, during the Q&A portion of the event, Lin answered a question regarding her decision to change her major, and why specifically she chose to do it. She answered, “I did not have the visual spatial skills to make a career out of [engineering].”
Her speech concluded by thanking all of the people who supported her - “those of you who are here, and my friends, my allies who have always been there for me and consistently supported the work that I do.”
Demetrios Brellas, visiting lecturer in the Sociology and Criminology Department, was the recipient of the 2023 Distinguished Faculty Award for the College of Education and Social/Behavioral Sciences.
Brellas told the audience how he originally became interested in teaching, and cited his grandparents and upbringing as a first-generation student as his primary source of inspiration.
“I tutored every cousin, both of my brothers, and almost everybody … not to mention, you know, helped teach my parents even when I was 9 or 8 years old,” he said.
He said teaching was never his original plan, but found an interest in it after acquiring a preliminary license to teach in New York City amid a teacher shortage following 9/11.
“I found out that it was natural when I stood in front of a classroom,” Brellas said.
He said this motivated him to pursue higher education, and received a doctorate in archaeology from Boston University.
During his time learning at BU, he continued to tutor. This continued his interest in teaching, which culminated in being hired as a visiting lecturer at Framingham State in 2013 while he was still working toward his doctorate.
Brellas spoke about his time teaching at Framingham State, and how he feels welcomed and supported by the members of the community.
“I’ve had so much support and I’ve felt so heard and so part of the community in sociology, and I really feel like this place is my home,” he said.