Every spring the Office of the Provost and Academic Affairs recognizes six outstanding faculty members who demonstrate excellence in various areas of advising, teaching and research through a series of awards. While the academic year 2019–20 has been anything but “standard,” these six faculty members continued to demonstrate their commendable dedication to academics, their students and the College of Charleston throughout these unprecedented times.
Interim Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Frances C. Welch says, “Faculty are at the heart of the student learning experience. No one has a deeper impact on what students put into their education. I am honored to recognize these faculty members and to thank them for channeling their knowledge and talents during a challenging year.”
Although the College was unable to honor these faculty in person at the annual Celebration of Faculty event this spring, it is proud to acknowledge the 2019–20 distinguished faculty awardees here.
The full list of faculty members recognized this year – including those named emeriti faculty, those receiving Shared Governance Leadership recognition and those granted tenure and promotion, renewals, positive third-year reviews, post-tenure reviews and sabbaticals – is available in the College of Charleston 2020 Celebration of Faculty program.
William V. Moore Distinguished Teacher-Scholar Award: Melissa Hughes, Biology
The 2020 William V. Moore Distinguished Teacher-Scholar award recognizes Melissa Hughes, professor of biology. Hughes’ work focuses on animal behavior in marine invertebrates and birds, while her more recent research centers on sexual conflict, weaponry and mate choice of snapping shrimp. Her academic scholarly record includes 31 peer-reviewed journal articles (five of which have been cited at least 99 times).
Hughes teaches introductory biology, upper division ornithology and animal behavior, and interdisciplinary courses for the Honors College and the Women’s and Gender Studies Program. Despite a variety of distinct courses, Hughes emphasizes a “personal sense of wonder” in each. She brilliantly melds student ownership, understanding where knowledge comes from, creativity, content knowledge and engagement in all her instructional modes. These practices continue in her mentorship of undergraduate and graduate students – hosting over 48 students in her research group over the last two decades.
In addition, Hughes has shown active leadership in her professional society (Animal Behavior Society) and served an eight-year position as associate editor of Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, while simultaneously holding many leadership positions on campus. Hughes was also recently selected among hundreds of applicants to participate in the Alan Alda Center writing workshop, resulting in two Scientific American articles for general audiences. Her science outreach has been extensive, with much of it drawing in audiences at the interface of science and art, and includes recent participation in a discussion at the Charleston Literary Society with Carl Zimmer.
Hughes’ talent at weaving teaching, mentorship and research together in her career exemplifies this award.
Distinguished Teaching Award: Meg Scott-Copses, English
The College of Charleston’s Distinguished Teaching Award was established in 1977 and honors those faculty members who are outstanding among the College’s many exceptional teachers. We are proud to announce that this year’s award recipient is Meg Scott-Copses from the Department of English.
Scott-Copses’ work is grounded in her belief in developing students’ voices and thinking through writing. Since arriving at the College in 2007, she has honed her teaching, working with diverse students, tailoring writing instruction to meet students’ needs and helping them develop their voices in their writing.
Ever innovative in course design and assignments, Scott-Copses creates meaningful learning contexts in face-to-face, hybrid and online courses. Through modeling personalized feedback and connecting students’ work to each other, as well as infusing in her instruction themes that connect to readings and are of import to students’ lives, Scott-Copses meets students where they are, building a classroom community of learners and growing their writing skills as they develop new ways of thinking about the world.
Distinguished Adjunct Teaching Award: Meglena Miltcheva, German and Russian Studies
The College of Charleston’s Distinguished Adjunct Faculty Teaching Award was established in 2014 and honors those adjunct faculty members who are outstanding among the College’s many exceptional teachers. This year’s award recipient is Meglena (Maggie) Miltcheva from the Department of German and Russian Studies. Miltcheva has been a dedicated adjunct teacher in Russian studies since 2002.
Miltcheva is a teacher-leader in the Russian Studies Program. She has developed several courses, including a Russian folktales course that is consistently a student favorite. She has also been a leader in teaching online courses since 2014 and participates in intensive online professional development in language acquisition, modeling for students and colleagues her commitment to continued excellence in content and pedagogy. Miltcheva’s commitment to excellent teaching is also exemplified in her outstanding Course-Instructor Evaluation feedback.
Distinguished Research Award: Isaure de Buron, Biology
The Distinguished Research Award recognizes those faculty members who have a significant career of research. This year’s award goes to Isaure de Buron from the Department of Biology.
Her research interests center on the parasites of aquatic animals of economic and ecological importance, with her principal focus on unraveling their lifecycles and understanding how they interact with their hosts. She was named a Fulbright Specialist in recognition of her extensive international work in the area of parasitology. She was also honored (in 2016) with one of the greatest peer recognitions in the scientific community: having a previously unknown parasite species, Philometra deburonae, named after her.
In de Buron’s 19 years at the College, she has created an outstanding research program involving prolific publications in major journals, diverse collaborations locally and around the globe, and consistent involvement with both undergraduate and graduate students.
Her research productivity is remarkable in both quality and quantity. Since 2013, she has published 27 journal articles (14 with student co-authors) and co-authored 42 presentations. In 2019 alone, de Buron published four articles, had two more that were in press, one paper in revision and submitted an eighth paper for review. Her standing in the research community is further reflected by her service on two editorial boards of international journals, Parasite and Comparative Parasitology.
At the College between 2018 and 2019, de Buron mentored seven undergraduates in her laboratory. In 2019, four of the undergraduates working in de Buron’s lab presented their work at a regional parasitology conference. By any measure, her scholarship and mentorship of young scientists in research has been remarkable.
Distinguished Service Award: Amanda Ruth-McSwain, Communication
Amanda Ruth-McSwain, associate professor of communication, brings a particular shine to the College of Charleston through the reach and impact of her endless service.
She was a leader in placing the College in the national spotlight through the Bully Pulpit Series while at the same time devoting her energy and commitment to her students on campus. Her skillful engagement with industry and political leaders – always with the College’s constituencies and betterment as her highest priority – makes her an invaluable member of our campus community.
Ruth-McSwain has integrated her service to the College by creating countless experiential opportunities for her students (e.g., NASA production assistants during the solar eclipse, CBS and CNN debate and town hall volunteer opportunities), thereby extending their career horizons. Her service has extended to many other opportunities, including being an interim associate dean, director of the Master of Arts in Communication program and so many campuswide committees and efforts. She notes that it is particularly satisfying to see students launch careers they would not have thought of as a result of their participation in these events.
Ruth-McSwain embodies the selfless commitment of a faithful public servant as she seeks the best for students, her department and the College.
Distinguished Advising Award: Bill Russell, English
Bill Russell, associate chair and associate professor of English, was awarded this year’s Distinguished Advising Award in honor of the tremendous impact he has on faculty and students in the Department of English.
Based on the words of his colleagues and his students, Russell is an amazing adviser because he listens and then acts and then listens again. Russell listened to his colleagues and the questions they had and decided that all Department of English faculty and staff needed an easily maintained way to access all the information pertinent to advising, so he created a Wiki page. He is known for his willingness to help colleagues with questions, research problems when answers are not readily available and to follow up on complicated student issues months later. His understanding and interest in providing all the support he can to students and faculty is unparalleled.
On an individual student basis, he begins his discursive advising before students come to CofC and never stops – meeting with students before they arrive at the College to ask them, “What are you drawn to? What makes you happy? What fulfills you?” and meeting with alumni who aren’t sure of their path forward to ask them, “What are you drawn to? What makes you happy? What fulfills you?” And then, he knows how to help them along that path.