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 – and this year, they’ve added a seventh award to the mix: the Distinguished Undergraduate Mentor Award, which recognizes faculty colleagues who provide “exceptionally high quality mentoring to undergraduate students in individual research or creative projects throughout their careers.”
The College of Charleston 2022 Distinguished Faculty Award recipients were announced at the Celebration of Faculty on Tuesday, April 26, 2022, in the School of Sciences and Mathematics Building Courtyard. The full list of faculty members recognized this year – including those named emeriti faculty and those granted tenure and promotion, renewals, positive third-year reviews, post-tenure reviews and sabbaticals – is available in the 2022 Celebration of Faculty Program.
William V. Moore Distinguished Teacher-Scholar Award: Matthew T. Rutter
Matthew Rutter from the Department of Biology received the 2022 William V. Moore Distinguished Teacher-Scholar Award, which honors faculty members selected by their peers as exemplifying the teacher-scholar model. The recipients’ exemplary scholarship and teaching have enriched the intellectual lives of students throughout their careers.
Rutter’s research laboratory epitomizes the teacher-scholar model by creating an innovative research program that engages undergraduate students, graduate students, a postdoctoral visiting scholar and a long-term research laboratory manager. He has received over $3.8 million in extramural funding since arriving at the College and has mentored 30 undergraduates and two graduate students in research projects. In addition, through the USDA REEU (Research and Extension Experiences for Undergraduates) program that fuses undergraduate research and teaching, he mentored an additional 11 undergraduate students from institutions nationwide.
His publication record includes at least 25 peer-reviewed publications in prestigious, top-tier journals such as PLoS ONE and Evolution. Notably, he was a co-author on a recent publication in Nature, the top journal in the sciences. This work was featured on the NPR show Science Friday and was the subject of international news articles and podcasts. Rutter has published with 11 undergraduate co-authors and a master’s student. Four of these students served as first author of the publication, demonstrating Rutter’s commitment to mentorship.
In July 2019, Rutter was appointed the first academic director of Stono Preserve, where he has worked with the USDA and Clemson to establish new opportunities for research, education and employment for students and graduates.
Distinguished Teaching Award: Cynthia P. May
Cindi May from the Department of Psychology received the 2022 Distinguished Teaching Award, which honors those faculty members who are outstanding among the College’s many exceptional teachers.
May has established herself as a true teacher-scholar who seamlessly integrates the findings of her discipline into daily classroom instruction. She has taught courses at every level of the curriculum, including Honors Introductory Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, two popular upper-level electives in cognition (Sins of Memory and Applied Cognitive Psychology) and a capstone Cognitive Lab course. She has also mentored several students in bachelor’s essays and independent research projects. Students rave about her courses at all levels, expressing their appreciation for her well-organized and engaging lectures.
She stands out among her colleagues because she has dedicated every aspect of her professional life to the science and practice of teaching. Because she is a cognitive psychologist, she is an expert in the field of learning and memory; she knows which study skills work and which don’t, and which teaching methods are most likely to succeed. She has devoted substantial time and effort to communicating this knowledge to her students, the College and her discipline more broadly.
May’s service further highlights her commitment to education. She is a member of boards of several organizations that advocate for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She is the co-founder of the College’s DEMOS (Disability and Entrepreneurship: Models of Success) program. She regularly writes a column on teaching for the APS Observer (the top professional periodical of the Association for Psychological Science), and she has published 21 articles in Scientific American.
Distinguished Adjunct Faculty Teaching Award: Glenda J. Byars
Glenda Byars from the Department of Theatre and Dance received the 2022 Distinguished Adjunct Faculty Award, which honors adjunct faculty members who are outstanding among the College’s many exceptional teachers.
Byars joined the College in 2000 as an adjunct lecturer and more recently earned the title of senior adjunct lecturer. Her colleagues overwhelmingly value her many contributions to the department, which include teaching a broad range of courses, training fellow adjuncts, attending regional conferences, directing plays and participating in curriculum reform.
Byars has taught both performance and design tracks as well as introductory courses. In 2019, Byars took 12 students to Edinburgh, Scotland, as part of the First-Year Experience Travel course, The Scottish Play and The Kingdom of Alba, which focused on a dramaturgical study of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. In the last several years, Byars has developed and taught three additional courses for the First Year Experience program: Behind the Curtain: The Art and Craft of Theatre; The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: 20th Century Fashion; and most recently Hollywood and History: Costume Design in Film.
Byars extends her talents beyond the classroom to direct plays and assist in productions. In the fall of 2018, she directed the well-received production of The Wolves, a play about high school soccer players. Her passion to equip her students with the appropriate tools to be successful went as far as inviting a CofC soccer coach to rehearsal to learn soccer drills.
Each spring Byars works individually with students to prepare them for attending regional conferences, coaching them through their audition and competition scenes. She has twice attended the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival conference as a faculty mentor, supporting students through their competitions.
Distinguished Research Award: Deborah A. Boyle
Deborah Boyle from the Department of Philosophy received the 2022 Distinguished Research Award, which recognizes those faculty members who have a significant career of research, demonstrated by the body of a faculty member’s scholarly and/or creative works within the past few years and evaluated based on their quality and significance as well as their quantity.
Since joining the Department of Philosophy in 1999, Boyle has made significant contributions to her field of the history of modern philosophy. After establishing a strong scholarly reputation extending her dissertation work on Descartes and publishing on Hume, Boyle has shifted her focus to the writings of female philosophers – especially Margaret Cavendish, Mary Shepherd and Elizabeth Hamilton. Boyle published one of the first book-length English-language scholarship works on the philosophy of Cavendish (The Well-Ordered Universe: The Philosophy of Margaret Cavendish) and has a forthcoming monograph on Shepherd (Mary Shepherd: A Guide). Boyle also has edited editions of the works of both Shepherd and Cavendish, and since 2018 has published six journal articles on Cavendish, Shepherd and Hamilton as well as six published or forthcoming book chapters.
Boyle’s significant scholarly output is also acclaimed for its high quality, and she is now the best-known scholar on both Cavendish and Shepherd in the world. In 2020 she was awarded the American Philosophical Association’s Edinburgh Fellowship, which typically funds one philosopher per year to travel to the University of Edinburgh and serve as the scholar in residence.
Boyle also serves as the editor of the Journal of the History of Philosophy; her colleagues assert that this is the highest rated English-language journal for work in the history of philosophy – an unusual and significant contribution and responsibility for a faculty member at a predominantly undergraduate institution.
Distinguished Service Award: James P. Deavor
This year’s recipient of the College of Charleston’s Distinguished Service Award is Jim Deavor, interim chair and professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Deavor has put his heart and soul into serving the College since his arrival here nearly 40 years ago. Incredibly hard-working, but a gentle presence across campus, Deavor has spent 26 of his 39 years serving in the roles of department chair, interim dean, associate dean and lastly, interim chair. Despite winning numerous accolades, including two ExCEL Awards, as well as the Distinguished Teaching (1991) and Distinguished Advising (2002) awards, he is never self-aggrandizing but rather has always readily dedicated his efforts in support of his colleagues and in service to the College and the wider community. As he remarks himself, whenever approached to serve, Deavor has always said, “Yes.”
Particularly noteworthy in Deavor’s recent service is his extraordinary leadership during the COVID pandemic over the past two years. Deavor’s patient leadership was crucial as he guided the chemistry department to find innovative ways to maintain experiential learning while following COVID protocols.
One of Deavor’s most notable achievements in his position as associate dean was his supervision of the renovation of the Rita Liddy Hollings Science Center. This was a massive logistical task requiring relocation of several departments into four separate swing spaces, and working closely with IT and the architects.
Deavor has also been active in service to K-12 audiences. For the past several years, Deavor has helped coordinate the annual STEM Day at TD Arena, an event drawing 500+ K-12 students to campus. In 2013, this event was cited by the national organization of the American Chemical Society as the best new outreach event of the year for a local section of the ACS. For service to the discipline, Deavor has long served as the treasurer of the South Carolina Section of the American Chemical Society.
In the School of Sciences and Mathematics, he has been serving as the College’s primary investigator for a $2.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to the state of South Carolina. This INBRE grant has provided over 240 research experiences for students in the School of Sciences and Mathematics over the years and has provided substantial research support for multiple faculty. His constant advocacy for the inclusion of the College on this statewide grant is a key reason it has benefited from these resources for well over a decade.
Distinguished Advising Award: Allison Marie Welch
Allison Welch from the Department of Biology received the 2022 Distinguished Advising Award, which recognizes a faculty member who has demonstrated sustained dedication to students in the area of academic advising.
Advising large numbers of biology majors and the majority of the minors in the Environmental and Sustainability Studies Program (EVSS), Welch has guided many students through the years as indicated by the praises sung by her advisees. In addition to being an amazing resource for her students, Welch is a resource for her colleagues for their advising questions. They commend her ability to guide advisees through complex curricula, including several cognates, that “are not always clear to the students,” pointing out that, “Good advising is critical for (their) students’ success.”
As the director of the EVSS minor, Welch successfully assists students with a great variety of backgrounds and interests, “as well as those with potentially complex situations, including incoming first-year students who declare the minor before declaring the major and students with low GPAs.”
Distinguished Undergraduate Mentor Award: Lancie Anthony Affonso
Lancie Affonso ’96 received the newly established Distinguished Undergraduate Mentor Award for his exceptional mentoring to students throughout their careers.
Affonso, a senior instructor with a joint appointment in the Department of Management and Marketing and the Department of Computer Science, teaches courses in management, entrepreneurship, decision sciences and computer science. This unique blend of expertise makes him an ideal fit to nurture innovative ideas. But Affonso makes a point to welcome students of all backgrounds, academic interests and career goals to participate in his various programs and cohorts. He is not only a champion of inclusivity, but also a proponent of an interdisciplinary, liberal arts education.
Affonso has been mentoring College of Charleston students and connecting them with formative, high-impact experiential learning opportunities since 2001. His influence over that time has been both remarkable and wide-reaching. He has served for many years as the director of the Honors College Entrepreneurship Living-Learning Community (E-LLC), a year-long cohort experience for incoming students focused on empowering purposeful student ideas. He’s also served as a faculty mentor for ImpactX, a sustainability-focused entrepreneurship course in the School of Business, and as the director of the Data Science Program from 2019–21.
Affonso’s mentorship model is focused in equal parts on experience and community. Students in his E-LLC cohort participate in entrepreneurial pitch competitions and public presentations. They attend networking events, connect with faculty mentors and interact with local industry leaders. All of these experiences help them to develop the types of transferable skills necessary for today’s resilient and creative change-makers.